ABC7 Eyewitness News Los Angeles
September 25, 2014
As any Olympic athlete will tell you, the struggle for greatness often comes at a cost. As Carmelita Jeter prepared for the biggest contest in her life, she was also mourning one of the deepest losses of her life. Jeter lost her dear aunt to breast cancer, but rather than run from her memory, she embraces it.
It’s rare to ever see Jeter lace up anything except pink shoes. Each knot reminds her of the woman who inspired to dream big.
“She was very much a fan of mine, very much a fan of what I did. She always called me and said, ‘Good job, Lita.’ You know, that was her thing,” said Jeter, an Olympic sprinter.
Her aunt, Brenda Washington, lost a three-year-long battle with cancer, months before Jeter would compete in the 2012 Olympics.
Despite injury and pain, Jeter fulfilled her promise of gold, silver and bronze.
“I told her I was going to do it, and I pushed myself. I willed it. I claimed it. I did all that I had to do to make that team,” Jeter described.
Now with breast cancer a permanent part of her family history, the 34-year-old athlete gets regular mammograms and urges other women to do the same.
“Sometimes, women are afraid. They’re scared, like, ‘I don’t want to get tested because what if I might actually have cancer?’ But we can’t be afraid. It’s definitely something that we have to go out there and do,” Jeter said.
She has teamed up with the Susan G. Komen Foundation to help raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research. The group’s Circle of Promise initiative focuses on the healthcare disparities in the African American community. Within that Circle of Promise, is one promise she keeps to her Aunt Brenda.
“It’s still hard, and I do it. I do it for her,” Jeter said.
Jeter is set to sound the official starting horn at the 2014 Susan G. Komen Orange County Race for the Cure on Sunday.
While she won’t be on the field, she’ll be running alongside as many women as she can encouraging them to dream of a world where breast cancer can’t touch them. She’ll also be thinking about the aunt who inspired her to take on her most challenging contest ever – a race for the cure.
“Until I’m done running, I’ll always wear pink shoes,” Jeter said.
As part of the Circle of Promise, Jeter says women who don’t have insurance or can’t afford screening can get free mammograms. In Los Angeles, an African American woman with breast cancer is about 70 percent more likely to die from the disease than a Caucasian woman.
ABC7 is a proud sponsor of Susan G. Komen’s Race for the Cure in Orange County. For more information and to register for the Run/Walk, go to www.komenoc.org.