Pinked for a Day – Komen style

Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure of NW Ohio was held September 27-28, 2014 in Toledo, and Findlay, Ohio.  As many of you know, I was chosen as the “In Celebration of” honoree for the Toledo race.  What a day it was!   The excitement was mounting as people begin descending upon Downtown Toledo.  Although we are a mid-size city, the Komen race draws more people here than Chicago!  Attendance was over 27,000 people!

The day began early at 6:45 am as I arrived at Fifth Third Field, our beautiful stadium, home of the Toledo Mud Hens.  My picture, in banner form, was up on the stadium fence for the Walk of Survivors!

Komen2014WalkofSurvivorsbillboard After mingling with family, friends, and strangers, and walking through the multitude of tents for an hour, I was called onto the field by Chrys Peterson, our local celebrity newsperson and a woman who gives tirelessly to the Breast Cancer community.  Chrys and I had some “live” conversation on WTOL, our local news channel and CBS affiliate.  Channel 11 broadcasts the entire morning of the Race!!  It was time for them to play the video Chrys and Channel 11 had done about my journey.  It is surreal to see yourself and your story unfold on the Megatron Screens at the stadium which was full of family, friends, survivors, and supporters!

Hundreds of Survivors clothed in their pink shirts then pour onto the field for a photo in the shape of a pink ribbon   This is the most touching moment for me every year.  Knowing that these women understand, reaches into your soul and brings more healing.  There are always many tears, hugs, and wonderful reunions.  Dawn Roberts,

Cloud formation at the Finish Line at Findlay Race!!!!
Cloud formation at the Finish Line at Findlay Race!!!!

who attended the Findlay Race just days after her first round of chemotherapy said: “I went there feeling like an outsider to a club and left the day feeling inspired!”  Check out the cloud formation in this picture of Dawn as she finished the race!!

The young woman next to me, bald with her Komen cap on, had recently had a double mastectomy and had her second A/C chemo treatment last week.  A wheelchair was waiting for her so she could make it through the day.  After the photo, the Survivors all sing the emotional song, “I Run for Life” as tears pour down most of our cheeks.  Then it was time for me to lead the parade of Survivors from the stadium to the start of the race.  As I got into that decorated golf cart, all I could keep thinking was “How the heck did I get here?”

Tears just come out of my eyes as onlookers cheered and more golf carts followed behind with women unable to walk the race, followed by the sea of pink survivors walking toward the start of the Race.  You see many tissues during this time.  All I kept thinking about was my first Komen Race in 2012 when I was barely able to walk after just finishing treatment.

Leading the Parade in my Decorated Golf Cart!
Leading the Parade in my Decorated Golf Cart!

An old friend from the church of my youth came running up beside the golf cart to tell me her early 40s daughter just had her first chemo last week because of a recent breast cancer diagnosis.  Sadness came upon me and the reality of breast cancer hit home once more.  More friends and family lined the parade route as I waved and gave the thumbs up sign to the cheering crowds.

The parade ended at the starting line where the large stage is present.  Once again, Chrys Peterson called me to the stage to speak on live television and in front of 27,000 people.  My niece, Danelle, and nephews, David and Tyler accompanied me  where they gave me a bouquet of two dozen pink roses!  After a lovely introduction, I attempted to say something inspirational to the tens of thousands gathered.  People told me it was.  I can’t really remember as it is a blur!   Komen2014onstage1A very touching and surprising moment happened when I was given a gorgeous  heart and ribbon necklace designed by a local jeweler, Harold Jaffe Jewelers.  Their lives were touched by breast cancer.  They were in tears as they presented me with the gift, as they lost their mother to this terrible disease.

