An article in the June 6 Metro section about the 15th annual Komen National Race for the Cure to raise money for breast cancer research misspelled the name of a breast cancer victim. She was Lynn Bozentka. (Published 6/12/04)
Rapin Paulick still remembers, all these years later, the shock of learning she had breast cancer. The depression. The self-pity. The thoughts of suicide.
But Paulick pulled herself together. And yesterday, the 56-year-old grandmother of two celebrated 12 years of surviving the disease. Despite the cool, drizzly weather, she turned out with tens of thousands of people for the 15th annual Komen National Race for the Cure, completing a five-kilometer course along the Mall to raise money for breast cancer research and treatment.
"Life goes on. You don't quit," declared the College Park resident, who wore the bright pink T-shirt sported by cancer survivors at the event -- as well as dangly pink earrings, pink slacks and pink eye shadow.
Yesterday's event was the largest of more than 100 races held across the country each year by the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. More than 51,000 people registered for it, down from about 61,000 last year, according to spokeswoman Jennifer Cawley.
She attributed the decrease to the fact that "there's a lot going on" in Washington. Still, she said, "51,000 makes a huge difference for breast cancer programs."
The race was expected to raise more than $2 million, with about $1 million staying in the District, Maryland and Virginia for cancer education and treatment.
The race was no ordinary sports event. It was preceded by a "Parade of Pink" -- hundreds of women who trooped to stands erected on the Mall wearing vivid pink T-shirts. They were young and elderly, black, white and Asian, survivors of a disease that is the leading cause of cancer death for women ages 20 to 59.
"I cannot tell you what an inspiration it is to look out and see our sea of pink," said Susan Braun, president of the Komen foundation.
The race began at 8 a.m. at Ninth Street and Constitution Avenue NW with 15 motorcyclists leading the way, carrying cancer survivors wearing -- what else? -- pink helmets.
The event drew some serious athletes; the first crossed the finish line in 15 minutes, 13 seconds. But thousands of participants walked in teams, carrying photos of loved ones. For many, the race was a memorial to mothers, sisters and friends who survived the disease -- or did not.
There was Team Viv, Team Dianne and Jen's Team. There were Agnes' Angels and Cindy Lou's Celebration Crew.
There was Cioci's Charge, a group of 22 friends and relatives of Lynn "Cioci" Bozentha, a D.C. lawyer who started battling the disease in 1998 and died at 45 four years later.
"She started organizing people to go. After she was diagnosed with cancer, we wanted to support this," said her brother-in-law, Chris Dickson, 45, of Columbia.
Since her death, Cioci's Charge has carried on. For yesterday's race, the group included adults and children, including one who was pushed in a stroller. They came from as far away as Orlando and Charlotte.
"We're still trying to make it a family event in her memory," Dickson said.
Laurie Keehner, 25, had run the race five times before to honor her grandmother, who died of breast cancer. But this year, the Georgetown resident had another reason to participate: A close friend's mother, Connie Middleton, died of breast cancer in February.
Keehner helped form a team called Connie's Kidz as a way to remember a woman she admired.
"I sent out one e-mail, and we got 20 people," said Keehner, who said she works in the White House personnel office.
The teams went beyond relatives and friends of breast cancer patients. Embassies, churches, schools, hospitals and government agencies fielded groups to support the cause. So did Murphy's Irish Pub in Alexandria, which signed up 50 employees and customers.
"It's a lot of fun. People really get excited about it," said pub owner Tom Mooney, 60, who organized a post-race "recovery room" back at the pub, complete with bloody marys.
Carrie Weaver, 23, of Arlington ran with a team put together by her employer, the Washington Capitals hockey team.
"There's no way you can go through life without knowing someone affected," said Weaver, whose friend survived the disease. "Any one of us -- mother, sister, friend -- could have it."
Race organizers paid special attention this year to family, friends, doctors and others who support breast cancer patients. Such "co-survivors" received badges of intertwined pink and white ribbons. The design was similar to that of the looped pink ribbon that has come to be a symbol of breast cancer awareness.
"It's high time to honor these sources of strength," said Karen Rivera, a breast cancer survivor who is on the Komen board of directors.
The Dallas-based foundation was set up in 1982 by Nancy Brinker in memory of her sister, who died of breast cancer at 36.