Deborah Check Reeves, Holly Haddad and Holly's son, Logan Wadley, held hands and together crossed the finish line of Susan G. Komen South Dakota Race for the Cure.
It was a moment repeated time and again, as hundreds of race participants, expressing a combination of exhilaration and a bit of exhaustion, finished the race inside the DakotaDome Sunday morning.
The goal of every woman, man, boy and girl who took part in Vermillion's fourth annual race is simple. All hope that breast cancer will someday be talked about in the past tense; that it will never be a threat to young girls as they reach adulthood.
Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, that she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became Susan G. Komen for the Cure and launched the global breast cancer movement. Today, Susan G. Komen for the Cure is the world's largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find cures.
"I'm a 10-year survivor as of this summer," Deborah said. "That's a huge milestone. This race is near and dear to my heart. I just think it's so cool that we have it here in Vermillion."
She has run in Komen races in other states, but will always count Vermillion's as one of her favorite experiences.
"It's more intimate," Deborah said. "It's so participant-friendly."
Thanks to events like Sunday's race in Vermillion, approximately $1.5 billion has been invested to fulfill Brinker's promise to her sister. The race has the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world. The Susan G. Komen for the Cure is a 501(c) (3) Public Charity as determined by the Internal Revenue Code, operating under the Charter of the organization, headquartered in Dallas, TX. Since its inception in 1982 the Komen Foundation and its affiliate network have raised over $750 million for breast cancer research, education, screening and treatment.
For some participants, the battle with breast cancer hasn't yet been won.
Kathy Stewart Devine of Sioux Falls was easy to spot in the DakotaDome Sunday, wearing a bright pink wig as a temporary replacement of the hair she's lost to chemotherapy treatments.
She was first diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago. This summer, it returned, sparking perhaps one of the largest ever local responses in the Vermillion community.
A team of over 100 hundred people, calling themselves "We're So Devine," turned out for Sunday's event.
"All of my brothers and sisters live in Vermillion," Kathy said. "I'm sure the team has over 100 members now – it was at 93 the other day, and I know today there are lot of my Vermillion friends that have joined the team. I have a big family, and it didn't take much to get everybody together."
Kathy participated by riding in a golf cart, and by mingling with friends and family as runners crossed the finished line in the DakotaDome. Cancer treatments have left her body weak, but it was obvious that her spirit remains strong.
"Four years ago, I was diagnosed, so then we started doing the first race after that, and this year (the team) is by far the largest," she said. "It's because I'm going through chemo treatments again for a second time. I'm in the middle of them right now, so that's why everybody has gathered together – my friends and co-workers from Sioux Falls have come down, and of course there are all of my family members down here.
Her treatment four years ago included a mastectomy, reconstruction surgery, chemotherapy, and an oral chemotherapy treatment that continues to this day.
"I just started chemo in September, so I'm just right in the middle of it right now," she said. "Now that we've had a reoccurrence, we go on to the 'big chemo.'"
She will undergo a CAT scan in a couple of weeks so that doctors may determine how well this second round of chemotherapy is working.
"This round of chemotherapy is made up of a treatment every two weeks for eight weeks," Kathy said. "I'll begin a milder treatment for about a year then after this. I'm stage four, so this is the rest of my life. This is how it is. I'll always be on something – since I'm stage four, it's already advanced to my liver and my lymph nodes, so it just is what it is.
"I just make the best quality of life that I can, and just enjoy it, and it's times like this that I really enjoy, with all of my family and friends," she said.