Monday, May 10, 2010

Taking My First Steps

Posted By: Michelle Ashcraft

Tomorrow’s the big day! On Tuesday I kick off a 24-week schedule for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure with a 3-mile, “easy” walk. “What’s the 3-Day for the Cure?” you might ask. It’s a 3-day, 60-mile walk that I will participate in on October 22-24, 2010 in Atlanta, GA. That’s right, little me – the one who lives by the philosophy “I don’t run unless someone is chasing me” and doesn’t schedule much time for exercise, unless throwing a toy across the living room for my dog counts – is taking on a 60-mile challenge to help cure breast cancer!

So why did I take the plunge?

I have the great pleasure of calling Jenn Latino, among many other things, my former supervisor, my colleague, my mentor, my advisor, and most importantly one my best friends. Through Jenn I was fortunate to meet Kim Sterritt and Meredith Perlman. The three of them along with friend Jenn Dooley (who I look forward to meeting this fall) formed Team New Kids on the Walk to take on the 60-mile challenge in 2009. Similar to what we are doing this year, their team kept a weekly blog that became one of the most inspirational “works” I have ever read. I began to look forward to Tuesday mornings – when Jenn e-mailed out her weekly blog post – and it became my motivation when days got tough. I was so proud to see the NKOTW raise $17,925.75 for breast cancer research and community programs, and cross the finish line of the 3-Day together. A few months ago I began to see ads for the 3-Day, and I got the itch to join. So I called Jenn on day and asked if I could be the newest New Kid.

While Team NKOTW were my initial motivation to join, the friends, family, and colleagues in my life who have battled cancer of any type will be the inspiration to keep me going when the training and fundraising get tough. Most importantly, I walk in honor of Mrs. Bernie Bowman, my “grandmother,” who was victorious over breast cancer. I have lived without biological grandparents for the majority of my life, but Bernie and her husband Noah have graciously filled that void in my life since I was in grade school, though they have many children and grandchildren of their own. They are two of the greatest people I know, and two of the people I admire most in life. I have no doubt that I will hear Bernie’s cheerful voice in my head over the next 25 weeks, encouraging me to push forward mile by mile.

Though Bernie serves as my inspiration to walk for breast cancer, my motto for my journey will be “One For All,” as I hope that finding a cure for one type of cancer will lead to a cure for all cancers. Unfortunately my grandparents, countless aunts and uncles, sorority sisters, and one of my best friends James have lost their lives to cancer – including some of its rarest types. The Susan G. Komen Foundation is one of the leaders in supporting cancer research, and I am confident that when they find their cure, we will see other cures develop soon after.

How will a 60-mile walk help cure breast cancer?
In order to participate in the 3-Day for the Cure each participant, including me, must raise at least $2300 for the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Thousands of people across the United States participate in 3-Day walks throughout the nation each year, bringing in millions of dollars each year to fund breast cancer research and community programs. When there is a cure we will celebrate. Until then, we will walk for those who can’t.

Meet NKOTW Veterans
Team Captain Kim Sterritt – Representing the state of Georgia. I got to meet her and her husband Adam through Jenn L. at NODA and ACPA conferences.

Jenn Latino – Representing the state of South Carolina. Jenn was my supervisor when I was in grad school at South Carolina. We quickly bonded over Moe’s, and she’s become one of my greatest mentors and friends.

Meredith Perlman – Also representing the state of Georgia. I got to meet Meredith and her husband Ben when they visited Jenn L. in South Carolina.

Jenn Dooley – Representing the state of Florida. I’ve heard a lot about Jenn D. from Jenn L. and look forward to meeting her in October!

Meet My Fellow Newest New Kids
Katie Holmes – No, not the actress! Representing the state of Tennessee. Katie was a professional at USC when I was in grad school, and we worked on several projects together (one of which included a great trip to NYC with Jenn L.!)

Shawn Seuberling – Representing the state of North Carolina. Long-time friends of Jenn L. who I have heard many stories about. Looking forward to finally meeting her in October!

Katie Baioni – Representing the state of Ohio. Katie is one of Kim’s best friends from OSU, and I look forward to meeting her in October!

Karen Wagner – Also representing the state of Georgia. This is Karen’s 2nd 3-Day, but her first with NKOTW. I look forward to meeting Karen in October!

