"My husband's mother, sister and aunt all had breast cancer, and his mom unfortunately did not make anyone aware of it until it was quite advanced, so we lost her four months after we were married," Elaine Boland said. "When he discovered a lump he was very aware of the possibility "” although neither of us was aware that men could get it, and so we both believed that it was benign."
The Bolands have been chosen as the Honorary Breast Cancer Survivors for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation's 10th annual Race for the Cure, which will take place on Sunday, Nov. 5, at Balboa Park.
"We were chosen by the foundation because we were unusual in that Bruce and I are a married couple who are breast cancer survivors. It is especially unusual for men to get the disease because only something like 1 percent of those who are diagnosed with it are men," Elaine said. "We agreed to serve as spokespersons for the race because we wanted to raise awareness, encourage people to get early detection and their annual mammograms and to do monthly, self breast exams."
The Bolands' story is just one of many that will be heard during the month of October, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The month was launched 20 years ago to raise awareness, to recognize loss and to celebrate hope and progress in terms of breast cancer treatment.
The pink will be flying in full force during many local celebrations of the month, including the American Cancer Society's ninth annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk on Sunday, Oct. 22, at Balboa Park.
"We are trying raise awareness and a million dollars," said Mary Wendt, media relations director for the American Cancer Society. "We keep it short so more people can participate, and ours is kind of a family walk so mom, dad and the kids can all participate. Our walk continues to be a big hit and grows each year because it is easy, fun and friendly and everyone feels the camaraderie of participating together."
Those who want to participate and give money to a good cause are welcomed when the local chapter of the Susan G. Komen Foundation hosts the Breast Cancer Benefit Concert & Survivor Celebration on Sunday, Oct. 15, 4 p.m., at Humphrey's by the Bay, 2241 Shelter Island Drive.
On Tuesday, Oct. 24, SK Sanctuary will hold a free "spa night" for breast cancer survivors. The event, which runs from 4 to 8 p.m., will feature spa services, refreshments and discussion with Dr. Thomas Shiftan, oncologist and co-founder of the Sidney Kimmel Cancer center. Registration is required by calling (858) 459-3334. SK Sanctuary is located at 6919 La Jolla Blvd. For information visit www.skininstitute.org.
For those who want to try a longer walk for the cause, the Breast Cancer 3-Day takes place from Nov. 10-12.
"Two years ago we participated in the race for the first time, and they call this one a walk in the park "” and that is literally because they close off the 163 to traffic and you can walk that beautiful route, and they have all kinds of exhibits "” it is a very moving experience, with a lot of breast cancer survivors who share their stories," Elaine said. "The foundation has raised nearly $4 million to fund education and treatment programs for the uninsured and underinsured, and they have changed the way that people think about the disease and focus on survival and have put a positive light on it."
For additional information, see www.sdkomen.org.