Fighting Disease One Step at a Time

Three women raise money and their spirits while walking for a cure

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- Posted on Jul 30, 2009

Marlene Kahan, a vibrant and active woman, had heard of Parkinson’s, but thought it only affected much older people.

That was until she started experiencing tremors and was eventually diagnosed with the degenerative disease at age 51. Suddenly, her life took a major turn.

“Hearing the diagnosis was like getting the wind knocked out me,” Kahan reflects.

At first all she wanted to do was curl up in bed and cry. But after several months of feeling depressed, she'd had enough.

She was determined not to let the disease defeat her. “My dad was a Holocaust survivor, and I thought, if he could survive that, I can survive anything,” she says.

That was five years ago.

Today, Kahan is still active and optimistic about her disease. She focuses her energy on fundraising activities that she hopes will help researchers find a cure.

Each year, she takes part in the two-mile Parkinson’s Unity Walk in New York City’s Central Park, along with some 10,000 participants.

The group raised $1.5 million last year, with Kahan herself raising over $200,000 since being diagnosed.

Turning to her colleagues in the magazine publishing business, she has secured over $45 million worth of magazine advertising space for public service announcements about the disease.

Kahan feels her diagnosis has given her life greater purpose.

A quote which has become her mantra says it best. “We don't get a choice about what hand we are dealt in this life. The only choice we have is our attitude about the cards we hold, and the finesse with which we play our hand.”

Across the country charity walks are becoming a popular way to raise money and awareness for various diseases. They serve as a way to donate to a cause, get in shape and join together with family and friends to feel empowered in the face of difficult and sometimes life-threatening challenges.

Another walker, Celia Gibbons, participates in the Walk for Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) each year, which raises money for the PKD Foundation.

While she does not suffer from the disease herself, several of her siblings and relatives do. Most carriers of PKD need dialysis and eventually a kidney transplant.

Gibbons’ mother passed away at the age of 57, due to complications arising from treatment for PKD, and Gibbons herself donated one of her kidneys to her sister who suffers from the disease.

“I hope by participating in the walkathon, I can help raise money for treatment and research that will eventually lead to a cure,” says Gibbons.

By contrast, Susan Nardone initially joined the Tubbs Romp to Stomp Out Breast Cancer Snowshoe Series Walk not out of any altruistic notions, but because it seemed like fun.

The fact that it raised money for a good cause—the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation—was secondary, she admits.

But the Stratton,Vermont-based snowshoe event took on a whole new meaning when Nardone herself was diagnosed with breast cancer. . “Cancer became much more real to me after the diagnosis,” she says, “Participating in an event that may help find the cure took on more importance.”

Each year Nardone (who has raised the most money three years in a row) walks with family and friends. And she especially appreciates the feeling of camaraderie the walk brings out in participants and supporters.

“The entire group gets together, and there is a positive energy; everyone comes together for one purpose,” she says.

Walkers include breast cancer survivors, women in treatment, and those who want to honor women who have died from the disease. 

For Nardone, the event represents “a celebration of being cancer free” for the past two and a half years.

Whether you are coping with a disease yourself, know someone who is, or just feel moved to help those fighting for a cure, participating in a charity walk can be a fun, inspiring and meaning. 

You meet optimistic people; get some exercise; and become part of the solution by raising money for a cure. So tie up those shoe laces and get walking!

Read more about how to raise money for a charity walk in Walking for Cures!

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