Your Stories

Each of us has a reason why we participate in the Charlottesville Women's Four Miler. Each of us has a story. Now is the time to share.

Your story will inspire and challenge others to take part. It will make someone laugh or cry. It will give someone hope. If you would like to share your story on this site, email us info@womens4miler.com.

Take a look at some of the thousands of stories surrounding the Four Miler below.

 

Kelly Cox

Kelly Cox

I've always been a healthy woman - I work out, a lot, I teach yoga, I walk almost everywhere I go, think about what I put into and onto my body, see my doctors for all the usual yearly screenings  - I do ALL the things.  When I went in for my yearly mammogram which then led to another, a biopsy, followed by way too many meetings with way too many doctors and finally genetic testing, my mind just kind of stopped and then everything changed.

I've taken care of women pretty much my entire career; I get to spend my days talking to expectant and new mothers, sitting with those who struggle to get pregnant, have lost babes, postpartum women who are thriving and those who having a harder time- every scenario you could imagine.  Holding space for women, helping them feel strong and appreciate their bodies, navigate motherhood; it's all just seemed like how I should spend my life.  To suddenly find myself in a situation where I was not in control of my body, was scared, about to be cut open, lose parts of my body......I was overwhelmed to say the least.

I immediately left the business I had dreamt up and built with my dear friend (SO amazingly blessed that I could!) and I finally started taking care of me.  I had done all the physical taking care of things yet I had never put myself first, been able to stop thinking of others before myself, or accept help.  Here's what I've learned: karma is a thing, a real slap you in the face sort of thing so just be as kind as you can at every opportunity; accepting help is sometimes the best way to serve others; and people are awesome.  

I'm walking (too early to run after surgery) the Women's Four Miler this year with a team of amazing women. We'll raise as much money and awareness as we can, sit and hold space for survivors, those battling, those who have lost loved ones, and the mighty ones we've lost.  

I keep finding that service to women is what I'm drawn to, and I am honored to now accept the love, support, and shared space as a survivor. 

 

Leslie Bouterie

Leslie Bouterie

My grandmother Irene was affectionately called "Mimi" by a half dozen grandchildren. Blessed with an incredible "joie-de-vivre," she was a bundle of energy, a speedy walker and roller skater, and was constantly in motion. We all knew that she had been a runner in her youth. A cherished family keepsake, her 1916 track medal, serves as a testament to one of her race wins.

My mother, the youngest of Irene's two children, both daughters, was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer in her late thirties. My mother battled cancer with tremendous grace, fortitude and faith, but ultimately lost the fight. During my mother's illness, Mimi was a constant source of loving support, unfailing strength and tender care for the whole family. Her oldest daughter, my godmother, later battled breast cancer several times, exhibiting these same stellar qualities, before succumbing to the disease.

These three remarkable women shaped my life, and continue to be a constant source of pride and inspiration. I run the Charlottesville Women's Four Miler each year in memory of my mother and godmother, and in honor of my grandmother. This year, I have pinned her 1916 track medal to my running hat. This way, a century after her memorable race, Mimi will be running with me on September 3, to honor her remarkable daughters. I hope to channel Mimi's boundless energy and enthusiasm as I run the course, and continue our family's legacy of strong women.

 

Stacy Erickson

Stacy Erickson

I went for my annual mammogram in February 2014 and was told after a 2nd look that I had a highly suspicious area that should be biopsied. It was surreal - the doctor and assistant met me in a private room and explained to me what they saw on the films. For all intents and purposes, my suspicious area had the earmarks of cancer. It didn't hit me then what I would be facing. I laughed and said "Wow! Glad you caught it! Now who do I see next?"

That tiny spot (8mm) turned into a lumpectomy, 6 months of debilitating chemotherapy, 33 days of radiation, concluding the remainder of the treatment year with additional intravenous chemotherapy delivered every three weeks. I'm a single parent and I own my own home maintenance and repair business - I had no idea how I was going to get through the year. I lost my hair, lost feeling in my hands and feet, and lost my income because I couldn't work.