Forty-two friends and family were part of Team Hello Courage.  And many others, including friends I have met through this Blog, made contributions in my team’s name and were with us in spirit!   My heart was overwhelmed with gratitude for these family and friends who had sacrificed money, time and much energy to be there, had gotten up at the crack of dawn, many with little kids.  Some drove many miles like my friend since Kindergarten, Sandy, who came from Detroit.   And since it was Sunday morning, my favorite sign along the Race path was in front of Trinity Episcopal Church which said:  “Pray with your feet!”  It always is such a spiritual day and the memories of this very particular race will continue to inspire me.  A special thank you to the best aunt any woman ever had, Marian Gladieux, and my wonderful and persistent friend, Anita Conley, for nominating me for this great honor!Komen2014HC2

The day after the Race, I suddenly remembered a dream I had shortly after my official diagnosis.  I ran to my computer and found this blog post just a few posts into my very new blog dated October 22, 2011.

“I  had a dream this morning that I owned a Chateau in France.  I got to the house and there were suspended ceiling tile in the living area.  All of them were cracked and kept cracking before my eyes.  I was shocked.  I wondered why I had purchased this house in a foreign country with a cracked and broken ceiling.  So I took a long stick and poked at the ceiling tile.  A whole group of tiles just fell to the ground.  I was terrified I owned this piece of trash.  What had I gotten myself into, I wondered in the dream?  But then I looked up.  Beyond the broken and cracked and ruined ceiling tiles, I had a glimpse, just a glimpse of this gorgeous ceiling.  More beautiful than I could imagine.   A hand-painted vaulted ceiling that was hidden by the hideous ceiling tile.   And then I awakened.”

Three long and grueling years later living through Mastectomy, chemo, radiation, heart attack, lymphedema, my mom’s breast cancer diagnosis, writing 171 blog entries, writing thousands and thousands of emails, and establishing a business at for cancer patients, I suddenly realized my life now is what was beyond the cracked and ruined ceiling tile.  I am now living under the hand-painted, magnificent vaulted ceiling that was previously hidden.  Never would I have chosen this path to get to that spectacular ceiling.  But it was the hand dealt to me , and with God’s grace and help, I was able to get there.

Thank you, Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure for helping reveal the ceiling beyond the cracked and broken tiles. Your continued passion, determination, and raising awareness of breast cancer is amazing as we continue in the pursuit of a cure.  My local representatives for Komen are so dedicated and  passionate which shows in their incredibly hard work.

You can still donate through Team Hello Courage until October 31, 2014.



  1. Denise, you are truly amazing and an inspiration to me! I am so glad your big day went well and am sorry I could not be there in person but I assure you I was there in spirit! Will be praying for you every day on the Camino!

  2. So well written Denise. I also live in Oregon. I also am a breast cancer survivor x 4 years and so grateful for people like you who bring support and encouragement to others. Your aunt, Marian Gladieux grew up in my neighborhood. We just reconnected lately at a chicken barbeque at my church. Keep up your fabulous work .I was also happy to be downtown on Sunday and do the survivor parade and the walk with everyone.

    • Hi Cheryl, great to hear from you. Congratulations on 4 years!! So happy for you. Thanks for your kind words! And glad you now my aunt! What a great person she is! Glad you were downtown on Sunday to share in the walk! Hope our paths cross some day!

  3. You are an inspiration, Denise! Bless you for taking your breast cancer experience and turning it around to provide hope and courage to others. There could not have been a better representative for us to walk “In Celebration of” this year! 😉 I’m so happy our paths crossed!

    • Thank you so much, Chrys, for your kind words! I appreciate it so much. It was a privilege and
      honor. I am grateful our paths crossed as well! Thanks for doing such an amazing job on the video
      and making being interviewed easy! Sending my best!

  4. Denise I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer in August of 2012 and have followed your blog all through treatment. You have really been an inspiration to me to fight and to never give up. Today I am in remission and consider myself a survivor. I really appreciate everything that you have done for breast cancer patients everywhere!


    • Peggy, thank you SO MUCH for writing me! And so glad you are in remission with Stage 3!!
      Hooray! I am so happy I could help you through. It means everything to me when people tell me that
      because all I did was write my feelings! I figured I couldn’t be the only breast cancer patient in
      the world with crazy, bounce-all-over-the-place feelings!! Keep moving forward!!

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