Walk this way on October 1 with Honorary Walk Chair

Published September 16. 2016 4:09PM Posted curtesy of The Day

Melissa Johnson

I haven’t written any columns lately because there hasn’t been much to say — and when it comes to cancer, that’s a very good thing.

My most recent CT scan was on Aug. 23. The scan showed the one remaining spot on my liver has continued to shrink and is now less than a centimeter in size. My oncologist said everything looks great and he’s very happy. Well, then, so am I.

Some spots on my right lung appeared on the imaging that are believed to be related to the radiation I received last December and January. My doctor isn’t worried about them, so neither am I. Sept. 9 was the one-year anniversary of my last chemo infusion. I still have some tingly neuropathy in my feet, but I don’t notice it much as long as I wear slippers or shoes.

I decided to write another cancer column because I recently accepted the Terri Brodeur Breast Cancer Foundation’s invitation to serve as the honorary walk chair for its 2016 Walk Across Southeastern Connecticut, the 11th since the New London-based foundation began in 2005 and its main fundraising event. The walk takes place Oct. 1, and, in order to be more than just a face or name attached to the walk, I’m going to attempt a quarter marathon. My neuropathy-afflicted feet likely won’t appreciate that, but too bad for them. I have some walking to do — 6.55 miles, to be precise.

Here’s why I love the Terri Brodeur Breast Cancer Foundation, or TBBCF: 100 percent of funds raised go toward research to find a cure for breast cancer. Not overhead or administrative costs. Not awareness and pink ribbons — we’re past all of that. Every cent anyone raises or donates to the foundation goes toward finding a cure. Since 2005, TBBCF has sent more than $3.4 million in the form of 34 grants directly to researchers, doctors and scientists.

I agreed to be the honorary chair because I want people to take notice. When a 60-year-old gets breast cancer, people are sad, but they’re often not surprised. When a 20- or 30-something-year-old gets breast cancer, people pay attention. Young women the same age start to wonder, “Could that happen to me?”

I’m here to tell you: Yes, it could happen to you. So pay attention to your body. If you feel a lump, or pain, or anything that doesn’t feel right, get it checked. Don’t be like I was at first and think, “I’m sure it’s nothing. I’m too young for breast cancer and I don’t have any family history,” and then wait months to get it looked at. This goes for any part of any body, male or female — not just women and not just breasts. You are important to people. You are not an afterthought.

So if I’m the face of breast cancer this year at the age of 33, that’s OK with me. As much as I’d love to forget I ever had cancer, that’s not an option. I’ll always need to be vigilant and monitor my health, and so should everyone else, whether or not they’ve had cancer. Hope and health are two of the most important things in life, and TBBCF is always working toward both.

If you want to participate in the marathon, you have a few options, and you have until the end of the year to raise your funds. You can walk the entire marathon, 26.2 miles, starting at 7 a.m. at Saybrook Point. Your fundraising obligation would be $500. You can do half and join the group at 10 a.m. at the East Lyme Town Garage, 8 Capitol Drive, and be responsible for raising $250, or you can just do a quarter of the route, 6.55 miles, raise $200, and join up with the walkers at 1 p.m. at Niantic Baptist Church. Kids age 12 to 18 and cancer survivors only need to raise $100 to walk any distance. The walk ends at Camp Harkness in Waterford, and I’ll be speaking at closing ceremonies around 4 p.m. Remember that with TBBCF, all of the money you raise goes straight to cancer research.

TBBCF makes it simple to participate. There’s a sample fundraising letter on the website you can use if you’re shy about asking for money, and they help you set up your own fundraising webpage. Volunteer opportunities are available as well, if you don’t want to walk. All the information you need to register or get your questions answered about the walk, fundraising, the granting process or anything else can be found at www.www.tbbcf.org.

Let’s find a cure.

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