As they line up today with thousands of others for a grueling three-day walk in Atlanta, some Augusta women already will have paid dearly to be there.
Each will have raised a minimum of $1,800 from friends, family, companies, garage sales and bake sales. The group of five women will have worn through 13 pairs of sneakers training for the Avon Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk. And they will have lost a piece of their bodies - or family and friends - to a disease they will not stop fighting.
Members of the Medical College of Georgia breast cancer support group - nicknamed the "Bosom Buddies" - are among the 2,500 people registered for the three-day event, which will involve walking about 20 miles a day and camping out at night. MCG is one of the group's sponsors. The four breast cancer survivors - Kathy Chesrown, Pam Anderson, Cindy Walker and Connie Crenshaw - are joined by Jessica Weinstein, 26, who has lost family members to the disease and is walking in their memory.
"We're pretty dedicated to improving community awareness and raising money for research," said Mrs. Anderson, 49, a nurse clinician in oncology at MCG's Comprehensive Cancer Center. "That was our commitment to give something back."
"Everybody is touched by it," said Mrs. Weinstein, a special education teacher at Barton Chapel Elementary School.
The Atlanta event, which is sold out, is the fifth of seven walks being held in cities around the country, which Avon projects will raise $20 million. Sales of the company's Avon Crusade products will raise $35 million more for breast cancer education and research, the company said.
Just as important is raising awareness about the need for women to get annual mammograms, and particularly to do the breast self-exams, the Augusta women said.
"That's how I found mine," said Ms. Walker, 44, a fourth-grade teacher at Augusta Preparatory Day School. She found her lump despite her yearly mammograms.
"It's not only treatment; it's early detection," said Ms. Chesrown, who is in nursing administration at MCG.
None of the Augusta women had any of the typical risk factors for breast cancer, Mrs. Anderson said.
"Women shouldn't be lulled into thinking that because they don't have a family history that they're not at risk," Ms. Chesrown said.
"There are still women who are afraid to go get a lump checked out," said Mrs. Crenshaw, a retired nurse from MCG.
But with more women survivors, such as Mrs. Anderson, working among cancer patients, there can be more optimism and less fear. In her walk, she said, her patients can find a symbol of hope.
"I saw a woman this week who said, `If you can walk 60 miles and go through this, I can too,"' Mrs. Anderson said.
Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or email@example.com.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the United States and Georgia. The American Cancer Society estimates there will be 182,000 new cases discovered this year, including 4,600 in Georgia. Unfortunately, breast cancer also will claim 41,200 lives in the United States, including 1,000 in Georgia. If found early, before the cancer has a chance to spread to other organs, the survival rate is 96 percent, and 71 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer survive at least 10 years.