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Publication Date: Friday, June 08, 2001

Training together for 60-mile trek Training together for 60-mile trek (June 08, 2001)

Pleasanton group forms friendships while getting in shape for 3-Day breast cancer walk

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

Barbara Roudebush remembers the moment she felt the large lump in her breast. She was on a business trip in Utah, giving herself a quick self-exam in the shower, which was routine for her since her aunt had been diagnosed with breast cancer several years before.

"It scared the crap out of me," said Roudebush, now 42. "I went into denial. I waited a week to call the doctor."

But once she called, she was at the doctor's within an hour, getting a mammogram and talking to a surgeon the next morning. The lumpectomy revealed the worst: It was cancerous. After further surgery the lymph nodes came back clean. It will be five years Sept. 30, the time frame used to designate "survivors."

"I considered myself a survivor after I got out of surgery," she said.

Roudebush, who is in product strategy at PeopleSoft, can be spotted pounding the streets of Pleasanton with a growing group of area residents who are training for the Avon Breast Cancer 3-Day walk from San Jose to San Francisco taking place July 27-29.

The group was started by Pleasanton resident Velma Villanueva, who signed up for the 3-Day endeavor several months ago.

"My mom is a survivor," said Villaneuva, 42. "Another aunt had a double mastectomy. Another aunt died. I have quite a few friends who are survivors. Breast cancer has affected my life directly."

When Villaneuva began to train for the walk, she found it was a lonely process. So she asked her Avon-assigned coach for the e-mail addresses of those in her area code and she sent them a mass mailing.

"I received over 30 e-mails in one day from people wanting to train," she remembered. "It was overwhelming. Everyone was feeling the way I was. The next thing I knew, my husband Jaime was setting up a training schedule."

The group gathered for its first training walk in late April, and it continued to grow. They were soon walking Monday and Wednesday evenings, meeting on Main Street, and Friday and Sunday mornings. Sometimes as many as 20 walkers show up. Friendships formed as they exercised together and exchanged stories.

"On Wednesday I look at everybody's face and see the energy, the bonding, the friendships creating," said Villaneuva, who works part-time at Al's Hair Design and volunteers in her daughters' classrooms at Alisal Elementary. "We push each other. Want to go another mile? Let's go! Want to go up this hill? Let's go!"

Survivor Shirley Horn can only train with the group Sundays because during the week she works as senior director of brand management for Agilent in Palo Alto.

She was diagnosed in October 1999, at the age of 46, and said she was keeping fit at the time. "I discovered it as I reached over my head to put on a jogging bra," she recalled. "I felt the lump just by stretching."

She immediately saw a doctor. "It was 10 days between feeling the lump and having the lumpectomy and it was off on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride." She followed an aggressive strategy of chemotherapy and radiation, which she completed one year ago. "I really wanted to go last year but I had just finished chemo and radiation," she said.

"I'm really in shape for the walk now," she said, helped by the Sunday group training. "They're all from different walks of life, different backgrounds and there are a bunch of reasons they're doing it," she said. "It's an amazing sisterhood."

A few men are also participating, including Dave Halperin, a stockbroker at Smith Barney. "I'm a few years away from 40 and I've started to do better in my career and get ahead in life. I wanted to pick out a few charities to help and be a giver instead of just a recipient," he said. "I looked at some things that have affected my family over the years, and decided to help out with breast cancer research. My mother is a survivor of breast cancer."

Since he was used to rigorous workouts on the stairmaster, he was surprised at how hard it was to walk 10 miles, he said. After the 3-Day walk he will go back to the stairmaster. "I have a 3- and a 5-year-old and the efficiency of the stairmaster is better for family life," he noted. The Sunday walks now cover from 15-20 miles, a time commitment of about four to five hours. Weekday walks are two to two-and-a-half hours.

Each walker must raise $1,900 to participate in the walk, and all four of these walkers said they were surprised at the generosity of their friends and acquaintances.

"I was closing papers on a second loan and talking to the loan officer," recalled Roudebush. "She pulled out her checkbook and wrote out a check for $100. It amazed me."

Roudebush, who did the walk last year, attested to the fantastic organization of the 3-Day event and the overwhelming emotions experienced at the finish line.

As they entered San Francisco they were given fresh T-shirts to wear, pink for the survivors and blue for the others. "We all walked that last mile together, the blue first and then the pink," she said. "They had a circle of women walking down the center and in the center it was empty - this represented the people who had died."

3-Day facts
Where: San Jose to San Francisco How Far: Approximately 60 miles Numbers- Walkers: 3,000 Donors: 90,000 Volunteers and crew: 500 Pairs of shoes: 4,800 Tents: 1,750 Gallons of drinks: 36,400 Meals served: 25,200

Raising $1,900 Raising $1,900 (June 08, 2001)

Participants in the Avon Breast Cancer 3-Day walk must each raise $1,900, which goes toward breast cancer education and research. Many send out letters to family and friends. Others ask for donations in lieu of birthday gifts, with a friendly reminder that since it's tax-deductible the amount can be higher than usual. Avon can also help with a fund-raising plan, including providing a speaker for a house party.

Julie Nostrand and her three participating friends decided to give a breast cancer awareness night at the Hopyard Ale House. "We had the beer donated to us by the brewers and had drawings and giveaways," she said. "We raised $1,700." Nostrand, 36, said it seems as though she is hearing about more women under 40 with breast cancer. A friend called Jan. 2 to say her sister was diagnosed. "I signed up while still on the phone with her," said Nostrand.

To help members of the Pleasanton training group reach their goal by June 22, call Velma Villanueva at 485-3582, or e-mail [email protected]

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