One in seven women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in her life.
Everyone else will most likely be touched by it in some way.
That's why a group of 36 women of all ages and backgrounds, mostly from Brambleton, has gotten together to help fight breast cancer and promote awareness of the disease.
The women, who call themselves the Step Sisters, are a team participating in the 2008 Avon Walk for Breast Cancer marathon-and-a-half in Washington, D.C., May 3-4.
The team comprises those who have been diagnosed with the disease, cancer survivors, family members and friends. As part of their mission to raise $1,800 a person for the 39-mile, two-day walk in May, they're hosting a 2-mile mini-walk April 12 in Ashburn.
"A lot of people want to do something, but they can't commit to a two-day thing," team member Heather Phillips said. "This is something they can do."
The walk is open to anyone in the Ashburn area and all over the region, said Phillips, a Brambleton resident. The goal is to help raise some funds and educate women about breast cancer and the importance of getting annual mammograms to try to detect the disease.
"Just as important is the awareness," Phillips said. "And this is a great opportunity for families to do something together."
The mini-walk also will include activities for children like a moon bounce, a firetruck and refreshments.
Step Sister team member Ashley Campolattaro completed the Avon Walk for the first time last year after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.
"She lives in Maryland, and I'm in Virginia," she said. "This was a way to feel like I was doing something to help get her through it."
This year, a close friend and neighbor, Karina Twomey of Brambleton, who also has breast cancer, will complete the Avon Walk with her fellow Step Sisters at her side.
"I know walking with them, it's going to be OK," said Twomey, who is still in treatment for her cancer. "It's therapeutic for me. I told my doctor I wanted to do this because I wanted to do something that pushed me to the edge. She said, 'You've been through radiation and chemotherapy -- you already have.' But this is something I can control. I knew I needed to do something positive."
Twomey was diagnosed with breast cancer about a year ago at the age of 37. Since then, she said, her neighbors in Brambleton have provided her family with support and help with things like meals and taking care of her young children.
The Avon Walk is a way for her to be part of something with them, she said. It's also her chance to show people that young women can get the disease.
The Step Sisters have raised $64,000 so far toward their cause through fundraising and generous donations. Right now they are the second-highest-fundraising Avon Walk team in the nation.
The Step Sisters' preparations for the 39-mile walk also include training. Walking 39 miles takes conditioning, and blisters are one of the biggest things to prepare for, Campolattaro said. Good shoes and socks are important.
In the end though, whether you finish the walk or not, it is worth it, she said.
"It's a really powerful event," she said. "It puts all these faces on the disease."
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