JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Before pink smoke fills the sky, before a sea of women wearing pink tutus enters Centennial Bank Stadium, and before a band by the name of "The Bouffants" from Memphis do a sound check, there were women and men who planned, coordinated and plotted out every step of the first-ever Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Northeast Arkansas.
"It's hard work, but it's oh so worth it," Candace Cooper, chair of the inaugural race, said.
She and two other women stood on the 50-yard line at Centennial Bank Stadium. It's the place where runners and walkers will end the race on Saturday, May 6.
Jane McDaniel, former President of the Arkansas Komen Board is looking on as Julie Isaacson, another breast cancer survivor and chair of the sponsorship committee shows where survivors can sit in the stadium stands. Both of their races with cancer have been run.
"I was young," Isaacson said. "I wanted to see our children grow up."
For Isaacson, a breast cancer diagnosis 13 years ago was life-changing. A critical care nursing instructor for Arkansas State University, it put her on the other side of the bed.
"It made me a much better nurse," Isaacson said.
Like Isaacson, McDaniel, a registered nurse, hadn't thought breast cancer would affect her life.
"It hit me one day," McDaniel said. "I had not had a screening mammogram."
That test revealed breast cancer. She had to have a mastectomy, then reconstruction and major problems with that.
"It was emotionally painful," McDaniel said. But, she said she drew strength from something a friend told her.
"She said, 'The Lord will use you to help other women,'" McDaniel said.
After that, McDaniel pushed to get women talking through her "St. Bernards Issues in Health" program and their mobile mammography unit.
"The first year that we took the mobile unit out to industry, 40% of the women were first-time mammograms," McDaniel said. That same unit would travel to Little Rock for the Komen Race and organizers saw the dedication of Northeast Arkansas.
But, there was a moratorium on starting races elsewhere—until last year.
"I said, 'Let's do it!'" McDaniel said.
Through lots and lots of coordination, it was decided Jonesboro would have its own race.
"It felt like it was something that I could really do because I had felt helpless for so long," Cooper said. Cooper, chair of this year's race, has worked tirelessly because of her best friend, Brandi Lieblong.
"She's my person!" Cooper said.
Brandi was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer and life has been touch-and-go ever since.
"Hard to see anyone struggle," Cooper said, wiping tears from her eyes. "Especially 'your person.'"
Brandi's cancer was found through a screening mammogram.
"I just want to work as hard as I can to make this something great for her and for everyone that's gone through," Cooper said. "It's not just me. There are tons of best friends and sisters and mothers that feel like they have--where you just see your friends hurting."
For more information on the race, click here.
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