Event promotes breast cancer awareness
Gail Maholick/TIMES NEWS Courtney McCall, right, gives Gerri Andrews a hug. Andrews said she was diagnosed with breast cancer in January. McCall presented all the breast cancer survivors with a pink pillow to comfort them.
A presentation of pink pillows to breast cancer survivors by Courtney McCall was the highlight of Tuesday night's third annual Pink Light Walk. The walk was sponsored by the Lehighton Area Lioness Lions Club.
Participants registered at the Lehighton Recreation Center, Eighth Street, and walked to the Lehighton Amphitheater on Second Street, where they listened to moving stories from several breast cancer survivors. Everyone walking carried a battery-operated candle with a light bulb that was painted pink to light their way.
Carrying a banner, they followed a path marked with pink ribbons, which were painted on the roadway by Boys from Concern Unit, Lehighton. Several dogs wearing pink also walked with their owners.
Honorary chairs for the event were Betty McCall, wife of Speaker of the House Keith McCall, and their young daughter, Courtney. Organizers were Linda Benner and Jane Longazel, who is a survivor of inflammatory breast cancer.
Benner welcomed the crowd of about 300 walkers, who ranged in age from a few weeks old to women who were in their 70s, telling them that during their 14-minute walk, one woman had died of breast cancer, and said that every three minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer.
"That is why we work so hard," said Benner. "Our battle is not over until we never have another man or women with breast cancer."
Betty McCall said that she is not the speaker in the family, but said she knows from having a mother with breast cancer, people have to deal with a lot in their life when they battle breast cancer. She noted that her father also had an early death from colon cancer.
She introduced her daughter, Courtney, who said, "We're all here for the same reason, but we shouldn't be sad today because there is hope all around us."
Courtney said, "People who battle cancer and are survivors know courage and are brave." She then said that she had something to hold close for comfort and invited all the breast cancer survivors to come on stage as she hugged each woman and presented her with a pink pillow. "May this pillow comfort you. Hold it close and it will give you courage."
Longazel's story was one of letting go of a 12-year relationship she had with her doctor after she was finally cured of inflammatory breast cancer.
Also speaking were Michele Huk from Lehighton, who is one of the featured Gallery of Hope honorees. She said that she is a survivor of breast cancer. She was 34 years old when she was diagnosed, and since then has had seven surgeries, including a double mastectomy.
"Since I had breast cancer, I changed," said Huk. "I'm kinder to people and my family, friends and co-workers are more important to me."
Huk thanked the Lehighton Area Lioness Lions Club for organizing the Pink Light Walk.
Also speaking was Theresa Long, vice president of nursing at Blue Mountain Health System, who is also a breast cancer survivor.
Long said that she was on an awesome journey for 14 years with her battle with breast cancer. She said she was only 33 years old when she felt pain in her breast as she held her young niece and nephew. She said that while her doctor initially did not think she had breast cancer, a biopsy showed that she did. Then she found she had breast cancer in her other breast.
Long said she was tested and found to have the breast cancer gene, which gave her an 80 percent chance of having breast cancer again, so she had a bilateral mastectomy.
"When I had cancer the first time, I was single, but now I have a husband and two sons," she said. She concluded her speech by reading the lyrics of Hannah Montana's new song, "The Climb," which she said is inspirational.
Participants then walked back to the Lehighton Recreation Center where they were treated to refreshments, provided by the LLALC.