Cancer patients and survivors walk tall at pub crawl
Cancer and beer. Probably not two things you naturally associate, unless it’s in the context of celebrating with someone fortunate enough to beat the despicable disease. Saturday, close to two thousand beer lovers gathered on West Sixth Street and raised a glass in the name of stomping out The Big C. Crawl for Cancer started 10 years ago by a group of friends wanting to combine fun with philanthropy. Crawls are now held in nearly two-dozen cities across the country, inspiring people to celebrate survivors, remember those who lost their battles and help raise money to find a cure.
To participate, all you need is a team, an entry fee, a reason to support cancer research and services and it helps to be thirsty. It's a disease few people have not been touched by. Cancer changed my life more than 10 years ago when it took my mother from me; after a courageous two-year battle with ovarian cancer. It's a disease that has brought many people to their knees. Perhaps fitting then that Saturday's event involved crawling.
National organizer Samantha Green lost her sister Laurie Walker to cancer in 2001. Laurie was only 41 years old and Samantha, who was 15 years her junior, was left trying to figure out why her sister had to die so young. "I do this in hopes some day people won't have to go through what my family went through with my sister. That includes the hardships when the person is battling the disease and also the loss of that person if they don't survive it." To most crawls, Samantha wears a hat that sums up how she feels about the disease. It simply reads 'f cancer'. I concur.
In the crowd of hundreds, almost everyone has a story. Crawler Shawn Bose's mother-in-law is battling colon cancer for the second time and his brother is a pancreatic cancer surgeon at MD Anderson. Shawn came out Saturday to support them. "One thing that helps is knowing that so many other families are affected by it. It's good to talk to a friend who has gone through it to get some strength and some perspective."
In 1996, volunteer Barbara Davis says an episode of 'Oprah' saved her life. She was 48 and had a mammogram every year for the previous 8 years, but decided she wasn't going to have one that year. During the 'Oprah' episode, the talk show host encouraged women to take charge of their health, including getting mammograms. "She was talking about women that didn't go for their yearly exams and how stupid that was and I realized that was stupid, and that was the year they found breast cancer that was pretty aggressive and probably if they hadn't caught it, I wouldn't be standing here today." Barbara kicked cancer's ass and is now a proud 15-year survivor. She says she's proof there is life after cancer. She even donated a kidney to her husband 4 years ago, when he was diagnosed with kidney disease.
For people like Shawn and Barbara, the crawl is a good way to give back while having a little fun. The colorful crowd ranges in age from 21-year-olds to retirees. Many teams come dressed in costumes. This year I saw groups in get-ups that included fake mustaches, sombreros, leg warmers, armor and birthday hats. Crawl For Cancer is not just about drinking vast amounts of beer or finding an excuse to wear a crazy outfit while waiting for Halloween to come around again. It's about giving support to those who have faced cancer or will face it, giving them the strength to lift themselves from a crawl to a determined walk towards finding a cure, and a little solace while they wait for one to be found. To that I say 'cheers.' After all, having fun facing down adversity is part of what life is all about.
Crawl for Cancer has raised more than 1.5 million dollars for cancer related organizations, including The Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Three local organizations will benefit from this year’s crawl: Hospice Austin, Big Hearts For Brave Hearts and the Capital Area Food Bank.