For survivor Tara Haberl, breast cancer awareness events bring a sense of hope and a lift in spirits to those fighting the deadly disease.
“Before I had cancer, it was just a pink ribbon,” she said. Now she sees the ribbons, each representing the battle against breast cancer, have much more significance.
Haberl told her survival story to the crowd gathered outside Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center to see the Pink Heals fire trucks Monday morning.
The bright pink trucks are driven by firefighters in pink uniforms and signed by anyone who has been affected by breast cancer. They represent the nonprofit Guardians of the Pink Ribbon’s mission to bring awareness to breast cancer prevention as they travel across the country.
“We support the women, not the disease,” said David Graybill, retired firefighter and CEO of the organization. “We celebrate the soul of women.”
To him, every survivor is his mother — a woman deserving love and appreciation. The group hopes to inspire towns to raise funds for people, not causes, within their communities.
Monday’s event allowed local survivors and fighters to be recognized in public, pose for photos with the trucks and firefighters and share their stories. Hospital nurses were on hand to provide information on detection and prevention methods.
Haberl is the nurse educator at the Women’s Health Center. The biggest prevention tool is monthly self-exams, she said, recommending all women do it at the same time each month.
“If you know what is normal, you’ll know what has changed,” she said.
Women over 40 should have annual mammograms, unless there is a family history of breast cancer, Haberl said.
Col. Patricia Darnauer, commander of the medical center, provided sobering statistics to the crowd: 232,000 women have been identified with new cases of breast cancer this year, and 40,000 women will die this year from the disease. There are currently 2.9 million survivors in the country, she said.
“We appreciate everything they represent,” Darnauer said of the Pink Heals. The awareness the group fosters is an ideal way for women to become more informed about breast cancer detection, she said.
For the medical center’s staff, the event was the perfect way to honor those fighting, to celebrate survivors and to keep the memory alive of those who lost the fight to breast cancer, said organizer 1st Lt. Gian Malloy with the hospital.