Breast cancer was battled one step at a time by four Ponoka women during the Weekend to End Breast Cancer walk on Aug. 8 to 10.
Jackie Huysmans, Carol Morrow, Alva Wombold and Nicole Norn took on the challenge of walking 60 kilometers in two days in Edmonton to help raise funds and awareness for breast cancer.
The long course was challenging and strenuous but the four ladies completed each step toward their goal.
Huysmans says the hot sun did not help and that it took a toll on some of the walkers.
“Overall I was amazed at how well it was organized, everything that you need, they had it there for you,” said Huysmans. “It was very long and very hot on Saturday and there were some people that weren’t able to walk in the heat.”
Huysmans and her group were exhausted at some points during the walk but she says that the spirit and energy of the people walking and watching were enough to help many to keep trekking.
“Sometimes you wonder if you are going to finish. Everyone is so encouraging, they look out for each other and make sure everyone is okay. Everyone was there for the same cause,” she said. “When we walked in the residential areas people would come out in their yard and clap as we went by. People gave us candies and someone even had a lemonade stand.”
The support from back home was also amazing to Huysmans as she was able to raise $13, 595 from about 90 donors placing her third out of all the fundraisers.
“It’s overwhelming,” she said. “I didn’t have to ask everyone for money, I would just go places and people remembered either my mom or my sister and wanted to donate.”
Morrow, Wombold and Norn also saw the generosity and encouragement of friends and family. Morrow raised $2,060, Wombold $2,100 and Norn $2,585.
Each one of the women had a reason to walk, whether it was for someone close to them or women in general.
For Huysmans, the reality of breast cancer hit her at an early age beginning when both her grandmothers were diagnosed with breast cancer. Later on her mother, Linda Carlson passed away from breast cancer. Huysmans’ sister, Teena Sawyer also was diagnosed with breast cancer and recently lost her battle, leaving behind her husband and three little girls.
The biggest surprise and the most emotional moment for Huysmans during the weekend was on Aug. 10, the last day of the race, when she was met by her own family and cousins. The biggest surprise for her was being congratulated by her late sister’s husband and daughters who traveled from Ontario to meet her at the end of her walk.
“I knew my husband and kids were coming but I didn’t know there would be a big welcoming committee,” she said. “One of my nieces came running up to me when she saw me. It was very emotional.”
This was the first walk for Huysmans and she is already thinking about the next walk, this time as possibly a volunteer.
“We would like to help out with next year and maybe set up a grab and go station or something like that,” she said. “It’s amazing how much help is needed with this walk.”