New Canaan residents raised breast cancer awareness this past Saturday as they participated in the Stamford Hospital Bennett Cancer Center's Paint the Town Pink. Along the sidewalk of Elm Street, New Canaan breast cancer survivors and supporters kicked off the campaign with the "Mile of Pink," sporting pink T-shirts and handing out pins along with the hospital's 2009 Breast Cancer Awareness Month calendar of events.

"The funds that we are raising go to Stamford Hospital's Mobile Mammography Screening," Sarah Burke, breast cancer survivor and New Canaan campaign chair, said. The Mobile Mammography Screening goes into neighborhoods where there are un- and under-insured women. "They can get mammograms for free, and it really helps promote breast health education and awareness," Burke explained. Mobile mammography services will be available multiple days a week throughout the month of October and afterwards.

Burke, a mother of four, was diagnosed in 2005 with breast cancer. She found out through a genetics testing that she had the breast cancer gene mutation BRCA1. After discovering the tumor from a mammogram, she went through multiple surgeries to rid herself of the cancer at the Bennett Cancer Center. She had her ovaries removed because of the direct link between ovarian and breast cancer, went through oral chemotherapy for a year and half, and had a bilateral mastectomy. It's been four years and today her risk of recurrence is less than 1 percent. After one more year Burke will be released from the care of her oncologist completely, but will continue to promote breast cancer awareness.

"I'm proud of my mom because I know her contribution will influence women in our community," Burke's oldest daughter Maggie, a senior in high school, said. "As a survivor she knows better than anyone the importance of early detection, which is why she devotes her time to projects like Mile of Pink."

Lori Marcus, a mother of two teenage girls, also participated in the Mile of Pink. In September 2008 it was discovered that she had breast cancer after a routine mammogram. Her mother is a breast cancer survivor, and she fought it with the same strength her mother had. Marcus went through a very aggressive surgery last fall and five months of chemotherapy at Norwalk Hospital, which she finished in May. Marcus will have one more surgery for reconstruction, and feels great. "I'm very fortunate. I've been able to work full time, exercise and have lots of energy," she said. "My daughters and husband have been really supportive and so has the whole community." Marcus explained that her younger daughter and her friends wore pink to school on the day of her surgeries. "After this surgery I'm excited to move forward with my life."

Sally Kneen, who also was involved in the Mile of Pink, was diagnosed in 2001. Her son was 10 years old when her breast cancer was picked up on a routine mammogram. Treated at Whittingham Cancer Center in Norwalk, Kneen had a lumpectomy as well as chemotherapy. She was very well supported by her family and friends, which made a big difference. However, accepting help was hard at first.

"I'm a registered nurse," she explained. "I'm used to being a caregiver and caretaker, but people really do want to help."

Kneen is now cancer free, and thinks the awareness from "Paint the Town Pink" is "amazing."

"It doesn't matter where you were treated, and everyone can come together to support early detection and prevention."

To participate in Breast Cancer Awareness Month or for more information about the Paint the Town Pink campaign and events sponsored by the Stamford Hospital, visit www.paintthetownpink.org.