PAMF Health Blog

Be Well, Be Well Informed

In it to End it – 2011 Avon Walk for Breast Cancer

Posted on Jul 13, 2011

We Walk… Because We Can’t Walk Away

My work as an oncology rehabilitation specialist at PAMF has allowed me to become a part of patient’s lives as they navigate the complicated journey through cancer treatment. I work with patients from their time of diagnosis, through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation and beyond. Our department within the Cancer Care Center addresses important issues such as pain, musculoskeletal and neurological side effects of treatment and surgery, fatigue, and swelling. Our main objective is to work as a team with patients and their families to improve their quality of life and return patients to their pain free prior level of function.

I spend a great deal of time talking with patients about the importance of consistent exercise after treatment. Last year, I decided to literally, “walk the walk” with them. I formed a team for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in San Francisco and invited former and current patients, their friends and family to embark on a four-month training schedule that culminated in the July 2010 Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. Together, we raised tens of thousands of dollars, made life-long bonds, and walked as a team in a journey of a lifetime. Some people were apprehensive that they would be able to take on the challenge after going through cancer treatment. However, by the end of the Avon Walk, the whole team crossed the finish line together – walking for each other – and for all women. I was honored to be able to lead our team in such an adventure.

This year, I am proud to say, we had another team of extraordinary men and women, made up of walkers from last year, as well as new patients and their friends and family members participating for the first time. We called our team the Sole Sisters, and this past weekend on July 9 and 10, 2011, we all walked 39.3 miles together – through San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge, to Corte Madera and back. Together our team raised over $30,000. Once again, the experience was both moving and inspiring. Everyone was walking for different reasons – for their mother, their sister, their friend or for themselves. One thing united us – cancer has touched us all.

I have worked with hundreds of women over the years going through cancer. Many of these women ask, “Why should I exercise now? I did everything I was supposed to do in life – I ate well, exercised, took care of my body. And I STILL got cancer.  Why should I take care of my body after all that?” My answer is simple – exercise is your ticket back to the life you want to lead. It is something that you have control over. Women cannot control if they have to have chemotherapy or not, or how many radiation treatments are necessary. But, what they can control is how they will live their life after cancer has become a part of it.

Cancer does not end for these women when we in the medical community say they are “cured.”  It takes a lot longer to actually heal, both physically and emotionally. My hope is to bring awareness to the broader community that cancer does not have to mean a life less fulfilling and that patients do NOT have to live with pain and fatigue. The women and men that walked this summer have a wonderful opportunity to take back that control over their lives and to help others in their lives do the same. I am honored to be able to be a part of that journey.

Sharon Leslie PT, DPT, is head of the Oncology Rehabilitation Program at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s Palo Alto Center.


Note: In addition to Palo Alto’s “Sole Sisters” walking team, representatives from other PAMF Centers, their families and friends, also participated in the 2011 Avon Walk for Cancer  in San Francisco July 9-10, to raise funds for breast cancer research. Thank you to everyone who walked, supported and volunteered. The walk in San Francisco had a new route his year, a new Wellness Village, and raised $4.2 Million and counting!