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In breast cancer fight, advocates find strength in unity at Jones Beach

Annette Hill, of Queens, and Valda Pascall, of

Annette Hill, of Queens, and Valda Pascall, of Garden City Park, cross the finish line during the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk at Jones Beach State Park on Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015. Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

Stacy Brennan, who had cancer surgery just two weeks ago, was far from alone at Sunday's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk at Jones Beach.

The Plainview resident, who is living with stage four breast cancer, was supported by more than 200 family and friends.

"It was invigorating; it almost makes you speechless," Brennan, 53, said. "The day was beautiful, the feeling was beautiful."

The Jones Beach boardwalk was transformed into a sea of pink as more than 65,000 people participated in the American Cancer Society's noncompetitive 5-mile event, said Patrice Lestrange, spokeswoman for the nonprofit.

"With many thousands of walkers -- with children and adults of all ages -- it's no wonder the American Cancer Society says, 'Nobody fighting cancer should have to walk alone,'" Lestrange said. Brennan, who was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, walked with members of her nonprofit Stacy's Warriors. She was in remission until 2013, when her cancer metastasized. She said participating in the walk and fundraising for cancer research gave her a purpose.

"I don't let it get to me," Brennan said. "It's like giving back makes me feel better and it keeps me healthier."

This year, Stacy's Warriors raised about $30,000, Brennan said. A total of $2.7 million was raised Sunday, with proceeds funding breast cancer research and helping to provide free, comprehensive breast cancer information, organizers said. The event is the nation's largest breast cancer walk and has been held on Long Island for two decades.

George Coburn, manager of the PSEG Long Island Community Partnership Program, which is involved in several community outreach efforts, noted that PSEG's contingent of more than 600 was the largest group to participate in the walk, the number swelling from last year's group of more than 500. He said the group has been walking for just two years, and that last year PSEG raised $52,000 and this year $30,000 so far.

"We've been the largest team both years," Coburn said.

Robert Abballe, 25, of Garden City Park, was walking holding a banner in memory of his mother, Lorena, who died of breast cancer three years ago at the age of 49.

Abballe, an alternative investment analyst who works in Manhattan, was participating in the event with about 15 family members and friends.

"I think we've been walking since '96 as a team," Abballe said. He said his mother used to also be part of the group.

"It's important to raise awareness and keep hope alive," Abballe said. "Hopefully there'll be a cure one day."

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