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Race for the Cure thinks pink while battling breast cancer

Jeri Worklan-Eubanks holds a quilt she will give to a breast cancer survivor June 21 at the Puget Sound Race for the Cure. - Andy Hobbs/The Mirror
Jeri Worklan-Eubanks holds a quilt she will give to a breast cancer survivor June 21 at the Puget Sound Race for the Cure.
— image credit: Andy Hobbs/The Mirror

She is known as “princess” among breast cancer survivor groups.

On June 21, breast cancer survivors will gather in an enormous pink mass to fight back against the disease that, according to the American Cancer Society, is predicted to claim 182,460 U.S. women in 2008. On this day, Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure participants will raise money for breast cancer research, and Jeri Worklan-Eubanks of Federal Way will remind survivors that they are not alone in their struggles.

“(The race) is something very empowering,” Worklan-Eubanks said. “It’s a sisterhood like no other.”

Race for a cure

In Washington, the 15th annual 5-mile Race for the Cure will take place at Seattle’s Qwest Field and Event Center. The race, along with others across the nation, benefits breast cancer research, education, screening and treatment.

Worklan-Eubanks joins in the activities yearly. Proceeding the event, Worklan-Eubanks compiles goodie bags for participants. The bags are filled with pink items, thread and a needle. The sewing theme is symbolic, she said.

“There is a common thread that runs through the heart of a breast cancer survivor, and that’s faith,” she said.

“Very important person” gifts are also collected throughout the year. Pink items — quilts, photo frames, an umbrella, aprons, cooking utensils, kitchen accessories, golf clubs, teddy bears, coffee mugs and handcrafted dolls — will be hauled from Worklan-Eubanks’ home in Twin Lakes to the race. The gifts are mostly handcrafted, giving them a personal feel.

“I just wanted to do something a little more meaningful,” she said.

Worklan-Eubanks is prepared to hand out more than 1,000 goodie bags and gifts this year. The items will be distributed among race participants at the survivor’s tent, called “Sew...you’re a survivor.” They are a way to make the women feel special, like it is their birthday, Worklan-Eubanks said.

“When you have breast cancer you feel fairly isolated, in a sense,” she said. “There is just something about a complete stranger giving you something and paying it forward.”

‘Sew...you’re a survivor’

Worklan-Eubanks, who holds a degree in chemistry and formerly worked in the health care industry, became involved in Race for the Cure after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999.

The disease was caught early and she did not undergo chemotherapy. She calls herself a poster child for early detection. The radiation used to fight her cancer left burns and fatigued her, but the process could have been much worse, Worklan-Eubanks said.

“I feel blessed every day that my plight was so easy,” she said.

Three years ago, Worklan-Eubanks had a “night vision” of offering survivors friendship and hope. Worklan-Eubanks is a clothing and textile advisor. “Sew...you’re a survivor” was created. The project has given her a chance to gain friends and listen to amazing stories of perseverance.

“I’ve met so many incredible women,” Worklan-Eubanks said.

Likewise, Worklan-Eubanks is seen as an inspiration among her peers.

Continuing the battle:

Worklan-Eubanks, who lost her job when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, spends a minimum of 30 hours per week preparing for the race, she said.

“If one person gets it, I know I’ve done my job,” she said.

Breast cancer is a disease that can never be fully cured. If survivors are able to live without the cancer for five years, their chances for remission are decreased. But that does not mean the cancer cannot resurface.

In 2007, the Puget Sound race raised more than $1.6 million to be used for cancer research, Potwin said. This year, the foundation hopes to bring in $1.85 million from the Seattle area, she said.

Contact Jacinda Howard: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com.

Check it out:

To participate in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, call (206) 633-6586 or e-mail info@pskomen.org. To make a donation or learn more, visit the Susan G. Komen site at www.pskomen.org. Seventy-five percent of funds raised at the Puget Sound race will be used locally for breast cancer research, education and treatment, according to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Web site. The remaining funds are used for research, meritorious awards and worldwide educational conferences.

The Susan G. Komen Foundation will celebrate its 25th racing season this year. The organization was started in 1982 by Nancy G. Brinker after her sister, Susan G. Komen, died of breast cancer at age 36. Brinker promised her dying sister she would do everything in her power to find a cure for the disease.

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