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Making Lemonade During a Pandemic

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Life can toss us lemons. Take a breast cancer diagnosis, a pandemic, and treatment complications and you have a good case for going sour. But add in the sweetness of friends, stir in a little humor and action to help others and you have a recipe for survival. 

In March 2019 at the age of 36, and with no family history, the news came that Allison Gore Smith had stage 3 breast cancer.  

“I was someone who ignored a lump for too long,” Smith says. “I was scared and didn’t know what to do. I put it off and that meant we needed to move quickly, only adding to the chaos and fear.” 

Enter her friends, a group that has been together since high school. 

“I have the three best friends ever,” Smith exclaims. “I’ve been super lucky with so many little things that I know a lot of women don’t have. That was a big reason for wanting to raise money to help people who aren’t in as fortunate a position as I am.”

Together, with families and friends from all over Central Texas rallying around her, Team Lemonade was formed to participate in the Susan G. Komen MORE THAN PINK Walk in Austin. It was a way of directing their love for their friend and their anger at the disease toward something positive to help Allison and the 1 in 8 other women who will be diagnosed with breast cancer. 

“When we couldn’t do a lot about cancer, the Komen Walk gave us a sense of purpose,” Smith says.

Sarah Hart, a longtime friend and team captain expresses how unbelievable it was hitting so close to home. 

“When she was first diagnosed, I was in shock, scared, and very angry. It’s still a hard pill to swallow every day to know your friend is suffering. Komen’s Walk felt like a way we could show our solidarity and also pay tribute to other loved ones who have succumbed to breast cancer.” 

When the idea was proposed to Allison, she was thrilled. 

“One of Allison’s favorite artists is Beyoncé and her Lemonade album had just been released and is all about knocking down the challenges in front of you. It spoke to Allison and we became Team Lemonade,” Hart adds.

Team Lemonade raised over $15,000 last year for Komen’s research, patient care, and advocacy programs. 

“It’s really special to be able to connect the dots, full circle,” Abbie Haynie, a longtime friend and member of Team Lemonade says. “Supporting Allison and Komen in this way gives us hope that we can help her, and others survive breast cancer.”

Just when Allison thought life could not squeeze any more from her, the COVID-19 pandemic began at the same time she experienced treatment complications. 

“I tell people having breast cancer better prepared me for COVID-19,” Smith says. “I had already spent a year with something totally out of my control that was overwhelming and scary.”

It’s the moments with her friends and family and focusing on making a difference that keeps her going. 

“We were relieved when it was announced the Walk was going virtual,” Hart says. “In a time of so much uncertainty, knowing the Walk will go on was important for us. We have a large team and we will be encouraging everyone participating this year to be creative and get out and explore their neighborhoods and parks.”

Komen Austin Virtual MORE THAN PINK Walk will be held on Sunday, September 27th at 9am and encourages participants to safely walk where you are in your neighborhood, or local parks and trails and continue to support the local community of breast cancer patients, survivors, and their families. 

“The pandemic has changed how we do things, but it won’t stop breast cancer and it won’t stop us,” Jeannine O’Deens, executive director for Komen Greater Central & East Texas says. “Our friends and neighbors need our help more than ever during this pandemic and are counting on us to be there for them.”

The Virtual MORE THAN PINK Walk is an opportunity to gather family, friends, or co-workers, safely, to get outside and get moving, and make a difference along the way. The annual fundraiser accounts for up to 60 percent of the funding needed to meet the critical needs of the community and accelerate research to find the cures. 

“Breast cancer scares all of us because of what it can take from us,” Hart says. “Komen’s research gives me hope that we will enjoy many more years of laughter and ridiculously fun adventures with Allison.”

 Team Lemonade is an example of how, even with the challenges of a pandemic and breast cancer treatment, a community can come together to inspire hope and make a difference.  

“It’s been hard, but you just keep putting one foot in front of the other,” Smith adds.

Join the Austin Virtual MORE THAN PINK Walk. Registration is free. T-shirts are given to all survivors and those who are living with metastatic breast cancer. Participants who raise $100 or more will also receive a t-shirt. The Virtual Walk is supported by the MORE THAN PINK Walk app and a Facebook Group to connect with other teams, participants, and survivors. Together we can create a community of hope, save lives, and end breast cancer.

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