Sunny Ann Anderson was a master gardener, gourmet chef, volunteer worker and devoted friend. She was also a victim of breast cancer, and her death in January was a crushing blow to many of the survivors she met in support groups along the way. Her memory was emblazoned across T-shirts of several participants in the Susan Komen Race for the Cure last weekend in Washington.
"She had a huge smile on her face all the time," said Madeline Waters, a Del Ray resident and breast cancer survivor. "She was such an incredible person, and these shirts were our way of memorializing her."
Waters was diagnosed in 1993, and started participating in the annual race in 1994. She started making T-shirts in 1998, creating new themes for the shirts over the years. With Anderson’s death a fresh memory, the idea of memorializing her was a no-brainer. The pale blue shirts say "Every day is a sunny day, we miss you Sunny Ann."
"She was one of the most amazing people you’d ever want to meet," said Waters. "She ate right and exercised. She did everything right, but she wasn’t able to make it through."
Waters first met Anderson in a breast-cancer support group after her own diagnosis. Then came aggressive treatment, a mastectomy, chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant and then radiation. Waters calls it "the year from hell," but she forged some long-term friendships among a network of fellow survivors.
"I would say that 40 to 50 percent of the people I’ve known who have been diagnosed with breast cancer are now gone," she said. "And that’s scary."
The 18th annual Susan Komen National Race for the Cure included nearly 50,000 participants from across the country, including 3,000 breast cancer survivors. The race helps raise funds and awareness for the fight against breast cancer. Last year the event raised a total of $3.3 million and granted a record $1.9 million to local breast health and breast cancer education, screening and treatment programs for the medically underserved in Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland with the remaining dollars funding cutting-edge breast cancer research.
"When compared to all other states in the nation, Washington D.C. has the highest breast cancer mortality rate at 33.7 deaths for every 100,000 women," said Hala Moddelmog, president of Susan Komen for the Cure.
The race was started in 1982 by Nancy Brinker, who promised her dying sister — Susan Komen — that she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. Today, Komen for the Cure is the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists. As a result of the money raised during the annual races, the nonprofit organization has invested nearly $1 billion toward finding a cure, becoming the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world.