by Tamara McGregor & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & A & lt;/span & fter being diagnosed with breast cancer two days before Christmas, Susan Cerutti-Jensen knew chemotherapy would follow and she would have no choice but to lose her hair. "But I could choose how and when I lost it," explains Cerutti-Jensen. She didn't want to pull out handfuls in the shower or find strands on her pillow. Instead, the 35-year-old Spokane cancer patient chose to throw a party, surround herself with three-dozen supporters and shave it off.
Early in her treatment, Cerutti-Jensen discovered she found strength and support by being upfront about her fight with cancer. "I guess you have two choices as to how open or how closed you are going to be," Cerutti-Jensen says. With some reluctance, she started a blog that details her experience from diagnosis, through a mastectomy and now chemotherapy. It's a very personal account that provides a candid window into what it means to fight cancer "It's been one of the most important things I've done," she explains.
What was initially intended as a private site has also become somewhat of a public domain. Some pictures on the site have already been viewed more than 550 times. "I never expected it to take off the way it has," she says.
On Sunday, Cerutti-Jensen will open herself up again. For the first time since she shaved her head in February, she plans to go out in public without the security of a scarf or a wig covering her bald head when she participates in the first Komen Eastern Washington Race for the Cure. "I don't feel the need to hide the fact all the time that I have breast cancer. It's a fact; it's a reality," she adds. "It's more about helping people and showing people that life goes on."
Race for the Cure organizers say that's what the race is all about. It's intended as a celebration of hope and survival. The 5K run/walk also raises money for breast cancer education, detection and treatment in Eastern Washington. This year is the first time a Komen Race for the Cure event has been held in Spokane. It promises to inject much-needed breast-health funding into the nine counties of Eastern Washington. The Eastern Washington Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation estimates the race will provide at least $150,000 in local grants for breast cancer awareness, screening and treatment. Right now, the Eastern Washington Breast and Cervical Health Program, which provides services such as doctor's exams and mammograms, only has funding for 25 percent of the eligible uninsured or low-income women in Eastern Washington.
"I think the impact to Spokane is huge," Cerutti-Jensen exclaims. "Quite honestly, Spokane is too big a city to not have a Race. What a positive force for Spokane to have all these women and men racing together. That's going to make such a statement on Sunday."
While Cerutti-Jensen will make her own statement that day, walking bald, she will not walk alone. At least 50 people have joined her team, Susan's Sensational Superstars. As a team, they've raised more than $7,000 for the Race for the Cure.
Cerutti-Jensen has participated in the Coeur d'Alene Race for the Cure the past several years. She's watched the survivors dressed in pink and read the cards all race participants wear on their backs in celebration or in memory of loved ones. But this will be the first Race for the Cure she will participate in as a survivor.
"It's a joyful time," she says, "a time of celebration and of honoring those who have walked before me."
The first Komen Eastern Washington Race for the Cure is Sunday, April 30, at 9 am, starting in downtown Spokane on Spokane Falls Boulevard in front of the Spokane Ag/Trade Convention Center. A survivor breakfast is scheduled for 7 am in the parking lot across from the Opera House. Registration is available online until Thursday, April 27, at midnight. Late registration will take place on April 28 from 5-8 pm and on April 29 from noon-5 pm at River Park Square in downtown Spokane. Race-day registration is also available from 7-8 am at the Opera House. Cost: $35. Visit www.komenspokane.org or call 363-8188.