Walk participants raise money for breast cancer screenings



On a shiny plastic badge she wore around her neck, eight letters spelled out a word Jenny Roper never thought she would have to call herself at 37 years old.


After all, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in March she knew she had no choice but to persevere.

"I said 'I'm strong, I'm going to beat this,' " said Roper, a fourth-grade teacher at Lake Forest Hills Elementary School. "I have two children, a husband and 24 fourth-graders that need me."

Roper wore her survivor title Saturday, walking with more than 5,000 people in University Hospital's Miracle Mile Breast Cancer Walk.

On the 3-mile walk around Reynolds and Broad streets, she had a troop of support alongside her.

About 40 Lake Forest students and parents walked to celebrate Roper's defeat of cancer and the success of third-grade teacher Patricia Sims, who was diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer in 2009.

The school group walked alongside other survivors, family members, friends and those who wanted to show support.

In its 10th year, the event had one of the most successful turnouts to date, said Pamela Anderson, the director of the Breast Health Center at University Hospital.

The participants raised more than $180,000 from the walk, which will help to provide cancer screenings to women in need.

It was a leap from the first walk in 2001, which raised $3,200 through the efforts of 50 participants, Anderson said.

"We just wanted to bring our community together to raise money and honor survivors but also increase awareness about breast cancer," Anderson said. "When I look at the crowd of people, I realize we've done it."

Sims said despite the breast cancer education that has grown in the last few years, it isn't always enough. When she noticed a rash on her left breast early last year, she treated it with countless creams and ointments, never assuming it could be cancer.

Even her doctor referred her to a dermatologist, thinking it was a pesky skin irritation. She went nine months before a doctor finally diagnosed her with Paget disease, a cancer that forms in or around the nipple.

"That's the message, that's what women should know," Sims said. "It isn't always a lump."

To spread that message, Constance Dixon walked the three miles Saturday although there is no one in her life with cancer.

She walked hand in hand with her husband, Mario, as members of the universal fight.

"We have to show support," Dixon said. "It could happen to me. It could happen to anyone."

Were you Spotted? See more than 450 pictures from the Miracle Mile Breast Cancer Walk or post your own at spotted.augusta.com.