Herald JournalHerald Journal, Jan. 19, 2004

Family ready to walk to raise funds for cancer research

By Liz Hellmann

Cami Freeman-Waag was diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time two years ago and now, her five sisters: Rhesa, Ashley, and Alissa Freeman, Cori Ragan of Waverly, Rachel McNitt, and their mother, Carol Freeman, are training for the Breast Cancer Three-Day Walk in Minneapolis this September.

The 60-mile walk will take place over a period of three days, covering 20 miles a day. All proceeds from the walk go to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation for research, education, and treatment involving breast cancer, and to the National Philanthropic Trust to provide funds for breast cancer initiatives.

The family's biggest challenge right now is not the walk itself, but fundraising for it.

Each participant must raise $2,000 in donations before they can participate. The women are asking family and friends for donations, and will begin going door-to-door in hope of raising the money.

"Our sister went through so much emotionally and physically," Ragan said. "You feel kind of helpless, so this is something we can do to support her."

Freeman-Waag was 28 years old when diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time in June 2001. She then started undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments, which rid her body of the cancer cells.

Then, something unexpected happened. Freeman-Waag discovered that she had become pregnant with twins during her treatment, something that does not happen very often.

The twins, now one and one-half years old, are very healthy. Their mother, however, was diagnosed again with breast cancer in August 2003. She endured the same radiation treatment, which ended Dec. 5. This time, she hopes the cancer will not reappear.

Carol Freeman found out about the breast cancer three-day walk from a co-worker, and all the sisters wanted to take part, including Freeman-Waag. She has her own reasons, though, as breast cancer is becoming more common among young women like herself.

"I want people to know how important it is for younger women to be aware and ask their doctors for advice and guidance," Freeman-Waag said. "For being a small community, we are very lucky for the treatment centers we have available."

According to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer every three minutes, and nearly 40,000 people lose their lives to breast cancer every year.

The family has begun training by walking every day, and will follow a training program provided for participants in the walk.

The 24-week-long program is ultimately designed to get participants used to walking 15 to 20 miles on back-to-back days. The program starts out slowly, and right now, the sisters are walking about 3 to 4 miles a day.

The Breast Cancer Three-Day Walk started in 1998. Since then, $195 million has been raised toward the fight against breast cancer.

This year's walk is scheduled to take place in 10 cities across the nation and will be in Minneapolis Sept. 10 to 12.

For more information, visit the web site: www.the3day.org, or call 1-800-996-3DAY.


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