Lymphedema — the swelling of body parts that results from lymphatic system blockage usually caused by cancer treatments — can be treated, but it’s not cheap.
It’s $781, in fact, for a pump and other supplies used to combat the painful swelling. And that’s just for a three-month rental of the pump.
That cost can be prohibitive for men and women who may already be on the hook for expensive cancer treatments. It’s especially difficult to stomach when insurance won’t help to alleviate the burden.
It’s instances like that for which Working Towards a Cure was created. The 100 percent volunteer-run organization, which benefits breast cancer patients in Madison, Jersey and St. Clair counties, raises money to pay for expenses like lymphedema pumps — that $781 was a real payment the group recently made on behalf of an area resident, Working Towards a Cure chair Julie Fraser said — that insurance companies can’t or won’t pay for.
Other real-life examples include paying for a babysitter so a mother could go with her daughter to her radiation treatments, or paying for a tank of gas so a patient could simply get to and from her doctor appointment. To date, the organization has given out more than $340,000 to assist area breast cancer patients in whatever way they might need it, Fraser said.
“We’re filling a need that we’ve found is out there,” Fraser said. “We’re trying to help people do the right thing.”
One of the ways through which the group tries to raise awareness is its annual Bra Walk. Now in its third year, this year’s walk, which starts and ends at the Liberty Bank Alton Amphitheater, will take place on Oct. 1.
Though it has a provocative name, the Bra Walk isn’t an opportunity for amateur exhibitionists to strut their stuff. Rather, Fraser said, the walk is a one-mile or 5K fun run that shows solidarity and raises awareness for all types of cancer.
“It’s meant to be bra as in supportive,” Fraser said.
Of course, there is a literal component as well. Each T-shirt given out to walk participants, the cost of which is included in the $20 registration fee for the event, has a bra drawn on it. Participants are encouraged to decorate their shirts with their own designs or, if they choose to decorate a bra of their own, they are asked to wear the bra over the shirt.
Five prizes will be awarded based on designs — a best pink ribbon design, best design by a survivor, best design overall, mayor’s choice and Fraser’s favorite, the best girlfriend- or wife-decorated, boyfriend- or husband-modeled design. This year’s celebrity guest mayor judge will be East Alton Mayor Joe Silkwood, with East Alton Park and Recreation Director Chris Logan and Treasurer Rodney Nelson participating as well, Fraser said.
Dan Pyle of Alton’s WBGZ radio station will emcee the event, which begins with opening ceremonies at 9 a.m. The race will step off at 10 a.m., with judging at 11 a.m. After check-in, a ceremonial ribbon-pinning to recognize all forms of cancer — participants will be able to choose a colored ribbon that represents a specific type of cancer and pin it on a larger, white styrofoam ribbon to make a multicolored ribbon — also will be part of the morning’s events.