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Breast cancer survivors to be honored at inaugural 5K walk

Thressa Ward (25209)
Thressa Ward

The American Cancer Society’s inaugural Antelope Valley Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 5K walk will be held on Saturday, Oct. 19, at the Palmdale Amphitheatre/Marie Kerr Park, 2723 Rancho Vista Blvd., Palmdale. Registration begins at 7 a.m.  Walk starts at 8 a.m.

The event will honor and celebrate breast cancer survivors, educate women about the importance of early detection and prevention, and raise funds for research and support programs.

“Getting involved in the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer was very natural for me,” said Thressa Ward, survivorship chair for the event, and a breast cancer survivor for almost 2 years.

“This is my way of paying it forward.”

Churches, family members and friends may gather teams, or individuals may walk to show support.

“I would encourage survivors to walk so people can see the different faces of breast cancer,” said Lancaster Human Relations Tapestry Commissioner Denise Latanzi, who is also executive director of United Desert Charities, an organization that trains nonprofit groups.

“It’s everyone. It crosses every divide, reaches every economic group, and every racial group,” she said.

A cancer survivor for almost 18 years, Latanzi said the American Cancer Society provided her the support she needed during a difficult time.

“Really, were it not for them, I don’t even think I would be here,” Latanzi said. “So really, the American Cancer Society is everything.”

Since 1993, nearly 8 million walkers have raised more than $450 million through Making Strides. Last year, Making Strides events raised more than $60 million to help people stay well, get well, find cures, and fight back against breast cancer.

“The fact that our cancer rates are so high up here, to me what it means is that women aren’t getting screened,” Latanzi said.

Denise Latanzi (25210)

According to breast imaging specialist Marie McCombs, M.D., of Renaissance Imaging Medical Association in Lancaster, the best tool for early detection is the annual mammogram.

“You can reduce your mortality from breast cancer by about 40 percent by getting annual screening mammograms. That translates into about 20,000 or 25,000 lives saved per year. Currently, we recommend mammography to start at age 40,” she said.

A graduate of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Mc Combs, who received national acclaim for her work in the stereo tactically-guided core needle biopsy program at UCLA, said therapy works much better when breast cancer is caught at its inception.

“Our goal is to catch cancer at a very early stage, and the best way to do that is with screening mammography. The therapy that is available will work much better when we catch cancers at a very early stage,” she concluded.

“I would just encourage women to get involved, show their faces and be proud that they survived, because it’s a war that we fight,” said Latanzi.

“The American Cancer Society was a tremendous help to me. When I called their office, I received assurance that there was a support system that I could count on and that there were other women who were in the same situation as me,” said Ward.

“This is my way of helping women to have those same services that I received during my journey. Plus it brings me joy to be able to honor and recognize those very courageous survivors,”  she continued.

“If you’re facing breast cancer, just know that you are not alone. There is a support group that can help you through this ordeal,” Ward concluded.

Survivors who would like to participate in this event are urged to contact Thressa Ward at, or call (661)618-1957.

To register, or start a team, visit and enter “Making Strides of Antelope Valley, Calif.” Supporters may also call the American Cancer Society for more information at (800)227-2345.