A walk that began in memory of a loving sister and aunt, who in Dec. 2008 lost her battle with cancer, has become a journey of courage, determination and advocacy for a niece and mother.
On Oct. 5 and 6, Sharon Keating and her mother Maud Brodd, 81, participated in the Atlanta 2-day walk in memory of their aunt and sister. But the experience had much more purpose. Both mother and daughter had also fought personal battles with breast cancer.
Now, they continue participating in the annual Atlanta 2-day walk: to remember, to celebrate, and to advocate for early detection and screenings.
The story begins in 2002 during an annual mammogram for aunt and sister, Ruth Stewart, whose doctor found a microscopic cluster of cancer cells on her breast, The cells were removed. Believing it was nothing more than a scare, she continued to live her life to the fullest and without fear.
In 2004, history seemed to repeat itself when Keating learned she had also been struck with breast cancer.
By the grace of God, my case was treatable with lumpectomy and chemotherapy, she said.
It seemed as if both women had won their battles, and they continued leading healthy lives while counting their blessings.
But, the happiness was short-lived. Tragedy struck again in late 2007 when Stweart started experiencing a significant decrease of energy and a persistent cough.
When they did an x-ray, they found she had nodules on her lungs which tested for cancer, Keating explained. Soon after, she started having headaches and the doctors performed a P.E.T. scan.
Keating said the diagnosis was not the news they were prepared to hear. Seven years after her initial scare, her aunts cancer had returned, this time spreading to her brain and bones.
Ruth lost her battle in December 2008. It was unexpected and a total shock for the family.
We wanted to take her story and use it as a way to increase awareness, said Keating. Just because you are cleared doesnt mean it cant return.
Keating decided to start her campaign to increase awareness of early detection screenings. In the spring of 2009, Keating together with an extended family member, her mother, and her sister-in-law participated in a walk in Washington, D.C, in memory of her aunt as a celebration of her own personal defeat, and as advocate for early detection.
The family returned from the walk, feeling uplifted, accomplished and full of spirit.
Later that year, Keating also participated in her first Atlanta 2-day walk.
We felt like we helped make a difference by using our personal experiences as a way to relay a message, Keating said. Just because a battle is won, doesnt always mean the war is over.
But unfortunately, another battle was about to begin.
In January, 2010 Keatings mother, Maud Brodd, 80, began her battle with breast cancer. After a mastectomy and chemotherapy, her mother fought hard and won.
And through the experience, Keating said it seemed as her mothers battle brought forth a rekindled spirit and she was ready to join the team of survivors, adding another advocate to the force.
In 2012, at age 80, my determined mother walked the Atlanta 2-day, 30-mile walk, said Keating. I took time off in 2011 to help with my mother. But mom turned 80 in July of 2011 and thought she should walk as a survivor with me.
At first, Keating thought her mother was casually speaking of how special it would be to join the walk with her daughter. But when Keating made the suggestion that she should join her in the 2012 walk, to her surprise, Brodd said: Oh, ok I am going to do this then.
Mom had not done any serious training for this, said Keating, and it is a very challenging walk, especially for someone of her age. But she wanted to do it and felt like she could.
After her mothers battle with cancer, Keating said she had a rekindled spirit and uplifted feeling for life.
We had a team of four including my mother, my co-worker Vicki, my sister-in-law, and myself. The team was able to raise $5,500 for the 2012 walk. But mom did most of the fundraising. Once she got started, she was on a mission and there was no stopping her.
The team walked 20 miles on Saturday and another ten on Sunday. Brodd was applauded for her determination as the eldest person to walk in the event.
That determination continued in 2013 when the mother-daughter team decided to carry out the now family tradition. Brodd, now 81, once again took the lead with fundraising efforts, collecting $7,500 in donations from family, friends and supporters.
The mother-daughter team again finished the 2-day, 30-mile walk, while they led the rest of the groups across the finish line escorted by younger cadets.
They were recognized as the team with the highest per capita fundraising during a banquet where Barbara Dooley, wife of former University of Georgia Football Head Coach Vince Dooley, shared her own story as a breast cancer survivor.
Mom was given the celebrity treatment, said Keating.
Now that the mother-daughter team has had several weeks to recuperate, Keating said she is ready to get through the holidays before next years preparations begins.
But her ambitious mother isnt so willing to wait.
Shes already planning next years walk, Keating said. Im like, Mom lets just wait till after the holidays and well start in January.
But Brodd is determined and counts her blessings everyday. She can always be found dedicating her life to others.
I think her reason to be committed is to help her not forget the past but get past the negative. She is involved in so many things in this community.
Keating is full of pride for what her mother has brought to this community.
Everybody tells me she is so inspiring and shes just wonderful. She is an inspiration and she has the endurance to finish the race.
Its a very rewarding thing to do it at any age, said Brodd. But at my age, Im hoping it will be an inspiration to others.
And, as long as the Lords willing to let me, I will continue to be a part of it.