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She knew she had to walk

September 07, 1999|By JULIE E. GREENE

When one of Joan Bowers' Avon representatives died in January after a 10-year battle with breast cancer, Bowers knew she had to walk.

And walk she did, finishing a 55-mile, three-day hike through mountain trails and city streets in New York and New Jersey to raise $2,500 for breast cancer education and early detection services.

"I was pleased that I was able to do something for so many women. I didn't do this for myself," said Bowers, 41, of Oak Hill Avenue in Hagerstown.

Bowers, an Avon district sales manager in York, Pa., was one of 2,000 people who participated in the Avon Breast Cancer 3-Day walk last weekend. Hagerstown residents Dr. Joel Rosenthal and his wife, Brenda, a breast cancer survivor, also did the walk.

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To participate in the walk, Bowers needed to raise $1,800. She exceeded that with contributions from several friends and two Williamsport groups.

The Williamsport Red Men and its women's auxiliary, the Red Feather Council, donated about $800, Bowers said.

The New York-New Jersey walk netted more than $3 million, according to Avon Products Inc.

Every day 483 women in the United States are diagnosed with breast cancer, estimates the Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization.

And it doesn't just affect women, Bowers said.

Men can get breast cancer, but more often they know someone who has it - a mother, sister, wife or friend.

"It really touches everyone," she said.

"About a year and a half ago we had a scare in my family," Bowers said. "My mother had a mammogram that wasn't quite right." Further tests showed it wasn't cancer, she said.

The first walk was held last year in California as part of the Avon Breast Cancer Awareness Crusade, which has raised money for early detection programs since 1993, according to Avon.

This year, walks are being held in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta, Bowers said. Next year they will be held in the same areas, plus Washington, D.C., and Boston, she said.

Bowers is already planning to walk in Washington in October and to be a crew member for the New York walk.

She wants to start recruiting walkers for the Washington event, encouraging people to begin training now. Those interested in training with Bowers can call her at 301-745-3759.

Walkers must be at least 17, she said.

Bowers doesn't consider herself an athlete but she began training for this year's walk in March, walking before and after work.

"When I turned 40 I decided every year I needed to do something exciting. Every year I try to push it a little bit," Bowers said.

Organizers made the walk fun and easy, she said.

The walk began at Bear Mountain State Park Aug. 27, went along the Hudson River, crossed through New Jersey and finished in Central Park Aug. 29. At the end of each day participants pitched tents for the night.

There were several pit stops and mini-pit stops along the way for walkers to get drinks and use portable toilets.

Bowers said her personal goal was not to be swept up by one of the "sweep vans." The vans, with a broom on the front and people dressed as witches inside, picked up walkers who were injured or too tired to finish the day's route.

Despite a blister on her ankle, Bowers pressed on.

With her hike behind her, Bowers said she felt exhilarated and excited to have finished.

For more information about the walk visit Avon's web site at www.avon3day.org.

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