Early onset breast cancer: Risk reduction and warning signs
Sometimes a challenge can bring people together, even when that challenge is faced separately.
Such is the case with friends Jennifer Steinmetz and Belinda Chavez, both of Keller. Each won her own battle with breast cancer, and now they are teaming up to help defeat the disease by walking in seven Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk awareness events, beginning in August and going through November in Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Seattle, Boston, Philadelphia, Dallas/Fort Worth and San Diego.
The two met during the Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk in Dallas 2014, Chavez’s first time for the event, though Steinmetz had a few under her belt. They struck up a friendship that has grown since, as has their mission to help fight breast cancer.
Steinmetz was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 and Chavez in 2009.
“I think Belinda and I have walked the better part of the 60-mile journey (in Dallas) in 2015, ‘16 and ‘17,” Steinmetz said. “We only missed last year because I had a death in my family.”
The Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk is a community of people who are committed to walk 60 miles in three days to help raise money to end breast cancer. From these, 75% of all proceeds raised in that city goes toward national research, and 25% remains in the host city.
Chavez said the decision to walk the seven events together stemmed from wanting to celebrate their decade milestone of beating the disease.
“It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we want to make this milestone memorable,” she said.
“I just turned 65 and decided this is my year to be bold,” Steinmetz said, adding with a laugh. “Besides, who would keep an eye on Belinda?”
Steinmetz said walking, or even participating as a volunteer or staff, in one Komen 3-Day event is a “life-changing experience,” much less seven in four months.
“It’s a bit of a trial by fire, 20 miles a day, approximately seven to eight hours each day of walking is tough,” she said. “It’s the esprit de corps — we are a family.
“I lose count. I think my first walk this year will be number 18. I have the ugliest feet, but the happiest heart.”
The schedule will start in Detroit, Aug. 2-4; followed by the Twin Cities, Aug. 16-18; Boston, Sept. 6-8; Seattle, Sept. 13-15; Philadelphia, Oct. 18-20; Dallas/Fort Worth, Nov. 1-3; and end in San Diego, Nov. 15-17.
The Dallas walk is even more special for the duo this year as Chavez is its marketing campaign chairperson, the face of that event and part of the 2019 national campaign.
“It is a blessing and an honor,” she said, humbly. “There were a lot of entries, and I was one of the lucky ones to be chosen.”
Steinmetz chimed in about her friend’s selection with “Wow! She is perfect for this. This remarkable young woman is the perfect choice.
“Our whole DFW community is thrilled that Belinda was selected. You need to know that when you get Belinda, you also get her very special and amazing family. She is the whole package.”
Speaking of families, each said they are grateful to them for their patience and support on this adventure. Chavez has been married for 18 years, and they have three special needs children, ranging in age from 12-15, the oldest being a son. She said their courage, self-esteem and willingness to compete in the Special Olympics is inspiration for her.
Steinmetz said with a laugh that her “patient and supportive husband has put up with my shenanigans now for 39 years. He’s a behind the scene kind of guy.”
While no one else in Chavez’s family has ever battled cancer before, Steinmetz said she had previous experience.
“My Aunt Linda died from breast cancer years ago. Recently, my cousin underwent treatment for breast cancer and is now pronounced cancer-free,” she said.
And, as much as they hope to inspire others with their upcoming adventure, the two have been an inspiration to each other ever since they met.
“Meeting Jennifer was a blessing. There is a reason why God brought us together,” Chavez said. “She is my laughter, my pick-me-up friend whom I enjoy being around.
“My first 3-Day walk was lonely until I met Jennifer, who helped make the 60 miles walk easier and fun Her personality says it all! I would be lost without her presence.”
Steinmetz agreed that their friendship is “a God thing.”
“Belinda inspires me. When her plate gets full, she just grabs another plate. I think joy is the right word. She spreads joy and I love being part of that.”
Along with walking in the events, the two belong to a 3-Day Dallas team named Pink Soles in Motion, a nonprofit organization with the “sole” mission to end cancer. They sponsor fundraisers, volunteer in the community, and walk in the Dallas event each year.