But I gained an amazing support system of family, friends and clients who were there at every turn, every success, every treatment. I had a team of healthcare workers who encouraged me to make informed decisions about my care and spent hours answering my questions and providing as much information about my diagnosis and care as they could. There was always a smile, a hug, words of encouragement, and new information. I was blessed to be surrounded by everyone through the whole process - I certainly wasn't alone! My chemotherapy port was removed June 2015 and I'm now on oral chemotherapy for the next 5 years.

And to think it all started with a mammogram.

I used to run the Women's 4-miler - in fact I ran it for 6 years, I think. I measured my time and tried to beat it each year - my goal was to run a faster race. This year, my focus is to raise money so another woman can have a mammogram and receive the support she needs in the event cancer is found.

 

Donna Markey

Donna Markey

I Have Cancer, Cancer Doesn’t Have Me!

That was my mantra when I was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer in 2012, and today as I thrive as a cancer survivor. As an oncology NP finding that lump under my arm filled me with the same dread and fear faced by every other woman who finds herself in this situation. My knowledge of what lie ahead was a blessing and a curse, but my oncology team led by Dr. Maya Ghaemmaghami instilled confidence and hope in me as I faced the long, arduous road of treatment. With the often overwhelming love and support of my amazing husband, family, friends and colleagues I made it through Chemotherapy, Radiation, Bilateral Mastectomies, Unexpected Bilateral Breast Cancer, Axillary Dissections, Hyperbaric Oxygen and Final Reconstruction stronger, wiser and happier then ever!

I have always been inspired by the women who have participated in the Women’s Four Miler, and have served them as a volunteer in previous years. Prior back injuries always limited my running. I was thrilled to learn this year that I can walk the W4M and have joined a group of friends to do so. I am proud to be a part of this group of amazing women bringing support and attention to breast cancer and the Breast Care Program at UVA, I’m excited to have this opportunity to give back.

 

Ashlie Woodward

Ashlie Woodward

I have ALWAYS been a planner, and an organizer. When I found out I had cancer, it was like a punch in the gut - a big change of plans, a loss of control, a lot of fear.

In April of 2014, I was 31, and I was busy. I was a daughter, sister, friend, aunt, school counselor, wife, and mom to a one-year old. I noticed a small lump in my right breast. I immediately adopted the “If I don’t think about it’ll go away” attitude. But, when I told my husband about it he told me I should go to the doctor. So I did. 14 days later, I was diagnosed with Stage II infiltrating ductile carcinoma - breast cancer.

After 7 weeks, about 15 doctor visits, a few tearful days, and a whole lot of laughter, love, and prayer, I had a double mastectomy. Round one in the fight of my life.

After surgery, and healing, it was time to get ready for chemo. As usual, I felt the need to hold on to any control and ability to plan that I had. I decided to shave my head, and my husband did the honors. I bought a wig. I had a minor surgery to have a port placed under my skin. And I started.Chemo was tough. I’d be lying if I told you there weren’t a couple of moments when I wanted to just give up, but I knew I had to give 100% to the fight.

After finishing 16 weeks of chemotherapy treatments, I was surprised to find that I was very overwhelmed. I felt like I had to get back to “normal” right away, but nothing was normal. Because my cancer was fed by estrogen, I had to start hormonal therapy through oral medication. Essentially this has put me into menopause, and it is unlikely that I will be able to have any more children. BIG change of plans!

When the time came for my reconstructive surgery, my plans were forced to change once again. My father, who had long been battling a rare motor neuron disease, got pneumonia. On the scheduled day of my surgery, he passed away. In April 2015, I finally had my reconstructive surgery done.

Today I celebrate. I have a new perspective about what is REALLY important. I am part of a wonderful community. I continue to grow in my faith, and I have seen firsthand how GOOD people are. Plans change, yes, but lives change too, for the better. Cancer treatment changes too, and it gets better all the time. And THAT is why events like the Charlottesville Women’s 4-miler are so important.

 

Cali Gaston

My husband and I were diagnosed with breast cancer a week apart in April 2015. He had his mastectomy on 4/14 and I had my double on 4/21, with Stage 1 IDC (invasive ductile carcinoma) in all three of our removed breasts. We have been together 31 years, and our first choice is always to do things together. This is a whole new level of togetherness!

