Elissa Bantug

Elissa Bantug

It’s not every day that you commit to walking 40 miles in the heat and rain, but on April 30 of this year, I walked in my second D.C. Avon Walk for Breast Cancer as part of the Johns Hopkins Breast Center Team.  This quite a contrast from my humbling beginning 19 years ago with my first Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5k walk.

I have often been asked why I would take on such a daunting activity that takes months of planning, training, coordinating, and fundraising.  Part of it is definitely my own ego: not only have I survived breast cancer twice, but I’m still able to walk 40 miles in two days.  More than anything, though, I do it because I really believe that the more we talk, raise money, write letters, and walk for breast cancer, the closer we come to a cure.

You can’t take walking 40 miles lightly, and the strategies to physically manage such a challenge are unique.  Imagine the possibility of walking in 100-degree heat or pouring rain; with painful blisters and sore feet, and you’ll begin to understand.

One of the medics last year told me that the number one reason why walkers are unable to finish the 40 miles is not exhaustion, but blisters.  We were warned many times—by walk organizers, past walkers, and other supporters--to take good care of our feet.  Blisters don’t only interfere with finishing the walk, but also make the experience miserable.  It is not uncommon to see walkers on the second day hobbling along in flip flops as they try to cross the finish line.

There are many suggestions that are recommended to try to prevent blisters: trying to build up calluses on your feet in the weeks before the event; buying shoes a ½ size too big to accommodate feet swelling; wearing special socks to prevent moisture on your feet; changing shoes and socks throughout the two days to prevent rubbing; and/or covering your feet with something to prevent friction.  Last year, I heeded all of these suggestions (including covering and recovering my feet with Vaseline every few miles).  Luckily, my blisters were kept to a minimum.  A stroll past the medic tents at any of the rest stops will emphasize the importance of this as they insert needles into blisters to drain them.

This year, a fellow walker and I were not going to take any chances and decided to take these warnings a step further.  We covered our feet with silicone-based lubricant.  After two days and forty miles, our feet had never felt so smooth—and we were the talk of the walk!!

The Avon Walk requires participants to raise a minimum of $1,800 to take part in the event — it’s why most participants hesitate to sign on.  Last year, I agonized, fretted and stressed and barely made it.  This year, with a bit of experience and a competitive spirit, I tackled the challenge head-on: soliciting all my email contacts and Facebook friends; guest-bartending one evening; and helping to coordinate a silent auction.  Through my own resourcefulness, I learned an important lesson: raising my own personal minimum dollar amount is not only a preliminary step to the event, but rather an integral part of the Avon (and Komen) mission of raising funds for breast cancer.   I not only challenged my body to raise awareness for breast cancer by fighting illness with fitness, I challenged my intellect to raise more money for new research, screening, treatment, and survivorship programs.  My grand total this year was $2,110.

Next:
Part 3: Bonds That Bring Us Closer
Part 4: Why I Walk

Previously...
Part 1: Why We Walk, June 22

More on Breast Cancer Survivorship

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