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November 2014


In honor of women
Joan Cook


joan cook
Joan Cook, second from left, speaks with fellow TEAM FA walkers
(from left) Lisa Aymong, Tim McHeffey and Ellen Schuler Mauk.

I choked back a tear as I walked across parking lot 5. I wondered how many times my sister-in-law Gerry crossed the same parking lot. Just a few short years ago, while she was going through her battle with breast cancer, she did this very same walk along with her three daughters and several of her sons.

For years I had been promising myself that I would participate in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk. I finally committed myself to the challenge in 2013, knowing that it would fall on the weekend after my daughter’s wedding. I told myself that it would be a good way to enjoy some downtime after a year of planning and celebrations. Little did I know it would also become the harried weekend in which my husband and I would have to move our three cats and 30 years of belongings into the tiny bungalow that would become our new home. Being mindful of the commitment I made, I assured my husband that after the walk, I would promptly return to reload my car and continue to help with the move! I was physically and emotionally exhausted, but quickly reminded myself how much more exhausting it would be to battle cancer.

I had dedicated that first walk to the memory of Gerry, who lost her battle just two years before.

It didn’t take much to get me to walk again this year. Once again I dedicated my walk in Gerry’s memory, but as I reflected back on a jam-packed year of change and celebrations, I decided to add an honor to my walk. I walked in honor of all the women in my life: my newly married daughter, my daughter-in-law, my three sisters, my mom, my six nieces, friends at work and in the neighborhood and even the woman on line in front of me who was digging for that last penny to make exact change. I walked in honor of Gerry’s two grandchildren who will only know her through pictures and the fond stories shared by others.

Throughout the walk, along with some 65,000 others, on the edge of the vast ocean shore, I reminded myself how truly thankful I am for the way in which Gerry touched my life. I thought about how fortunate I am to have so many wonderful women in my life. I hoped that my small contribution, combined with the others, would make a big difference for all women.

Next year when I do the walk, I will have a new little person to walk in honor of. I will walk with a hope that there will be a cure, and that my granddaughter Emmy will only know breast cancer as a disease from the past.

If you’ve had the smallest little inkling about maybe walking with the FA, I would encourage you to take the next step… literally! It was very inspirational to walk with so many people, and Jones Beach is such a beautiful backdrop. It’s a great time to catch up with colleagues and meet new ones. We all know someone who was touched by this dreaded disease, and walking is a healthy and easy way to make a difference and give hope to others so that we all can continue celebrating with those we love.

Please join us next year. You'll be glad you did!