BANGOR, Maine — When Corinth resident Melissa Jones helped organize a team for the annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure five years ago, she did so in honor of her mother, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer the prior year.
Her mother, 71-year-old Linda Bean, also of Corinth, now is faring much better, Jones said in advance of Sunday’s race and walk, the 20th held in Maine so far.
“She’s doing good,” Jones said. “She’s been cancer-free since her mastectomy,” though her mother still experiences some side effects from a medication that many breast cancer patients take for five years after completing chemotherapy.
This year, however, the battle against breast cancer is even more personal for the 49-year-old Corinth woman.
“Two days before the walk last year, I was diagnosed,” Jones said Sunday, shortly before the Bean Clan, about a dozen family members and friends of the mother-daughter breast cancer survivors, embarked on this year’s trek. Several more people also wear the team’s T-shirts in support of the cause.
“I completed the chemo in April but I’m still having infusions of Herceptin, which targets the gene that makes my cancer more aggressive,” said Jones, who works at St. Joseph Hospital. “I’ll have this every three weeks until February.”
The Komen race is one she and her family take part in every year now.
“I think it gives people the knowledge and makes them more aware that they and their families need to be more aware that the sooner you can catch [breast cancer], the faster they can get rid of it,” she said.
“It’s not a death sentence. It used to be a death sentence, but it’s not a death sentence anymore,” she said. “The more you know, the better you can fight and prevent and protect.”
While final fundraising totals were not immediately available on Sunday, the Bean Clan were the top fundraising team going into the weekend of the event.
In the spirit of friendly competition, however, the Bean Clan had been overtaken by two other teams — Diva Dawn, which raised $2,140, and the MDI Hospital Pacemakers, which collected $1,365 — come race day.
Some participant in Sunday’s fundraiser got into the spirit of things through what they wore.
Kailee Humphrey of Washington and Natalie Shields of Warren, both 14, were decked out from head to toe in pink — including pink tutus.
Shields said she was participating in memory of her grandmother, Janet Hansen of Port Clyde, who died in May of last year. Shields was there for her great aunt, Jackie Davis of Tennessee.
The first Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure took place 32 years ago in Dallas, Texas. The Maine affiliate of Susan G. Komen was launched in 1997, according to the organization’s website.
Now in its 20th year, the group has invested more than $3 million dollars in education, screening, diagnostic and treatment programs in the state of Maine.