"DO IT AFRAID." Those are the audacious words emblazoned across Michelle Beauchamp’s vision board. The three-time AVON 39er has conquered fear like you want to conquer fear – by staring it down, drawing motivation from it and letting it propel you to achieve things you had once written off as out of the question, impossible. "Don’t give up. Conquer it. Do it anyway," says Michelle, a sales leader, trainer and coach who lives in Rancho Santa Margarita, California. "Fear is false evidence," she continues. "You push through it, push through the pain. Like in life. You just push through it, whatever you’re facing."
As if the challenge of her first AVON 39 Walk in Santa Barbara wasn’t daunting enough. With the fervent support of her husband and two sons, she's walked those 39.3 miles, twice with friends and last year with the Solo Strutters, proving to her that she could, in fact, push through her fear and even double the fundraising goal of $1,800. All in the name of breast cancer, in memory of her mother, who lost her battle with breast cancer 19 years ago this year. But Michelle had one unique fear she had yet to conquer: crossing bridges. With its iconic Golden Gate Bridge, the San Francisco AVON 39 was going to test her resolve. "I have a real fear of bridges. And I thought, how cool would it be to conquer my fear and walk across that bridge." The metaphor was not lost on her. She was determined to transcend her greatest fear and come out on the other side of it with further proof that she could accomplish anything she set her mind to. "As I approached the bridge, I thought I'm really going to conquer this! I'm never going to have to say again 'I'm afraid of bridges!'" And so she crossed it.
Her next challenge? For sure, she plans to register for this year's AVON 39 in Santa Barbara. "To whom much is given, much is required. It's in my blood now, I have to do it. But I really want to meet Oprah. That would be so cool!"
What strikes Jules Charnota-Larson most about her AVON 39 experience is the Walk’s powerful message of hope. A survivor of two separate breast cancer battles decades apart – a first in 1997 and again in 2014 – Jules sees AVON 39 and her participation in three Walks as a means of sending an inspiring message to other survivors and to those who are newly diagnosed. "The Walk is about hope. It's so motivating. You meet many courageous people and hear their stories. I was personally moved by the true hopefulness I saw. The whole experience was amazing, so well worth it. You're spreading the news that there is hope. It makes a big difference."
Jules hasn't survived two bouts with breast cancer on hope alone. She's had to fight, and fight hard. Through two lumpectomy surgeries, numerous rounds of chemo and radiation, and then a prophylactic oophorectomy and hysterectomy due to testing positive for BRCA. She's emerged even stronger, with her spirit and faith more unshakable than ever. "The struggle is part of the story. With God's will, you find the strength to keep fighting. With the unconditional and loving support of friends and family, you get through it. I am blessed to be alive, to fight the good fight."
Jules finished her last round of radiation and had her prophylactic surgery in early 2015, a few weeks before the AVON 39 in San Francisco. "By the end of May, I was doubting my ability to walk. I was so weak, so exhausted. I could barely get up the through it. AVON 39 provided another blessing to Jules when she met sisters Taeko and Emiko, a fellow survivor, whom she'd met on her first AVON 39. The sisters lovingly embraced Jules through the entire experience. "I crossed that finish line, thanks to Viv, Taeko and Emiko, my teammates and the many, many people I met along the way. I was never alone. Sure, I was exhausted, but I never felt I was in it alone." From the AVON 39 Crew to strangers along the route, she drew inspiration and strength. "As tired as I was, that support got me through it. I just love the camaraderie, love being a part of the Walk. I thought, 'how amazing and blessed it is to be around these fellow supporters?' The culmination of a weekend's grit and determination was well worth hearing and seeing the funds disbursement, the courageous stories and the hopefulness for the future eradication of this disease."
Beyond the promise of hope, Jules sees real tangible benefits of AVON 39 and its power for change – to increase survivorship and end breast cancer one day. "I walk because I want qualified mammograms to be available to every woman to save their lives. I walk so that funds generated can be used to find a less invasive, less debilitating, less severe treatment plan to kill the cancer cells. I walk for the advancement of the BRCA genetic testing which will save lives in preventative measures. I walk so that funds generated can find a cure for this deadly disease!"
When you sign up to walk 39.3 miles, what’s likely going through your mind is two thoughts: How am I going to raise $1,800? and How am I going to walk 39 miles? When you register for AVON 39 The Walk to End Breast Cancer, you commit to doing those two things. When Laura Filippi registered for the AVON 39 in San Francisco last year, she knew what to expect. She had, after all, volunteered with the Medical Crew in 2012, when her sister walked. What she wasn’t expecting was that she would tear her right hamstring just before the beginning of her own AVON 39. But she powered through it, walked through the pain – and walked every single mile. “I learned how, mentally, I can push through something that’s really tough,” says Laura. “You don’t know how strong you are until you have to be. Imagine the strength you have to have to overcome breast cancer.”
