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Cancer survivors celebrate on Pink Heals Tour

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
Oct. 23, 2011 at 5:23 a.m.

Dee Straight, cancer survivor, sits on one of the pink trucks during the Pink Heals Tour on Sunday.

DID YOU KNOW?

More women die in the United States from lung cancer than any other type of cancer.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer for American women, and the second most common cause of cancer deaths.

The third most common cause of cancer deaths in American women is colorectal (colon) cancer.

Prevention of breast cancer includes having regular mammograms performed before lumps are detected in the breast.

Pap tests can detect abnormal cells that may turn into cervical cancer. The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine can be given to girls 9 to 26 years old.

Women over 30 are encouraged to have regular pap tests and the HPV test.

FOR MORE INFO: pinkfiretrucks.org

SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Raising herself up on a pink Guardians of the Ribbon fire truck, cancer survivor Sharon Gilbert signed her name on the engine with a black Sharpie marker.

Beneath her, Gilbert's longtime friend and fellow cancer survivor, Patricia Perry, also signed the truck.

The pair of Victoria natives have been friends for more than 10 years. But for eight of those years, Gilbert and Perry have leaned on one another for support and prayer during their cancer diagnoses - first with Perry's 2003 diagnosis of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, then Gilbert's stage-four lung cancer diagnosis in 2008.

"She started it, and I had to go and copy her," Gilbert jested.

The cancer-surviving pair were in high spirits and good company Sunday at the inaugural Pink Heals Tour, which was at the corner of John Stockbauer and Salem roads near Parkway Church.

Hundreds of pink-adorned supporters of cancer survivors attended the event, signing the three national pink fire engines and police car parked on the lawn.

"I think an event like this is great," Gilbert said. "It helps local people."

The Pink Heals Tour, launched five years ago by Arizona resident and firefighter Dave Graybill, travels the nation raising awareness and support for women with all types of cancer.

"That's why there's no one awareness ribbon. We represent all awareness ribbons," Graybill said.

Neither Graybill nor any other man at Sunday's Pink Heals event was ashamed to wear pink if it helps show support for their women. And Graybill said he hopes one day to inspire the entire Congress to establish national Pink Heals Day, so that every woman struggling with cancer will be honored and celebrated for her courage to fight cancer.

"We will create a program where Congress will be in a pink shirt. You watch; it'll happen," Graybill said.

In each of the 250 cities the Pink Heals Tour stops, proceeds raised remain at the local level. They are later distributed to cancer families and individuals needing to offset medical and personal expenses.

Ceci Oldmixon, Victoria Pink Heals Tour event chairwoman, said with raffle sales, water bottle and T-shirt sales, they hope to raise between $5,000 and $10,000 for cancer patients in the Crossroads.

After a five-member committee reviews applications from cancer-stricken families, money will be dispersed to help cover vehicle fuel, prescriptions and other illness-related expenses, Oldmixon said.

"We need this type of event because it helps raise awareness. It lets people know that early detection is the key to survival," Olmixon said.

Both Perry and Gilbert said they consider themselves survivors of cancer and believe the key to a healthy future is to never give up the fight.

"You have to keep going, you have to keep fighting. If you give up, you're going to die," Perry said.

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