Noelle Stickell Huntingtown, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in August, walked with her sister, Renee Ruslander and a group of girlfriends. Pictured in front (l-r) are Lisa Foster, Donna Gibson, Kellie Sellner and Stacy Wilkerson. Behind them (l-r) are Dawn Richardson, Stickell, Shannon DiPretoro and Ruslander.

Christina Bowen Photography

Michelle Alexander drove over 200 miles with her two sons to walk with her friend Christa McCan, who is going through chemotherapy for triple-negative breast cancer, at Calvert Memorial Hospital’s 5th Annual Breast Cancer 5K Walk/Run on Oct.18 in Solomons. They were among the record-setting crowd of 960 that brought in an estimated $15,000 to benefit the Sheldon E. Goldberg Center for Breast Care at CMH.

The 45-year-old California, MD woman wore a bright smile under her black bandanna as her friend proudly pinned her race number on her hot pink T-shirt. “I’m halfway through chemotherapy and it’s going good,” she said.

It was a day meant for sharing. They came in groups, big and small, young and old, from as far away as Columbus, OH and Louisburg, NC to remember those who lost the battle, to celebrate those who survived, to encourage those who continue to fight and to support the hospital’s breast center that was named for the remarkable physician who was the driving force behind its creation.

From five to 79 they laced up to hit the pavement to also raise awareness about the importance of scheduling routine mammograms. Studies show that one woman in eight will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. And as survivors know, early detection can make all the difference. 

Sharon Cunningham of Huntingtown lost her sister to breast cancer more than 40 years ago. “We’re just so lucky to have this facility in our county.” She was joined by her husband, Pete, who counts himself lucky that the late Dr. Goldberg was on call five years ago when he punctured a lung in a biking accident on July 4th weekend and needed emergency surgery.

Ashly Gray of Lusby lined up early with her 3-month-old daughter in a stroller. “I just came out to support the effort,” said the OB nurse.

Jackie Brown of Chesapeake Beach brought her son and nephew. “I’m walking for my older sister, Novella Gray of Prince Frederick. She just had surgery two weeks ago and couldn’t walk today but she’s a survivor.”

A pink-clad entourage all sporting “Boobie Brigade” T-shirts turned out for 28-year-old Lindsey Phillips, who just finished her treatment and got the all clear. Her husband is a supply officer at the Pax River Naval Air Station.

Noelle Stickell of Huntingtown, who was diagnosed in August and had a lumpectomy three weeks ago, walked with her sister, Renee Ruslander, and a group of girlfriends. “I’ve been an advocate for awareness and getting mammograms done,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of response and even those who have never had one done, go.”

Organizers expressed their excitement at the amazing turnout. “Each year, the 5K gets bigger and bigger,” said Kasia Sweeney, spokesperson for the hospital, “and more and more people become aware of how important early detection is to saving lives.”

The recent addition of 3D mammography at Calvert Medical Imaging Center, the breast center’s imaging partner, has definitely raised the bar on early breast cancer detection, said Gary Linton, center manager. CMIC is the first imaging facility in Southern Maryland to offer 3D mammography. The cutting-edge technology can detect even the most subtle signs of early cancer. It is particularly beneficial for women with dense breasts, he said, because it allows radiologists to see lesions of the breast better – resulting in a greater rate of cancer detection and fewer call backs.

Sweeney went on to add, “It gives you such a sense of pride to see so many people come together for such a great cause.” She said proceeds from the race will be used to expand support services available to all patients at the center as well as to support a special fund for patient financial assistance.

During the pre-race ceremony, a special plaque was presented to Anne Weems, a cosmetologist at the Career & Technology Academy in Prince Frederick, for her 17 years of dedicated service to the Look Good, Feel Better program, which helps female cancer patients cope with hair and skin changes that occur during treatment. “I always felt like they gave me so much more than I gave them,” she said.

The energy and enthusiasm overflowed as the capacity crowd tapped along with the Northern High School pom poms to “It’s All About That Bass” and joined World Gym fitness trainers James Sutton and Teon Plater in warming up to Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” under a clear blue sky.

Just before the race began, Ramona Crowley Goldberg, wife of the late Dr. Sheldon Goldberg, thanked the attendees for their support and added that “your efforts in promoting breast cancer awareness absolutely assist in protecting countless others from the hardship of this disease that affects not just the patient, but the whole family.”

She also recognized sponsors Calvert Medical Imaging Center, World Gym, Exelon Generation, Rita’s of Solomons, Southern Maryland Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery and DRSG (Doctors Remembering Sheldon & Guillermo) for their extraordinary commitment to the event. The late Dr. Guillermo Zambrano, a highly respected radiologist at CMH, was a passionate advocate of the breast center and was instrumental in developing state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging in Calvert County.

A flurry of pink flashed by as the race got underway. There were pink tights and tutus and T-shirts that read: “I’m running for Grammie” and “Tough Guys Wear Pink.” Babies strapped to their chest, holding the hands of the little ones who could walk by themselves. It was as though a pink ribbon circled the tiny island as the group followed the 3.1-mile course around the waterfront community.

Members of the Patuxent High School ROTC served as course monitors. At the finish line it was all sweaty smiles and triumphant hugs. The top finisher overall was Jordan Blankenship of St. Leonard. The Calvert High School senior, a member of the cross-country team, came in at 17:33. The top female was Christy McGinnis-Buckler, 35, of California with a time of 23:10.

An especially warm welcome greeted 67-year-old Ron Cox who came in at 37:33, 12 minutes behind his 20-year-old daughter, Summer, and 10 minutes ahead of his wife, Wendy. After a quadruple bypass in February, the Tracy’s Landing resident completed the 12-week cardiac rehabiliation program at Calvert Memorial Hospital. Cheering on the sidelines was his son, Austin, who was home for the first time since starting college.