A native of San Mateo, California, Laura found the motivation to walk in the 2015 AVON 39 after her sister discovered benign cysts and underwent a partial mastectomy and reconstruction. Soon after, a close friend was diagnosed with breast cancer and survived it. "It’s a continuing motivation for me," says the Team Fearless Fitness member. "I really enjoy doing it and look forward to walking again and again."
Her recommendation for anyone thinking about doing AVON 39, but not quite ready to commit? "You just have to sign up and tell yourself you can do this. Once you're involved, you're really fueled by the idea that you can do it. You can make a difference if you believe in the cause."
If you’re thinking you don’t have what it takes to do AVON 39 The Walk to End Breast Cancer, think again. Imagine walking those 39.3 miles at 70. Then imagine having walked in eight walks over the last decade. In fact, that may be on the low side for Marilyn Luma. She’s certain she’s walked in eight of them, but she’s pretty confident the number is even higher than that. "It just comes around and I keep doing it,” says Marilyn. "I’m so honored to be able to do this!"
Marilyn Luma is one gutsy lady. Not only has she walked in her share of AVON 39s, but this 39er is celebrating her 20th survivorship anniversary. "A year or two after I was diagnosed, I did my first breast cancer walk." In fact, Marilyn was diagnosed with what she calls "stage-4-get-your-affairs-in-order" breast cancer. A wake-up call for sure. But it didn’t stop her; she just kept going.
The hardest part about walking in AVON 39, and what she says surprised her most? It wasn’t the fundraising. "When I first started, there was that intimidation factor, sure. But I soon realized it's bigger than me. I never have a problem raising the money." After all, she's not asking for herself. She's asking for those in need, for those who may not be able to afford a mammogram. "AVON 39 is really about the collective of everyone who walks. So that young men and women don't ever have to hear the words, ‘You've got breast cancer.'" What surprised her was the training. "I actually work harder at training!" But she's conquered that, too, with a regular training routine that often has her walking with fellow 39ers from 10-18 miles. In one day. "Bottom line," she continues, "it's not about the physical challenge of the Walk. It's about living up to the trust people have in you, those who've supported you."
The one thing Marilyn wants to share most about herself? "Please don't call me a hero. I don't want people to think of me as a hero." She asserts the real heroes are the ones who support people with breast cancer. Like her 19-year-old son, who put his education on hold to take over her flower shop while she fought breast cancer. "I didn't chose breast cancer to take one for the team. I was meant to survive for a reason, and I think doing this may be it."
Determination. That’s what powers Kim Rockwood each and every day. And it’s what powered her through AVON 39 last year in San Francisco, with its breathtaking views of the Bay and its daunting hills. She was first inspired by the cause, by the Walk’s commitment to crushing breast cancer. "I have so many friends who've faced breast cancer. Some have survived, some have not,” says Kim. "I want to do everything in my power to conquer this.” She'd seen the AVON 39 ads for years and always wanted to walk, but somehow the time was never quite right. But 2015 was a year of transformation for Kim and the time had come. "I thought this is my year of change. I saw that ad and knew I had to do it this time!” Together with her daughter, they faced down every hill, walked every mile. "It was challenging, but easier than I expected it was going to be. I think what I hadn't expected was all the motivation, support and inspiration you find along the Walk. That pumps you up and keeps you going.”
In fact, what impressed her the most about AVON 39 was the support experienced from the moment she registered to the moment she crossed the finish line. She found herself motivated by the event's Crew and volunteers, and from her Walker Coach in the months leading up to the event. "My Coach was amazing. Once a month, she'd call just to check in on me and answer even the silliest question. Knowing there was someone there for me during months of training and fundraising made all the difference.”
What has she taken away from AVON 39? "I now know that I'm stronger than I ever thought I was. I'm determined to continue doing this. I haven't ever stopped training! It's an amazing cause and I'll never stop. Now, I'm also doing it for the future of my daughter and granddaughters.” She says she and her daughter have committed to walking in each of the AVON 39 cities across the country. Indeed, Kim keeps going. The 10-year hospice volunteer recently joined Girls on the Run International, an organization whose mission is to inspire confidence in young girls through physical activity.
As if planning a wedding isn’t stressful enough, Kiersten Walker was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer just two months before her big day. Immediately, her friends were there to give her the support and strength she needed most. Her closest friend from college convinced her she not only had to get well, but had to walk in AVON 39. “I worked really hard on it for her, and for all my friends, and for my baby and my husband,” says Kiersten, an HR executive from New York.
A proud and grateful breast cancer survivor, Lisa Goldstein says that AVON 39 is all about celebrating people who have beaten breast cancer, remembering the loved ones who lost their battles, and raising funds to crush breast cancer – once and for all. It’s no small feat. But together, we’re making progress, one step at a time.