Shawnee Dispatch

Walkers prepare to 'step out' to fight breast cancer

September 6, 2006

Gail Hoover of Shawnee knows a lot about what it's like to battle breast cancer.

Her mother is a two-time survivor, and both of her sisters have battled the disease. Her mother's sister overcame the disease twice, but lost the battle when the cancer came back a third time. Just last year, her father's sister was diagnosed with breast cancer.

So Hoover decided to do all she can to help find a cure, with the future of her family in mind.

"I have multiple nieces, nephews and great-nieces and nephews, and I just don't want them to have to deal with it," she said.

Several Shawnee residents will fight for the future of breast cancer research with Hoover in just a little over a week by participating in the Kansas City Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer 3-Day, a 60-mile, three-day walk that will begin Sept. 15. All funds raised through the event benefit breast cancer research.

In the past, Hoover has served as chair of the volunteer board at the Race for a Cure 5K in Kansas City. This year, she decided to go a little bit further, signing up for the 3-Day in October.

Hoover was able to raise most of the $2,200 required for each participant by sending out a mass e-mail to her co-workers at Rockhurst University.

"What's funny is people gave out large sums of money, $200 to $500, and it was people who I never knew breast cancer had touched their lives," Hoover said. "... People that you just know casually were willing to give large amounts of money because they have been touched by breast cancer."

After meeting her initial requirement to participate, Hoover decided to set her goal even higher by raising an additional $1,300.

"I though well, you know, why shouldn't I try for something higher," she said.

Preparing to walk about 20 miles each day for three days takes a lot of training. Hoover said she walks about five days a week and has been sure to eat right. She also visits a chiropractor regularly and treats herself to a massage every now and then.

The walking can be grueling, and Hoover said she found herself in tears when she first started to train, thinking of all her mother, sisters and aunts have been through. But she had been determined to keep going.

"My mom has been a true inspiration, with her ability to lick it twice," Hoover said.

Another help was finding someone to walk with. Through online 3-Day chat rooms, she connected with fellow Shawnee resident Dawn Hemenway, who is walking with her daughter, Kimberly.

Hemenway decided to get involved after her mother was diagnosed with the disease last summer. Already suffering from Alzheimer's, doctors caught the disease too late, and Hemenway's mother died in October.

Hemenway knew about the 3-Day because her brother's wife had participated in last year's walk, but it was Kimberly who decided that the mother-and-daughter team should participate.

So since April, the two have been training, going to several of the training walks put together by 3-Day organizers. Hemenway was thankful to team up with Hoover, as well, since Kimberly, 17, a student at Mill Valley High School, isn't always able to walk with her mother.

"I thought I needed all the training I could get," Hemenway said. "I like to walk, but I'm not athletic, so this has been a learning experience."

To help raise the necessary funds, Hemenway and her daughter had a silent auction earlier this summer. Items donated by nearly 40 companies helped the pair raise about $800. They still have about $200 to raise to reach their minimum donation.

Walking companions have also been helpful for another team from the Shawnee area. Carol Wickoren of Shawnee and Jeanne Gottfchalk, Susan Mitts and Kathy Stewart of Lenexa signed up for the 3-Day as a team after watching walkers come through the area during last year's event.

"We saw women going by and we thought, 'We can do this; we ought to do this,'" Mitts said.

Mitts has an aunt who is a breast cancer survivor, but most of the women on the team don't have close relatives who had the disease. Still, Mitts said it's motivation enough to see all the people who have been affected by the disease. She said many people have shared their stories while the team has been training.

"That's why we're doing it, to hopefully help people find a cure," Mitts said. "You just hope that your small contribution can make a difference.

The team held a fundraiser at Moe's Southwest Grill a few months ago to help with their mandatory $2,200-per-person donation. They also have been training together with eight-mile walks during the week and 12-15 mile walks over the weekend.

"It's been difficult to stick to for myself with four children in the house," Mitts said. "I'm not sure anything can prepare you for walking 20 miles back to back three days in a row. But I'm sure whatever discomfort we go through isn't anything compared to what a person with breast cancer goes through."

This year's 3-Day will begin at 6:30 a.m. at the Kansas Speedway Sept. 15 and end at 5 p.m. at the Liberty Memorial Sept. 17. Walkers will pass through portions of Shawnee the first day, with a cheering station from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Mid-America Baseball park in the 19500 block of Johnson Drive. To donate to the teams, visit

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