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Glad To Be Walking The Long Walk

As you’re reading this, I am doing something really important! And some of you helped me get here! My husband Mike and I are celebrating 20 years. Not of marriage – that was a few years ago. Twenty years of cancer survivorship.

Most of you know that in 2002, I was diagnosed with Stage 2B Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. IDC is the most common form of Breast Cancer (BCX in the lingo). They removed a 1-inch lump from my right breast and 17 lymph nodes – pretty common back then. Then chemo and radiation, losing my hair, etc. I talk about that journey in my book, Courage Rises.

What I’m celebrating this week, though, is a commitment to paying it forward. Nancy G. Brinker made a promise to her sister, Susan G Komen, when Susan was dying of BCX that she would do everything she could to ensure that other women didn’t have to suffer from the disease. The Susan G. Komen Foundation is the result of that promise.

Wanting to do something significant with my gratitude after 5 years of survivorship, I committed to raising money for the Komen Foundation and walking 20 miles a day for 3 days in 2007. That year, I joined a Wells Fargo walking team (One in Seven No More), raised over $2,500 myself, and did that walk. My best friend Sandee agreed to walk with me, bless her. She trained a lot more than I did and ended up on a walking pace with some of our more fit teammates when my feet started to grumble and blister. I joked I had calves of steel and feet of meat!

Janna Long and I walked together most of the 3 days and we kept each other going. We closely bonded over our shared blisters, discomfort and kindness. We tried to quit on ourselves at least once. Someplace in Scottsdale on Day 2, we were sitting on the curb waiting for the “sag wagon” to pick us up and ferry us to camp. And it didn’t come. We were there for 3 hours (ok – only 35 minutes…) and decided we might as well keep going, dammit. After all, we had gotten that far. And the brief rest had done us good. We finished all 3 days together. My husband met us at the finish line and Janna’s husband, Russell, met us about ¼ mile before the finish and walked in with us. We walked into the closing ceremony jubilant and incredulous.

Every 5 years since I was diagnosed, I have helped to pay it forward again by raising money and walking. In some of the in-between years, I raised money and didn’t walk. This is my 4th time walking with the same team, although the name has gratefully changed to 1 in 8 No More instead of 1 in 7, due in part to the money the Komen for the Cure Foundation has raised.

I’m grateful for my teammates over the years who raise money and walk: Anna Schettino (team captain extraordinaire), Sandra Sutter, Tom Price, Thomas Price, Janna and Russell Long, my husband Mike, Bob Ochoa, Kailey Kreais, Ryan Kreais, Sandee Templin, Joanne Schirm, Rose Koning, Bridget Koning Neja, Joan Restuccia, Kirsten Janke and others I can’t remember and can’t find in my incredibly pink photos. In the many years that we cheered and didn’t walk there is a whole other crew to thank, including primarily Sandee, Karen Lalani and her beautiful daughters Hannah and Nadia, Debi McBee and others.

I’m grateful for the women and men before me that laid the foundation for the research, even when cancer was not as much of a public conversation – my father David Forrest, First Lady Betty Ford, my surrogate grandmother Jeanne Lotz, Sherry Bolen, Christle “Chrickie my Pet” Gobert, Debi McBee.

I’m grateful for all of my donors. I have personally raised over $20,000 for the Komen foundation in 20 years thanks to all of you!

I’m grateful for the friends whose cancer journeys came after mine that I have been able to support, even in a small way; Blanca Bevington, Susan Clausen, Meredith Low, Billy Kennedy, Helen “Raz” Windsor, Roy Nielsen, Pat Price, and so many others.

Today I am grateful to be alive, walking the long walk, and paying it forward.

God bless you all.

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