20 Faces of Komen Columbus: Week Four

Since this May 19, 2012 will be the 20th Annual Komen Columbus Race for the Cure, for the next 20 weeks we’re going to spotlight 20 individuals who have participated in the Race throughout the years. They come from all walks of life and may be survivors, volunteers, grantees, sponsors or advocates, but they’re all committed to the fight against breast cancer.

Week 4: The Pink Lady

When Georgeann Corey ran the first Race for the Cure in 1993, she did so to honor a dear friend who had been diagnosed and to support her husband, whose law firm was a corporate sponsor of the event. Georgeann had also lost a grandmother and two aunts to the disease and had seen a cousin, close friends and neighbors battle breast cancer as well.

Georgeann and her son Michael at the 2006 Race.

“All of a sudden it felt like it was an epidemic of breast cancer of family, friends and relatives,” Georgeann said.

Of that first Race, Georgeann remembers a relatively small group of women who wanted to be heard and show how strong they were after their diagnosis.

After being motivated to get involved by watching those women, Georgeann started volunteering with the development committee of Komen Columbus.

Not long after, Georgeann faced her own breast cancer diagnosis.

“After I was diagnosed, I really got involved more because I knew the importance of getting our message out and wanting to survive this disease and to understand more,” Georgeann said.

Initially Georgeann didn’t want to wear the pink Survivor hat and t-shirt on Race day.

Georgeann at the street corner she sponsors every year in honor of her husband.

“I didn’t want people to look at me differently because I was raised to think that cancer meant a death sentence. Because I had seen so much, I was very proud about beating it and wanting to do it on my own and not have people look at me differently than how I really was. I just wanted to be Georgeann and not be ‘Georgeann who has breast cancer’ and not ‘Georgeann who had bilateral mastectomies.’ Even when I went to corporate people to try to obtain sponsorships, I never told them I was a breast cancer survivor, but I talked about what it was like for someone who was diagnosed with breast cancer, and the treatment, and what families go through with the aches and pains of cancer. Some of my closest friends never knew. I didn’t even tell my mother about my diagnosis until three months after I’d beaten it because my aunt had just died.”

Georgeann kept volunteering to understand more about breast cancer and not only learn about what she was going through, but how to help others going through a similar experience.

Throughout her years volunteering with Komen Columbus, Georgeann made lifelong friendships with a group of ladies self-named the “pink witches.” Working together on the development committee, they continue to meet monthly to talk about anything and everything pink.

“For holidays we always exchange something pink if we can, but we’re all supportive of Komen and we walk together at the Race. We love Komen and what it stands for,” Georgeann said.

It’s the Komen mission of saving lives and finding a cure for breast cancer that has kept Georgeann volunteering all these years. In 2006 she was recognized as the Sun Chips Volunteer of the Year for her work with Komen Columbus.

“When we go into offices to raise money [through corporate sponsorship,] we’re not here to have people feel sorry for us as women, we’re here to educate them on breast cancer and the need for money for research and new technology. We need to be able to diagnose women earlier and to help the underserved women who don’t have money for a mammogram or ultrasound or medical treatment,” Georgeann said.

Georgeann (right) and one of her "Pink Ladies," Mimi Dane.

Through 19 years of Race for the Cures, Georgeann only missed one Race to attend her son’s college graduation in 2005. She’s certainly seen the Race participant numbers grow, but has also seen the diversity of participants grow.

“It’s not just women, it’s men. Cancer really affects everyone. The age [at which people are being diagnosed] has really been astounding to me, as there are more younger women being diagnosed with breast cancer in their 20s and 30s,” Georgeann said.

From left to right, Sue Jones (another Pink lady,) Georgeann, Nancy G. Brinker, Stan and Cindy Mansfield.

The biggest change Georgeann has seen is the number of people talking about breast cancer now.

“They’re not afraid to say, ‘my mother, my aunt, my grandmother, somebody had breast cancer.’ That’s completely different than ten years ago.”

We’re grateful Georgeann decided to get involved so many years ago and look forward to many more years of good health and community involvement for her.

“It really is a survivor’s dream that we have brought this to the surface, and that we can talk about it and say ‘breast’ without feeling funny about it,” Georgeann said. “This year I’m most looking forward to another year of survivorship, and another record-setting number of people and another record-setting amount of corporate money raised to fight breast cancer. I will run every race until there’s a cure.”

If you’re interested in following in Georgeann’s footsteps and helping with corporate fundraising, please let us know. We hope you’ll join Georgeann on May 19 and register today.