Elissa Bantug

Elissa Bantug

Everyone has their own reason.  For some, they feel grateful for how far they have come or to remember those they have lost.   For others, they want to inspire hope and galvanize progress toward ending this disease.  Others may want to participate in the event as a way to fight back at a disease that attacked them or loved ones.

Team member Jessie Bernstein said she does it for, “the friendships, the strangers, and the stories.”  She will continue to get blisters until walking is no longer needed. “It’s the perfect reason, so no one forgets our mission,” Jessie said.  This year was Jessie’s eighth walk—she’s done six in D.C.; one in New York City; and one in Long Beach, California. Along with two other walkers, Jessie formed a team called the Pink Pixies, after her best friend’s mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Her electrifying personality is hard to miss.  She made this cause her mission, saying: “The participants in these walks are my family from coast to coast, and I am honored to be part of the unity. It's not for me I walk, but for the women I have never met, for the future, for the now.”

Like so many walkers, I obsessed about being able to complete the nearly 40 mile walk.  For my first Avon Walk last year, I had reconstructive breast surgery 10 days before the event and had a newborn infant at home.  That particular weekend, D.C. was breaking records for unseasonably hot and humid weather.  Jessie reminded us that the most difficult part of the walk is not fundraising, nor the 40 mile walk itself, but rather accepting that completing the route is the least important part of this mission.  Instead, we must stay focused on raising awareness and funds to combat breast cancer every day.  It was Jessie’s words that made me realize that walking is just one part of this event.  Sharing experiences, making new friends, seeing old friends, remembering those whom we have lost, pushing one’s body to extreme limits, and watching people do what seems almost impossible, is so much more important than the total number of miles walked throughout the weekend.

It takes months of planning, training, coordinating, and fundraising.  And I take great pride that have I survived breast cancer twice and am still able to walk 40 miles in two days.  More importantly, though, I walk because I believe that the more we talk, raise money, guest bartend, write letters, and walk for breast cancer, the closer we come to a cure.

Within a week after the Walk, the fatigue was gone, the blisters had started to heal, and I registered for the next year’s event.  I felt satisfied in a way, even vindicated.  On the first day of this year’s walk, I saw a poster declaring: “[I’m] walking so one day my daughter won’t have to.”  I have two daughters now, and this is a powerful sentiment: to imagine a world free of the fear, pain, and heartache of this disease.  It whispers me onward and urges me forward day after day, mile after mile.

Previously...
Part 1: Why We Walk
Part 2: Walk the Talk
Part 3: Bonds that Bring Us Closer

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