50 FOR THE CURE: ONE SISTER’S JOURNEY TO ALL 50 STATES
The following post was written by Sharael Feist Kolberg, Delta Sigma–University of Hawaii.
In 2018, I was diagnosed with stage 2, triple negative breast cancer. Like, thousands of people each year, my treatment included two lumpectomies, five months of IV chemotherapy, six months of oral chemo and 36 rounds of radiation. In those 15 months, I lost my hair, eyelashes, and eyebrows, and 25 pounds, but didn’t lose my positive spirit.
Thanks to my amazing medical team and supportive friends and family, I have been cancer free since December 5, 2019. This called for something BIG to celebrate my 50th birthday the following August.
I’ve always wanted to visit all 50 states. From Graceland and Yellowstone to the Liberty Bell and the Redwoods, I wanted to explore all the United States has to offer. But merely traveling to all 50 states didn’t seem like enough. An avid runner, I decided to run one mile run in each state for breast cancer awareness and invite others to join me. I named this venture “50 for the Cure.”
I partnered with breast cancer foundation Susan G. Komen to provide resources on detection, diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer. According to Susan G. Komen, more than 270,000 women and men in the U.S. are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer this year and more than 42,000 will die. With early detection, survival rates can be 98 percent or higher.
I began mapping my road trip and looking forward to visiting places I’ve always wanted to see. Then the pandemic hit and I was forced to rethink my plans.
In order to keep myself and others safe, traveling was taken off the table. After much brainstorming, I had the idea to find one person in each state to run or walk with virtually via Zoom.
I started my endeavor on August 11—my 50th birthday. I ran my first of 50 miles in the town I call home—Laguna Beach, California. I shared my story through my website, where friends, family and eventually strangers signed up to run with me in each state. Together, we raised money for an important cause, and raised awareness through local and national media coverage.
On September 29, the last official day of my run, I was able to share my story with Drew Barrymore. She surprised me with a $100,000 donation from Bank of America and committed to run with me by the end of October. What a great start to Breast Cancer Awareness Month!
As people from all over ran or walked with me from their neighborhoods and thousands more cheered me on from the comfort of their couch, I have been incredibly touched by the outpouring of support. I’ve been so inspired to hear the stories of so many women and felt the strength and perseverance from their battles against breast cancer.
While I am grateful each day that I beat breast cancer, I know there are so many in the beginning, middle or end of their battle. I want them to know I’ve been in their shoes and I am running beside them, too.