Arkie Mama: Let’s kick some cancer butt

I moved to Arkansas in August 1999. A month later, I was assigned to cover that year’s Race for the Cure.

People, I was stunned.

More than 22,000 people had registered to walk or run. I vowed that next year, I would be one of them.

Since then I’ve participated in all but a few races. I remember the year I tied pink bandannas around my baby daughter’s stroller; the year my then 10-year-old stepdaughter walked with me; the year I bumped into the director of my children’s daycare. She stood on the sidewalk, crying, thinking of the two family members she had lost to breast cancer.

Last year, around 50,000 people participated. I’m sure the number this year will be even higher.

Tomorrow, I will be hosting Susan of Toddler Planet. She’s written a beautiful yet sobering post for us about a type of breast cancer many women have never heard of. Inflammatory breast cancer, or IBC, is one of the most deadly forms of this disease. Susan is the mother of two young sons. Her story is one of determination, hope and joy.

Saturday, the Little Rock Mamas will be out in full force. A few will be manning a booth, where you’ll find free coffee and tickets to Girls’ Night Out, 7 p.m., Race Day. Your ticket gets you in free and makes you eligible for several raffle prizes. We hope you’ll join us. Our booth will be in the parking lot at Third and Broadway.

If you go to our homepage, we’ve provided lists (and links) of every race-related activity.

And now I’d like to share that story I wrote 10 years ago. Make sure you read to the end. Because then you’ll understand why this fight is so very important.

There’s power in pink, Race for Cure shows Fund-raiser to fight breast cancer put men on sidelines, in spirit only

CATHY FRYE ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

You’d have thought the scene downtown — hordes of determined women and an abundance of pink — would have kept most men from venturing anywhere near the heart of Little Rock on Saturday morning.
But a significant portion of the male population turned out to participate in this year’s Race for the Cure, the annual fund-raiser for breast cancer research.
And many of them even wore pink.
“Can they keep up with me? That’s the question,” boasted Kenneth Finney, associate pastor of New Light Baptist Church, gesturing toward the large group of women he was accompanying in the race.
As 11 heads swiveled in his direction, however, Finney winced and began backpedaling.
“Of course, there are enough of them to carry me if I can’t,” he added meekly.
Gwen Ingram, one of Finney’s parishioners, shot her minister a look of mock disapproval. “I’m sure there are a few women here who can manage to outrun you,” she said wryly.
Not all of the men present at the early morning event were running — or even walking, for that matter. Many had signed on to be enthusiastic spectators, including one man whose border collie wore a large pink bow.
This year, more than 1,100 men arrived downtown to participate in “Three Miles of Men.” That’s way up from last year’s 280, said an elated Barbara Wagner, who helped coordinate the male-oriented part of the event.
She credited a new, catchier name and the decision to approach corporations with a request for participation from men.
Those who were part of the three-mile endeavor decorated designated street corners, where they cheered on their female co-workers.
But sometimes guys can’t help but be — well … guys.
Two men simply couldn’t refrain from clocking various contestants, comparing times by referring to the women by wardrobe choices.
“No, the one in the tiger pants … what did she log?” one asked the other as they struggled to figure out who was fastest.
Only a few feet down the street, a large group of men harangued a buddy nicknamed “Doc,” who apparently not only couldn’t keep up, but got lost and followed the wrong course.
“I took a shortcut and they still passed me,” he gasped to his unsympathetic, snickering friends.
The out-of-breath Doc was one of about 22,000 people who registered for the 1999 race, which wound through a large chunk of downtown.
The atmosphere, with its balloons, dance music and cheers, was festive. But throughout the morning, there were several sobering reminders of the event’s very serious purpose.
Survivors of breast cancer solemnly accepted pink carnations as they crossed the finish line. And waiting to greet them were tearful family members and friends.
While most women said they see the annual race as a time of sisterhood and bonding, many of the men said it held deep meaning for them as well. Several said they had watched relatives and friends suffer as they struggled to fight the disease.
Shortly before the race began, there was a moment of silence for those who had lost the battle. At its conclusion, the excited chatter and music started up again as hundreds of thousands of women prepared to walk and run.
In the midst of one lively group stood a man who watched the release of thousands of balloons with tears in his eyes. On the back of his T-shirt was a pink sign that read: “I race for the cure … In memory of Liz.”
In his arms was a little girl. Her sign also was dedicated to Liz — “My mommy.”

Crossing the Broadway bridge, October 2008

Crossing the Broadway bridge, October 2008

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