'Look at all this pink:' Thousands participate in Susan G. Komen walk for breast cancer research

"It just makes me feel good, makes me tingle. It's like a sea of pink. Look at all this pink."

They walked in pink tutus, in pink Superman capes, and leaning on pink canes.

They walked for mothers, sisters and wives who died of breast cancer, or who endure the disease today. Some women walked for themselves.

They walked Sunday in Hunt Valley as the sun rose and chill eased, saying it wasn't as cold or wet as in years past.

They walked, about 8,000 of them in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, for the one in eight women who will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 40,000 who will die in the U.S. each year without a cure.

They walked for a Russian grandmother, Regina Yakutchik, who worked in the drapery department at Sears and who died at 56. They walked for a Baltimore mother, Evelyn Gabinet, who threw an ace horseshoe and died at 59.

They walked for the woman who started it all, Susan G. Komen, 36, who died in 1980 when breast health was less discussed. They wanted to shout out about her killer, so they took to the streets. They walked in Dallas, Texas, with 800 people in 1983. They walked in 57 U.S. cities about a decade later.

They walked along Baltimore's Inner Harbor with 2,000 people in 1993. More women came the next year, then even more.

They walked each fall in Hunt Valley since 2007 and raised $1.2 million last year for breast cancer research, said Kim Schmulowitz, spokeswoman for the Maryland chapter of Susan. G. Komen. The nonprofit hopes to match that amount this year.

"As much as awareness has grown," she said, "it's still a very common and, unfortunately, very deadly disease."

They walked Sunday and some ran for 4,700 Maryland women diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Some wore pink gorilla suits, pink fairy wings and pink wigs.

They walked without Judy Davanzo of Timonium. The 49-year-old elementary school teacher and fitness instructor died of breast cancer in April.

"She is here today with all of us," her older sister Jill Frey told the crowd.

Like a butterfly, Davanzo would alight on the lives around her, Frey said. The barista from Starbucks cried beside her hospice bed. Her family continues the nonprofit CaringOn she founded to support caregivers of cancer patients. Her sisters walked Sunday with her husband, Drew, 16-year-old daughter, Reese, and 11-year-old son, Trace — and all the other families.

They walked for Kathy Myers, 63, of Harford County, who has lived five years free of cancer, but remembers the burns on her skin from the chemotherapy.

They walked for Dorothy Talley, who worked at Sinai Hospital and died two years ago at 56. She had two grown sons.

They walked for Cindy Schroeder of Parkville, a financial-accounts manager, who died three years ago of breast cancer at 55. She also had two grown sons.

They walked for Vallorie Sharp, 66, of Northwest Baltimore.

"I told them I can't do no walking," said Sharp, a retired telephone company clerk who has been free of cancer for two years.

Sharp felt a lump on her 64th birthday. Her daughter and granddaughters drove her Sunday to her first Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. They walked and she waited in the tent with the music and pink roses for survivors.

"They even dressed the doggies up," she said. "You see the doggies? So you know they're feeling good. It just makes me feel good — makes me tingle. It's like a sea of pink. Look at all this pink. Pink everywhere. It makes you feel good to know there's all these people out here walking for somebody."

They walked for grandmothers, daughters, co-workers and friends. They walked for the nearly quarter-million new cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed in the United States each year.

After they walked, they gathered before the stage to celebrate the distance they've come and their hope for a cure.

Then they danced.

tprudente@baltsun.com

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