ESTERO — Wearing a pink hat, a pink shirt and a pink patterned scarf, Joyce Kanning was ready to fight back.
Even though she has been in remission for 12 years from breast cancer, Kanning said she walked in the Susan G. Komen Race For A Cure 5k Saturday morning to remind her of what she has overcome.
“I’ve been very, very lucky,” she said at Coconut Point mall in Estero, where an estimated 10,000 were walking to find a cure for breast cancer.
Kanning, 67, of Rhode Island and a seasonal Fort Myers resident, survived the same cancer that claimed her mother nearly 10 years ago. Kanning’s mother was 57 when she was diagnosed and died two years later.
“It’s great to see so many in pink,” she said about the survivor’s color. “That’s why I walk. The money is clearly going to treatment. I know the future will be better.”
With a goal of $1 million, Carol Conway, race chair, said they can confirm $900,000 has already been raised for the breast cancer awareness walk.
Kanning doesn’t know Suzette Bell. But her story is also one of survival.
The 45-year-old was diagnosed with breast cancer in April. Bell of Fort Myers and a group of 20 girlfriends and co-workers, who were all donning a T-shirt that stated “Girlfriends United Race For Love” on the front, walked to help others share Bell’s story.
“I couldn’t have done it without my friends and family,” said Bell, who works at the Lee County Tax Collector’s Office.
Last year the group, led by Toya Felsten, 37, raised more than $1,000 for the cause.
Bell is currently in remission. She had a mastectomy, or to have her breasts removed, she just got implants and is proud to be part of the event.
“I’m doing good,” Bell said. “But, even though you know everything is gone, it’s still always on your mind.”
This is a sentiment Esther Rosado, 71, of Fort Myers understands very well.
She was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2000, and after surviving that, nine years later she learned she had breast cancer.
“I was upset because I thought I was free,” said Rosado, who has participated in breast cancer walks. “Then I had to start all over again.”
She believes her faith, family and friends pulled her through the chemotherapy and radiation. She can now proudly say that she is a two-time survivor.
The race began at 8 a.m. for competitive runners, and at 8:15 a.m. for non-competitive runners. Those walking took their first step across the start line decked out in pink hats, boas, and even tutus to “Proud Mary” by Creedence Clearwater Revival blasting.
But the survivors weren’t the only ones taking smiling strides toward a cure today. Runners and walkers also brought their pets.
Susan Strom of Fort Myers, brought her cat, Fuzzybear, in a stroller to the race. Also, young men and even children came out for the cause.
A 16-year-old boy named Aesop Brown won the race coming in at 16 minutes and 32 seconds. Laura Salerno, 23 from Fort Myers, came in eighth overall.
Devin Azevedro, 16, Trevor Scott, 16, and Kyle Scott, 15, all from Fort Myers, also participated on their own accord.
“My grandma died of breast cancer,” Trever Scott said. “I ran the whole thing. It makes me feel good to know that I helped people that need it.”
Kanning, who walked with her neighbor and best friend, Karen Yurch, 56, was also feeling good after the nearly 3.2-mile walk.
“I’m terrific,” Kanning said. “We could have gone faster if it wasn’t for all the slow people.”
Kanning and Yurch crossed the finish line arch that was made of big pink balloons and was lined with hundreds of people cheering, clapping and desperate for a sip of water at about 36 minutes.
“She wanted to keep going,” Yurch said about her friend. “I had to hold her back.”