Impressive Record

Race for the Cure survivor gives back for 24 years

9/13/2016, 4:33 p.m.
Dorothy Fuller holds an impressive record on the eve of Portland’s annual Race for the Cure.
Dorothy Fuller of Portland brings the issue of breast cancer health to her community. A cancer survivor of more than two decades, she has participated in every Portland Race for the Cure since it began 24 years ago. Fuller serves as a Komen Worship in Pink ambassador, which helps others like the volunteer group on the right train to become ambassadors themselves, educating congregations about breast health and the importance of early detection and screening.

Dorothy Fuller holds an impressive record on the eve of Portland’s annual Race for the Cure. She has walked and raised money for every Race for the Cure since it began in Portland 24 years ago, no matter what.

Fuller had just been diagnosed with breast cancer when she saw a race flyer on the bulletin board at the doctor’s office back in 1991. She immediately decided she was going to be there. Friends definitely motivated her to join, and they also raised money in her honor.

When she talks about attending the annual event over the years, she says, “I love that it isn’t competitive, but just genuine camaraderie. There is a feeling of excitement, and the atmosphere is just loving and kind.”

She appreciates seeing the number of pink hats and pink bibs worn at the event by survivors. The increasing number is a clear symbol of the progress that has been made.

Fuller is a huge advocate for breast cancer awareness and is adamant that women push to get answers for their health concerns.

“I found a large lump, which I had not felt before. It concerned me. One day at work, I asked a friend and nurse if she would take a look. Her response was not to worry about it. I just couldn’t let it go, so I asked a second nurse to look at it, and she suggested I visit the doctor. I did so, and the doctor also indicated that it was likely a cyst, and not to worry. My concern grew, and I pushed for tests, since I felt something was wrong and wanted more answers. Finally, the doctor gave me a biopsy, and it was cancer.

“My biggest lesson from the experience was to keep pushing, and that is what I tell others too,” she says. “It can happen to anyone. My sister passed away from breast cancer very quickly just a few years ago. I remember making the decision to stay positive and focus on taking care of myself. Anyone who was negative, I just wouldn’t be around them, and I didn’t talk about it a lot then.”

In fact, Fuller has become more of a Race for the Cure advocate over the years and is now a Worship in Pink Ambassador, a mission program of Komen Oregon and Southwest Washington where faith-based communities come together to educate their congregations about breast health and the importance of early detection and screening.

Volunteer ambassadors from about 30 local churches have obtained special training by Komen to help them plan activities for their congregations that center on the importance of breast health awareness. Seven of these churches, including Bethel A.M.E. where Dorothy is an ambassador, are participating as African American Initiative Pilot Churches, which means they’ll receive additional training in order to help guide those women in their community who request assistance in obtaining a mammogram.

Of her involvement, Dorothy says, “I have been involved in Worship in Pink since the beginning, and it is so inspirational. Everyone comes together in love. I enjoy it, and I can’t wait for that time to come. My congregation also looks forward to it. It brings us together. Our organizer Kathy Kendrix does a great job of pulling together the overall Worship in Pink program and the group of Ambassadors are so supportive of each other.”

Because Fuller will be attending her son’s birthday in Texas this year, she is signed up to participate in the companion Sleep In for the Cure. She is fundraising for the actual race which returns for its 25th year this Sunday, Sept. 18. She also is helping organize Worship in Pink activities in October at Bethel A.M.E. to advance the breast cancer awareness message even further.

For more information on Portland Race for the Cure and Worship in Pink activities, visit komenoregon.org.