HJ/EDMay 1, 2006

LP women fighting cancer through fundraising walk

By Liz Hellmann
Staff Writer

They say “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes,” but Denise Johnson of Lester Prairie is going to walk 659 of them in the hope of never being in the shoes of her mother – who was diagnosed with breast cancer six years ago.

Johnson and her friend, Julie Woodall, are training for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation 3-Day Walk Friday through Sunday, Aug. 19-21.

“So many people out there are diagnosed with breast cancer. Walking can help save so many people,” Johnson said.

The statistics are clear.

One woman is diagnosed with breast cancer every three minutes. One woman dies of breast cancer every 13 minutes, according to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

By walking, Johnson hopes she will never fit into the first group, and her mom, Pam Green, will never fit into the second group.

“If I ever get breast cancer, I hope they are closer to a cure,” Johnson said. “Maybe because I walked, they will be.”

Woodall, who is also good friends with Green, came up with the idea to walk about a month ago.

“It is something nice in life, to accomplish, to help others,” Woodall said.

The two registered for the walk only a week and a half ago, throwing them into an intense training schedule.

The walk, itself, is 60 miles in three days.

If Johnson and Woodall stick to the 18-week training program, they will have walked 659 miles by the time they cross the finish line.

“We are going to walk as much as we can, being full-time workers and raising kids,” Johnson said.

Right now, their workouts demand three miles every other day during the week, with cross training on the off days.

They will soon become weekend warriors, walking six miles Saturday and seven miles Sunday.

Besides training for the walk, Johnson and Woodall must each raise $2,200 to be able to participate in the walk. The money will be used for breast cancer research to find a cure.

Although the training schedule is grueling, and the fundraising will not be easy, Johnson and Woodall are inspired by Green’s story.

Green is finally cancer-free, but it was a long journey.

“She never let you see when she was down, even when she had her head shaved, which was an emotional time,” Johnson said.

Woodall remembers when Green came over to her house one day.

She plopped down at the kitchen table without a hair on her head and asked Woodall’s two young boys, “How do you like my new hairdo?”

Green didn’t wear wigs or bandanas, she just came as she was.

“She was so excited when we told her we were going to do this,” Woodall said.

She went through surgery to remove the lump and the first lymph node, and endured chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

“It seemed like forever,” Johnson said of the time her mother was in treatment.

A little nervous for the walk, Johnson keeps in mind how strong her mother was throughout her treatment, and focuses on how walking will help others.

While Johnson and Woodall are fundraising, they are also asking people if there is someone who has cancer they would like them to pray for and think of during the walk.

“We are going to put the names of the people we are praying for in pink on our shirts, and the names of people who supported us in a different color,” Johnson said.

So, when they reach the end of the race, they will have carried all of those people closer to a cure.

“They say when you cross the finish line, the tears just fall,” Johnson said.

By walking, the two also hope to educate more people about cancer and how to beat it, even while there still is no cure.

Johnson advises regular check-ups and mammograms for women, which was one of the reasons Green was able to survive her cancer.

Her message is to go to the doctor, even though it may not be the most pleasant thing.

“What you are going to go through in the future could be 10 times worse if you don’t go,” Johnson said.

How to make a donation

Denise Johnson and Julie Woodall need to raise $2,200 in order to participate in the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation 3-Day Walk. The money will be used to fund cancer research towards a cure.

For more information, call Denise Johnson at (612) 202-1481.

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