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Breast cancer survivors lean on each other, back in-person for annual fundraiser

The Georgia two-day walk for breast cancer has raised around $750,000 for breast cancer research and mammograms

ATLANTA — A sea of pink filled the Marriott Marquis Saturday, as hundreds gear up to take part in the 19th annual Georgia two-day walk for breast cancer. The fundraiser, hosted by It's The Journey, Inc., usually calls for participants to walk or run 20 miles on one day and 10 miles the next day. 

However, the pandemic forced the event to go virtual in 2020. In 2021, the event will take a hybrid approach. Participants were asked to do 20 miles before Sunday, when close to 700 people are expected to walk 10 miles through Downtown Atlanta. 

Nina Murari, a breast cancer survivor of more than a decade, said having a support system to lean on made a significant difference in her recovery efforts. 

"When you’re down, they pick you back up," Murari said. "It’s really important to stay connected to people in this time also."

It's The Journey, Inc. executive director Stephani Tucker said the fundraiser has collected $750,000, which will stay in Georgia. The money will go to hospitals and clinics in more than 100 counties around the state, and certain entities can apply for grants to get up to $30,000 for mammograms and other essential resources to fight breast cancer.

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“The camaraderie and the family, the fact that these people are raising money they’ve never met before to try and keep those dollars here, they’re just selfless and passionate," Tucker said. “One in eight women have breast cancer. Here in the South, there’s a lot of rural areas where people don’t have access to healthcare, especially after last year with people missing mammograms. We’re concerned about people getting later-stage diseases.”

According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, breast cancer accounts for 30 percent of new cancer cases among women. It's the leading cause of cancer among women in metro Atlanta. The Department of Public Health provides breast and cervical cancer screening, diagnostic services, and referral to treatment as medically indicated to uninsured women residing in Georgia. Data showed the highest percentage of breast cancer death rates among Black women, according to the American Cancer Society

RELATED: Georgia 2-Day Walk for Breast Cancer pivots to 2 week, 30 mile virtual event for 2020

Christel Bethea, a 13-year breast cancer survivor, calls her support system her "pink bubble." She had a biopsy that came back "negative" for a tumor; however, she decided to go ahead and remove it. When doctors were operating, they found that the tumor was cancerous and was spreading. Bethea said being proactive and going with her gut likely saved her life.

"When you feel something is wrong, follow your gut instinct and act," Bethea said. "Don’t react. If you react, you might get scared about your cancer diagnosis. But take action, be forceful and make sure you’re taking the right action. Don’t react, because when you do, you’ll get sad and depressed and you’ll lose time. So it’s very important that you act promptly."