Christine DesVergers was 31 and the mother of a preschooler and a toddler when she was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer.
"I was blindsided," she says.
In June 2004, DesVergers was in the hospital, enduring a course of treatment that would include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant. Her loved ones decided to form a team in her name at the Triangle Race for the Cure.
Team Christine was born. At the time, DesVergers appreciated the effort, but she knew little about the Komen Foundation and the race.
"Until I was diagnosed, breast cancer wasn't on my radar screen," she says. "I was the mom of a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old. I'd always thought that breast cancer was only a disease for older women."
But at the next year's race, when Team Christine came together again, DesVergers, her husband and children joined the crew - and discovered what the Race for the Cure is all about. It is not just about exercise. And it is not just about raising money, though Team Christine has grown to 100 members and raised more than $100,000. Team members will be walking again this year.
"It's so hard to put the experience into words," says DesVergers, of Cary. "For one thing, there's just the sheer numbers of people, moving for one cause, down Hillsborough Street. You realize how many lives are touched by breast cancer."
Many of the runners and walkers have pink placards pinned to their backs that note that they're racing in honor of someone battling cancer, or walking in memory of someone who lost the fight.
The people interspersed in the crowds with special Komen T-shirts and ball caps in pink are survivors.
"Sometimes you're walking along and then you look over and the person next to you has lost her hair during chemo, or is being pushed in a wheelchair because she's too weak to walk," DesVergers says. "I promise you, this is an experience you will never forget. It is an event that will stay with you forever."
For DesVergers and other survivors, the highlight of the morning's events is the parade of survivors. An announcer calls out the number of years and those who have survived that long since their diagnosis step out. This year, says Laura Tormey, a Komen spokeswoman, one of the women will have made it 50 years.
DesVergers gets choked up talking about survivors. Many women with Stage IV cancer at diagnosis aren't as fortunate as she has been.
"For me, the race means that I'm still here, it's been another year. Because of my treatment, I had to miss my son's first day of kindergarten. But I plan to be around for a long time."
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