A Pretty Popular Pastel
By Heather Deranek, Special to Together, Anything's Possible
THE WOODLANDS, Texas—When you think about colors associated with golf, pink may not be the first color that comes to mind. Maybe it’s green, like the fairways at Pinehurst. Maybe it’s yellow, like the flag at Augusta National. Or maybe it’s blue like the waters at Hualalai. But Oct. 23 at the Administaff Small Business Classic, there was one color on everyone’s mind: pink.
Everywhere you looked, fans, volunteers, players and their caddies were wearing pink. One caddie, while standing at the putting green, was desperately trying to find a pink shirt. “Does anyone know where I can get another pink shirt? Mine was the wrong size, and I really want to wear one, I feel left out,” he said. The caddie eventually grabbed a pink ribbon pin that another volunteer handed him. “Well this will do for now, but I still have to find myself a pink shirt.”
Why is pink the most popular color at the tournament? As part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the tournament partnered with the local chapter of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, and both volunteers and fans were encouraged to wear the color to support the cause.
“We are so thankful that our volunteers are so supportive of the effort; perhaps we can all play a small role in one day finding a cure for breast cancer,” tournament director Jane Wandmacher said.
Never has the color pink brought so many people together. The statistics are shocking: one in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer some time during her life; one woman is diagnosed with breast cancer every three minutes; almost 2,000 men are diagnosed each year; 80 percent of all breast cancers occurs with no known risk factors. With numbers like these, it is easy to understand how you can reach out to the crowd at the tournament and find almost every individual you speak with has been touched by breast cancer in some way. Men, women, sisters, mothers, children, friends—everyone—is connected through the experiences they have had with this disease.
Last weekend, Kathy Patton traveled from northern California along with her sister, Sarah Payne, to visit their cousin Liz Weaver in this Houston suburb. All three are giving their time as volunteers at the tournament. The Administaff Small Business Classic Pink Out held special meaning to Patton not only because it was her birthday, but also because she’s a breast cancer survivor, undergoing a double mastectomy several years ago.
Thinking back to 2001 when she was first diagnosed seems like a long time ago, but after battling another reoccurrence in 2008, she is cancer free again and loving life.
“It’s really touching to see all the people come out, wear pink and support the cause. It’s really important to me. I have a lot to be grateful for,” she said.
“I play golf with my sister at Pebble Beach a lot. I’m cancer free, 100 percent, and back to all of my activities,” she added.
“I am just so proud of my sister. She is remarkable, and she is my hero,” Payne said. “We just really want to support the cause and remind everyone to get their mammograms. Early detection is key and is the best thing.”
Early detection is a topic brought up by almost every person who has been affected by breast cancer. Statistics show that when breast cancer is diagnosed at an early stage and is confined to the breast, the five-year survival rate is 98 percent.
Jennifer Hines, a member of the Administaff tournament staff, has a mother who is a breast cancer survivor, and her experiences with breast cancer really opened her eyes to early detection.
“For me, because of my mom, I started the baseline testing and early screening at 35. You just have to be more aware,” Hines said.
Joy Gremillion, whose best friend is a 30-year breast cancer survivor, notes that education and detection is really what “pink” is all about.
“Breast Cancer awareness has just grown and grown. It used to be that no one was aware of pink or trying to raise money. But now, people are getting aware, are really behind pink and are interested in getting educated about it,” Gremillion said.
Breast Cancer also hits close to home for members of the Champions Tour. Not only is Curtis Strange’s wife, Sarah, a breast cancer survivor, but so Kenny Perry’s sister, Kay.
“It was our first experience with breast cancer,” said Sandy Perry, Kenny’s wife. “She was diagnosed about three years ago, went through treatment, had radiation, and is now cancer free and loving life. Kenny is just really proud of her.”
Because of this close connection to breast cancer, the Perrys know all too well what wearing pink is about. “We know how important it is to raise awareness. We just all need to figure out what we can do. If we can’t prevent it, what’s the cure? We are losing too many wonderful men and women to this disease. It’s important to give money and time so that research can be done and a cure can be found,” Sandy Perry continued.
Many people can say that their lives have been touched by breast cancer, but perhaps no one at this year’s tournament had experienced the range of emotions the disease produced more than Janet Baker, a tournament volunteer.
Baker not only lost her 26-year-old daughter, Jamie, to breast cancer on Valentine’s Day 2009, but both of her sisters succumbed to the disease three years apart. Baker’s mother, grandmother and great-grandmother are all breast cancer survivors, and she underwent a hysterectomy to help potentially prevent breast cancer after reviewing her genetic testing results.
To honor her daughter and two sisters, Baker is determined to live a long life. “I can’t explain the devastation of losing my daughter. No parent should ever have to bury a child. I’ll never get over it. The hardest thing was having to hear her say, ‘Momma, I don’t understand why I am dying for no reason.’ There was nothing that could be done at that point, and she died within a year and a half of diagnosis,” Baker said. “People don’t understand that it can happen to young people too. That is why I do my non-profit work—so that she wouldn’t have died for no reason.”
Baker is an active member of the Susan G. Komen Foundation, Houston chapter and is also on the board for the new chapter in Montgomery County. She recently started her own non-profit foundation, Continuing Jamie’s Journey, which focuses on raising money for people to pay their bills when they are missing work because of treatment.
In addition to donating her time, Baker has taken it one step further. She also is donating her body.
“I visit MD Anderson (Cancer Center) every six months. I volunteered in a study to see if certain medications can prevent genes from mutating. I’ll be starting another medical-related study soon. MD Anderson has my ovaries, and I told them they could do whatever they want. Whatever they need, they can have. My body, my heart, my soul,” she said.
Although no two stories are alike, everyone at the Administaff Small Business Classic is connected. Everyone can sympathize, relate, be thankful, grateful and supportive. They are one, and last week golf was all about one color: pink.
To hear more about Janet’s story and her non-profit organization, please click here
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