PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – They are the heroes of the 23rd annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.

Thousands of breast cancer survivors took part in a tearful, but jubilant celebration of life on Mother’s Day.

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“I’m on my fifth year, they said if I make it over this hump, I’ll be good to go,” said Cathy Liberto, a breast cancer survivor.

Others had their own milestones they were celebrating.

“I’m a 15-year survivor,” said one woman.

“Twelve years and 10 months,” said another.

To achieve their milestone, survivors say they needed strong family support, a fighting spirit and faith.

“My family is my rock,” said Lisa Smith. “This is my 16th year walking in the race because I walked in the race in the midst of my cancer.”

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According to the Susan B. Komen Foundation, scientific advances and improved public awareness are helping more women live with, or even defeat breast cancer.

“We know that if caught early, the survival rate is as high as 98 or 99 percent, but it has to be caught early,” said Julie Philip with the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

That means taking a proactive stand on healthcare, by getting a mammogram.

“Nowadays, you see more and more young people being diagnosed, so it’s very important to get your mammogram. That is one way to get ahead of the game,” said Rosemary Beal, a breast cancer survivor.

The Race for the Cure will help the foundation raise more than $2 million a year.

Seventy-five percent of the funds stay in the community, making it possible for anyone who needs a mammogram and other services to get them. But the ultimate goal is finding a cure for breast cancer – and more than 25,000 people offered their support on Mother’s Day.

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