Why do I walk? The easiest response would be that I walk for myself. I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer five years ago because of a screening mammogram. Because of the research that has been done in the 28 years since Komen's inception, I was fortunate enough to be able to keep my breasts by having a lumpectomy and radiation. I just finished my five years of the cancer drug tamoxifen, and truly, life is pretty good.
However, I no longer walk for myself. I walk because I am so grateful to Komen for all the ways it has improved my life, and I want them to be able to continue changing the landscape of breast cancer survivorship for my sisters and brothers in the fight. Before I was ever diagnosed, I found the Komen message boards. The love, encouragement, and knowledge shared by the women and men there have been a constant source of support to me. I have been so blessed with the friendships of the women there, and I consider it one of the best parts of my cancer experience.
Sheila, and the rest of the staff at the Evansville office, have always been there for me, even when calls to other organizations went unanswered. For myself, like so many other cancer survivors, the legacy of breast cancer has been financial catastrophe. In the words of Lance Armstrong, "Cancer may leave your body, but it never leaves your life." Between co-pays, meds, and high deductibles, medical debt can be a huge financial drain and keeps many survivors from getting their followup care. For the first time, and hopefully the last, Komen was there for me yet again this year by providing my mammogram.
I train with the pictures of my children and grandsons in my head, knowing that unless we find a cure, any one of them could be at risk. While breast cancer has brought me many gifts, I would give up my last breath to ensure that none of my family, or yours, ever has to deal with hearing those words from a doctor's lips, "I'm so sorry, but you have breast cancer."
I walk with the large weight of so many angels on my shoulders, their whispers in my ears, of too many friends who have passed on because of this terrible disease. Sue, Jill, Linda, Annette, Judy, and too many others to name, all inspiring me, and so many of their Komen sisters, to lace up those shoes one more time with the Hope that this could be the last time. This could be the year that we find that vaccine, that miracle drug, the means to stop the beast called breast cancer from taking another life. We do it because we believe in the power of a promise between two sisters and the possibility of a world without breast cancer.