“Thank You for Using Your Legs to Show Us What’s In Your Hearts,” Palm Coast Mayor Tells Pink Army
FlaglerLive | October 12, 2014
Some were there because they like to run. Others were there because they had a family member or a friend who’d had cancer. Others still were there because they had themselves been afflicted with the disease in one form or another. And if they were women, the likelihood that they had been diagnosed or survived breast cancer–and just as arresting, the likelihood that they will be diagnosed with it–was grimly high: one in eight women in the United States will have breast cancer. This year alone, close to 225,000 new cases will be diagnosed. And 40,000 women will die from it.
So they run.
Or walk, or jog, or stroll: this morning’s 5K run and walk, part of the eight runs that make up Palm Coast’s annual Running Series, drew hundreds of participants of all ages and sizes, degrees of fitness or degrees of will. At 7:45 a.m. they took off from in front of Florida Hospital Flagler, the chief sponsor of what’s come to be known as the annual Pink Army run, when runners’ colors compete with dawn’s pinks.
“It used to bring about only fear, but now it brings people together with resolve and determination,” Palm Coast Mayor Jon Netts said of breast cancer just before the race. His wife Priscilla stood a few paces away, and two years clear from her own battle with breast cancer. “Right now there are 3 million women battling this disease, but the mortality rate is declining.” (Breast cancer death rates decreased 27 percent between 1990 and 2005.)“So when you’re lacing your shoes this morning,” Netts went on, “remember that the proceeds from our Pink Army run stays right here in our community, providing funds for mammograms and diagnostic services and assuring that our numbers contribute to the decline in cancer fatalities.”
Lea Stokes, co-chair of this year’s organizing committee with Helga van Eckert, the director of Flagler County’s economic development department, said it was her goal to run a 5-K before she turned 50. But it’s not just that. “My Mom is a survivor,” Stokes said. “I have a girlfriend fighting cancer right now, so this one is near and dear to my heart.”
For John Seth, the band director at Flagler Palm Coast High School, it’s a matter of “running for the cause,” but also for the team: he was one of a group with the FPC Starlets. He could also say with relief that his family and extended family have been spared breast cancer’s random arrows.
There were the usual odd sights along the way, too, like Hope Romaine, 10, who said she was running “for breast cancer awareness and for exercise, to burn off the calories,” for good reason: she held a box of donuts, one or two of which had already been devoured. She also underscored her first name, the one-word anthem that usually accompanies any cancer patient in the radiation or chemotherapy ward.To Hope, it was a family run: she was there with brother Grant, 13, sister Marietta, 14, and her parents, Chris and Abby, the latter being Florida Hospital Flagler patient ambassador, among other numerous community involvements. Earlier this week at the Hammock Conservation Coalition she moderated the single most quirky candidate forum of the season (for county commission candidates), in which she threw what she called “rapid-fire questions” at the four startled contestants, including what color, what animal and what drink they would be. She thought nothing of telling them they were wrong, too. (She was a candidate for the county commission two years ago.)
She hadn’t cooled off yet this morning. “My son said, ‘I’m like a push-up bra mom, I support breasts. My 13-year-old son,” Romaine said. That would be Grant, who was not nearby just then, as Romaine stood in the shadow of the hospital’s cancer wing, and Hope’s donuts, just before the race. She then showed her race number: 1666. “I’m one little devil,” she said. She wasn’t kidding. And this was Romaine before sun-up.And then there were the serious runners, the ones who stretched, sipped and zoned in before the race, the ones with skins bronzed from daily runs and muscles toned for a lot more than five kilometers. “We are the Flagler County Runners and we run all the races, all the local races,” Shawn Dortch, a habitual winner of the 45-49 age group, said. There are no fewer than 30 ages groups in this race, 15 for women, 15 for men, starting with the age 1 to 9 division all the way up to the 75 and older. The ages straddle the divide between the years when breast cancer was a losing battle, and the more recent years when it’s become a more winnable battle, chiefly because of awareness, early detection and intervention.
Dortch was am one a group of runners who, to her surprise, decided to call her “happy feet” today, though the occasion wasn’t lost on her.
“Please know that you represent millions of women who are dealing with the harsh reality of cancer and who appreciate your efforts to win this battle and find a cure, ” Netts had said. “Thank you for using your legs to show us what’s in your hearts.”
And then they were off, running out of the hospital’s campus and into Town Center toward Imagine School. Along the way, near the county’s one and only roundabout, they could hear the peppy strings of Mouret, Bach, Purcell and Handel pulling them onward as a quintet of the Flagler Youth Orchestra (average age: 14) played on.