About 300 people participated in the 21st annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk in Damariscotta, raising over $50,000 for breast cancer research and patient support.
“It doesn’t discriminate,” Jennifer Ruggiero, American Cancer Society community development manager, said of breast cancer. “We aim to make sure we’re honoring people as much as celebrating people.”
The 3-mile walk through Damariscotta and Newcastle village, put on by The American Cancer Society, raises money for breast cancer research and free services, such as a 24/7 support hotline, rides to and from treatments, lodging for patients and caregivers near treatment facilities, help navigating health care systems, and one-on-one support, according to Ruggiero.
Ellen Russell, American Cancer Society senior manager of development, presented breast cancer survivor Marcia “Mash” Sutton with the Sandra C. Labaree Volunteer Values Award before the walk.
Sutton, a retired teacher who spends half of her time in Damariscotta and half in Florida, has been diagnosed with breast cancer twice in her life and is now cancer-free. She has been participating in and volunteering at the walk for about 15 years.
“She exemplifies the value of determination,” Russell said of Sutton.
Another breast cancer survivor, Cindy Palmer, shared her story with the crowd. She was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer when she was 37.
Palmer didn’t have any family history of the disease, but checked herself on a whim after receiving a card showing how to perform a self-exam. She felt something she wasn’t sure of and told her doctor.
A mammogram showed nothing out of the ordinary, but tissue samples were taken just in case. The samples revealed the cancer.
“I really want to encourage people to do your monthly exams,” Palmer said. “I really am blessed that I took the steps and my doctors were there for me.”
The walk was led by Damariscotta Police Chief Jason Warlick in his cruiser. Warlick showed his support by wearing a pink sparkly tutu over his jeans.
Participants received a free scoop of ice cream at Wicked Scoops after the walk.
For Sutton, the walk is a way to raise not just money, but awareness. She was first diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 49, and had 16 years cancer-free until she was re-diagnosed last year. She is now cancer-free again.
Her sister and mother have also had the disease, and her mother, who had been 25 years cancer-free, was re-diagnosed in January.
“Breast cancer doesn’t just happen to the person who has breast cancer,” she said, explaining how her husband, friends, and family, some of whom were on her “Mash Madness” team for the walk, have been there for her.
Sutton said she wants people to understand the importance of self-exams.
“My motto to people is ‘know your own body,’” Sutton said. “No one knows your body like you do.”
Sutton said she is glad the money raised at the walk not only goes to research, but to supporting those going through treatment.
“Hopefully we’ll find a way to stop it, but the best thing that the money goes to is ways to deal with it,” she said. “It makes it so you’re not in it alone.”
“I think the 2018 Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk of Damariscotta was an amazing success,” Ruggiero said. “Raising money is important, however, raising awareness is equally important. It is truly phenomenal to see this community come together and support the fight against breast cancer.”
Donations for Making Strides events can be made up until Dec. 31.