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25th annual breast cancer walk marks a fight shared by all

"It seems like Long Island is just plagued by cancer," said Michael Capuano of Oakdale. "I don't know what it is."

About 65,000 participated in the 25th annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk held on Jones Beach in Wantagh by the American Cancer Society on Sunday. With hundreds of teams walking, the organization expected to raise $2.5 million for cancer research, education and care. Though the day is a solemn reminder of loved ones gone too soon, it’s also a tribute to their lives and a celebration for those who have undergone successful treatment. (Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin)

For 22 years, Lidia Pallisco of Floral Park has carried a hot pink flag across the Jones Beach boardwalk on an October Sunday in honor of her daughter, Lorena Abballe.

An X-ray technician at the then Winthrop-University Hospital and a Garden City Park mother of two, Abballe was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996 at age 33. Abballe, whom her mother called the “rock of the family,” fought the disease for 16 years before dying in 2012 at age 49.

Marching under the banner of Lorena’s Angels, Abballe’s friends and family are part of the 65,000 participants in the 25th annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk, held in Wantagh by the American Cancer Society. Their group raised an estimated $8,000 in 2018, one of the hundreds of teams expected to bring in $2.5 million for cancer research, education and care.

“I do it for her because she is watching,” said Pallisco, who marched the 5-mile walk flanked by her daughter, Diana Ragusa, of Whitestone and Abballe’s adult son, Robert Abballe, of Garden City Park. “She was a super, super, super person.”

Katie Goepfrich, senior manager of community development for the American Cancer Society and one of the event’s organizers, noted the diverse crowd at the walk, which she said is the largest of its kind in the United States.

“It unifies this Island,” she said. “Cancer doesn’t discriminate. Everybody has been touched by it.”

Michael Capuano, 61, a retired restaurant owner from Oakdale, marched with his 2-year-old Shih-poo, Fluffy, in a carrier vest in honor of his mother, Mary, who died last October at age 89. He ticked off a list of other friends and family he knows who have battled cancer.

“It seems like Long Island is just plagued by cancer,” he said. “I don’t know what it is.”

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death among women, according to the American Cancer Society. In 2018, more than 266,000 women and 2,550 men are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer. More than 41,000 will die from the disease this year.

Though the day is a solemn reminder of loved ones gone too soon, it’s also a tribute to their lives and a celebration for those who have undergone successful treatment.

Mike Drennan, 54, of Selden, wore a curly pink wig, pink boa and pink tutu in honor of his wife, Laura, who died 14 years ago at age 42 when their daughter Katie was 3 years old. He twirled his daughter, now a senior at Newfield High School, on the boardwalk as the pair posed for pictures.

Marion Nieves, 59, of Bay Shore, who along with her husband Ralph, 57, who wore pink fairy wings, showed off a sticker marking her one year in remission.

“I’m totally grateful,” she said. “I’m watching the beauty of the sky and the water. I’m alive and it’s a great day. I’m here.”

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