Cheryle Goldberg, 69, an almost 37-year survivor, has walked in every one of the 25 Philadelphia breast cancer walks on Mother's Day.
In honor of her longevity - and the event's 25th anniversary - on Sunday, she led the emotional and ceremonial survivors' parade down the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
What made the day most significant for the Warminster woman - diagnosed in 1978, when for so many a diagnosis was a death sentence - was that she walked with her husband, daughters, and three grandchildren.
"This is how we celebrate Mother's Day," she said.
More than 30,000 people walked or ran in the annual Susan G. Komen Philadelphia Race for the Cure, nearly all wearing pink. There were tutus, T-shirts, wigs, sneakers, - one man, a board member, was in a pink gorilla suit.
The most striking and perhaps important aspect of the day was that it was truly a family affair.
"To stand shoulder to shoulder with so many women and survivors - it's a beautiful feeling. It just washes over me," said La Farae Fennell, 59, of West Philadelphia, who started to get choked up just talking about her emotions. She was walking in honor of her aunt, Doreter Williams, and with her best friend since third grade, Jacqueline Erwin Brown.
Elaine Grobman, the event CEO and founder, was up all night as usual and at the steps by 3 a.m. Her grandchildren worked registration; her daughter and daughter-in-law corralled the 1,000-plus survivors on the steps; her son the doctor was in the medical tent; and her husband was in an undisclosed location, tending to the money.
Komen Philadelphia says that since 1991, it has funded more than 155,000 free mammograms for local women in need, distributed $55 million in grants to local organizations, and contributed $23 million to breast-cancer research.
Grobman said her dream was to go out of business - by finding a cure.
Robin Green, 53, was diagnosed less than a year ago. After four rounds of chemo, 33 days of radiation, and two surgeries, she dyed her hair pink and wore a pink tutu.
"I feel a little overwhelmed," she said, standing on the steps with so many other survivors. But waiting for her at the bottom were her sisters, father, sons, and cousins - and granddaughter Nyjiyah Barnes, born under 2 pounds but now 18 months and thriving.
Sarita Jordan, 46, who had breast cancer in 2005 and again in 2013, said it had metastasized and was now in her liver. Stage 4. She just completed 26 rounds of Taxol, a chemotherapy drug, but was running the 5k.
"There are some very tough women out here," said the survivor next to Jordan on the steps.
Jodi Duffield, 52, of Richboro, and Diane Petoskey, 66, of Levittown, wore matching pink cowboy hats with glitter and flashing lights - mostly so their families could spot them on the steps. The two survivors met through Bucks County Breast Friends, a support group.
"We're all sisters," Petoskey said.
Connie Iannetta, 53, of Phoenixville, an eight-year survivor, walked with daughter Alyssa, 24, and Tina Dougherty, 53, of Lebanon, her best friend since junior high school.
This was the first time Dougherty had seen the survivors' parade. She wept as she watched.
"I'm just so proud to be here," she said. "To see all these people, all these survivors."
Her only regret was that she forgot her tissues.
Sandy Berkowitz, 68, walked with daughter Micah Shender, 31, and Shender's pup, Rowdy.
"We've been doing this every Mother's Day since I was 14," Shender said.
"You need traditions," her mother said.
Dogs were a big part of the day.
Carl Sias, 27, of Blackwood, walked with his greyhound, Chip, who wore a pink T-shirt. Sias also walked with his mother, Annemarie; his fiancée, April Ayon, 28, walked with her mother, Marta, a survivor.
Eva Donohue of Haddonfield wore a "Team Mom-Mom" shirt and with relatives walked in honor of her mother-in-law, Nancy Donohue, who had breast cancer and died last year.
The course was changed this year for the 25th anniversary. Instead of walking or running from the Art Museum down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and through Center City, the throngs headed west on Kelly Drive, crossed the Schuylkill on Girard Avenue, and returned on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
Living in Harmony, a band featuring Paul Hackett, 60, on vocals and lead guitar, with son Dan, 22, on keyboard, was playing on Boat House Row. Passing by, Tonya Merke, 49, of West Oak Lane, was so overcome with joy as she listened to "I'll Always Love My Mama" by the Intruders that she joined Paul Hackett at the mike.
"Sing a verse," he said.
And she did.
It was that kind of day.
Deborah Coleman, 56, from Northeast Philadelphia, walked with a pink Afro and pink wings. Stapled to her wings were names of survivors and of friends who had died.
"We're the wings for everyone who passed away," she said.
Jorge Rugenski, 60, stood at a railing near the finish. He started crying as he saw his wife, Edimar Silva, 52, approach. Two months ago, she underwent abdominal surgery; he is fighting cancer in his throat.
She spotted him, ran up to him, and kissed him.
Then she finished the race and he ran off to find her.
In grants to local organizations.
Contributed to breast-cancer research.
Free mammograms funded for
local women in need.