COSTA MESA — "Making strides toward a world with more birthdays" was the slogan embraced by the almost 400 men and women who attended the inaugural Orange County Making Strides Against Breast Cancer kick-off breakfast Wednesday morning.
"The American Cancer Society is the official sponsor of birthdays," said Lori Smith, chairwoman of the board-elect for the California division. "We want all people to have more birthdays."
It's the rallying cry of the cancer survivor.
Promoting individual health and strength through unity, the morning event at the Samueli Theater at the Orange County Performing Arts Center brought together community members who were breast-cancer survivors and supporters. Most of the participants plan to walk in the society's first Orange County Making Strides 5K in October. The event will take place outside the arts center.
"Making Strides is a community event with the purpose of bringing the community together to not only raise funds, but to raise support and awareness," Smith said.
Celebrating his 19th birthday today, Santa Ana resident Liam Goodyear said that he will be walking alongside friends who have had cancer in their family.
"You can't just show support for something that only affects you," Goodyear said. "You have to show support for everyone."
Also walking is Michelle Champ, 27, Goodyear's sister-in-law who has lost friends and family to cancer, she said.
"It's been in and out of our lives so much," Champ said. "We want to show support and make sure that people don't give up the fight."
The breakfast was a chance for people to share stories of survival and comfort for those who've lost loved ones.
It was also a source of hope and information, as Dr. Gary Levine, director of breast imaging for the Hoag Breast Care Center in Newport Beach, took the stage.
"My job is to give women each day those diagnoses," Levine said to the crowd. "It sounds terrible, but the good news is that it is becoming a curable disease."
Levine talked about the changing technology in medicine and treatment practices, from the 1960s radical and disfiguring surgeries to modern advances that can dramatically improve the patient's chances of survival.
One such advance is the use of tomography in the place of the familiar mammogram. The tomogram, using imaging that examines breast tissue at 1 millimeter intervals, can catch a cancerous growth smaller than previously thought possible.
Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian is just one of two facilities in California testing the new technology, Levine said.
Making Strides is a free, non-competitive event held at more than 200 locations across the country. Last year, $60 million was raised by walkers nationwide, according to an event flier.
More than 30,000 people joined in the Making Strides 5K walk last year in San Diego.
"I bet you within five years, Orange County is going to beat them … from this audience will come thousands more aligned in caring and community," said Stephen Browning, vice president of the Orange County and Border Sierra regions. "A birthday is a sign … of a battle won and an enemy defeated."
If You Go
If You Go
What: Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 5K
When: 8:30 a.m. Oct. 10
Where: Orange County Performing Arts Center.