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Joanne McCarthy, administrative assistant at the MIT/Bates Facilities Department, said she would walk a million miles to keep her two grown daughters healthy. This weekend, she will walk at least 60.
McCarthy, along with Peter Binns, Barbara Santorella and Ken Hatch, all of the Bates Lab, will walk 20 miles a day this July 8, 9 and 10 as participants in the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation's Three-Day, a walk through New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The fund-raising walk, which attracts thousands of people from all over the country, will conclude Sunday evening at Briggs Field on the MIT campus.
McCarthy's 18-person team--"Sara's S-Miles"--is named for McCarthy's daughter, Sara Nevares, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2004 when she was just 27 years old.
Nevares participated in last year's walk just a few weeks after having a mastectomy. She had planned to walk even before her diagnosis, but after treatment was only able to complete 27 miles of the course.
This year, Nevares has finished her treatment and plans to walk the whole 60 miles alongside her mother. "I had the scare of my life when Sara was diagnosed," said McCarthy, who did complete the 2004 walk. "This has become my passion. I feel like I was born to do this."
McCarthy, who is the team captain, said she considers the walk an opportunity both to raise money for breast cancer research and to spread the word about the disease. Her daughter's case was unusual, she said, because of her youth and because the family history came from her father's side. "A lot of people, even doctors, do not realize that it can come from the father's side," McCarthy said.
As a nurse, Nevares knew a fair amount about breast cancer and was vigilant about self-examination; she even pushed her doctors not to wait to test the lump she found. Not all women are so well informed, McCarthy noted. "We really need to get educated."
McCarthy said she has received a lot of support from teammate Binns, whose sister, mother and wife have all battled breast cancer at one time or another. His sister, Nancy, is still fighting the disease.
With Nancy's help, Binns took his fund-raising mission door to door. "I just needed to do something different about it," he said. "Those of us who are just watching our loved ones struggle have to do the best we can to help." Thus far, Binns has brought in close to $6,300, making him the team's fund-raising leader. "My nieces emptied their piggy banks," said Binns. "People have been so generous."
In total, the team has raised close to $36,000, and members are still accepting donations. McCarthy said she has been thrilled by the support and encouragement she has received for her work with the Breast Cancer Three-Day. "I will be doing this walk for as long as I can walk," she said.
To make a contribution or to learn more about "Sara's S-Miles," visit the team's web site.