Steps of Hope:
Cancer awareness walks raise more than money, con't.
STEP 2: Walk To Remember; Walk For Community
Brian Darwin was an active guy: His work required physical labor. He raised four young athletes. He knew his body
so well that he told his wife, Brenda, that he felt like a softball was growing inside of him even before doctors
diagnosed him with pancreatic cancer.
"I think the hardest thing on him during the whole experience was his body failing him," Brenda Darwin said. "He was used to
being so active and doing so much. Now he was limited."
So when one of Brenda's daughters found out about the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network's annual PurpleStride walk at the
Detroit Zoo, the Darwin family decided it would be the perfect way to honor Brian, who by then was receiving hospice care. The family
gathered again last fall and plan to make it an annual event.
For Brenda, the sense of community she felt during the walk was overwhelming.
"I think it's important to get involved, even though you might be apprehensive at first," Brenda said. "There's a feeling of comfort
that comes over you just by being around other people who know what it's like. You feel like you know these people, even if you
don't. You're all going through the same thing."
STEP 3: Walk To Show Cancer Who's Boss
Rachel McCormack lives with a brain
tumor and plans to run the Chicago
Marathon to raise money to fund
research on her disease.
Rachel McCormack can't help but notice the way her brain tumor has affected her body. Since undergoing surgery that removed 90% of the tumor, she
hasn't been quite as steady as she used to be. Her eyesight suffers. But her legs are good, so she has set a lofty goal: to run the Chicago
Marathon in October.
McCormack is a life-long runner, and this isn't the first time she's set her sights on a marathon. This time, though, it will be a little
different. She will have her husband, Michael, right by her side to help guide her through the race as she runs to support the American Brain
Tumor Association. Although McCormack is still receiving chemotherapy, she has begun training after consulting first with her neurooncologist,
Larry Junck, M.D.
Junck encourages patients who can physically tolerate exercise to pursue it. Even light activity, such as walking around the house
a couple times a day, helps maintain general health as well as bone and muscle strength while keeping up morale. In any case, the key is
to gradually increase endurance.
As of February, McCormack was up to running about three miles. "You can let cancer make your life come to a halt -- and it is tough.
But I think this is something I can do," McCormack says. "The tumor is still going to be there, but I'm going to feel like I've beaten it. I'm
going to show it who's boss."
G. Lita Smith, an acute care nurse practitioner in the University of Michigan multidisciplinary Breast Care Center, knows from experience what it
takes to participate in a cancer awareness walk. To honor her patients and her mother -- who died 20 years ago of breast cancer -- she has walked
many times in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. Smith has even completed the 60-mile Komen 3-Day for the Cure twice, both times accompanied
by her mother-in-law.
We asked Smith for her tips on training for cancer awareness walks. Here's what she had to say:
1. Talk to your doctor first. Exercise is good for
you, but any time you begin a new fitness regimen -- whether it's to train for a cancer awareness walk or to improve your health -- you should talk
to your health care team first.
2. If you're still on treatment or have recently
completed treatment, manage your expectations. Even if you were very physically fit before
treatment, you may find that you become more easily tired. Listen to your body. If you're feeling low on energy, consider exercising for shorter
periods of time or every other day, rather than daily. However, don't assume exercise will make you more tired. Some studies have shown that
exercise-particularly when done outdoors -- may actually fight attentional and physical fatigue.
3. For first-time walkers, consider Relay for Life. The American Cancer
Society's annual Relay for Life starts each event with a lap for survivors. This is a relatively short walk that doesn't require
serious training. You can also join a relay team, allowing you to manage how much you would like to walk throughout the event.
4. If you are in treatment or aren't up to walking,
let your family and friends do it for you. Cancer awareness walks can be a powerful way for family and friends to show their support for you.
Consider cheering them on from the sidelines or helping them with the online fund-raising aspects of the event.
View a list of area cancer awareness walks.
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