At Komen race, breast cancer fundraisers wear the cause proudly

Breast cancer survivors and their supporters use humor to help them cope. The many bold, off-color slogans on T-shirts at Saturday's race on the Mall in Washington are prime examples.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 6, 2010

"Yes they're fake," declared one T-shirt, referring to the breasts of the wearer. "My real ones tried to kill me."

"Operation Support 2nd Base," said another.

"Stop the War in Myraq," read a third.

Funny, inspiring, heartbreaking and sometimes bawdy, the T-shirts on display Saturday at Washington's annual Susan G. Komen Global Race for the Cure again served to illustrate how many people cope with breast cancer.

The shirts are becoming a core element of the race, now in its 21st year, which has raised more than $25 million since its inception. About 40,000 people ran or walked Saturday.

For some, the bolder their slogans the better, because they want to spur others to get a checkup and help take the secrecy out of the disease.

"There's no excuse for not talking about it," said participant Krysta Scharlach, 32, whose tank top said "Save the Tatas." She doesn't have breast cancer, but ran to support the cause.

Other T-shirt slogans: "These Boobs Were Made for Walking," "Taking Care of the Girls," "Check Your Bumps for Lumps," "Hope for Hooters," as well as white sashes bearing the motto "Tata Sisterhood."

"It's an expression of their personalities," said race spokesman Sean Tuffnell, "and how they're positioning themselves in their fight."

Karen Harrington, 53, of Cheltenham, Md., had always known the risks of breast cancer. She's an oncology research manager at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. And her younger sister had had the disease.

One morning, she felt a lump. Within a week, she said, she was on the phone with her sister.

"We're going to treat it, and it's going to be fine," Harrington said, knowing by the silence that her sister and best friend was starting to cry.

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