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updated: 10/10/2012 2:23 PM

Survivors and supporters are Making Strides Against Breast Cancer

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  • Survivors say they walk to support each other and to back the American Cancer Society.

      Survivors say they walk to support each other and to back the American Cancer Society.
    Courtesy of the American Cancer Society

  • Participants -- many in pink, the signature color in the fight against breast cancer -- will walk over the next two weekends in Making Strides Against Breast Cancer events to support those battling the disease, celebrate those who have emerged cancer-free and remember those taken by the disease.

       Participants -- many in pink, the signature color in the fight against breast cancer -- will walk over the next two weekends in Making Strides Against Breast Cancer events to support those battling the disease, celebrate those who have emerged cancer-free and remember those taken by the disease.
    BILL ZARS | Staff Photographer, OCTOBER 2009

  • Walkers in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event often are moved to action by a loved one's fight with the disease.

      Walkers in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event often are moved to action by a loved one's fight with the disease.
    Courtesy of the American Cancer Society

  • Over the next two weekends, thousands of breast cancer survivors and family members and friends who support them will unite for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walks to benefit the American Cancer Society's research and programs.

      Over the next two weekends, thousands of breast cancer survivors and family members and friends who support them will unite for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walks to benefit the American Cancer Society's research and programs.
    Daily Herald File Photo

  • For survivors, the Making Strides walks often are a celebration of their triumph over cancer and the life they have yet to live.

       For survivors, the Making Strides walks often are a celebration of their triumph over cancer and the life they have yet to live.
    BILL ZARS | Staff Photographer, OCTOBER 2009

  • Video: Why they're walking

 
 

Editor's note: This story was updated to reflect changes to one associated story.

Last year, an estimated 288,130 American women began the battle of their lives when their doctors told them they had some form of breast cancer. In the same year, about 39,520 women died from the disease.

And, just like you, not one of them believed it would happen to them.

They were healthy, exercised and ate well, and still were diagnosed. They were young and active with children to care for, and still were diagnosed. They did regular self-exams and had annual mammograms, and still were diagnosed.

"How could I have cancer?" survivor Katherine Burgess asked. "But that goes to show you it can happen to anyone."

For each of them, that diagnosis was a first step into the unknown, into treatment, into a sisterhood of women sharing the experience; toward recovery, toward remission, toward the future regardless of what it holds.

Over the next two weekends, thousands of women who have survived and are surviving breast cancer will continue to fight the disease by raising money through a series of Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walks.

Proceeds from walks throughout the suburbs help the American Cancer Society fund research into prevention, treatment and possible cures, as well as support programs for patients and families.

Joined by family, friends and supporters, the survivors will walk as a testament to hope and strength and belief. They'll walk to inspire the women who've just "joined the club." They'll walk to honor the loved ones who fought and lost.

And they'll walk to celebrate that they are here to walk, to hug their husbands, to hold their child's tiny hand in their own, to see tomorrow.

Today, as they prepare to walk in Making Strides events, 10 women tell us about their diagnoses and their fights with breast cancer.

Tammy Lonsberry, South Elgin

Tammy Lonsberry of South Elgin is walking in her third Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event and marking the third anniversary since her breast cancer diagnosis. She "fought like a girl" and is a survivor. She walks as a way to support the American Cancer Society and to give back to an organization that helped her and millions like her. Tammy's story.

Patty Oskorep, Elk Grove Village

Patty Oskorep of Elk Grove Village was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer at the age of 43. With two young boys, 8 and 11 at the time, she had no choice but to fight and was not about to dwell on the negative. She decided to celebrate each step of the way, starting with a diagnosis party. Patty's story.

Rhoda Markowitz, Northbrook

Rhoda Markowitz of Northbrook is participating in and fundraising for Making Strides because she is a six-year bilateral breast cancer survivor who has undergone chemotherapy, radiation, multiple surgeries, genetic testing and physical therapy due to lymphedema. She is walking at Making Strides to celebrate her six-year "cancerversary," to honor and walk side-by-side with other breast cancer survivors and supporters, and to remember friends who did not win their battle against this disease. Rhoda's story.

Susan Witwicki, Hoffman Estates

When the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk started in the Northwest suburbs, Susan Witwicki of Hoffman Estates knew she had no reason not to participate. She's a six-year breast cancer survivor. "I now have four granddaughters and finding a cure is what drives me to raise more money each year," she said. Susan's story.

Beth de Kruyff, Lisle

Beth de Kruyff of Lisle always has been a supporter of breast cancer funding, and when she was diagnosed in December 2009, finding a cure for breast cancer became even more important to her. Her sister, Pam, was diagnosed in December 2011, and with sadness in her heart, Beth is watching Pam follow in her footsteps. Beth's story.

Katherine Burgess, Hoffman Estates

Katherine Burgess of Hoffman Estates walks because she wants breast cancer to be eradicated in her lifetime. In September 2007, she retired after 34 years of teaching and was looking forward to the rest of life. She couldn't believe she had been diagnosed with cancer because she'd religiously had annual mammograms and done self-examinations. "How could I have cancer?" she asks. "But that goes to show you it can happen to anyone." Katherine's story.

Jennifer McDermott, Evanston

Jennifer McDermott's main reason for walking in Making Strides is her 11-year-old daughter. Both her grandmothers and two aunts had breast cancer. The Evanston woman wants a cure found so that as her daughter grows up, she never will have to worry about being next. Jennifer's story.

Cara Novy-Bennewitz, Wilmette

Hearing you have cancer is hard enough without the added burden of trying to figure it all out -- from where to start, who to see and what to do. While navigating her own cancer diagnosis in 2008, Cara Novy-Bennewitz kept thinking there had to be a better way to gather information, understand it and keep organized. She wrote a guide book to help other newly diagnosed patients and became a Medical Ambassador for the American Cancer Society. Cara's story.

Linda Karch, Arlington Heights

Linda Karch of Arlington Heights has taken part in Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walks for more than a decade. She walks for her family, for the friends she lost to the disease and to support the work of the American Cancer Society. Linda's story.

Lori Skipper, Joliet

Last year, at 35 years old, Lori Skipper of Joliet was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer that spread to all of her lymph nodes. For the second year, she's walking in Making Strides Against Breast Cancer to bring awareness to the community and let them know you can get breast cancer at any age and to help raise money to help find a cure. Lori's story.

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