Mother and daughter walk for cancer cure

Mary Tschida and her daughter, Amanda Schirmers, participated in the annual Susan G. Komen 3-Day walk in the Twin Cities, Aug. 23-25. Schirmers, left, and Tschida are pictured in front of a sea of pink. The walkers slept in pink tents each night.
Mary Tschida and her daughter, Amanda Schirmers, participated in the annual Susan G. Komen 3-Day walk in the Twin Cities, Aug. 23-25. Schirmers, left, and Tschida are pictured in front of a sea of pink. The walkers slept in pink tents each night.

Mary Tschida and Amanda Schirmers participate in Twin Cities 3-Day walk

By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer

Motivated by two of her sisters’ battles with breast cancer and her daughter’s participation in two previous Susan G. Komen 3-Day 60-mile walk events, Mary Tschida decided to walk this year.

“Amanda’s done it for two years,” Tschida said. “After last year’s walk, she convinced me to walk with her.”

Tschida comes from a family of seven daughters and five sons. Both the eldest daughter, Judy Terhaar, and the youngest, Jackie Johnson, have fought breast cancer. Terhaar peacefully passed away in February after a six-year battle. Johnson is a four-year survivor.

Each person participating in the walk is required to raise $2,300, which is one of the reasons Tschida waited to join the event.

“It gets tough when you’re from the same family,” she said. “But it helped that this past Christmas at our Scholl family gathering we held an auction.”

Each family member was asked to bring a donation. Auctioneer Joe Pryzbilla donated his time. The auction winners had a choice to donate the winning amount to either the 3-Day walk or to CaringBridge.

“CaringBridge was instrumental in keeping us in the loop through Judy’s six-year journey,” Tschida said. “It kept Judy going, as people kept responding to what was posted. It was unreal, the number of visits to the site.”

Both Tschida and Schirmers have participated for about five years in the annual 5K Brainerd Lakes Race for the Cure in June.

“I do quite a few 5Ks throughout the year,” said Schirmers. “The inexpensiveness of them appeals to me. Raising $2,300 is intimidating.”

Schirmers has done a whiffleball tourney at her home each of the years she has walked. Neighbors, high school friends, college friends, family members and her husband’s coworkers all participate.

“There were eight teams this year,” said Tschida. “It’s very family-oriented, with kids’ activities. There is an entry fee and a travelling trophy. It’s really something how they set it up; very fun.”

“The entry fee is $60,” Schirmers said. “It’s pretty serious. Our neighborhood team won the first two years but they were knocked off this year by the ‘Free Agents,’ a random team of extras we threw together.”

Tschida credits many friends, neighbors and coworkers with donating. Schirmers added that they “have a very supportive family to write out a check because they don’t have to walk 60 miles.”

To prepare for the 60-mile walk, Tschida logged many miles over the summer.

“I walked roads in Agram Township,” she said. “In my mind, I had thought it wouldn’t be so bad, but found out it’s not that easy. If you don’t prepare, you pay the price.”

“While you train you’re reflecting on why you’re doing this,” Schirmers said. “I started because of my aunts, and I’m thinking about my little ones. I’m walking so that they don’t have to walk in 20 years.”

She found another way of donating to the cause, one that’s easy because it doesn’t cost anything.

“The week before the walk I donated 12 inches of my hair to Pantene,” said Schirmers. “Pantene gives wigs to patients, rather than selling them.”

The walk started Friday, Aug. 23, at the Southdale Mall with more than 1,000 walkers making their way through Edina toward Maplewood.

“It was amazing, the number of community members and supporters sitting along the route to cheer people on,” said Tschida. “Many, many people offered us bottled water, frozen grapes and paper towels soaked in cold water.”

Tschida was moved by the site of many bald people out in the heat.

“We knew they were battling cancer and there they were out in the heat supporting us who were supporting them,” she said.

There were rest stops about every three miles along the route, with medical staff volunteers.

“They pushed fluids,” said Tschida. “Allina personnel on bicycles rode up and down the route constantly checking on the walkers. The whole event was very well done, well thought-out.”

That first night, the walkers were given pink tents to sleep in. They were met at the day’s endpoint by members of the Highland Park football team, who carried gear and put up tents for the walkers.

Schirmers was 33 weeks pregnant during this year’s walk, which was a challenge during the extreme heat.

“Ten miles were cut off the walk on Sunday due to the extreme heat,” Tschida said. “There was a very emotional ceremony after the walk ended at the State Capitol, Sunday.”

At the closing ceremony, all the volunteers are recognized. The walkers then march into the area, with the survivors walking in last. Once they are in place, the walkers remove one shoe, get down on one knee, and salute the survivors.

Many banners were visible in the crowd, with inspirational words such as “hope,” “courage” and “healing,” blowing in the breeze. Showing above all the others was a flag that said, “We will never give up.”

Tschida was surprised by the number of men involved in the walk.

“I walked with a 75-year-old man for a while, who was there for his wife,” she said.

The biggest challenge of the event for Tschida came on day two, with the heat, blisters and a sore foot for the longest day — 23 miles.

No matter the difficulties, Tschida would tell anyone considering participating to absolutely do it.

“I have to believe they will find a way to stop this cancer,” she said. “They’ve come such a long way. The percentage of people living five years after a diagnosis is more than 90 percent now —it’s huge.”

Schirmers was very happy to have her mom along for the walk this year.

“To have her walk with me has been the best year yet,” she said. “With me carrying her third grandchild, I knew she would take extra care of me. To share the experiences with her is completely different than telling her about them.”

Schirmers also receives encouragement from her husband. “It helps to have a supportive husband at home who’s willing to play single dad for three days, and bring my little guy out to meet me at rest stops to cheer me on,” she said. “Nothing makes you forget about sore feet like your son yelling ‘momma’ and running toward you.”

While Schirmers has already registered for next year’s walk, Tschida is not sure.

“I’m not going to rule it out,” she said.

“Once you participate in the event, it’s addicting,” said Schirmers. “You want to be a part of it every year.”
Ultimately, the event is not about the walkers.

“It really is about the survivors and those who are fighting this disease every day,” said Tschida. “Their lives have been changed forever.”