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Breast-cancer survivors' grace under pressure is inspiring

Against the odds — or, at least, what I naively thought were the odds — two of my 40-something friends were diagnosed with breast cancer last December.

First was my friend, Jenny. Regular "Jen’s World" readers will recognize her from my columns in February and May, when I shared her diagnosis and, later, her own thoughts as she neared her final chemotherapy appointment. ("I struggle with all the things this disease has taken from me," she wrote, a line so simple and honest that it still humbles me.)

And then was my friend, Christy. Mere weeks after I learned of Jenny’s diagnosis, Christy sat me down in the hotel lobby where we’d just finished dinner and said, "There’s something I’ve wanted to tell you. I have breast cancer."

She’d already completed radiation. Chemotherapy was up next. She was optimistic. She was tired. She was determined to complete her thesis and finish her in-progress final semester of graduate school.

Of course, my mind reeled with the whys and the hows. With the injustices. It all seemed terribly unfair. These were good women. Young women. Women I knew.

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In truth, though, the outpouring of emotion I felt for Jenny and Christy in those initial days of their diagnoses, and treatment is nothing compared to the flood of wonder and pride I’ve felt for them in more recent months.

Because in the face of uncertainty — and during a time when it would’ve been both expected and understandable to be selfish and self-centered — these two women have looked beyond themselves and reached out to help others.

Even while struggling with the double-duty fatigue of writing her graduate thesis and undergoing breast-cancer treatment, Christy volunteered with at-risk kids — helping them write their own stories of struggle. For months, Christy has posted uplifting updates about the writing project online — but she hasn’t made a single mention of her own battle.

For her part, Jenny is using her breast cancer experience as inspiration to reach out to families like hers. This month, she launches the Rand Family Foundation for Teens and Tweens (http://rafftt.blogspot.com/)—a nonprofit organization designed to provide resources and support for the children of breast cancer patients.

Together, these two women make me think of that famous quote by Mahatma Gandhi: "You must be the change you wish to see in the world."

Also, they inspire the heck out of me.

I expect to feel much of the same inspiration this Sunday when I join Jenny — and hundreds of other Rochesterites — at Rochester’s seventh-annual Join the Journey 10-mile breast-cancer awareness walk. A local organization dedicated to promoting breast cancer awareness and offering support to those living with breast cancer, organizers expect to see more than 1,000 walkers at this year’s event.

I’m sure I can speak for the Join the Journey organizers — and the breast cancer survivors they support — when I write that they’d love to see you there. And, just in case you’re freaked out by the whole "10-mile" thing — rest assured that you don’t have to be. Participants needn’t walk the entire course. In fact, you can walk as much or as little as you feel comfortable.

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For more information about Join the Journey, visit www.jointhejourney.us. I hope to see you there.

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