Breast cancer survivor fights back

Elisa Tracy, Cori Thompson and Shelly Lohof walked 60 miles over three days at the Susan G. Komen fundraising walk in Seattle.

Shelly Lohof of Lovell has been free of breast cancer for more than six years now. She is one of the many survivors who participated in the Susan G. Komen walk to find a cure for breast cancer.

“I feel like the walk is something I can do to fight back against the disease,” said Lohof, who participated in the walk for her second year in a row.

Each person who competes in the walk must raise a minimum of $2,400, which is added to a fund to find a cure for the disease. Lohof raised the money through a “pack the place in pink night” during Lovell High School’s basketball season. The event was so successful that it raised enough for her daughter Cori Thompson and her friend Elisa Tracy to join Lohof on her walk, which was held in Seattle this year.

This was the second year Lohof attempted to walk the 20 miles per day for three days. Last year she fell ill and walked only two of the three days in Denver, where daytime temperatures exceeded 100 degrees. This year she completed all three days in Seattle where she felt the cooler weather was much more comfortable for her.

“I was proud that I walked the 40 miles that first year; I wish I could have walked it all,” said Lohof. “I was happy that I was able to walk the whole thing in Seattle this year.”

Lohof learned about the walk through her daughter Cori. Cori and fellow employees from the Wyoming Girls School walked for a woman they knew who died of breast cancer. The woman died, leaving two small children. Some of the other women also had mothers or grandmothers who had cancer.

Lohof, Thompson and Tracy completed all 60 miles, which included three different routes. Each night they slept in a pink tent in a special camp that was set up for them by the event organizers. They placed a Wyoming State flag on their tent. The camp included a big “mess hall” tent and a cattle truck equipped with showers.

“It was an adventure,” said Lohof. “The whole thing was overwhelming. It’s hard to explain the emotional part of it because everyone there is there for a reason. They have a story. Either they had breast cancer themselves or Grandma did or their mom did or a friend. Somehow it touched their lives.”

To prepare for the event Lohof walked as much as she could every day, which was usually five to seven miles.

“Trying to find time to walk was difficult,” explained Lohof. “The weather was hot and I could only walk in the morning or the evening so I would walk either five or seven miles. I wish I could have walked more.”

She and her companions took frequent breaks during the event and a leisurely long lunch. They stopped to stretch and to enjoy the scenery.

“Even though we were completely exhausted at the end of each day, we managed to cheer on the other walkers as they finished their walk,” she said.

Lohof said the walk makes her feel like she is not alone in her fight to find a cure for breast cancer and it made her feel like she could take action toward finding the cure.

“This is not about me,” explained Lohof. “I look at my daughters and my granddaughter and I don’t want them to ever have to face what I did.”

Lohof hopes that by holding the “pack the place in pink” night every year, she will raise awareness about breast cancer. The “pack the place in pink” event will be held again in Lovell on Feb. 4.

“I appreciate the community supporting me through this event so that I can do this walk again every year,” said Lohof. “It means a lot to me.”

The Seattle event alone raised $5.4 million that will be used to fund research to find a cure for breast cancer. Lohof plans to walk again next year and every year until a cure is found for breast cancer.

“With every step I take out there, I feel like it’s one step closer to finding a cure,” said Lohof. “If we find the cure for breast cancer, we open the door to find the cure for every other type of cancer.”

By Patti Carpenter