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Pink October: ‘I am a warrior, not a survivor'
Pink October saved Kerry Gaines' life.
The Live Oak resident was walking in the Race for Awareness 5K Run/Walk last year when she realized she had not had a recent mammogram. On Saturday, she stomped the streets at the annual event once again — this time with "survivor" emblazoned on her shirt.
"Get your mammograms," she said, 10 months after her diagnosis. "It doesn't hurt as bad as the rest of it. Knowing for sure is better than the unknown."
Thousands of people turned out for this year's kickoff events for Pink October. Wearing tie-dye, stripes and spots in all shades of pink, and sporting shirts with slogans such as "Save 2nd base" and "Fight like a girl," they carved a quick path through the streets of Yuba City to raise funds for the Geweke's Caring for Women Foundation, which provides financial assistance to area breast-cancer survivors.
The foundation has helped 21 women this year, and about 300 women since its start in 2006. Events continue all month long to contribute to the fundraising efforts. Live Oak residents Cyndia Diaz and Aurora Curiel hustled down Gray Avenue in pink tutus, which they created just for Pink October, inspired by a few people they know whose lives have been forever altered by breast cancer.
"Anytime you can have fun and raise money for a good cause, I'm all about it," Diaz said.
Rosie Sanchez won't let a stranger pass without letting them know the importance of self-breast exams. She had been checking herself since she was 15 when, at 29, she felt a small pea-sized lump and went to get it checked.
By the time it was removed, it was Stage III breast cancer that required a double mastectomy, two months of radiation and five months of chemotherapy.
"I am a warrior, not a survivor," she said. "I went through hell and back and I realized that every day is a blessing. I'm grateful to be able to get out of bed, and if I can beat cancer, I can do anything."
Yuba City resident Michele Delao and a dozen of her supporters completed the walk together.
"I was diagnosed in January, and I'm just now getting the fuzz back on my head," she said, rubbing the short gray hair under her pink hat. "But I moved myself into survivor category on Feb. 13, the day I had my surgery."
She said she's a poster child for mammograms, because the itty-bitty lump in her breast was otherwise undetectable to her, her doctor and her surgeon.
"It was a total shock. You never think it's going to happen to you," she said.
Olivehurst resident Tonya Collman held hands with her two sons, Justin, 12, and Nathan, 15, as they walked in hand-decorated T-shirts that referenced her victory over breast cancer three years ago.
"We try to make it out here every year," she said. "It's inspiring to my kids and my family, and to me."
Across the street at Guidera's Harley Davidson, motorcyclists were gearing up for the ninth annual Harley ride to benefit the foundation. An estimated 300 riders in leather and pink bandanas rumbled their engines as they left for a ride around the Sutter Buttes.
Terri Guidera said she started the event after she was diagnosed 10 years ago and cannot believe how much it and other Pink October events continue to grow.
"It's absolutely incredible," she said. "All these people come because it's a fun thing to do, but it's also about the cause ... I think within my granddaughter's lifetime, there will be a cure and that's the most amazing thing and what this is all about."
Lannette Becher of Rio Linda was ready with her customized pink and white Harley, a gift from her husband in honor of her mother, Virginia Bertsch, who succumbed to breast cancer in 1997.
The motorcycle is inscripted with an "in memory" to her mother, and before Becher took off for the ride, her pink ribbon taillights flashing, she smiled and said, "My guardian angel is always with me as I ride."