NEWPORT BEACH – Ramon San Pedro wiped tears from his eyes as a parade of breast cancer survivors carried smiles and held up pink roses through a crowd of people on Sunday at the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure event on Fashion Island in Newport Beach.
San Pedro, a 56-year-old Filipino from Norwalk, was among thousands of people who came out to support the annual walk/run event for breast cancer awareness and to raise funds for cancer research.
“I’m here to run for my sister-in-law, who is a survivor,” said San Pedro, wearing a pink-white t-shirt and bib that read ‘I race in celebration of Ate Josie Pineda.’
More than 25,000 participated and $2 million was raised to support breast cancer research in this year’s Komen O.C. Race for the Cure, according to race organizers.
The annual event brings out people from all ages, races and demographics. The walk/ race event is a celebration of life and a vital support system for people who live with breast cancer.
It is also a somber reminder of how deadly and widespread the disease is.
Along the race route were large poster boards with pictures and descriptions of a number of women, who have passed away from the disease. One poster board showed a picture of Conchita Bacog Sande, “Our Hero and Inspiration.”
“Mom, you’ve been gone 20 years but you live in our hearts forever. Your battle with cancer taught us to never give up,” read the text on the poster board.
Every year, there are more than 230,000 new cases of breast cancer in women, according to the Susan G. Komen statistics.
About 40,000 women die every year of breast cancer.
For Filipinos, breast cancer is the most prevalent form of cancer both here in the US and in the Philippines.
In the Philippines, breast cancer overtook lung cancer, according to the Philippine Society of Medical Oncology (PSMO).
In a Philippine Daily Inquirer story last year, the report quoted PSMO President Dr. Felycette Lapus as saying that the Philippines had the lowest survival rate of people with breast cancer among countries in Asia.
“So, we are number one for breast cancer in Asia,” said Lapus to the Inquirer. “Three out of 100 (Filipino) women will get breast cancer before age 75 and one out of 100 will die before reaching 75.”
In America, the numbers are just as high for Asian Americans and Filipino-Americans, according to the National Cancer Institute.
“Among Filipino women, breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death,” according to an NCI study.
The NCI also found that Asian American and Filipino- American women are less likely to screen for breast cancer during check-ups.
Experts say the key to surviving breast cancer is to get checked and treated as soon as possible.
“We can’t stress enough the importance of early detection in breast cancer management. This is especially true now when there are options for treatment that weren’t available to everyone before,” Lupus said to the Inquirer.
“The earlier the cancer is detected, diagnosed, and treated by the team of medical oncologists the better the success rates,” she added.
Men are also not immune from breast cancer. More than 2,000 men are diagnosed with breast cancer annually and 400 die of the disease each year, according to the Susan G. Komen statistics.
For San Pedro, this was the first time for him to attend the breast cancer walk/ run event. He said it was important for him to come not to just show up in support of his wife’s sister but also to raise awareness about the disease in the Filipino community.
“This is a big deal,” San Pedro said. “It’s important for everyone in the Filipino community to come out here and support this cause.”
(LA Weekend September 28 – October 1, 2013 Sec A pg.8)