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Breast cancer survivors find support at 10th Komen Race for the Cure

Kristie Ryser and Audrey DeRosier released their pink survivor balloons Sunday morning before the start of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in downtown Spokane.

Ryser, a Spokane Falls Community College student, reflected on her two-year fight with breast cancer and said she looks forward to earning a college degree and becoming an accountant.

“I really want to just let this go and be a bump in the road,” she said. “This isn’t my life, it’s just a part of my life. … I still want to be part of the community so that I can help other women that are young and going through this.”

DeRosier received her diagnosis Dec. 31 and will have a mastectomy Wednesday. She said she feels “anxious, angry,” but also grateful that a friend signed her up for Sunday’s event, the 10th year of the race in Spokane.

“I am just glad for all the support,” DeRosier said after she joined scores of other breast cancer survivors for a group photo next to the Looff Carrousel in Riverfront Park. “It’s quite the community.”

About 5,000 people ran, walked or rolled the 1-mile and 3-mile courses to honor those who have died from the disease, and to support and celebrate the survivors. Most wore pink, symbolic of breast cancer awareness. Many were part of teams with slogans like “Walking for Warriors and Angels” and “Fight the Fight, Find the Cure.”

“I see a sea of pink and an ocean of hope,” emcee Leslie Lowe, the KHQ/SWX weather anchor, called to the crowd before the race began.

Race proceeds have allowed the Susan G. Komen Eastern Washington Affiliate to award more than $3 million in local community health grants in the past 10 years. Sunday’s race contributed another $362,000 for the cause locally.

Ryser, 23, was diagnosed in April 2013, just 11 days before her first Race for the Cure. She had planned to walk it in memory of her aunt, who died of breast cancer 10 years earlier, but the event took on new meaning for her.

The news also hit seven weeks before her wedding, and Ryser held off on treatments. She didn’t want to lose her hair before she walked down the aisle. Three days after the ceremony, she had her first round of chemotherapy. Two weeks later, she and husband Ryan shaved their heads.

After seven rounds of chemotherapy, Ryser had a double mastectomy in November 2013. “It was the best choice for me, given how young I am, in order to prevent it from coming back,” the Spokane resident said.

Ryser finished her last chemotherapy treatment in May 2014 and is still undergoing hormone therapy, which she will continue for 10 more years.

“I follow up with doctors every now and then, but I am focusing on getting my life back,” she said.

She is finishing up at SFCC and plans to attend Gonzaga University starting next fall.

Her illness inspired her husband to focus his career on cancer research. He’ll earn his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Eastern Washington University this spring and hopes to get into Washington State University for graduate studies.

Race for the Cure is a unifying experience, Kristie Ryser said.

“We’re all together in this and we all want the same thing. I feel like for people who are survivors, it’s a way of saying we’re celebrating you,” she said, “but also for women that are currently going through chemotherapy, I feel like it’s their way to feel at home with all these people because we understand what they went through. We’re all like a huge family here.”

Last year, DeRosier reconnected with a childhood friend, Vikki Tuchek, on Facebook. Together they had attended Bowdish Junior High School in Spokane Valley.

“We hadn’t seen each other or talked to each other since,” Tuchek said.

The women, now in their 50s, discovered they both have dachshunds. So they came to Sunday’s race with matching pink tutus and “Doxie Divas” T-shirts.

“This is all her idea,” DeRosier said, but added, “I welcomed it.”

“We’re doing it for her,” Tuchek said, “because she’s a survivor.”


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