My journey started more than 12 years ago when my mom called to tell me that my oldest sister, Terry, had breast cancer. With half a continent between us, it was easy for my sister to keep her diagnosis a secret until after her surgery and the start of her chemotherapy.
The news rocked me. I felt helpless and sad that I had not been there for my sister. That was all the motivation I needed to fulfill a promise I made to myself (and my sister).
I was living in San Diego, which was one of only three cities in 2003 to sponsor the 3-Day, 60-Mile Walk for the Cure. I signed up in honor of my sister and never looked beyond that first 60 miles. Little did I know what an impact that decision would have on my life.
On the second day of the event, I met the first of three women who would later form our team of 14 women, a team known as Fight Like A Girl. Each teammate walked right into my heart.
That first year, Sue, a breast cancer survivor, was walking with her sister, Diane, and her best friend, Penny. In the second year, Penny was diagnosed with breast cancer. Later, another breast cancer survivor, Martina, joined us on our 60-mile walk.
Before my sister's experience, I did not personally know anyone who had breast cancer. Now, I had three teammates, plus my sister, who were survivors, and endless stories were shared through 60 miles and three days of blisters, tears and laughter.
Like a 16-year-old girl who walked in a floor-length pink prom dress with her best friend to honor her battle against breast cancer. Sixteen years old. Or the San Diego news anchor I shared my morning coffee with who reminded us that, yes, men get breast cancer, too.
And the sad stories, like the crew member who drove one of the sweep vans. With tears rolling down her face, she thanked the walkers and told us her cancer metastasized, but we gave her hope. We each knew what her absence the following year meant. And we cried.
We walk for my sister. My teammates. And all the lives touched by breast cancer and all cancer. We want you to know you are not alone. We admire your courage and your strength, as we share the power of the human heart.
In November, my Fight Like A Girl teammates and I celebrate our 10th anniversary of walking 60 miles in 3 days. I did not look beyond the first 60 miles. Now, I simply cannot walk away.
As long as this 60-year-old-plus body supports me, I will continue to walk to honor and remember the lives of all who have been touched by cancer. Walk on.
Cathy Miller, of Boise, is a freelance business writer specializing in health care and employee benefits.