The Faces of Breast Cancer

Ransom Riggs

Every year, the Susan G. Komen foundation organizes 15 three-day walks in cities across the country to raise awareness about and funds to help fight breast cancer. It's an intense event: walkers wear out their shoes hoofing it more than sixty miles -- twenty per day, sleeping in tents at night -- and by the time they cross the finish line, everyone is exhausted and brimming with emotion. Most walkers are "walking for" someone -- a loved one who's fought or been lost to breast cancer -- or they've survived it themselves. My wife and some of her friends participated in the San Diego event this past weekend, after having an amazing, life-changing time participating two years ago. I brought my camera, and was beyond moved by what I saw.

Update: Nancy, shown in the picture above, saw the blog and writes in:

My friends and I are the first picture. We met on the 3-Day and will be life long friends. I am on the right. I lost my mom 10 years ago to breast cancer and it was my 22nd walk. Stacy is in the middle. It was her 10th walk and her mom is a 9 year survivor. Roberta is on the left. She is a 10 year survivor and it was her 20th walk. This was our final walk and the end of an amazing journey. It was a very emotional Day 3. Thanks for capturing it!

Along the routes, walkers are cheered on by crowds, 3-day workers, locals who stand outside their houses holding signs, and by "walker stalkers," who drive alongside walkers, honking and shouting encouragement.

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One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. In 2004, more than 500,000 people died from breast cancer -- that's about one percent of all deaths, period. Many walkers carried signs of remembrance for lost loved ones.

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Looking through my photos from the event two years ago, I realized that out of more than 4,000 walkers each year, I had taken a picture of the lady in the photo above twice on different years, holding a sign for her sister. Wow. That's devotion. You go, lady! (Above: 2009. Below: 2007.)

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For more information about the 3-Day Walk for the Cure -- to participate, donate or just spectate -- check out their website.