Thursday July 16, 2015
In 1999, South Burlington’s Pat Loller was the 45-year-old Director of Administration at the Vermont Housing Finance Agency, newly and happily married to her husband, Neil, and life, pretty much, was as good as it gets. In 2000, Pat found a lump in her breast and was diagnosed with breast cancer.
That same year, a good friend of Loller’s took part in the Komen Vermont Race for the Cure, an annual fundraiser to benefit Komen Vermont-New Hampshire, in Manchester, Vermont. Loller was unable to participate, due to treatments, so her friend walked the 5K in Loller’s name.
“I was very fortunate,” Loller said. “This is my plug for breast self-exams! My tumor was very small when I found it, just one cm, …but I could feel it, and had it checked out.”
Several biopsies, two surgeries, and however many radiation treatments later, Loller, along with her husband, their kids, grandkids, and their many friends formed and raced as the “Life is Good” Race Team. They have collectively raised some $65,000 for the Vermont-New Hampshire Affiliate.
By way of recognition of the 15-year survivor’s dedication to the cause of battling breast cancer, the affiliate nominated Loller for the annual Honorary Team New Balance Survivor of the Year award, sponsored by New Balance. As this year’s recipient, Loller will receive a plaque along with a top-to-bottom athletic gear and apparel makeover from the company.
Loller recalls her first race, “I was blown away. It’s a very powerful event. Seeing all of the survivors, with their pink caps with all of the ribbons attached, one ribbon for each year of survivorship, and all of the people with their signs walking and running ‘in support of’ someone fighting the disease, or ‘in memory of’ somebody who wasn’t as lucky as I was. It dawned on me then that I could have been one of the women on those signs.”
As with all monies raised at the Races for the Cure (there is an annual race in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, as well), 75 percent of the funds stay in local communities in the form of grants to breast cancer and breast health organizations. The remaining 25 percent is dedicated to breast cancer research. In 2015, the affiliate granted $300,000 to 10 organizations in Vermont and New Hampshire.
While “Life is Good” no longer races as a team, the Lollers’ efforts continue, either in person or as members of a “virtual team,” a group that can’t physically participate in the annual Race for the Cure, but raise and donate money from afar.
“This year we are running and walking in celebration of my son’s girlfriend, Seeka, who was, just last month, diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer at the age of 40!” Loller said. “It’s been 15 years since my diagnosis and so much has been learned in that time, and I’m hoping that in the next 15 years there will be a cure for breast cancer through the efforts of Komen and other breast cancer organizations!”
This year’s Race for the Cure, the affiliate’s 23rd, will be held this weekend, July 18, at Riley Rink at Hunter Park, in Manchester, Vermont. Since 1993, the organization has raised and granted more than seven million dollars to local organizations, large and small, that make a difference in the lives of families struggling to cope with breast cancer.