Daryl Brown, 51, of Crofton, never misses an opportunity to talk with someone about breast cancer.
While pumping gas one afternoon, Brown complimented a woman at the pump next to her on the hat she was wearing. The woman was taken aback, and took the hat off to show her reason for wearing it.
"I felt so bad," said Brown, who quickly recognized the hair loss caused by chemotherapy treatment. "I didn't mean to draw so much attention to her."
But Brown, who will be a featured speaker today at an American Cancer Society fund-raising walk, turned the embarrassing situation into an opportunity to share her story of survival and hope as an 11-year survivor of breast cancer.
"If I can help somebody else, I'll be there in a flash," she said.
Brown's appearance today is part of the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk at Patterson Park, part of a nationwide program to raise money for cancer prevention, education, treatment, research, patient services and advocacy efforts.
In Maryland, breast cancer was diagnosed in 3,714 women in 1999, and 782 women died from breast cancer that year, according to the state's annual cancer report. Maryland had the nation's fifth-highest mortality rate in 1999.
"My main message is to tell those you love to stay current with their mammograms and self-exams," Brown said. "The only reason I'm here is because of yearly mammograms and breast self-exams."
During the course of treatment, Brown began volunteering with the American Cancer Society and its Reach to Recovery program, which provides one-on-one support between breast cancer victims and survivors. "I wanted to find out more about breast cancer and more about how other people were successfully dealing with it," she said. "I also just wanted to give back to those people who had helped me so much."
Registration for today's event begins at 8 a.m., and the noncompetitive walk starts at 9 a.m. For more information about Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, call 800-787-4337 or visit www.cancer.org/stridesonline.