PORTLAND – Cathy Robie of Freeport is a breast cancer survivor. So is her friend Rachel Desmarais of Saco.

They joined more than 3,000 people in Monument Square on Sunday for the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk, an annual event that raises funds for breast cancer research, education and patient support programs offered by the American Cancer Society.

This year, Desmarais walked for her sister, Louise Sutton, who was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer last month. She wore a picture of Sutton that said, “He told all of us — he’s not ready for you just yet! Keep fighting the good fight.”

Sutton, of Biddeford, has started chemotherapy, which is showing positive results.

“She’s going to make it. I just know it,” Desmarais said, breaking down in tears. “This event means hope for a lot of people. It means strength and togetherness. We are all on the same page, fighting for the same cause. “

Her close friend, Robie, was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer in March 2008. Robie walked on Sunday with Desmarais, who supported her through her treatment.

“We are celebrating our health and fighting for Louise,” Robie said before the walk.

Statistics show that one in eight women is diagnosed with breast cancer. This year, nearly 1,160 women in Maine will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and an estimated 200 people will die from the disease.

The 14th annual walk is expected to raise about $250,000, which supports the cancer group’s efforts to fight the disease via research, education and patient support programs.

Susan Clifford, director of communications, said the walk helps mark key milestones.

“Of the 3,000 people here, many of them are survivors,” she said. “When these people get their last chemo treatment and are cancer-free, it’s a birthday, a celebration of life for these folks.”

Rebecca Waxman-Sneed is a 13-year survivor of breast cancer. Each year, her family participates in the walk, which happens around Sneed’s birthday.

“It’s my birthday party,” the Portland woman said.

There were two singers and several speakers before the walk.

Rebecca Reed, 14, of Vassalboro sang “I Believe,” by Nikki Yanofsky. The teen sang in honor of her 7-year-old sister, Paige, a leukemia survivor.

“After seeing my sister go through such a painful journey, it made me want to make a difference and touch people’s lives through song,” Rebecca Reed said.

One of the speakers was Kathy Eliscu, a contributing writer for Raising Maine, a magazine produced by The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram.

Eliscu told the crowd about her family’s experiences with breast cancer. An aunt died of breast cancer at age 37. Her mother, Margery Eliscu, a longtime Telegram columnist, beat breast cancer. She died four years ago from an unrelated cancer.

Kathy Eliscu talked about risk factors.

“There really shouldn’t be a woman alive today that doesn’t know how to take care of herself and get early treatment and be able to survive if she should develop breast cancer,” Eliscu said during the walk.

 

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

[email protected]