Past walk chair is doing it again

Walking in 2016 helped her on road to healthy recovery from breast cancer

By MELISSA JOHNSON

2018 Honorary Walk Chair, Melissa Johnson, with her dad, Ernie Babcock at 2016 Walk
2018 Honorary Walk Chair, Melissa Johnson, with her dad and walking partner, Ernie Babcock at 2016 Walk

My first TBBCF walk took place in October 2016 when I served as the walk’s honorary co-chair. I had finished my cancer treatment at the beginning of that year and was dealing with peripheral neuropathy from chemo. I was also almost 70 pounds overweight. I only signed up for a quarter marathon, figuring I’d better not bite off more than I could chew. I donned a pink wig and some new workout clothes I’d bought for the occasion.

My father, also a cancer survivor (of three cancers including breast!), joined me. We trained with walks around his neighborhood and got ready to trek the six miles. While the walk itself was long and I couldn’t imagine walking a longer stretch like many of the other participants, the support and celebratory atmosphere made it so much easier. I’ll never forget all the people clapping and cheering for us as we passed. I felt like a celebrity.

Before and after: Melissa (left) during her 2015-16 breast cancer journey and present day newspaper woman and college professor
Before and after: Melissa (left) during her 2015-16 breast cancer journey and present day newspaper woman and college professor

Reaching the finish line at Harkness Memorial State Park was a thrill. Balloons, speeches (including mine), and high-fives and hugs abounded before we were bussed back to our car in Niantic. I spent the evening lying on the couch recovering, but it was so worth it. I’m also happy to report that the walk helped ignite something in me and I’ve since lost almost 50 pounds. Just 20 to go until I reach a healthy weight for my body.

This year I decided to push myself with a half-marathon, and I’m hoping my training and walking will get me over a frustrating weight-loss plateau. I’m sad that COVID-19 will prevent us from all walking together, but I look forward to future walks with that same camaraderie and joy I experienced in 2016. Congratulations and best wishes to all walkers and cancer survivors!

(Melissa Johnson lives in Waterford. She teaches at Mitchell College in New London and does copyediting, editing and layout for The Day newspaper.)

 

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