Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, a nationwide event that raises funds to help fight against breast cancer, had its annual fundraiser on the morning of Oct. 18. In the age of COVID-19, instead of the usual walk, participants were encouraged to partake in a car parade that spanned the city of Tucson starting at 3050 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Way.
According to the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer website, with the exception of skin cancers, breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in women and the second leading cause of cancer death for women. In this year's estimates, 42,170 women will die from this disease.
At the event this year, more than 70 cars were decorated in pink, the symbolic color for breast cancer awareness and solidarity. The cars drove through the multiple parade stops to show their support and fearlessness against breast cancer. At each stop, participants were met with celebratory music and a chorus of cheers.
Alyssa Diaz, Miss Pima County Outstanding Teen and the social media influencer for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Tucson, and her mother, Kassie Diaz, spoke out about the event and the varied differences for this year.
“Everyone has been asked to decorate their cars, bring their families and really just to do the same walk style but in their vehicle,” Kassie Diaz said. “All still to show that celebratory atmosphere for survivors and their families and those that are going through breast cancer right now and fighting all to share that with the community and keep it alive and let people know in our community that we’re still thinking about them, we’re still raising money for them.”
The money that is donated to the event is invested in different ways, from prevention education and early detection to research and comprehensive support.
“The American Cancer Society has a bunch of subcomponents, like Roads to Recovery, where they give breast cancer patients rides to and from treatment. So all of those programs are still running and still active just to let survivors know that even though there’s COVID, we haven’t forgotten about them, and we haven’t given up,” Kassie Diaz said.
Kassie Diaz further elaborated on what the comprehensive support programs entail.
“If you need to stay the night in Phoenix, they give you a room. If you need a ride to cancer treatment, they pick you up and take you. These programs are specifically designed for people who need help and can't make those things happen for themselves to make sure they don't miss their treatment,” Kassie Diaz said.
The Diazes have been involved with Making Strides Against Breast Cancer since 2018, with previously having done the American Cancer Society's other cancer charity walk, Relay For Life, for years. For them, breast cancer is personal.
"Whenever I was younger, probably when I was around four or five, my grandmother got breast cancer. And she beat it, but it always kept coming back. It was 2017 when she was diagnosed again, and it had spread to her whole body. And unfortunately, she did not beat it this time, but she is still a warrior to all of us,” Alyssa Diaz said.
Even after her death, the fight still remains strong.
“We have a high risk in our family of breast cancer, and it’s just something that I want to advocate for people about — early prevention,” Alyssa Diaz said.
Due to the relentlessness of the disease, cancer is usually viewed in sadness and in tragedy. But on the morning of the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer car parade, it was a time for a community to come together and honor the fight, according to Alyssa Diaz.
“Just seeing the events and how even though cancer can be such a morbid topic, how everyone is celebrating and everyone is happy,” Alyssa Diaz said. “It’s just a time to celebrate and not be morbid about it and just to really show that even though cancer does take a lot from us, it shows us how valuable the people around us are.”
Diaz also remarked that Making Strides Against Breast Cancer and those who are facing it head-on serve as reminders to be grateful for life.
“Having breast cancer in my family and having an 85% chance to get it, that’s like a really scary thing to acknowledge,” Alyssa Diaz said. “But, and it sounds so cliché, live each day as if it was your last.”
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