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100 survivors take part in breast cancer walk

October 19, 2008|By MARIE GILBERT

HAGERSTOWN - The sun is beginning to set behind the mountains as Tonya Neuschafer steps outside her home in Clear Spring.

It's her favorite time of the day.

"Everything is quiet and the sky is filled with beautiful colors," she said. "I put on some inspirational music and begin to walk."

It's a routine she enjoys every other evening - hiking three miles, usually in solitude.

It's good exercise. But it also is therapy.

"It's a chance to reflect on my life," she said.

Last April, Neuschafer was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had discovered a lump during a self-exam and immediately headed to her doctor.

She hoped it was a cyst, but a sonogram and biopsy told her a different story.

At the age of 35, Neuschafer thought she was too young to have breast cancer. There also was no family history, except for a second cousin.

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"I was shocked," she said. "The news really blew me away."

Three weeks later, she underwent a mastectomy and two weeks ago finished chemotherapy.

Those evening walks, she said, give her plenty to think about.

"It may sound strange, but breast cancer changed my life for the better," Neuschafer said. "It makes you appreciate everything you have."

It also has made her optimistic.

"I caught this cancer early," she said. "I know I can beat it."

Neuschafer proudly posed with nearly 100 other breast cancer survivors for a group photo on Saturday prior to Step 'n Stride, a fundraising event for Breast Cancer Awareness-Cumberland Valley (BCA-CV).

"I felt really proud," she said afterward. "It was a great moment."

Neuschafer was among more than 600 people who participated in the 19th annual event at Hagerstown Community College's Athletic, Recreation and Community Center.

The fundraiser included a five-mile walk around the campus' Loop Road, plus a women's health fair.

"This is our largest fundraiser of the year," said Joan Fell, executive director of BCA-CV.

Last year's event raised about $112,000, she said.

Proceeds will be used locally to support the free programs offered by BCA-CV, Fell said, including mammograms, a wig and prosthesis bank, a toll-free Hopeline, and information and support groups.

"We are one of the most comprehensive breast cancer support programs in the nation," Fell said. "And what we offer is possible because of the incredible support we receive from the community."

Fell said Step 'n Stride is held each year in October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

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