By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN “Breast cancer” is an all-too-familiar word for Lisa Boecker of Delano.
On her mother’s side of the family, almost all the women have battled this devastating disease, including Boecker’s cousin, who died in 2009.
“There’s a deep history,” Boecker said.
Her family members aren’t the only ones to face this difficulty, however.
So far this year, breast cancer claimed the lives of about 39,520 women and 450 men in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute.
“So many people are touched by breast cancer,” Boecker said, adding that although neither she nor her mother has cancer personally, it is still a very real part of their lives.
“I hear of more and more women coming down with it,” she said. “It shouldn’t be that way. There’s got to be a stop to it.”
A few years ago, Boecker joined Minnesota’s largest Susan B. Komen 3-Day for a Cure walking team, called “Robb’s Ralliers.”
Now, she wouldn’t dream of missing the 3-Day walk.
“Once you do it, it’s hard to walk away from it,” she said.
She is looking forward to the 2011 walk, which starts Friday, Aug. 19.
It begins at the Southdale Center in Edina, and will travel 60 miles through the Twin Cities area, concluding Sunday, Aug. 21 at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul.
“Walking through Minneapolis is great,” Boecker said. “People cheer us on, and there is amazing support.”
Walkers of all ages unite for the event, sharing their stories and encouraging one another.
“It’s such a close-knit community,” Boecker said.
She remembers one woman named Becky who joined the 3-Day in 2008, who gave a speech about her journey with stage-four breast cancer.
“She passed away in February of this year,” Boecker said. “This will be the first year we’re walking without her.”
The heartbreaking stories of lives changed by cancer are a constant reminder of the walk’s purpose.
“This is who we are, and this is why we’re here,” Boecker said.
Boecker’s cousin is another tragic story of breast cancer. Several years ago, she found a lump, and went to the doctor to have it examined.
A mammogram wasn’t able to detect any cancer, but “she kept saying there was something wrong,” Boecker said.
By the time she received a second opinion and got an MRI, the cancer was already at stage four. Since it was such an aggressive cancer, Boecker’s cousin was told she only had five more years to live.
“She never had a remission period, but she lived another 10 years,” Boecker said.
Doctors performed a double mastectomy, but the cancer had spread to her pelvic bone, and eventually moved to her spine, brain, and liver, as well.
“She had two young children,” Boecker said.
Boecker and her husband, Jamey, also have young children Jeff, 15, Meagan, 11, and David, 8.
Boecker and her daughter enjoy participating in Race for the Cure events, because Meagan is not yet old enough to join the 3-Day walk.
“I don’t want her to ever experience something so awful [as cancer],” Boecker said. “Hopefully in my lifetime there will be a cure.”
Boecker hopes that the money that’s fundraised will give researchers the means to find that answer.
Each 3-Day walker is required to raise at least $2,300.
“We have some great fundraisers,” Boecker said, explaining that they sell Twins tickets at a $2 profit, do car washes, host beanbag tournaments, and sell items at flea markets.
“Every year, we come up with a new design on a T-shirt and sell those,” Boecker added.
Boecker’s team captain, Kathy Heins of Minnetrista (maiden name Robb), has already raised $9,200. In total, the team of about 33 members has raised $65,453 this year.
“We have until four weeks after the event to continue raising money,” Boecker said.
Boecker’s hope is that, someday, future generations will not have to battle breast cancer.
“Too many young women have had to fight for their lives,” she said.
Registration for the 2012 walk is open, and more information can be found by clicking the link on the Delano Herald Journal homepage, click here.