'Pink Heals': Fire Truck Raises Breast Cancer Awareness
Drivers probably didn’t expect to spot a bright pink firetruck parked outside the Southern Pines Fire Department around lunchtime Wednesday as they coasted down Pennsylvania Avenue.
From noon to 1:30 p.m., the fire department welcomed visitors to see the big pink apparatus, which is part of the Guardians of the Ribbon NC “Pink Heals” tour.
The nonprofit organization, based in Whiteville, is traveling around the state to raise awareness for breast cancer and to generate support for local women battling cancer by reminding people that “women should be put first in the fight.”
In addition to free hot dogs and refreshments provided by the fire department, visitors were encouraged to sign the truck in support of the campaign.
As cars passed by honking in support, Jackie Grasso quietly stepped up on the truck to sign her name and her sister-in-law’s name to celebrate their status as breast cancer survivors.
“This is great,” she said, looking at all the signatures. “I think it’s very inspiring to see.”
Grasso said the truck is a great way to remind the community just how many people cancer affects. She added that people often assume cancer affects only those with a family history of the disease or those who are unhealthy.
A two-year survivor, Grasso said she exercises regularly, eats healthily and had no history of cancer in her family when she was diagnosed.
“Cancer doesn’t care,” Grasso said. “It hits whomever it wants to hit. That’s the scary thing about it.”
Grasso said her tumor would not have been detected if she hadn’t gotten a mammogram. She balks at reports over the last year that suggest mammograms are sometimes unnecessary and even dangerous tests for women.
“Everyone should have a mammogram,” she said. “I think you shouldn’t wait until you’re older. You should start at 35 or 40 years old and continue.”
The American Cancer Society recommends that women start having routine mammograms beginning at age 40.
“We are so grateful to have the technology to detect instances of cancer earlier,” she said. “Because of it, we’re survivors.”
Almost everyone stopping to see the truck has been affected in some way by breast cancer, and visitors shared their own stories as they came closer to sign the truck.
Darla Landers walked around the truck with a friendly smile and asked Grasso if she would take a picture of her in front of the truck. Landers is currently undergoing treatment for her second round of breast cancer.
“I have two treatments left!” she said excitedly. “I’m feeling good, and I hope it stays that way.”
Pamela McMurren was driving her mother to a radiation treatment as she passed by the fire department. She signed the truck in honor of her mother, aunt and two cousins, all of whom have battled and survived cancer.
“We saw the pink, and we just had to stop,” she said.
Jonathan Smith, president and co-founder of the first chapter of Guardians for the Ribbon NC, said the “Pink Heals” campaign is a rallying cry for communities to come together in support of local women battling and beating cancer.
“We do this strictly out of love,” he said.
Guardians of the Ribbon was originally founded in 2007 in Arizona. Since then, several chapters have organized all over the country to spread breast cancer awareness.
Since last year, Smith and other members of the organization have been traveling around North Carolina in the pink truck named “Kayla,” which honors a 10-year-old survivor of stage four Hodgkin’s lymphoma, to raise awareness through local emergency services departments.
Smith gets quite a few double-takes in his travels as “Kayla” passes by other drivers on the highway.
“[The pink is] more of an attention getter,” he said. “But with all the signatures, it takes on so much more meaning.”
At a closer look, the layers of signatures and messages written on the truck in black permanent marker are a testament to how many people cancer affects all over the state.
“The truck is almost like a living, breathing thing because of all the new names,” Smith said. “For survivors, it gives them a sense of victory. For people who are currently fighting cancer, it gives them hope. For those who have lost someone, it’s a loving memorial.”
Smith believes the truck is especially poignant for those who have cancer because so many of the messages written on the truck assure visitors that life doesn’t end with a diagnosis.
“Just because you have cancer doesn’t mean you have to stop living,” he said. “It reminds people to get out there.”
Contact Hannah Sharpe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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