That means there are 9 of us representing 7 states!

How You Can Help
Of course you can support my journey financially by making a donation to support my participation. Online donations can be made via credit card at If you would rather make a donation by check through the mail, you can download a donation form on that page as well. No donation is too small.

However, I do not expect everyone to donate, and if you cannot donate financially, there are many other ways to support me. Any support you can give will be greatly appreciated – be it cheerful e-mails, a supportive "you can do it" text, a wake-up call on Saturday mornings to help get my butt out of bed to walk, an inspirational post to my page, or a shared story of hope and/or loss to keep me motivated.

Thanks to many friends, family members, and colleagues, I have already raised $725 – that’s 32% of my goal – and I haven’t even started training yet! Many thanks to those who have generously given to support the cause:
- Ben Webb – friend from Purdue (Boiler Gold Rush), and the first to kick off my fundraising. I walk in honor of his aunt.
- Wes Armstrong – friend from my study abroad trip to Ireland during grad school.
- Heather Cavendish and Travis Quillen – Travis is one of my best and longest friends from high school, and Heather is his wonderful girlfriend.
- Dr. Mike Mullen – one of my colleagues at the University of Kentucky.
- Jared Tippets – my supervisor at the University of Kentucky.
- Nancy, Winn, and Will Stephens – Nancy is one of my coworkers at UK, Winn is her great husband, and Will is their adorable son.
- Kyle Sloan – friend from Purdue and fellow member of SOC 2006 (Boiler Gold Rush).
- Leanne Smith – my best friend from Purdue.
- Mandie Thacker – one of my best friends from grad school. I walk in memory of her granny Jamia Clark.
- Katharine Pei – one of my best friends from grad school. I walk in honor of her Aunt Fung.
- Martha and Keith Kline – my great aunt and uncle – some of my favorites on my Dad’s side!
- Michelle Rumler – one of my sorority sisters.
- Kati Petry – an old friend from high school. I walk in memory of her mother.
- Lori Durako – friend from Purdue (Boiler Gold Rush).

Breast Cancer Fact of the Week
“In the United States this year, nearly 200,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and more than 40,000 will die from the disease. … Approximately 1,500 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer each year, and 400 will die from the disease.” (3-Day Walker Handbook)

While it looks like it may be a rainy week ahead (guess I’ll have to bust out my raincoat with my new shoes), I am thrilled to start training this week! Tune in next week for a mileage and # of steps updates, as well as my first training stories!



  1. Dear Michelle,
    While I am convinced that all cancers women experience are preventable through bio-memic hormones and diet, I admire your strength and determination to support. This makes me very proud of you, as a member of your family.
    Remember especially your Grandmother Delores's sister Eileen who suffered with breast cancer and eventually died as the cancer continued to consume her.
    Walk in rememberance of all in our family who suffered and died because of cancer, proudly.

    Thank you for caring enough to CARE!

    Cheryl Carpenter

  2. What an excellent "first blog" of the season!! I am so excited to have you on our team. I am getting ready to lace up my sneakers, leash up the dogs, and take to the sidewalks of The Summit. I'll call you tonight to see how your first steps went. Stay Dry!
    Love you!

  3. As a survivor, I am so appreciative of your dedication to this cause! I'll be looking forward to your weekly blogs!

    Love, Chrissy

  4. Guess I need to bring some shoes next weekend! Are Brinker's legs long enough to make this journey with you? Pongo may be a little out of shape! :D

  5. Chelle, Dad and I are so proud of you for walking for this cause. As you know, both of my Grandmothers had cancer and both of my parents had cancer, so I have always thought I was a walking poster child to get cancer. In 1988 the head of oncology at IU Med Center told Dad and me that 1 out of every 2 people are going to die of cancer, it was a life changing moment for me. Your Grandparents on your Dad's side both died of cancer a few years after mine. We have lost Aunts and Uncles also, so I can honestly say that cancer has stolen too many people from our lives. Walk tall and proud because as I have always told you, you have many strong women walking beside you.

  6. Mandie - Definitely bring shoes! If we walk, it will justify eating the obscene amount of Chex Mix we are going to eat. Brinker has been been staying at home ... Jenn says that I need to get him a stroller!