Pink Run going the distance in breast cancer fight

...Annual event aims to raise $6 million as it seeks to expand reach

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

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They are not words anyone wants to hear: “You have cancer.”

For Jamaican women living with and fighting breast cancer, in particular, their struggle doesn't have to be a lonely, dark place.

As it has done over many years, the Jamaica Cancer Society — through its Reach For Recovery programme —Jamaican women have found their matador, one that wields a mighty sword in a selfless crusade to give hope of beating back a killer.

Reach For Recovery, as a charity, has touched countless lives through its flagship event, the Insurance Company of the West Indies (ICWI) Pink Run. The annual 5K run/walk event has generated millions of dollars to help create awareness, spur outreach programmes, give women a fighting chance against breast cancer and to aid survivors cope psychologically and emotionally.

And there have been many success stories.

“In 2004, I did my regular mammogram and they told me they saw something like grains of sands and I should come back and do another check, but I didnt believe them. So I said I needed a second opinion, so I did another mammogram, and to my surprise, the test came back positive.

“You don't have any idea how one feels when you hear that you have breast cancer,” said Carolind Graham, a breast cancer survivor.

Graham, whose testimony serves as inspiration for other women battling the scourge, is today the chairperson for Reach For Recovery.

“I asked myself if this is a death sentence, is it going to be a situation that I am going to die and not see my children grow up, so I spoke with my husband (Ronald Graham) and he said 'whatever it is, we are going to work through it together', and we did.

“We did a mastectomy and five years of post-hospital treatment, and here I am,” Graham told theJamaica Observerat yesterday's launch of the ICWI Pink Run to be held in Kingston on Sunday, October 28.

Hers is a story of trial, triumph and inspiration, and that today she is involved in fund-raising efforts to help other women fight and defeat breast cancer as she has done, means the cause cuts close to her heart.

“And that's what Reach To Recovery is: women with breast cancer who can share their experiences, reassuring people who are feeling insecure and uncertain, and at the end of the day, you see them literally come to bloom and go on to live long productive lives when they beat this thing,” noted Graham.

She said she takes particular pride in the growth of the run/walk event, which this year is targeting $6 million, twice the sum raised last year.

“We started this event 18 years ago, when we had Digicel as a sponsor, and when they left us we continued on our own... and the ICWI became aware of us, I am not sure how, and in 2015, they said they are interested in our event and that they would like to partner with us, and we said yes.

“The first year with them we had about 1,200 persons, the second year we had about 2,000, then last year we had about 3,000 and this year I want about 5,000. The truth is ICWI's partnership has given us buoyancy, and we have grown,” noted Graham.

Meanwhile, Running Events principal Alfred “Franno” Francis says the ICWI Pink Run is one of his favourite charity events.

“When it comes to worthy causes, this one stands out to me because the scourge of cancer is upon us... so where we can create awareness and promote a healthy lifestyle, then we should,” he said following a moving launch where the showroom of co-sponsor Toyota Jamaica on Old Hope Road was transformed into tapestry of pink in keeping with the global theme of breast cancer.

Francis, who is on his second stint as meet organiser of the 18-year event, said the steady growth, especially in the recent past, is encouraging.

“It has grown significantly since Running Events came back and has partnered with ICWI, and I think they understand the vision now and understand now that there is huge potential.... we have seen 50 per cent growth every year, so let's go out and support,” he noted.

Speaking for main sponsor, ICWI vice-president Samantha Samuda, said: “We are a family-rich company, one with a heart and it has been our honour to be a part of this and we re-reinforce our commitment in the fight against breast cancer,” she said.

Apart from the $1.5-million cash injection, ICWI, a regional full-service insurance giant, will contribute $1,000 from each new Road Angel insurance policy sold to Reach to Recovery from October 2018 to October 2019.

On Friday, October 5, there will be a teaser event called the Pink Dash. This is a promotional run designed for corporate groups in a shuttle relay between Grenada Crescent and Barbados Avenue.

Entry per person is $1,500, $1,200 each for groups of 50 or more, plus a premium package of $3,200 each, which includes t-shirt and breakfast.

The run, which starts at Emancipation Park at 6:30 am, will take participants along Oxford Road, Old Hope Road, Seymour Avenue, Seaview Avenue, Lady Musgrave Road, Trafalgar Road, St Lucia Avenue, Trinidad Terrace, onto Knutsford Boulevard, ending at Emancipation Park.

Among the slew of sponsors is theJamaica Observer.

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