It started with a lump — a tiny anomaly with big implications.
Then it was a rushed trip to the OBGYN, a worrisome mammogram, an ultrasound, a lumpectomy, and finally, a diagnosis.
In just a few days, Suzanne Markisen of Naples went from a healthy nurse and a successful business owner to a cancer patient facing a stage two diagnosis.
Less than a year earlier she’d had a completely clear mammogram, but suddenly life now included a near-constant stream of decisions about treatment options and doctors, and a new sense of preciousness that only someone who’s stood toe-to-toe with the deadly disease can understand.
“I looked straight into my doctor’s eyes and asked him what he would recommend if I was his wife, sister or daughter,” Markisen recalls.
In the end, Markisen opted to treat the cancer aggressively, electing to do both radiation and chemotherapy.
“If it came back, I wanted to know that I had done everything I could have the first time around to prevent it from coming back,” she says, adding, “I didn’t want to have any ‘what ifs?’ left in my mind.”
But Markisen, who has worked around cancer extensively as part owner of AmeriCare Home Health Services, also emphasizes that though this choice was right for her, a one-size-fits-all treatment plan for cancer doesn’t exist. “Cancer really is a very personal experience, and everyone goes through it differently,” she insists, adding, “The same treatment isn’t right for everyone.”
Also completely personal were the things that happened to her during treatment.
“I lost all of my hair, everywhere, well everywhere except my legs,” she jokes. “It was like some cruel irony that through all of this I still had to shave my legs.”
For the American Cancer Society, highlighting how intensely personal every woman’s fight with breast cancer is, is exactly the point of their new campaign, entitled “Put on Your Pink Bra for Breast Cancer.”
A part of this year’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk, this new campaign encourages survivors and supporters to decorate and wear a pink bra on the outside of their shirts during a 3-mile walk on Oct. 29.
“Making strides against breast cancer is more than just a walk,” says Margaret L. McMorrow, chair of the event’s survivor committee, adding, “It’s a way to celebrate those who have battled breast cancer, educate the public about ways to reduce the risk and empower communities to join the fight.”
The visual effect of this year’s pink bra initiative promises to be stunning, as a sea of women, and some daring men too, make their way, brassieres first, through the Village at Venetian Bay.
“This campaign has really invigorated the community,” says Kathy Cleeland, area executive director for the American Cancer Society, adding, “It’s grown wings — we have businesses in Tampa calling and asking ‘How can we get involved?’”
For Markisen, who will soon reach her five-year cancer-free anniversary, getting involved with the walk was a natural next step.
“Our business, AmeriCare Home Health, as a company is always trying to do outreach with things impacting our patients. One of my coworkers volunteered me for this, but I’m happy to help.”
She’s been thrown into helping with this event in a big way. Markisen will be the honorary survivor speaker at the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer kick-off event on Aug. 23, at Bayside Seafood Grill in the Village at Venetian Bay. This evening event is an opportunity for teams to register for the walk and get ideas for fundraising. It also will serve double-duty as a setting in which people can decorate their bras.
And the decoration process is an important part of what makes this event so unique. Each bra will have an individual touch, a signature look, limited only by the whimsy of the person creating it. Some will be adorned with feathers, beads, or fake flowers, while others will be bedazzled with glitter and rhinestones.
Still others will be emblazoned with inspirational quotes, others will bare names of lost loved ones—but all of them will be slightly different, just like every woman’s journey through breast cancer is different.
Anyone wondering how much help wearing your underwear on top of your clothes for three miles around the streets of the Village on Venetian Bay could be need not look any further than the American Cancer Society’s impressive fundraising history. Last year, the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walks brought in $60 million nationally. That’s money used for funding research and offering valuable support services to cancer patients, survivors and their families.
Much of the money raised here stays here, organizers point out. The Naples chapter of the American Cancer society annually provides hundreds of free rides to appointments, free lodging during treatment, and counseling services to patients and their families.
And this year, with the new energy brought by the pink bra campaign, the fundraising goals promise to be higher than ever before.
But there to meet those goals on October 29, 2011, will be a swarm of walkers ready to take up the cause.
Baring the most personal of garments, each decorated as individually as the woman who wears it, a small army of hope, strength and memory will gather under a giant bra archway as the sun rises over the Village at Venetian Bay. This hundreds-strong procession of mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts and loving friends and family, will march — bras out for the world to see — as a reminder that they are very much taking the fight against breast cancer personally.
If you go | ‘Put on Your Pink Bra for Breast Cancer’ kickoff party
Where: Bayside Seafood Grill and Bar, 4270 Gulfshore Blvd. N., Naples
When: 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 23
More information: email@example.com or (239) 261-0337