This past weekend I was in Cedar Rapids, Iowa to give some lectures at their Annual Breast Cancer Conference. This has always been a special conference and affiliation for me for several reasons. First off, I get to visit my favorite Aunt Marge, Uncle Bob, my cousin Bill and his lovely wife Amy.  Some of my favorite childhood memories were made on trips to see these special and beloved relatives and that has not changed over several decades. Cedar Rapids is also special in that my parents met at Coe College located there. Finally, I have had the great privilege of working with Dr. Arnold Honick, who is a dedicated and compassionate Radiologist who has always supported his staff of really great techs. We did a Train-the-Trainer program for their group (RCI) whose practice reads for facilities throughout the state and he told me, this weekend, that they continue to see an improvement in image quality due to their application of standardized positioning techniques they have implemented and sustained since the training.
On the day of conference, they told me that their 28th annual community Breast Cancer Walk ‘Especially For You,’ co-founded by Mercy Hospital and General Mills was being held that weekend. This past February, I spent six days in Mercy Hospital receiving intensive care following a very scary and dangerous neutropenic fever episode. I believe their excellent care and compassion helped to save my life, so I immediately wanted to help support this cause. This would be my first Breast Cancer Walk as a Survivor.
I went with several other of the techs that I know there, who have become friends over the years: Janette, Wendy and Andrea, plus a gaggle of kids and other relatives and friends. As RCI was a major donor and supporter of the Walk, Janette was able to get VIP passes. It was a rainy day so we got up close parking and a wonderful breakfast, which was served on the top floor of the hospital.  We all had on our special event T-shirts and survivors got a ‘buff’ which could be worn as a head band or scarf. On my ‘Race Tag’ which contained our ID numbers (to track the fastest runners, which was of no use to me… haha).  But I wrote on it: “I am walking for: Joan, Sally, Karen, Anita, Kim, Kathy, Sue, Rhonda, Marcia…”  I ran out of room; a sobering thought.

I then joined the other (hundreds) of survivors for a special picture which was taken surrounding a pink firetruck. [photo at top]  I grabbed my friend, Aunt Marie, who I met earlier and we tried to climb up to the top of truck; encouraged and assisted by the others who had already made it up. Everyone was laughing, smiling and cheering as our pictures were taken by a photographer posted high above on a crane. It was truly a celebration and I felt an wave of emotion as I stood and cheered with my new ‘sisterhood’. Although it was lightly raining, it did not ‘dampen’ anyone’s enthusiasm!  We all walked, talked and hugged the entire time. It was truly a special occasion filled with many emotions: pride, strength, empathy, encouragement, and joy. We were celebrating the lives of those who many have lost their battle with breast cancer, but are still beloved and remembered; for those of us who have beaten breast cancer and those who will be diagnosed and cured.

There are many such walks going on across the country this month and I encourage you participate.  If you can donate money that goes to assisting breast cancer research, detection and treatment, do so. But nothing is so powerful and moving as walking together with the thousands of survivors, patients, friends, family and strangers who join hands and walk to support this most important cause.  It is experiences like this that feed your heart and soul. It is your/our participation that truly gives hope to those of us who have fought breast cancer and to those who will.

Hope is truly the most precious of gifts.

Louise Miller

A Special thank you to Especially for You® Race Against Breast Cancer for providing the photographs.

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