Deaf Snowshoers Find Strength in Each Other and Offer Encouragement to Fellow Participants


It’s been said people have the ability to do more than they think it can, especially when they have no other option. This is the mantra many breast cancer patients choose as they tackle the disease. At this year’s Susan G. Komen® Colorado Snowshoe for the Cure, a group of deaf breast cancer survivors and co-survivors show the resilience of the human body and spirit.

Komen Colorado’s Snowshoe for the Cure draws a special crowd. Many people come because it’s not your average 5K street race. Snowshoe for the Cure is held, in March, at the Frisco Nordic Center around 9,100 feet above sea level. The air is fresh and crisp. The majestic, snow-covered mountains provide a magical ambiance. But it’s the snowshoers who make the event extraordinary.

They arrive alone, in pairs, and large groups. There are pink legwarmers, pink capes, pink wigs, and pink tutus as far as the eye can see. That color is even more poignant as it pops on the snowy backdrop. The participants are passionate about the event and Komen’s mission to save lives and end breast cancer. They are locals, and they are folks from faraway places.

It’s a special day with unique people converging together for one main purpose: to stomp out breast cancer.

There is one group that perhaps stands out a little more than others. No, it’s not ladies in large, pink hats and feather boas, nor is it men with pink mohawks. This group catches your eye because of their disability, but once you talk with them they shine for so much more.

They’ve dubbed themselves the Deaf Dragonflies. It’s hard not to miss them as they excitedly sign with friends they haven’t seen since the previous Snowshoe for the Cure.

Komen Colorado caught up with the Deaf Dragonflies at this year’s Pink Party held at the Summit County Community and Senior Center. It was evident this group’s heart is as big as its personalities.

Ten-year breast cancer survivor Tracey Pablo, of Denver, was eager to speak with Komen Colorado through the group’s interpreter.

“Ten years have flown by,” Pablo said of her fight with breast cancer.

She said she attends Snowshoe for the Cure to support those who may be struggling with a recent diagnosis or has a loved one in the midst of the battle.

“We are willing to help anyone or talk to anyone,” Pablo signed. “I know how breast cancer sucks. It’s a hard time, and it’s not easy.”

In addition to coming to Snowshoe to lend support, Pablo said she takes in all of the positivity and strength that encompasses the event, a sentiment shared by many participants.

Friend and fellow Deaf Dragonflies member Patricia Faubion, of Lakewood, is a 30-year ovarian cancer survivor.

Faubion echoed Pablo’s feelings.

“We are excited about the spirit [of the event], and being able to reunite with [Deaf Dragonflies],” Faubion said. “We care about other people, and we want to be there for them.”

Like most Deaf Dragonflies, Heidi Schumacher also has a breast cancer connection. Her 92-year-old mother recently had a breast cancer recurrence.

Schumacher, of Helmetta, New Jersey, who has attended Snowshoe for the Cure for three years, said her first thought when she heard the news of her mom was “not again.”

The recurrence has been a very emotional experience for Schumacher.

“I was very upset,” she said. “I wanted to say, ‘Why again, especially at her age?”

Many Snowshoe for the Cure participants tell stories of friendships they’ve formed out of the event, friendships that have spanned years. Now Schumacher leans on fellow Deaf Dragonflies for support as she navigates the difficult territory with her elderly mother.

“But I am willing to stand by her because she’s my mom,” Schumacher said.

And that’s the message the Deaf Dragonflies want to send to other Snowshoe for the Cure participants – they are there for them, too. While their message may be spoken in a different way, it’s rooted in a universal language: love.