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Being in the right place at Pink Zone

by on February 21, 2013 11:47 AM

STATE COLLEGE — The lights are out but the floor is bright. All you see is pink. The color of breast cancer awareness, the color of strength, the color of survivorship.

As I walked out onto the basketball court during halftime at the 2012 Pink Zone Lady Lions basketball game, I felt part of something enormous; a community of survivors and supporters.

I had been to other WBCA Pink Zone games before, held annually at the Bryce Jordan Center, but last year was my first time attending as a survivor.

During halftime all the breast cancer survivors are invited onto the floor to be recognized with songs, cheers and speeches. When I was called to the court, I proudly lined up, waiting to appear in front of the crowd, with hundreds of other breast cancer survivors. It was impossible not to notice I was probably the youngest survivor there, at the age of 27. Initially I felt a little sad: why was I here? I am young, healthy and planning my wedding. I don’t belong here. But that feeling quickly disappeared. Seeing the other survivors gave me hope. There were women of all ages, and survivorship of varying numbers: some 20- or 30-year survivors, some still in treatment.

“Nothing defines Pink Zone more than the survivors who attend year after year,” the Pennsylvania Pink Zone website states. “This is an emotional game with a defining cause. The inspiration that the survivors provide to all in attendance — including the Lady Lions — is truly remarkable.”

When I wrote “My pink ribbon,” a column that originally appeared in The Centre County Gazette last October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I was overwhelmed by the response. I thought, and had hoped, people would read my story and be encouraged and inspired. I had hoped it would reach younger women, under age 40 and 30, who usually aren’t addressed when we talk about breast cancer. But the actual response I got was far more powerful than I could have ever imaged.

I got messages from friends and strangers, and was asked to make public speaking appearances, most recently at the Penn State men and women’s “Paint it Pink” gymnastics meet last month for breast cancer awareness and education.

What I felt from that response was an even stronger sense of community. Proof that support comes in all forms, and is unwavering.

Being out on the floor at last year’s Pink Zone game as a survivor for the very first time let me know I was part of this whole community, in Happy Valley and beyond, that supports its breast cancer patients and survivors, and their families and friends.

And it’s the Pink Zone which brings that support home. Money raised during the Pink Zone game, and throughout year-long efforts, goes toward education, prevention, diagnosis and treatment. The money is placed in six different organizations, agencies and health care providers, for their fight against this disease that affects up to one in eight women in the United States: Mount Nittany Medical Center, Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute, the PA Breast Cancer Coalition, Kay Yow Cancer Fund, J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital and Lewistown Hospital.

Because of the Pink Zone and its beneficiaries, we have a community of survivors. We have a sea of pink on the floor during halftime and in the stands. We have the pink hats and boas, and the lights and ribbons, which are not just worn for pride and strength, but to display the everyday fight. The fight that extends beyond the basketball game. The fight that becomes part of life.

We must not forget why all of this is important. We must not forget the Pink Zone and its beneficiaries work every day, through numerous efforts, towards a cure. We must not forget that these hospitals and organizations strive to not only take care of and cure breast cancer patients, they make sure families and friends are supported, informed and comfortable. Because they know it’s a husband, wife, sister, brother, mother or best friend bringing flowers or food, or simply holding a hand before surgery, that makes a huge difference. The Pink Zone and those agencies and facilities know it is the whole picture that matters. The picture of support is multifaceted, just like the breast cancer patient.

Now in its seventh year, The Pink Zone brings together the community for the fight, for support and strength, and to strive to eradicate breast cancer. It’s the pink shirts, it’s the Lady Lions basketball game, it’s the care and compassion.

It’s that one moment, when you walk out onto the floor, you know, maybe for the very first time since your diagnosis, that you’re in the right place.

According to its website, the Pennsylvania Pink Zone and Penn State Lady Lion Basketball are a unified force in the fight against breast cancer on the court, across campus and within communities. The Pennsylvania Pink Zone promotes cancer awareness and empowers survivors through year-round efforts to raise funds critical in supporting vital breast cancer organizations, charities and facilities that focus on breast cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Through the support of sponsors and donors, and inspiring fundraising efforts for many of its beneficiaries, the Pennsylvania Pink Zone has distributed more than $577,000 in six years to support education, research and treatment in the field of breast cancer, according to the website.

The Lady Lions will take on Michigan at 1 p.m. on Feb. 24 at the Bryce Jordan Center. For more information visit

Marjorie S. Miller is staff writer for The Centre County Gazette. Email her at [email protected]

Staff Writer at The Centre County Gazette
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