When Nicole Whitman, 37, laces up her shoes for The Weekend to End Breast Cancer in Vancouver, it will be the fifth time she’s taken part in this unique fundraiser. For Whitman, it’s a time of pain and joy. The pain comes from walking 60 kilometres in two days, which takes about eight hours a day. She’s endured blisters (‘massive water-filled pillows’) on heels and between toes, and one year her legs seized up and she needed help to cross the finish line.
The joy, however, comes from the sense of camaraderie and accomplishment that participants feel’from spending time walking with friends, from overcoming hardship and from sharing with thousands of others the goal of fighting cancer. When she did her first Weekend to End Breast Cancer, Whitman was 33 and in the middle of radiation therapy for stage 3 breast cancer. ‘The walk is the one time that I feel totally unified with a group of women, as many of them have gone through cancer treatment, too,’ she says. ‘I love doing the walk. I feel everything from sad to happy and glad to be alive.’
The event is held in the summer in six Canadian cities: Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Ottawa. In 2008, more than 12,500 people took part and raised $32 million. Participants pay a $75 registration fee and have to raise a minimum of $2,000 in sponsorship. Proceeds go to cancer treatment, research and care, and the scope of the fundraising now includes all women’s cancers.
Judy Bentley, 60, did her first Weekend to End Breast Cancer last August in Toronto. The event occurred five years to the month after her last radiation treatment for the disease, so the weekend was a meaningful way to acknowledge the anniversary.
The walk isn’t easy. But both Bentley and Whitman believe an event like this can help fund better cancer treatments and possibly find a cure. ‘What drives me to do this is my daughters,’ says Whitman. ‘I don’t want cancer to be part of their future.’
for more on the Weekend to End Breast Cancer and how you can get involved.