Local women heading to New York for breast cancer walk

October 01, 2004|KATIE McBRIDE

An estimated 3 million women are living with breast cancer in the U.S. One million of them don't know it yet. This is one of the reasons Rita Zirnheld and Jan Sheffield, both of Danville, will fly to New York City this weekend to participate in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.

Four thousand walkers will gather in New York to walk the two-day marathon, or marathon and a half. Zirnheld and Sheffield plan to make it the whole marathon and a half, walking 26.2 miles on Saturday and 13.1 on Sunday. "Jan may have to drag me," Zirnheld jokes. With cancer survivors also participating in the walk, she adds, "There is no excuse for not doing the whole thing."

All of the walkers will be walking for a friend or family member with breast cancer. Sheffield will be walking for her friend and co-worker, Freear Williams. When the friends first met, Sheffield was going through some difficult times, but says that Williams "jumped right in there with emotional support." When Williams was diagnosed with breast cancer, Sheffield, who had been wanting to participate in the walk for years, knew it was time to do it as she watched her friend face chemotherapy and radiation with "incredible courage." Williams will be joining them in New York to offer her support.


Zirnheld will be walking for her friend Sherry Martin. After Martin had received chemotherapy treatments, she would call up Zirnheld two days later to go walking. Martin was "so determined," Zirnheld says.

However, Sheffield and Zirnheld know a lot more people affected by this disease. While walking they will be wearing T-shirts made for them by Thoroughbred Threads that will say "I walk for ..." and list five names of family and friends with breast cancer.

Each participant must raise $1,800 in donations

Each participant in the walk is required to raise $1,800 in donations for the Avon Foundation for breast cancer screening, diagnosis, treatment, support services and scientific research. The money raised will also help to increase awareness of the importance of regular mammograms and breast self-exam.

To raise the money, Zirnheld sent out letters to friends, family and the community. They received an "amazing response," she says. Even people who did not receive a letter made a donation after hearing about it.

Alycea Pittman with Simply Silver Jewelry hosted a jewelry party with a percentage of the profits going to Avon. Sheffied's employer, Elmwood Inn Fine Teas, paid for their transportation. Between the both of them, they have raised about $5,000, with more money still coming in.

Zirnheld and Sheffield are expecting a very emotional weekend, especially since the route will include a glimpse of Ground Zero. They'll also get to see Columbia University, Central Park West, Museum of Natural History and the Brooklyn Bridge. Zirnheld says, "With so much to see and so many people, we won't realize how long we're walking."

"We've all been so lucky," says Sheffield, talking about a breast cancer scare she had a while ago. However she knew that she had the means to check it out and get treatment. Not everyone has this luxury. Williams told Sheffield about meeting a woman with advanced breast cancer who did not have the money to get treatment early.

They hope their efforts will help open up more treatment options to men and women suffering with breast cancer and raise awareness so less people have to live with this disease.

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