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Making Strides Against Breast Cancer to be held Oct. 18 in North Conway

Breast cancer survivors and supporters walk to raise awareness, save lives

(Left to Right) Lisa Lovejoy, Diane Watson and Pam Hale wrap supporting arms around each other as the 2008 Making Strides for Breast Cancer Walk begins. Kathy Metz. (click for larger version)
October 08, 2009
Like many others, ACS team captain Christine Valleand has a long history with cancer. Her sister lost her life at the age of 31 to cervical cancer in 1995. Her father died from cancer in February 2007. Christine was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2004. Although she felt totally confident that she would pull through, her road to survival has been turbulent.

Discovering a lump in her breast, Christine scheduled a mammogram at a local hospital. She received a letter back saying that the results were normal and that she should come back in a year. Christine knew better.

"Sadly, my sister's death probably saved my life. She was misdiagnosed for five years. Cervical cancer is 100 percent curable if they catch it early enough," Christine said. "Although my sister had textbook symptoms of cervical cancer, and was receiving regular pap tests, she unknowingly had the disease for five years. So when I got the results back from my mammogram, I sent the test to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center for a second opinion. A week later I was undergoing surgery," says Christine. For 17 weeks, Christine drove four hours every day to receive radiation treatments. She has been cancer free for four years.

Her decision to become involved in Making Strides evolved over time. Despite attending kick-off meetings for the past three years, each year she felt she wasn't quite ready to sign on. This year marks her first time as a Making Strides participant.

Christine explains her need to contribute by saying, "I decided I really should do it. I had a lot of help getting through my stuff, so I figured that this would be a good way to give back and help other people get through it."

Christine heads up Team Wild Things. There are 16 people on the team, consisting of family, friends and fellow employees of Wild Things, makers of lightweight outdoor gear, in North Conway. Their goal is to raise $2,000 and they are almost there.

Pam Hale is also a team captain for 2009. She's been involved with Making Strides for 10 years and served as chairperson for six of those years. Pam's mother died of cancer. It will be 10 years on Oct. 6.

"It wasn't breast cancer," says Pam, "but to me, cancer is cancer. I got involved right after her death." Her team, team SOLO, is committed to raising $3,000 this year.

SOLO, which stands for Stonehearth Open Learning Oppor-tunites, is a North Conway school that teaches wilderness emergency medical training. Team SOLO consists of 12 members, about half employees of SOLO and the remaining members are family and friends. In prior years their team has ranked third in total fund raising. They would like to continue their efforts as a top team.

Pam remembers the early days of the event when about 50 people gathered. Last year, 450 people participated in the North Conway walk, including 55 survivors. Together, they raised $73,000.

"Our whole community, this area of New Hampshire and Maine, is amazing," says Pam. "There is a benefit going on all the time. But people continue to give. I've found that people in the Northeast are very caring. The walk is a great way of bringing people together and getting people involved in a community event. It's not a lot of time out of our day. It starts at 9 a.m. and ends at noon. I just believe this is a fun day for a very worthwhile cause."

Jane Perley has been walking for Team Curves since 2002. She also is a key member of the Making Strides planning committee. Her dedication to the cause is unwavering.

In 1981, Jane's sister, Anne, lost her nine-year battle with breast cancer. At the time of her diagnosis, Anne was a single mother of three young girls — Michele, age 13, Christine, age 8, and Tory, age 5. She fought heroically, undergoing two mastectomies, radiation, chemotherapy and immunotherapy treatments. She was a fifth/sixth grade teacher when she had her first mastectomy and continued to work up until a month before she died.

"That's why our family keeps fighting," says Jane. "Not just because of Anne, but for all those who succumbed too soon to this devastating disease. No one has to tell you how cancer and its repercussions affect families and friends. It you've been there, you know. Your heart goes out to them."

Jane wants people to know that awareness and education are the key to preventing, treating and curing breast cancer. Making Strides Against Cancer has among its goals to raise awareness and to educate. "Many advances have been made," Jane notes. "We need to keep this fight going so we can eliminate this disease forever. All together we can rid ourselves of this invader into our lives."

Twenty-one teams are registered for this year's North Conway event. The North Conway walk is one of 21 such events happening in New England in October. Each participant has his or her own reasons for being there.

In 2009, the National Cancer Institute estimates that 192,370 females and 1,910 males will be diagnosed with breast cancer, resulting in 40,600 deaths. One in eight women will be diagnosed with cancer of the breast during their lifetime. Chances are, most of us have been affected by breast cancer in some way. Making Strides offers a way to fight back and make a difference.

Since its official beginning in September 1993, nearly five million walkers have taken part in Making Strides events in more than 145 communities across the country, raising more than $340 million to fight breast cancer.

According to American Cancer Society statistics, the ACS invests more funds in breast cancer research than in any other solid tumor site in the pursuit of understanding, prevention and a cure. ACS-funded research has led to the discovery of lifesaving breast cancer treatments including tamoxifen and herceptin, treatments which are known to reduce the chance of breast cancer coming back.

Funds raised through Making Strides help the ACS maintain a 24 hour a day, seven day a week help line at 1-800-ACS-2345 which provides breast cancer information any time, day or night. Some of the money is used to host their website, www.cancer.org, which offers detection and prevention tips. Additional funds support the ACS Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) which works at the state and local level in partnership with state and local coalitions, to ensure access to life-saving preventative cancer screenings and treatments for both the insured and uninsured.

Kathy Metz, Community Development Executive for the New England Division of the American Cancer Society, sums up the Making Strides movement like this, "More than a walk, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer describes the progress we're making together to fight this disease, provide comfort and hope, and save lives from breast cancer."

If you would like to participate in this year's walk, the event begins in Staples Parking Lot, Route 16, in North Conway. Registration is at 9 a.m. and the walk begins at 10:30 a.m. The walk length is 3.5 miles and the registration fee is $10. For more information, visit http://www.cancer.org/ stridesonline and select New Hampshire and North Conway.

Matin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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