BLOOMINGTON, Minn. - The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure came soon in the healing process for Barbara Kaiser.
It's been just over a month since her sister Judy Raridoux died from breast cancer.
"I think you feel like you're in it by yourself," Kaiser said about a mile into the walk, "but you're not." That fact could not have been made clearer anywhere in Minnesota.
An estimated crowd of 50,000 people gathered at the Mall of America Sunday for the 21st annual Twin Cities Koman event.
Among the walkers was Jean Lemke, one of more than 200,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the United States. Lemke learned she had cancer last September and has undergone both chemotherapy and radiation since.
"It was a goal I had, to do this," she said about the walk. "I'm going to make it."
Like a river, both the walkers and the stories kept coming.
"It's just crazy how it changes your life," said Rachel Lenzen as she walked with her mother Julie Nelson. Nelson, now cancer free, calls her breast cancer diagnosis a gift. "Had I not been diagnosed I may have not actually come to this point in life where I appreciate, so much more, my family," she said.
Vicki Ritchie's family history is filled with breast cancer - in a grandmother, great aunts, aunts and a sister. So much breast cancer she opted, in her 40s, to have her still healthy breasts removed. "They called it elective surgery and to me it didn't feel elective. It was something I had to do."
The children of Leslie Herskind also walked. "She died when she was 51 years old," said her daughter Rae Ellingsworth, wiping away a tear.
Herskind's family takes solace in the baby boy in the stroller in front of them. Tres was born two months premature, six weeks before his grandmother passed away.
"It was a miracle that the baby was born in time," said Ellingsworth. "He was born two months early so he got to meet my mom. He got to meet his grandma."
Not far behind, Brenda Rakestraw's rolled through the walk in a wheelchair. She'll be starting another round of chemotherapy soon. "Next year I'm walking," she promised. "I am a survivor."
In one way or another, they all are.
(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)