A Celebration of Life

The sun has just risen to full morning height. The waves are crashing into Jones Beach, one of our island’s most historic icons. It is early fall, a cool air calms the boardwalk. A young boy holds his mother’s hand. A man stares off into the distance, his daughter at his arm. Two girls are chasing each other with full giggles. It is not summer. There aren’t any fireworks. There should be no one out here. But the scene is adorned by thousands of pink-outfitted smiling hopefuls. They come with the pain of their past in their hearts, the hope of the future in their eyes and the love of their friends and family—and each other—lifting their heels as they step forward en masse in celebration of life…

While countless walkers participate in American Cancer Society’s Annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk just to help a good cause, there are as many others participating because the disease has touched them personally. “The best part of doing the walk is seeing so many people walking in honor of someone they love who has survived or who has lost their battle…Walking along the beach in a sea of pink is a pretty moving experience,” explained Ashley Marchese, a teacher and coach at Sachem HS, who has participated in the walk five times. Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when Ashley was in high school and although the disease can be a difficult topic for many, she sees the walk as a celebration of life. “Keeping that in the back of my head and knowing this is a disease that affects many women, I felt like the walk is just something small to honor those people.” And she is not alone.

Dr. Randall Feingold, a plastic surgeon, founder and managing partner of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, P.C. in Great Neck is one of the flagship sponsors of the event every year, along with his partners Dr. Ron Israeli and Dr. Peter Korn. Dr. Feingold specializes in breast reconstruction, making him particularly sensitive to how the disease afflicts not just the patient, but also the whole family. Ironically, some of his patients were reluctant to attend the walk when he began participating, but all that has changed. “Ten years ago there were about 10 patients that we cajoled into going by bribing them with sweatshirts that I handed out of the back of my car,” recounted Dr. Feingold. “This year we had a tent and 1,000 sweatshirts. We gave away every one of them.”

According to the doctor, one thing that has made this event worthwhile for participants who are or have been afflicted with breast cancer is the event’s socializing cachet. For some, it is the rare occasion to get together, discuss and even celebrate, making the day a happy one despite the inherent sorrow. Dr. Israeli is likewise inspired by the positivity the event engenders, “Every year I’m humbled by this event… It’s just amazing to see the support of not only the patients but of their loved ones and friends and family. It’s almost like a reunion for us every year as the event gets larger and larger.”

For those who don’t know if they are physically fit enough to participate, don’t worry—this event is not meant to be a race, but instead, the American Cancer Society describes it as “a celebration of survivorship, an occasion to express hope, and a shared goal to end a disease that threatens the lives of so many people we love.”

On October 16, the American Cancer Society will host its 18th Annual “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk” at Jones Beach. This year, they have added a second walk to their calendar, holding their first ever “Eastern Long Island Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk” at Dowling College, Brookhaven Campus, Shirley, on October 2. Registration for both begins at 8am before the walks. For more information on the walks and how you can be a part of the fight against breast cancer, visit makingstrides.acsevents.org.