Sioux Falls, SD
On Thursday, you could find Sharon Sergeant sorting through the pink packets that will be given to runners who participate in the Avera Race Against Breast Cancer.
"I love some of the team names," Sergeant said.
She is just one of many volunteers behind the scenes, preparing for Saturday's race. However, she is front and center, as one of Avera's, "Think Pink Ladies." Dressed as prize fighters, six women who have survived breast cancer make some pretty intimidating faces. In fact, Sergeant calls herself a, "tough chick."
"I'm a black belt," Sergeant said, smiling, but not joking.
In the campaign, you will notice she has traded her karate gear for a pair of pink boxing gloves. The Think Pink Ladies are nominated and chosen to share their stories and feelings about living after cancer, treatment and the support friends and family provide. Sergeant will tell you it takes strength to fight the big C.
"I tried very hard throughout my journey not to have meltdowns and cry," Sergeant said.
Breast cancer is hereditary in her family, and she's a carrier of the BRCA2 gene. Sergeant was not too surprised when doctors diagnosed her cancer, months after her birthday.
"Everything was clear until I was 40," Sergeant said.
Even before she had cancer, Sergeant was a longtime advocate of regular mammograms.
A double mastectomy and four rounds of chemotherapy followed her diagnosis. With a greater risk of developing ovarian cancer, she also had a hysterectomy. Despite her own fears, she focused on her three young children because she did not want cancer to be a scary ordeal for them.
"After every chemo treatment, rather than knowing mom would be sick the next couple of days, I gave them a chemo gift after we got home from treatment. They looked forward to the chemo gift. Some of those things are the things they remember," Sergeant said about the distraction, which helped her children cope.
No one will forget how she handled losing her hair. She dyed it purple and let her daughter and sons help shave her head.
"Afterwards, they all got a brand new box of markers, and they colored my head," Sergeant said.
Her husband also shaved his head.
This is just one of the stories you will likely hear at the Avera Race Against Breast Cancer event. So far, more than 5,600 men and women will lace up to raise money to battle the disease. All proceeds will stay local.
Four years later, Sergeant is cancer-free, and she hopes her journey can help make the miles easier for others going up against the disease. On Saturday, she admits, she will not be too tough to show the strength it takes to face cancer.
"I guarantee you there will be tears on Saturday. There always are. I cry every single race. It's not tears of sadness, or tears of fear; it is tears of hope and camaraderie," Sergeant said.
You can still sign up for the Avera Race Against Breast Cancer. Avera's website has more information about race start times and fees.