Lois Carthen said she never feared the cancer that took one of her breasts.
She kept the faith, she said, and concentrated on living, not dying.
That’s the message the 80-year-old Wichitan said she tries to pass on to other women diagnosed with breast cancer. As she did at Saturday’s 23rd annual Susan G. Komen Wichita Race for the Cure, Carthen will wear pink throughout October, which is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Carthen and about 9,500 other people turned out for Saturday’s race, which started at Towne East Square.
She didn’t walk this year, except in the survivors parade, guided by a walker.
A doctor diagnosed Carthen with breast cancer on Feb. 9, 1991. At first, she thought she was going to have a lumpectomy. But after further tests, doctors determined she needed a modified mastectomy.
“Nobody in my family had had breast cancer in four generations,” Carthen said.
She was 58 and the mother of five sons and one daughter.
“It has been quite a journey,” Carthen said Saturday. “I love letting people know their cancer isn’t a death sentence.”
Throughout the years, Carthen has spoken at churches, rehabilitation hospitals, shelters and nursing homes. She served for seven years on the local Komen board and participated in the Witness Project, a group that aims to encourage breast cancer screenings and breast cancer awareness among African-American women.
Her message to them is, “What you don’t know can kill you,” she said.
As a survivor, she said she has a “great motivation to spread the word” about regular mammograms and breast examinations.
And she likes being an example to younger cancer patients that they can live through the disease.
“Don’t allow the things that are happening to you make you fearful because there’s hope, and there’s faith,” she said. “We can survive, and we can overcome.”
Saturday’s race raised about $500,000, leaders said.
Pam Palmer, president of the Mid-Kansas chapter of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, greeted survivors on stage at the end of the race.
She said in an interview that a lot of women approached her Saturday and said the event made them feel better.
“It was a beautiful day, and we had great energy,” Palmer said.
Wearing a huge, pink, curly wig, Tom Martinez said he has participated in the race for three years.
Martinez walked the race in honor of his mother, Lucy Quintana, who learned she had breast cancer in 2002. She is 71 and lives in Puerto Rico.
“She’s doing awesome,” Martinez said.