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'There is a certain magic to Churchill Downs': Oaks Survivors Parade returns in-person after pandemic hiatus

Felicia Corbett was first nominated to walk in the parade in 2020. Since then, she's been re-diagnosed with metastatic cancer.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Kentucky Oaks Survivors Parade will return in-person this year after the pandemic put it on hold.

The Survivors Parade will honor 146 survivors of breast and ovarian cancer who were nominated in 2020.

The group includes 39-year old Felicia Corbett, who has waited two years for her chance to march. Since then, her journey with cancer only continued. 

Corbett's thirties started with a rare skin cancer, which doctors caught early and quickly beat. 

Then, at 36, she was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer. 

"I tell everyone that I'm excited about turning 40 and everyone asks me why," Corbett said. "Thirties have not been kind to me but I've had a lot of good things along the way as well."

Just on the cusp of 40, after 16 chemotherapy treatments and radiation, doctors found metastatic cancer in her sternum. 

"Right before the pandemic I thought I was superwoman," Corbett said. "I just finished the other round of chemo and was coming back to life."

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Through cancer and chemo, Corbett's friends and family lightened the load. They came up with "team names" and fun t-shirts and supported her journey. 

"Some of my friends came up with this thing called 'Hi Felicia Fridays' where they raise money for alternative treatments," she said. 

Corbett didn't let her diagnosis or the pandemic slow her down. 

She works as the beverage director at Louisville's Trouble Bar. The job helped her feel cared for during challenging days. 

“It can be hard remembering all of these things, but the beauty of it is they allow me to be creative, they’re very supportive and they understand where I am," Corbett said. 

Corbett said the pandemic was a challenge for the bar too.

The team struggled to keep up business. Beverage director and bar, fought side by side. 

"The bar hung on by a wish and a prayer and we somehow survived," Corbett said. 

Corbett was first nominated for the Oaks Survivors Parade in 2020 and has patiently waited for her moment.

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"There is a certain magic to Churchill Downs," she said. “I’ve seen it on TV, so it feels kind of surreal that it’s actually going to be me walking in it.”

It's been two years of waiting and nearly a decade since her first diagnosis. Even now, as she continues treatment, Corbett doesn't know what will come next. 

"I'm okay with the journey even though I don't know when it ends," she said. "There is no end date for chemo and once I came to terms with that the journey got a little bit easier.” 

Still, she takes on every challenge with courage, strength and humor. 

"I was a little upset because I'm not a superhero yet and I've had so much radiation that I should be," she joked. 

Nominations weren't taken for the Survivors Parade this year, to allow 2020 nominees the chance to walk in-person. 

Nominations will be taken again in early 2023.

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