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Walking in a fight for lives: Participants raise awareness for cancer in Walk for the Cause

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Cindy Baxter, a 15-year survivor of breast cancer, confessed to feeling emotional as she surveyed the crowds before the start of the Soroptimist Walk for the Cause in Albany on Saturday morning.

“I’ve been walking around in tears,” said Baxter, of Jefferson. “As a survivor, you fight for your life and seeing so many people here is wonderful."

Laurie Morrical, the walk’s chair, said organizers expected 700 to 800 people to participate in the event, which last year raised around $40,000 for local cancer programs.

“All the money we raise stays local, right here in Linn County,” she said.

Morrical said the walk funds items such as the Albany InReach Clinic’s free mammogram program.

In the past year, Morrical said, she met a woman who was able to get a mammogram only because of the clinic's program. Hearing personal stories like that motivate the 30 or so Soroptimist members to put energy into organizing such a large event.

“It feels like the least you can do,” she said.

The parade’s grand marshals were Baxter and fellow cancer survivors Erin Eriksen, Jamie Jones, Jones’ mother Christy Nelson and Christi Coho. The women addressed the crowd before the walk began. (Nelson let Jones speak on her behalf.)

Jones, of Albany, said she completed her chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer late in September and is scheduled to have a double mastectomy in just a couple of weeks. She said she hopes women, especially young women, learn their family history and seek cancer screenings.

Jones said she knew she had genes that predisposed her to breast cancer because of her mother’s history and genetic testing. Nevertheless, she said, her doctors recommended she wait to start cancer screenings until she was in her late 30s. But when Jones' midwife suggested she get an ultrasound, the test spotted signs that she might have cancer. A biopsy confirmed the diagnosis.

She was 30 at the time.

Jones said her sister, who also had tested positive for genes that predispose people to have breast cancer, also had difficulty convincing her doctor to perform an ultrasound.

The lesson?

“You have to be a self-advocate,” Jones said.

Eriksen, a four-year survivor of breast cancer, said she has attended the walk for the last few years.

“I love to see out little community of Albany, and Linn County in general, pulling together to fight for such a good cause.”

Anthony Rimel covers weekend events, education, courts and crime and can be reached at anthony.rimel@lee.net, 541-758-9526, or via Twitter @anthonyrimel.

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