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‘A celebration of life’ Race for the Cure brings out 14,000 touched by breast cancer

Citizen Staff Writer



About 14,000 women, men, teens, kids and dogs spent part of their Sunday morning supporting the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure at Reid Park.

Many of them are cancer survivors, including Patti McAlister, 64.

It was only three months after her wedding when McAlister found out she had breast cancer.

“It brought us closer together. It was a good thing if you could say that,” McAlister said.

She relieved her stress by spending time with family, worked out and kept a positive attitude.

McAlister has a reason to smile again: She is a survivor. She has been cancer-free for 10 years.

The race is a fundraiser for local and national breast cancer research, screening and treatment programs.

“In southern Arizona 1 in 6 women are afflicted with breast cancer, and nationally it is 1 in 8,” said Carol Cullivan, Race for the Cure event director.

Runners competed in a noncompetitive 1-mile walk/run, a 3-mile walk/run and a competitive 3-mile race.

The park was buzzing with activity before 7 a.m. as people gathered, wandered, ate and prepared for the races and walks.

The Retro Rockets, a ’60s rock ‘n’ roll tribute band, provided entertainment. For the kids, there was a bouncy castle. The Tir Conaill Academy of Irish Dancing also performed. Dancers ages 6 to 12 were doing jigs, reels and hornpipes in traditional Irish dress.

Participant Diane Damewood, 55, has been a breast cancer survivor for eight years and raced for her eighth time in the Race for the Cure. She completed the 1-mile noncompetitive run/walk.

“It’s so inspiring – a special tribute to the ones who went before us and are no longer here,” Damewoodsaid. “And it also is a celebration of life.”

The event also inspired Connie Dettra, 48, and her daughter Alexis, 17. Connie Dettra has been a breast cancer survivor for more than a year, and she came out to support the cause.

When Dettra was going through chemotherapy, Alexis went with her mom and did her best to keep her positive.

“She kept me busy,” Dettra said.

Dettra’s husband, Anthony, showed his support by shaving his head when she lost her hair.

“At least she (Alexis) didn’t shave her head like her father,” she said.

This year marked the 11th annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and the 26th annual nationwide. The first race was held in 1983 in Dallas with 800 runners.

Roger McKissick, 68, and his wife Miriam, 66, originally from an area near Akron, Ohio, came to Arizona to retire. They have been going to the Race for the Cure for eight years.

“At her last radiation treatment I brought her a dozen roses. She didn’t know I was coming,” McKissick said.

McKissick has supported his wife throughout her battle. She has been cancer-free for 12 years.

Kevin Malaney, 51, a Green Valley firefighter/paramedic, also was there supporting the cause.

“It’s an important event for me,” Malaney said.

Malaney’s mother is a survivor, and three of his aunts have died of breast cancer.

The event concluded with breast cancer survivors taking the stage at the Georges Demeester Performance Center. They were linked by a long pink thread.

Once the survivors took the stage, they had a moment to honor those lost to breast cancer. They joined hands and swayed back and forth. A ceremonial dove was released. Then two dozen more doves followed.

Seventy-five percent of the proceeds will remain in the community to support breast cancer treatment. The rest will go to fund national research. Officials hoped to raise $1.5 million locally, but will not have a finally tally until next week. In 2008, $1.4 million was raised.

Next year’s race will be April 11.


• Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women. The first is lung cancer.

• About 1 in 35 women will die from breast cancer.

• About 40,500 nationwide died from breast cancer in 2008.

• About 2,800 women in Arizona will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. In 2008, that number was 3,220.

• There were 724 breast cancer deaths in Arizona in 2008. Of those, 129 were in Pima County.

Sources: American Cancer Society, Arizona Department of Health Services, Arizona Cancer Center,


A high-risk candidate for developing breast cancer would be someone whose immediate family member, such as a mother, sister or daughter, has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Other risk factors include:

• History of multiple biopsies.

• Early menstrual periods and late menopause.

• History of pre-menopausal breast cancer.

• Never having children or having the first child after age 30.

Source: Arizona Cancer Center

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