Dottie Cornelius is still walking.
Since 2006, the Deer Harbor resident has clocked more than 6,000 miles, worn out dozens of pairs of sneakers and developed blisters too numerous and painful to count.
And she’s gearing up to do it all over again.
In a few weeks, Cornelius heads to Seattle for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day joining hundreds of others who, for three intense days, walk with the hope their numbers — and their pledges — make a difference in the eradication of breast cancer.
“My first 3-day was in 2006,” recounts Cornelius. “I’d heard about the event and thought it a good motivation to get exercise and support a good cause.”
That good cause ended up affecting Cornelius in ways she could have never imagined.
“As cliché as it sounds, it is an event where love and kindness transcend the barriers that divide us,” she shares. “That culture changed me; it changed me forever.”
The purpose of the 60-mile walk is to raise money for the Susan G. Komen Foundation whose mission is to “save lives by meeting the most critical needs in our communities and investing in breakthrough research to prevent and cure breast cancer.”
The incidences of breast cancer in the United States are alarming.
The largest single killer of women in the U.S. next to lung cancer, breast cancer is expected to claim the lives of 41,760 women in the U.S. this year.
To address those numbers, the Susan G. Komen Foundation has set a goal of reducing the number of breast cancer deaths in the United States by 50% by 2026.
It’s those numbers that drive Cornelius to walk.
Diagnosed with breast cancer herself in 2013, Cornelius immediately understood — and benefited from — the work the Komen foundation has put into research and treatment. That understanding deepened when her older sister was diagnosed six weeks later; followed by another sister, 11 months after that.
“Thankfully, the three of us sailed through our treatments and continue to be cancer-free,” she said. “Last year, we all walked together as a family: my 85-year-old mother, my two survivor sisters, a niece and two great nieces. Four generations of women determined to help make the lives of the next generation free of breast cancer.”
This year, the walk is bittersweet. Cornelius and her team, Island Girls, includes Heather Jellerson who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Jellerson, however, is not walking as much for herself as she is for her sister, Kimberly Holmes, who passed away from metastatic breast cancer in 2013.
Jellerson has completed her treatment, her prognosis is positive and she is determined to walk to ensure her 12-year-old daughter does not have to worry about the disease. Further, Hellerson’s determination to walk in September has inspired her sister-in-law and a friend from Maine to join her in Seattle.
According to www.breastcancer.org, about 1 in 8 women in the United States (around 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. In 2019 alone, the organization anticipates that “268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in U.S. women, along with 62,930 cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer.”
Those numbers are in addition to the 2,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer that are expected to be diagnosed in men in 2019.
Seattle’s 2019 Susan G. Komen 3-day is Sept. 13-15. Those interested in donating to the cause may visit http://www.the3day.org/goto/IslandGirls2019. Cornelius notes that a few potential walkers haven’t yet reached the requisite $2,300 and asks that contributors direct their donations to team members falling short of that goal.
“We know raising money [for the foundation] and walking 60 miles is hard,” Cornelius added. “But it’s not as hard as breast cancer.”