Walk for Hope raises $70,000 in fight against breast cancer

Above, the hundreds walking for the Breast Cancer Alliance depart from the Richards parking lot on Greenwich Avenue. Below, walk grand marshal Trisha Goddard talked about being a six-year survivor of breast cancer and said the S on her shirt shouldn’t be for Supergirl, but for “scared.”  More images will be online Thursday at Greenwich-post.com. —Ken Borsuk

Above, the hundreds walking for the Breast Cancer Alliance depart from the Richards parking lot on Greenwich Avenue. Below, walk grand marshal Trisha Goddard talked about being a six-year survivor of breast cancer and said the S on her shirt shouldn’t be for Supergirl, but for “scared.”  —Ken Borsuk

The sun was shining and Greenwich Avenue was covered in pink.

There really was no better day than last Sunday morning for the Greenwich-based Breast Cancer Alliance (BCA) annual Walk for Hope. The event is not only a fund-raiser for the BCA but also a commemorative walk to both honor those who are breast cancer survivors and remember loved ones lost to the deadly disease. And while last year the rain put a damper on the event, this year the sun was out and the BCA was able to successfully launch a wellness fair to promote healthy living in areas like eating habits, exercise and beauty.

According to the BCA, more than 500 people participated and the event raised more than $60,000. The walk covered a mile around Greenwich Avenue as it began in the parking lot of Richards and then went up Mason Street before making a left back onto the Avenue, where it marched, complete with police escort leading the way, back down to Richards.

“We are walking in honor and support of everyone who has been touched by this disease,” said Julie Genovese, who served as co-chair along with Nicole Ewing and Caroline Brecker. “I don’t think you can find anyone who has not been touched by this disease somehow.”

The centerpiece of the speeches was provided by Trisha Goddard. The internationally known talk show hostess, who rose to fame in Australia and Great Britain before coming to America for a syndicated show, is a Greenwich resident and served as grand marshal for the walk. She is a six-year breast cancer survivor and spoke about her battle with it as she urged everyone there not to consider her brave.

“I only had the damned mammogram because I was embarrassed when the nurse asked me when my last one was and I couldn’t remember,” Ms. Goddard said, before joking that she cried for only “about 1.5 seconds” when she heard the diagnosis because she didn’t want her mascara to run. “When I saw my surgeon at 5 p.m. that day and asked him how quickly he could operate, actually I was still in shock thinking that some mistake had been made. But by 7 a.m. the next morning, I was on my way into the operating theater and I didn’t know what the outcome was going to be.”

Saying someone is fighting or battling breast cancer is a “very macho way to put it,” Ms. Goddard said, but she admitted she did have to go through a lot. She endured two operations and chemotherapy over six months and radiation therapy over three months, while her diagnosis was made public by the British tabloid press after someone who saw her at the doctor’s sold the news “for a quick buck.”

“The whole time I did this I was labeled as being brave, but if I had my own way, no one but close family would ever have found out about me having breast cancer,” Ms. Goddard said. “Please don’t congratulate me about being open about this happening to me. I’m here because I was outed. So don’t call me brave. I really just wanted to curl up into a ball and disappear and wake up to make sure everything had gone.”

Ms. Goddard said it was her husband’s idea to cut off all her hair and dye it blond while she was receiving chemotherapy and that she had to get “blind drunk” before she allowed her hairdresser near her with the scissors. Because of that, she said, it was “an act of inebriation and not an act of defiance” and that while she missed only two days of work on her show during her treatment, she wasn’t trying to be tough by telling her staff not to ask how she was.

“After all, there are 80 of them and the hell of being reminded what I was going through 80 times a day outweighed thoughts of how sweet they were being,” Ms. Goddard said. “The truth is, I part owned the production company and my name was on the credits, so hell, I had to do the show. And just about every day I went running with my darling dog. But I wasn’t brave. Someone had to walk the dog. Plus, I kind of staggered the first part of every run just trying to get to the next tree without falling in the bushes, Yes, I ran in sleet and snow and rain, but I was not so much a trouper but it was the stinging snow in my face that reminded me I was still alive, however hellish I felt.”

Because a diagnosis like the one she received naturally caused a lot of reflection on her life choices, Ms. Goddard recalled that her friends marveled that she was being “very stoic and brave and British” by not letting it overwhelm her, but the truth was she was bringing all her fears and doubts to a psychotherapist. And while her chemotherapist probably thought she was brave because of how she acted during their sessions, Ms. Goddard said, that was only because her “genius oncologist” — after years of research showing that women were most traumatized by the specter of chemotherapy — gave her “enough sedatives to make an elephant think he was a butterfly.”

“I know people mean well when they call people like us going through breast cancer treatment brave, but being labeled brave and heroic takes away from us the very real important need to fall apart, to be vulnerable, to fall into a heap and just not cope,” Ms. Goddard said. “My best memories, and actually there were a lot of them, were actually watching scary movies with my husband. I berated him when he got this massive TV like you see on Cribs, but he rented these scary movies and I could scream and I could cry and I could just act out and pretend it was because I was scared of the movie and not scared of whether I would get through this or not.”

Ms. Goddard said she is often asked advice about how to cope with breast cancer, but she said that every person’s journey through the treatment is different, and she quoted John Lennon by saying “whatever gets you through the night” is the right philosophy. She said people should do what they need to do, even if it is being really selfish or being very giving or brave or screaming or running around “like a mad chicken.” Ms. Goddard said you cannot dictate how you should react to something you never thought would happen to you and added that she felt the really brave ones were the families of those with the disease, because while people with cancer focused on one day at a time, their families had to focus on “the bigger, scarier picture.”

Wearing a Superman T-shirt, Ms. Goddard said that if people thought it was because she was “some kind of superwoman” she wanted it to be “S for being scared.”

Money raised from the event will go toward funding research and development of a cure for breast cancer as well as improving survival rates and quality of life for those with the disease. The BCA was founded in Greenwich in 1996 and since then has given out more than $19 million in grants toward that goal.

Ms. Goddard said she wanted to thank the heavens for organizations like the BCA and all the event co-chairs.

“They do so much to support those who have and are treating breast cancer,” Ms. Goddard said. “But it’s important that the body tends to heal more quickly than the mind. One is always frightened that should one mention one has been treated for breast cancer you run the risk of the listener telling you that their mother or grandmother died of the disease. Although we feel the speaker’s pain, it’s only natural that a remark like that might set us back and scare the living daylights out of us. And so we still have to be called brave.”

Everyone walking had stories to share about why they were doing it. Breast cancer is a disease that impacts one in eight women and one in 1,000 men. There are more than 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States today, and the BCA is continuing its efforts.

“The Walk for Hope continues to both amaze and inspire,” Yonni Wattenmaker, the BCA’s executive director, said this week after the event. “To see hundreds of people, from infants to grandparents, donning their brightest pink and coming out to walk together on a mission that literally casts pink on Greenwich Avenue is really incredible.”

 

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