COLOGNE, Minn. - This year the Twin Cities Race for the Cure will mark its 20th year. One 20-year breast cancer survivor has walked the race every year.
Joyce Willems of Cologne showed off her collection of t-shirts and hats from the race and said, "I hope it's an inspiration to others to see that it's not a death sentence."
When she was diagnosed in 1992, she had no idea she would someday accumulate such a collection.
She said, "When I was first diagnosed and my girls were 12 and 15 it was scary and I prayed I would get to see my girls graduate."
A few months later, in 1993, she walked in the very first Twin Cities Race for the Cure.
She has since lives through two decades of medical advances in breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Mayo Clinic breast cancer researcher, Dr. Tufia Haddad, said since 1993, "Fewer women are being diagnosed with breast cancer and fewer women are losing their lives to breast cancer as well."
She said breast cancers are detected earlier with digital mammography and breast MRI's, "As well as molecular breast imaging which is being pioneered at Mayo Clinic." Still investigational, she said it uses radio isotopes to, "detect very small lesions that a mammogram might otherwise miss."
Treatments are more tailored too. Haddad said no longer are patients just treated for their stage of breast cancer, she said, "By looking the genes that drive the breast cancer biology we can identify women who do not benefit from chemotherapy."
She said for them surgery, radiation and hormone treatments can work as well.
There are new medications to help prevent recurrences after breast cancer treatment and improve long term survival.
Haddad said at least 25 research projects at the Mayo Clinic and University of Minnesota have been funded by the Susan G. Komen Foundation and Race for the Cure.
Willems has lived to see her daughters' futures. She said, "And I am so fortunate they are both married now they both have children."
Now she has a new goal.
"Now I guess I want to see my grandchildren graduate and I want to see them get married. I have so much I enjoy, so much in life," said Willems.
Registration for the 2012 Twin Cities Race for the Cure is expected to be down 10 to 15-percent because of the national Planned Parenthood funding controversy in January.
Local officials could not give us current registration numbers because they say many people register at the last minute. Race for the Cure registration is available up until the morning of the race.
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