Breast Cancer: 'More Than One Woman's Struggle'

photo of Trisha Reid and Kathi Russ at a Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event

It is impossible to know for sure how a person will react upon getting bad health news -- seriously bad news, such as a cancer diagnosis or recurrence. Some people may decide to cut back on projects or commitments to help them focus on their health. When Trisha Reid was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1991, at age 29, her reaction was almost the opposite, as her good friend Kathi Russ remembers it.

The Game of Life

"Trisha lived, truly lived, 13 more years, from the time of her diagnosis until she died in 2004 at age 42." says Russ, who worked with Trisha at the time. Both women were married, and both couples lived in small-town Bow, NH, right outside Concord.

Trisha met husband-to-be Scott Reid in Concord, while playing volleyball at the local YMCA. The two were top players -- college competitors who would go on together to coach a US girls' junior Olympic volleyball squad.

If life is a game, as some have described it, the diagnosis changed the rules overnight for Trisha. This new opponent was a danger not only to Trisha, but also to what she valued most, Russ says, family and friends. Cancer assaulted her marriage, threatened her dreams of motherhood. It caused her loved ones grief and distress, and it was prepared to strike other women at any time.

Something had to be done, and Trisha Reid was up for the challenge.

The Crusade

"One of Trisha's many philosophies of life was simply this: Buck up!" Kathi Russ says. And buck up she did.

She began medical treatment right off, but also continued to think about what could make a difference in the fight against breast cancer. Ideas began to form for something that would address research into treatments and a cure, that would keep healthy people free of cancer, and that would offer support to those who need it.

Something a lot like Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, as it turns out.

Making Strides is the American Cancer Society's premier breast cancer event. Each year, in towns and cities across the nation, hundreds of thousands of people -- breast cancer survivors and the men, women, and children who love them -- walk to celebrate breast cancer survivors, educate women about early detection and prevention, and raise money to fund lifesaving research and support programs.

Concord held its first Making Strides event in 1992, with Trisha and Kathi discovering it a few years later. In the years ahead, both women would become tireless champions of the event and of the mission of the American Cancer Society.

The Survivor

Kathi Russ remembers a huge step Trisha took at her first Making Strides, a psychological one.

"I can recall clearly Trish and I standing at our first Making Strides event -- I believe it was in 1996, and she was in the middle of chemotherapy," says Russ. "Trish picked up a 'Survivor' button and pinned it to her shirt. That said a lot to me about how she saw herself."

In 2000, she created her own team, the Concord Cure Crusaders. She had already created a family, with her and Scott adopting Oscar in 1995, and Joselin in 2000.

Today, Trisha lives on through the family and team she formed in this time of turmoil. They carry forward her desire to end breast cancer once and for all.

The Legacy

Trish very thoughtfully and deliberately chose the name 'Cure Crusaders.' She hoped it would be a legacy of her life and an anchor to her loved ones in years to come.

Kathi Russ

"Trish very thoughtfully and deliberately chose the name 'Cure Crusaders,' " Russ says. "She hoped it would be a legacy of her life and an anchor to her loved ones in years to come."

Team member Lynn Keach agrees.

"I don't think it ever occurred to me, or any other member of the Cure Crusaders, that the team would cease to exist after Trisha's death," she says. "No matter how ill or tired she felt on the morning of the event, Trisha always made an appearance or walked the course for Making Strides. She knew that Making Strides is about more than one woman's diagnosis or struggle. Making Strides is about coming together as a community and raising money to find a cure for all women. That realization is why Trisha named her team the Cure Crusaders."

When Trisha died in 2004, Scott picked up the reins. That October, he and more than 70 Crusaders walked in her honor. "More than the fundraising, Making Strides is about the experience of the day," he says. "It is about seeing all of those people and feeling all of that support."

Concord Gives

The most recent Making Strides walk in Concord took place Oct. 14, 2007. It was a typical New England fall day -- leaves at peak color, a nip in the air -- except for the thousands of people gathered at Memorial Field for the walk.

Yes, thousands. This year, in a small city of around 42,000 people, more than 4,500 folks showed up for Making Strides -- a far cry from the 29 who made it to the first event 15 years ago.

Concord walks, and Concord gives. This year, nearly $500,000 was collected, breaking the record from last year by more than $50,000. Over the past 4 years, Concord's Making Strides event has been recognized by the American Cancer Society as raising more money per capita than any other Making Strides event in the US.

Any number of things could be singled out to explain this phenomenal success. One of them certainly has to be the hard work and dedication of Trisha's good friend, Kathi Russ. The American Cancer Society acknowledged this in presenting her with the 2006 Singer Family Award for outstanding achievements and leadership.

Of course, Making Strides is not about getting awards.

"The reality is that we are all involved because we feel like we are making a difference," Russ says. "We do it to honor Trish and all the other people whose lives have been forever changed by breast cancer. We do it with passion and with conviction."

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

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