SIOUX CITY | Ten years ago, at the age of 47, Barb Pieper found a lump in her breast.

The diagnosis of breast cancer, which Pieper described as a "fluke" since she had no family history of the disease, couldn't have come at a worse time. Pieper had recently purchased her Morningside bungalow.

"I put a bunch of money into (the house), so I didn't have a lot of extra cash," explained Pieper, who was dressed in a hot pink cardigan as she sat in her home. Her reflection shown in the glass of a framed Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure survivor medal setting on the table in front of her. "I was pretty lucky because I had a good job and short-term disability, but still, financially, it's rough."

Pieper, who said she had a feeling breast cancer wasn't going to kill her, didn't get discouraged by her situation. She got help in the form of a grant from Susan G. Komen to pay for her treatment.

Susan G. Komen, formerly known as Susan G. Komen for the Cure and The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, is the world's largest nonprofit source of funding for the fight against breast cancer. To date, Komen has invested more than $2.9 billion in groundbreaking research, community health outreach, advocacy and programs in more than 60 countries. The organization, which reduced deaths from breast cancer by 38 percent between 1989-2014, hopes to increase that percentage to 50 by 2026.

After finishing chemotherapy at the June E. Nylen Cancer Center, Pieper decided she wanted to give back. She got involved with Susan G. Komen Siouxland volunteering for the Race for the Cure.

The ninth annual run/walk to raise awareness of the disease and celebrate survivors will take place Sunday in downtown Sioux City. This year, participants will start and finish at the Stoney Creek Hotel & Conference Center, 300 Third St., and utilize the Perry Creek Trail System.

Susan G. Komen Siouxland executive director Kristi Quinn said she expects around 1,200 participants to attend Sunday's 5K run and walk. So far,  teams have raised $10,000 of their $50,000 goal, but Quinn said those efforts will continue through June. Seventy-five percent of the money will benefit Siouxland organizations and projects that educate about or assist in breast health care, while the other 25 percent will support breast cancer research.

"It is a lot of fun and it is a good time, but what we're really here about is stopping breast cancer," Quinn said. "You can't really find anyone who doesn't know someone or who isn't related to someone who hasn't had an incident of breast cancer."

In preparation for her first Race for the Cure, Pieper set up the course and decorated it with pink balloons and ribbons. Soon, she found herself on Susan G. Komen Siouxland's board. She served a stint as education chair and was elected president.

During her tenure as president, Pieper said her proudest moment was meeting Susan G. Komen founder Nancy Brinker during a luncheon in Sioux City in 2012. Brinker founded the organization in memory of her sister, Susan, who died at age 36 after a three-year battle with breast cancer.

"She is just the most gracious, beautiful women I have ever met in my life," Pieper said of Brinker. "That's my highlight of my whole Komen experience."

Pieper said the races kind of blur together. While she usually walks the 5K, she recalled the year she ran it as a "beautiful day." She said her brother-in-law was running in front of her and her son was somewhere behind her.

"It was just a good race. It was a fun one," she said.

Pieper took a break from the Race for the Cure for three years while she was working as a travel nurse. Her job took her to Connecticut, Arizona, Washington and Kentucky. Another health scare and wanting to spend time with her grandchildren led Pieper to return to Sioux City a year ago and resume her volunteer work with Susan G. Komen Siouxland.

Since she has been home, a few of Pieper's friends have been diagnosed with breast cancer and are going through treatment. She urges other women to advocate for their own health.

"Don't wait if you think there's something wrong," she said. "There's a lot of help out there. If you don't have the money, ask for it."


Health and Lifestyles reporter

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