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PHOTO ESSAY: Penn State Pink Zone Shows Power to 'Survive and Thrive'

by on February 28, 2011 1:26 PM

Editor's note: Photographer Patricia Collins attended the fifth annual WBCA Pink Zone at Penn State game. A record 352 cancer survivors attended the game, according to Her thoughts—and photos—appear in the photo essay below. (We've posted additional photos in the gallery to the right.)


by Patricia Collins 

From the Penn State Lady Lions’ uniforms and hair-bands to their socks and shoelaces, pink ruled the day.

The game started at noon, and it wasn’t until the conclusion of a post-game reception for the survivors that I walked out of the Bryce Jordan Center into a surprisingly warm bright day. Suddenly I was eager to talk to someone about my day; it was my first collegiate women’s basketball game, let alone WBCA Pink Zone game. I called mom.

Her first question: Who won?

I had no idea.

Shoot, but honestly the day had been about so much more. Support, teamwork, endurance, resiliency, tears, laughter, love, compassion, passion and perseverance - and I’m not just talking about the players. I’m talking about the whole room - from cheerleaders and families to fellow press, BJC employees and volunteers and the entire community that filled the stands in pink.

And most vibrantly: the women who have battled this disease. (Two such women are below: 10-year breast-cancer survivor Tammy Miller--sporting the pink hair--and 87-year-old Marian Hamby, a 43-year breast-cancer survivor.)

My eyes filled with tears on numerous occasions throughout the day. They threatened to well up often due to the survivors’ genuine humor and celebratory spirit. Each and every survivor, along with friends and families, inspired me.

Two conversations, in particular, hit a sensitive personal note for me.

In no way do I mean to take anything away from anyone else’s experiences by comparison, but having faced a short glimpse at my own vulnerability in a serious automobile accident, I found the survivors’ stories took me back. Though I’d like to think I had some moments of bravery, my reaction was fear.

I didn’t note this trait in these women, and I wondered why. The only time I felt comfortable asking about the subject was when it was brought up with someone I had met several times before. Mimi Barash Coppersmith is a breast-cancer survivor of 21 years and a well-known and respected member of the State College community.

(Coppersmith is pictured below in the pink hat with Janet Fowler Dargitz, a 10-year breast-cancer survivor.)

We began talking, and I asked her a question:

I know at times I feel overwhelmingly frightened by having experienced the vulnerability of living, and sort of withdraw. Do you feel that way?

She looked puzzled, and I feared I had crossed a line. With wide eyes, I was about to back out as best I could, until I noticed a kindness fill her eyes and face. She explained that she didn’t feel that way, and quite poignantly declared with her chin up and a glowing smile: “I live in the moment and in my very own skin.”

And that about summed it up. Those brave words wrapped around me like a hug.

At that moment, standing on a basketball court in a pink shirt and blue jeans, tightly clutching my camera, I learned that fear does not keep one safe, and that hiding from things that are scary is not an option.

To live, to live fully no matter the circumstances, is to show up every moment.

By the way, I did check, and we won the game—66-56. It was a good day. A truly good day. A perfect 10.

A sport that takes so much reaching, strength, and endurance felt like a metaphor of the power we all have within ourselves not only to work together, but to survive and thrive.











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