Surgery behind us, further treatment choices were our next decisions. With excellent guidance from Dr. Christiana Brenin, and the amazing technology that looks at the genetics of each tumor to determine the likelihood of recurrence, Blaise is now on Tamoxifen, and I am having Cytoxin, Taxotere and Herceptin. The lower the Oncotype score, the less chance of cancer down the road. Blaise's score was 4 of a 100, and mine was 21 for the tumor in my right breast, 40 for the left. These numbers add up to 65, and that is why my original fundraising goal was $6500. Now that I have reached that goal, I am raising the bar to $9,500 because, by taking the steps we are taking, Blaise and I have a 95% chance of being cancer-free at ten years. I like this new goal for fund raising and for life.

I am enormously grateful for the research that has been happening over the last handful of decades to make this technology available to us. That we can know the odds of recurrence based on the genes of our tumors, and that because of advances in research, with treatment, we both have such a high chance of being cancer-free for years to come - this is all SUCH good news! I hope that in time, anyone with a breast cancer diagnosis can feel optimistic about the possibilities ahead.

 

Natalie Krovetz

My story is no different than many others. Lump found on SBE not possible. No family history. I eat well, exercise and am reasonably healthy. No matter: it is cancer. Unexpected, frightening and confusing a brief instant on awakening when things seem normal, but then that ache in your deepest being when you realize everything has changed. Lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation a humbling experience. Somehow you and those closest to you get a grip and you deal. As do all of us, to the best of our ability, who are in similar situations. There are so many stories of strength.

Not all are fortunate enough to have insurance, family support and the many other resources that I had. By running in the W4M and raising money I can support the UVA Cancer Center’s Breast Care program so that it can continue to be a resource to our community. UVA Cancer center was there for me, and the funds raised by the W4M ensure that it will be there for others in need.

For years I ran this race and did no fundraising. Then everything shifted I implore all runners to raise SOME amount of money, and hope that those not running will sponsor someone or buy a motivational mile poster.

 

Syd Dorsey

My name is Susan Y. Dorsey. Everyone calls me Syd (my initials). I was described as "healthy as a horse" until that phone call on September 28, 2007. I had a biopsy earlier that week where the surgeon stated my mass was "more likely cancerous than not." The thing was that I brought that mass to the attention of my gynecologist 18 months earlier. He thought it was "nothing" but ordered a mammogram, which came back negative. So when I went back to him 1 ½ years later mentioning the same mass, he still thought it was nothing, but this time ordered an ultrasound which led me to the surgeon and the cancer diagnosis.

And that's when I moved my case to the UVA Breast Cancer Center. After a Fine Needle Aspiration, a Breast MRI, and Mammogram-guided and MRI-guided biopsies, it was determined that I had a Stage 2, ductile, estrogen positive, Her2 negative mass in my right breast—but only in my right breast. A complete mastectomy was in order. A Sentinel Lymph Node biopsy indicated that the cancer had not spread to my nodes. The mastectomy took place November 1, 2007. Four days later I was power walking. I was at JPJ Arena for a Sting concert the day after that. And I haven't looked back. A newly-accepted gene test ruled out the need for chemotherapy and there really isn't anything I've been limited in doing. I love to go to the beach, where my friend's kids are amazed I have cleavage! Others have commented on my symmetry.

I've lived a charmed life and continue to do so. I am looking forward to the Four Miler each year. I want to thank my UVA team of doctors: Dr. Jennifer Harvey, Dr. David Brenin, Dr. Kant Lin, and Dr. Christiana Brenin for suggesting new tests, answering challenging questions, and for great senses of humor.

 

Vicky Eicher

What do a Huey helicopter, a four-wheel drive "Jimmy," and a Twin Otter aircraft have in common? My name is Vicky Eicher and I used all three during a tour of duty as a peacekeeper in the Sinai Peninsula. My job there focused on monitoring Israeli and Egyptian adherence to the Camp David Accords. To do this, I had to temporarily resign from my normal job — that of an American diplomat who helped American companies market their goods and services overseas.

My husband and I were both stationed in Lagos, Nigeria, 1985-88. After two years there, I was forced to put a greater priority on my personal health. That's when – at age 43 – I got the first of my two breast cancer diagnoses. A routine mammogram at the time showed suspicious calcium flakes, resulting in a modified radical mastectomy with immediate reconstruction.

