Thousands rally in Pittsburgh to raise money for breast cancer research
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 email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Philadelphia U.S. Rep. Fattah indicted in racketeering case
- Patriots QB Brady, owner Kraft lash out at NFL
- Rossi: ‘Hockey guy’ Sutter will be missed
- Plum High School teacher held for court on charges of intimidation
- Pirates notebook: Prospect Tucker unaware of ‘trade’ frenzy
- Kang’s 9th-inning home run gives Pirates wild victory over Twins
- Steelers’ Wheaton adjusting his game moving to slot receiver
- 5 face trial in beating of black man in Pittsburgh
- Driver accused of crashing head-on into Ligonier officer’s SUV waives right to preliminary hearing
- Butler County motorist dies in accident with tractor
- Pitt student from China pleads guilty to role in international test fraud scheme