I am walking for them

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I am walking for them.

Currently, women living in the United States have a 1-in-8 chance of developing breast cancer during their lifetime, and 1-in-33 chance of dying from the disease. I have more than 8 close girlfriends and far more than 33 that I consider good friends. The thought of losing one of them to this disease is unbearable to me.

My friend Sara lost her mother and her aunt to breast cancer; her other aunt has Stage 4 and is losing her battle quickly. Sara is only 35 years old with two children and has decided to undergo double mastectomy surgery this month. Did I already say she is only 35 years old?!? The surgery is 9 hours long and she will be in recovery for 6 weeks. I am so proud to be Sara’s friend and greatly respect the courage she has to take this challenge on. She is a very strong and courageous woman and by doing this proactively, given her family history, she will reduce her chances of getting cancer by 90%. Sara is changing her own fate, and her strength is amazing to me.

My name is Tara, and I work in the Sales Department at WSOC-TV. Breast cancer has always been this thing I put in the back of my mind, never really acknowledging it. When I turned 40 last year and had my first mammogram, I received a callback asking me to come back in for another one to check something. After my second test, it was established that everything was fine and they needed to note certain things for my baseline moving forward. Whew! A sigh of relief went through me, and I felt like I’d dodged a bullet. I have so many types of cancer in my family history and I feel like I am trying to outrun my own odds. Many of my closest friends have breast cancer in their families between mothers, grandmothers and aunts. Some are okay, but too many have lost their fight. I want this disease, CANCER, to go away. I am tired of it. I have a daughter and a son and I want their world as adults to be cancer-free, one less thing to worry about. Right?

Cancer claimed both of my parents lives, my father when I was 26 and my mother when I was 38. To have lost both parents to cancer at such a relatively young age has had a deeply profound effect on me and what I want to do with my life. Having children has also greatly changed my life and given me purpose, and I want them to understand how you can grow from loss by giving your time to help others who may also be hurting.

Because of my personal experiences, I have been inspired in many ways to give back to my community. When I first heard about the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, I thought there was no way I could walk 40 miles in 2 days and no way l would want to leave my own children for 2 days. I work all week and my weekends are usually family time. I look at my children every day knowing they do not have their grandmother around anymore, and it breaks my heart to have to explain to them why their “Gigi” got sick and now lives with God in Heaven. It is hard to explain sickness and Heaven and answer “why’s” children ask. But when I signed up to do the Walk last year I discovered something even more significant to me. My children were proud of me raising money to fight a disease that is killing so many of our family and friends. They asked questions and wanted to help me. They wanted to be a part of this with me. My 4 and 5 year olds walked with me after work and on weekends to help me train. So why can’t I walk 40 miles? I can.

And so, I did and I talked, laughed and cried along the way and met some wonderful people. It was good therapy for me personally to be a part of something so powerful. Hundreds of supporters greeted me and the 1,000 other people walking along the way. I was truly inspired by the turnout of wonderful Charlotteans that came out in droves in support of the Avon walkers. Walking through some of Charlotte’s most beautiful neighborhoods was an added bonus.

To see men and children saying “thank you” to me and others for simply walking in support of what their wives and mothers were going through was so uplifting, yet deeply personal. It made the experience for me worth repeating. I love having an impact in even a small way in the lives of others, and it gives me even more purpose in my own life. Best of all, my children hugged me as tight as they ever had on Sunday afternoon when I finished. They told me they were proud of me. My children put a huge smile on my face, a most proud and powerful smile on my face.

The Avon Walk for Breast Cancer is more than just walking for the cause of fighting this disease. I have the honor of walking with men, women and children of survivors and fighters. This was an honor to walk last year and such a privilege to walk this year. I am walking for them. I am walking for my dear friend Sara who is taking charge of her own fate and I am walking for mine and my children’s future.

Join us in this fight. Visit avonwalk.org and sign up to walk or donate to a walker today. The more of us who walk, the more of us survive.