LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - For the last few years the races on Oaks Day have paused to honor breast cancer survivors. The tradition will continue on Oaks Day 2014 and this year it will hold an extra special meaning for WAVE 3 News Anchor Dawne Gee who will be cheering on her mother as she walks in the Survivors Parade.
The chance of a woman having invasive breast cancer during her life is about 1 in 8. According to the American Cancer Society, the chance of dying from breast cancer is 1 in 36. Dawne Gee's mother, Joanna Smith, was one of the eight.
In February of 2011 she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
"My doctor called me and said ‘I got good news and bad news. Bad news is you have cancer. Good news is I think we can get it' and that was the way we found out," Smith said.
Sharing her life changing diagnosis with her family was difficult.
"We had to make a plan for how we were going to tell you," she said. "We just decided to fix a favorite meal."
"Dawne and I got to Mom's house expecting orange roughy. We got a diagnosis of breast cancer," Gee's sister, Pam Raglin, said. "I thought this cannot be happening to my Mom."
The cancer process was hard on the family.
"It was a whole lot harder than I thought it was going to be," said Raglin. "I could tell Mom was getting tired. I just didn't want her to give up."
Smith underwent a lumpectomy, but what they didn't expect was that she would have to go back because they did not remove all of the cancer.
"It was just like the wind went out of me. It was horrible. It was horrible," Raglin said.
This Oaks Day the dreadful feelings that cancer allows to creep in will be replaced with hope, power and lots of pink.
Raglin said, "When I see my Mom walking the track on Oaks day it will just be a reminder of what a strong woman she is and how blessed we are to still have her with us."
For Smith the day will be different, "I think about walking with 140 other survivors and to draw strength from all theses strong women that are going to be walking saying we can conquer this."
Smith said she often thinks of Tricia Amburgy, the woman who started the walk six years ago. For the first time the 42-year-old mother of three and vice-president of ticketing for Churchill Downs will not be part of the Survivors Parade. She lost her battle to breast cancer.
But the tradition of the Survivor's Parade and her memory will continue.
"It is as important as the Oaks race," Smith said. "I thank her family for sharing her with us."
Copyright 2014 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.
1115 Mt. Auburn Road
Public File Contact: