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Ellijay, GA
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Local women to join Komen 3-Day walk


Aimee Cribbs, left, and Kathy Romanick, right, have been walking over 20 miles each week in preparation for an upcoming Susan G. Komen 3-Day walk in Atlanta. Those walking in the October fundraiser for the fight against breast cancer will have three days to complete a 60-mile route through the city. (Photo by Michael Andrews)
 
Local women to join fight against breast cancer in Komen 3-Day walk

by Michael Andrews
andrews@timescourier.com

After Kathy Romanick finished a three-day walk for the fight against breast cancer 10 years ago, she thought it would be her first and last attempt at covering that much ground in so little time.

“(It) was in Los Angeles and had a lot of beach walking,” said Romanick. “It’s still hard, though, no matter how much you train for it. It was an amazing experience, but also incredibly tough. I never thought I’d do one again.”

It took a life-altering doctor’s appointment to change her mind. Romanick, who’s lived in Ellijay since 2006, was diagnosed with breast cancer last year.

“That changed everything,” she said. “I had no family history and no risk factors whatsoever. I was never sick and hadn’t had a cold in the last five years.”

Early detection followed by a complete mastectomy on her right breast helped Romanick overcome the disease.

“I am cancer free now. It was early enough that it didn’t spread and I didn’t have to do chemo,” she said.

Romanick, 51, would have never found that first lump without self-examination.

“I’d actually had a normal mammogram that April. When I self-examined four months later, I found the first tumor. An MRI showed there was a second tumor and, at the end, it was (in) stage two,” she said.

Romanick will embark on her second breast cancer fundraising walk in October when the Susan G. Komen 3-Day unfolds across Atlanta. She’ll be joined by her friend, Aimee Cribbs, who’s been walking side by side with Romanick as the two prepare for the strenuous event.

The 3-Day route spans 60 miles and walkers are expected to cover 20 miles each day.

“Right now, we’re about three months out from the walk. We’ve been walking 25 to 30 miles a week and our longest big walk has been 11 miles. We do a big one each week and a couple of smaller ones,” said Romanick.

“We’ve added more hills because we’ve gotten more information about the actual route, which keeps saying it will be ‘hilly,’” said Cribbs.

The walk will begin at Stone Mountain Park Friday, Oct. 16, and end at Turner Field Sunday, Oct. 18.

“The first day we’ll walk from Stone Mountain to the Georgia World Congress Center,” said Cribbs.

Cribbs’ college roommate is also a breast cancer survivor. Being close to two people who’ve battled and survived cancer made the 41-year-old Ellijay Elementary School art instructor want to get involved with fundraising.

“I don’t have a family history, but I do have two daughters. That’s part of what this is for me —teaching them how important it is to take good care of yourself,” Cribbs added.

Walkers must raise a minimum $2,300 donation from sponsors prior to the event. Contributions can be made online at www.the3day.org.

“There’s a little button that says ‘donate’ and it will allow you to search our names and it will take you to our personal page,” said Romanick. She added that a donation form can also be printed on the website and mailed with a check.

Cribbs has been lending her artistic talents to fundraising efforts the past month.

“I have an art show going on in downtown Jasper at a place called the Blue Star Gallery. All my profits will go to the donation,” Cribbs said. “I also have a booth at Southern Flare, which is at (the intersection of) Highway 52 and 515. All the profits from that go to the donation, as well.”

She’s also organizing a “virtual 5K” on Facebook through which participants pledge to walk a certain distance along with supplying a donation to the Komen charity.

“I’m doing it to try and encourage people like myself who’ve never done a 5K to get exercising and get moving,” said Cribbs. “It’s on the honor system and you can do (the walking) whenever and wherever you want. There’s a $20 entry fee, which will go to the donation.”

Like thousands who take part in the seven separate Komen 3-Day walks across the U.S. each year, both Cribbs and Romanick want to raise awareness of how important it is to get checked and respond early if any abnormalities are found.

“I think there’s a need to educate more women about how important self-exams are. If I hadn’t done that, it would’ve been more than a year till I went back and things would’ve been totally different. If you’re not checking yourself, you need to. You can’t rely on just a mammogram,” said Romanick.

The two women have been friends for years and were already “walking buddies” before they decided to tackle the 3-Day together.

“She was my son’s third grade teacher,” said Romanick.

“Right before (Kathy) was diagnosed we’d started walking at Harrison Park. That’s what led us (to consider) the 3-Day,” said Cribbs.

The Komen group uses donations from the 3-Days to fund research and provide community outreach programs to breast cancer patients.

“It’s all about trying to raise money for research and for people to get earlier, better treatment,” said Romanick. “They donate a ton of money to research and treatment. They give grants to community health organizations to provide mammograms.”

The organization states that, since its first 3-Day in 2003, the annual series of fundraising walks has brought in over $810 million for breast cancer research and programs. Last year, it provided social and financial support for more than 50,000 men, women and families battling breast cancer.

Romanick is among the 99 percent of women who are now able to overcome and survive the disease after receiving an early stage diagnosis.

“I feel very fortunate that I’ve had such a positive outcome and that I’m strong enough to do this walk. There are a lot of women with breast cancer who are not able (to do that),” she said. “The research is working because breast cancer survivors are the largest group of cancer survivors in the United States.” 
 
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