Honorary Team New Balance was formed in 1995 to celebrate stories of survival and recognize those who have made a difference in the fight against breast cancer. For each Race for the Cure, our Affiliate has the opportunity to choose a local survivor to be an Honorary Team New Balance Member. These members are honored for their personal perseverance against breast cancer and their dedication to raising breast cancer awareness.

Debra Manning of Bloomsbury, NJ is our Komen North Jersey Race for the Cure  2015 Honorary Team New Balance Member

A former practicing registered nurse, Deb became a stay-at-home mom when her third child was born. She volunteered for school functions; she had a full and active life raising three sons. She was diligent about her breast care. Then in November 2001, a routine screening mammogram revealed that she had breast cancer. She was 42-years old. After chemotherapy, radiation and two lumpectomies, life went on. At the five-year mark, her surgeon told her that she had “graduated.” She felt like she was “done with it” and wasn’t going to give it another thought. And she didn’t, until in 2012. During another routine mammogram, the radiologist recommended that she have a baseline MRI. The results of the MRI indicated that Deb’s breast cancer had returned, but this time, the lump was larger, the cancer more advanced. She was told that there was a high chance that she might develop breast cancer in her other breast. Deb made the tough decision: she underwent a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction.

Lying in her hospital bed, her second day after surgery, a friend suggested she go on Facebook. What she found there was a photo of her friends at the Komen North Jersey Race for the Cure. They were carrying a sign that said We’re Walking for Debra Manning. They were walking for her. “It was a cathartic moment for me,” says Deb. “Their support meant so much; it touched me on such a deep level. I suddenly felt like I wanted to celebrate life. And I knew that I wanted to be there with them at the Race the next year.”

So in 2013, Deb formed a team for the Komen North Jersey Race for the Cure, “Joined Together for the Cure.” The 30 team members raised over $18,000, the fifth highest fund-raising team that year. “I wanted to raise money to help others who are suffering from the disease, and help find a cure so no one else would have to go through what I endured.”

Deb had met her first challenge, beyond her expectations. Energized and “uplifted” by her experience at the Race, she decided that next she wanted to do something that would be the ultimate personal challenge: a Sprint Triathlon. She didn’t know how to swim. She hadn’t been on a bike for over 30 years. And she wasn’t a runner. She enlisted in a training program and connected with some amazing coaches. “My swimming coach had MS, and my bike coach had Parkinson’s,” she says. “I was inspired by how they overcame their physical challenges, and learned that I was capable of overcoming mine.” She completed the Sprint Triathlon in July 2014, and achieved her goal of “not being last.” In her mind, she was definitely a winner.

The experience, she says, was a kind of rebirth, in getting past her breast cancer, and meeting the challenge of her own physical limitations, both real and perceived. “That’s how I feel about participating in the Komen Race,” she says. “Putting an end to breast cancer may seem like an unreachable goal, but if I help achieve it, if raising money will help Komen meet the challenge and get there faster, then I want to be part of it.”