My second breast cancer diagnosis in 2002 – this time, at UVA – surfaced after another routine mammogram that again showed suspicious calcium flakes.

The doctors at UVA told me that the degree of knowledge about breast cancer had substantially progressed since my first diagnosis and that the treatment prospects were much better. I was ecstatic that the UVA procedure caught the cancerous clues so early.

The doctors and nurses at UVA were great, and as part of a UVA survivorship program I was introduced to the Charlottesville Women's Four Miler as a way to stay healthy.

My first Four Miler was so rewarding that I have participated every year since my second breast cancer diagnosis. I continue to be inspired by the women who participate in the race and my personal sponsors who donate every year.

 

C. J. Walker

My name is C. J. Walker and I am a two-time cancer survivor. In 2005, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. After a year, my cancer returned again more aggressively. The doctor told me I would need a mastectomy and five months of chemotherapy. It was then my whole life changed.

The first thing I did was pray. Then I told myself not to give up. The doctors asked me what my future plans were. I told them if I had to complete five months of chemotherapy, my goal would be to train for the Women's Four Miler and run it faster than the previous year. I knew that I could make it, and I did.

Even though it's been hard at times, I know that I am very blessed. My husband Chris and our eight-year-old daughter Makayla have played a big part in this journey. Makayla said to me, "Mommy, it hurts to see you having to do chemo and having two parents without hair because Daddy cut all his hair off. But you are still beautiful and Daddy and I will always take care of you."

 

Kristen Smith Bain

I have run the Women's Four-Miler countless times over the years. When I stepped up to the starting line in 2007, however, I was filled with intense fear and uncertainty. Such emotions were not evoked by more mundane thoughts (questions about race preparation and the like), but rather by the almost uncontrollable electrifying anxiety and terror that accompanies a cancer diagnosis. In May 2007, I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. I was stunned. I simply could not believe that "breast cancer" was being used in the same sentence with my name. I had no family history of breast cancer, never smoked, never drank alcohol, exercised regularly, ate a healthy diet, and was in my early forties. It was not possible that this could be happening to me—but it was.

I have had four surgeries, five months of chemotherapy (with my first dose of chemotherapy ten days before the 2007 Women's Four Miler), 6 1/2 weeks of radiation, and countless doctors' appointments. Through it all, my extremely compassionate and brilliant team of doctors at the University of Virginia Medical Center helped me safely navigate the waters of treatment. Those outstanding doctors include: Dr. Christiana Brenin, Dr. David Brenin, Dr. Paul Read, Dr. Brandi Nicholson, Dr. Barbara Post, and Dr. James Bergin. Of course, countless other doctors, nurses, technicians, and staff also have contributed greatly to my wonderful care. Simply stated, the doctors at the University of Virginia have restored my hope in life.

My goal as a Women's Four Miler fundraiser is to help ensure that as many women as possible will have—as I did—access to a team of UVA Breast Care Program doctors and health care professionals who can guide them through the frightening waters of a cancer diagnosis and enable them to emerge on the other side with restored hope in their futures.

 

Sharon Bingler

No one expects to hear someone say, "You have cancer," but I remember the exact moment when I heard those devastating words. My family, friends and I were sitting together in my living room, praying for my biopsy to come back negative when the doctor called with the news. My life took on an entirely new meaning, and it was only the beginning.

The journey from a bilateral mastectomy to chemotherapy to breast reconstruction was my challenge for the next two years. I was blessed with physicians who were on the cutting edge of treatment for breast cancer, and I received the most compassionate care throughout my experience with the UVA Breast Care Program. Even more importantly, my family and friends stood by my side throughout the entire process. In fact, I do not remember a time that I didn't have at least one of my family members or a friend with me. They laughed, cried, and just loved me throughout the entire challenge.

I started training for the Women's Four Miler to raise money for breast cancer. Back in 2008, I was invited to attend the survivor training day, and even though I was bald and looking pretty yucky, I remember saying to my husband, "I will walk or run this race one day." I was so blessed to start training for the Four Miler that year. I want to one day hear the words, "There is a cure for breast cancer!"