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Thousands rally in Pittsburgh to raise money for breast cancer research

Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review - About 25,000 people came out to walk or run to support the fight against breast cancer in the the 21st annual Komen Pittsburgh Race for the Cure through Schenley Park Sunday in Oakland.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Andrew Russell  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>About 25,000 people came out to walk or run to support the fight against breast cancer in the the 21st annual Komen Pittsburgh Race for the Cure through Schenley Park Sunday in Oakland.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review - Andrea 'Andy' Sarver of Wilkinsburg,a 9-year breast cancer survivor, shows off the pink roses she carried for the 21st annual Komen Pittsburgh Race for the Cure through Schenley Park Sunday in Oakland.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Andrew Russell  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Andrea 'Andy' Sarver of Wilkinsburg,a 9-year breast cancer survivor, shows off the pink roses she carried for the 21st annual Komen Pittsburgh Race for the Cure through Schenley Park Sunday in Oakland.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review - Lynn Wegrzynek, a 16-year breast cancer survivor (second from left) and Dawn Reinhart, a 13-year breast cancer survivor (second from right) hug each other during the Survivor Parade and Tribute that brought thousands of cancer survivors together before the 21st annual Komen Pittsburgh Race for the Cure through Schenley Park on Sunday in Oakland.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Andrew Russell  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Lynn Wegrzynek, a 16-year breast cancer survivor (second from left) and Dawn Reinhart, a 13-year breast cancer survivor (second from right) hug each other during the Survivor Parade and Tribute that brought thousands of cancer survivors together before the 21st annual Komen Pittsburgh Race for the Cure through Schenley Park on Sunday in Oakland.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review - Coconut, a pug from Canonsburg, was dressed in a pink tutu by her owner, Caitlyn Emmons (not pictured) for the 21st annual Komen Pittsburgh Race for the Cure through Schenley Park Sunday in Oakland. Emmons was out to support a friend who is battling breast cancer.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Andrew Russell  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Coconut, a pug from Canonsburg, was dressed in a pink tutu by her owner, Caitlyn Emmons (not pictured) for the 21st annual Komen Pittsburgh Race for the Cure through Schenley Park Sunday in Oakland. Emmons was out to support a friend who is battling breast cancer.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review - Natalie Mowad, 12, of Center Township in Beaver County is framed by pink balloons after the 21st annual Komen Pittsburgh Race for the Cure through Schenley Park Sunday in Oakland. Mowad lost her aunt last July to breast cancer.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Andrew Russell  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Natalie Mowad, 12, of Center Township in Beaver County is framed by pink balloons after the 21st annual Komen Pittsburgh Race for the Cure through Schenley Park Sunday in Oakland. Mowad lost her aunt last July to breast cancer.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review - A race marshall wearing the Susan G. Komen label cheers for runners and walkers at the 21st annual Komen Pittsburgh Race for the Cure through Schenley Parkj Sunday in Oakland.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Andrew Russell  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>A race marshall wearing the Susan G. Komen label cheers for runners and walkers at the 21st annual Komen Pittsburgh Race for the Cure through Schenley Parkj Sunday in Oakland.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review - Maria Heddleston of Munhall, a 2-year breast cancer survivor, gets cheers and hugs from fellow survivors after she was recognized as a winner of the Pink Power Mom award before the 21st annual Komen Pittsburgh Race for the Cure through Schenley Park Sunday in Oakland. The Kids II organization honors eight women every year for their inspirational fight against breast cancer with the Pink Power Mom award.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Andrew Russell  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Maria Heddleston of Munhall, a 2-year breast cancer survivor, gets cheers and hugs from fellow survivors after she was recognized as a winner of the Pink Power Mom award before the 21st annual Komen Pittsburgh Race for the Cure through Schenley Park Sunday in Oakland. The Kids II organization honors eight women every year for their inspirational fight against breast cancer with the Pink Power Mom award.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review - The Survivor Parade and Tribute marches through the crowd before the 21st annual Komen Pittsburgh Race for the Cure through Schenley Park Sunday in Oakland.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Andrew Russell  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>The Survivor Parade and Tribute marches through the crowd before the 21st annual Komen Pittsburgh Race for the Cure through Schenley Park Sunday in Oakland.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review - Lisa Deblanc-Smith 51 of Rankin and 13-year breast cancer survivor (third from left) becomes overwhelmed with emotion as her family surrounds her when she finished the 21st annual Komen Pittsburgh Race for the Cure through Schenley Park, Sunday.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Andrew Russell  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Lisa Deblanc-Smith 51 of Rankin and 13-year breast cancer survivor (third from left) becomes overwhelmed with emotion as her family surrounds her when she finished the 21st annual Komen Pittsburgh Race for the Cure through Schenley Park, Sunday.

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Sunday, May 12, 2013, 4:09 p.m.
 

Lisa DeBlanc-Smith hobbled on a cane across the finish line on Sunday and collapsed in tears in the arms of her family.

“My knees started hurting on the back stretch, and I knew if I sat down, I wouldn't finish,” said DeBlanc-Smith, 51, of Rankin, whose arthritic knees need to be replaced. “My daughter said I would finish if she had to carry me.”

DeBlanc-Smith was one of 25,000 walkers and runners, including about 2,500 breast cancer survivors, who took part in the 21st annual Komen Pittsburgh Race for the Cure in Schenley Park in Oakland. This year, the Pittsburgh affiliate will give $1.1 million to local groups for education, screening, treatment and breast cancer research.

DeBlanc-Smith learned she had breast cancer in early 2000 and initially accepted it as a death sentence. But her mother, Louise Smithwick of Homestead, refused to accept that.

“My mom pulled all my kids in front of me and said, ‘You have to live for them,' ” DeBlanc-Smith said.

She endured a year of chemotherapy, weekly inoculations and frequent surgeries. This was her 14th walk, and at the finish line, her emotions swelled. She thought of two of her daughters — Nakia and Shielah DeBlanc. Nakia graduated from California University of Pennsylvania in December, and Shielah will graduate from Cal on Saturday.

“I thank God I lived long enough to see both of them (graduate),” she said.

DeBlanc-Smith wore pink eyeblack stickers on her face, one with Komen's ribbon logo; a pink baseball cap turned backwards; and a pink T-shirt emblazoned with her photo and pinned with a Mother's Day corsage of carnations.

“I walked for all the mothers and all the breast cancer survivors,” she said.

Sisters Dora Packowski, 63, of Wilkins and Maggi Bush, 62, of North Huntingdon have been doing things together for their whole lives. They did not expect to have breast cancer together, though.

Packowski was diagnosed six weeks after her husband died.

After the race, Bush planned to throw a party with baked beans, pasta salad, meatballs the size of softballs, haluski, hot sausage, barbecued ribs and Butterfinger brownies. It was for her sister.

“We'll have a bottle of Asti to celebrate my fifth anniversary of being cancer-free,” Packowski said. Bush has been cancer-free for four years.

Sue Cardillo, a spokeswoman for the race, said participation in the walk was down 5,000 from last year. She blamed it on the weekend's wet and unseasonably cold weather, the closing of the Squirrel Hill Tunnel and last month's explosions at the Boston Marathon.

But she said organizers expect to raise $100,000 to $300,000 more than last year.

Wesley Groll, 22, of Peters crossed the finish line in the outfit of an ancient Spartan warrior. Bare-chested, he held a gold-colored shield and wore matching helmet, wrist guards, leg armor and a pink cape. He took part in the race to honor the breast cancer survivors in his family.

“Today I am a warrior in pink,” he proclaimed.

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or bzlatos@tribweb.com.

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