Great-grandmother Melodie Swiggart of Bradenton will walk 60 miles in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day event, scheduled for October 26-28 in Tampa, one of 14 cities nationwide to host this year’s walk. She will be 69 years old when she makes the journey.
Like the thousands of women and men who will participate in the 3-Day and raise a minimum of $2,300 each, Melodie’s commitment began when breast cancer rocked the lives of family and close friends.
“Two-and-a-half years ago, I received a call from my son, John Woods, telling me his wife was just diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer,” Melodie recalls. “I was in my car and had to pull over to understand what was happening. There was a lot of crying. Bottom line, my daughter-in-law might die, my son would be a widow and my granddaughters would be without their mother.”
Although yearly mammograms are recommended for women over 50, Melodie’s daughter-in-law, Duan Woods, was only 45. “After many tears, she had a mastectomy, then reconstructive surgery,” Melodie continues. “Duan became very sick after each of her six chemo treatments, and lost her hair. Her daughter changed her bandages. This was breast cancer.”
The day Duan received her “all clear” results was bittersweet. It was the same day Melodie’s best friend, Sherry Clark, died of Stage 4 breast cancer. “It only took four months from the day she called me to tell me about the cancer to the day she died,” Melodie says.
The following year, still healing and on medication, Duan registered to walk 60 miles in three days for the Susan G. Komen Walk for the Cure. Melodie attended the opening ceremony and served as a “walker stalker,” driving the designated route to cheer on the participants. “Sixty miles is a very long way, but Duan went on to the finish line,” she says proudly. “The closing ceremony was so moving everyone was in tears.”
The second year, Duan once again walked and Melodie once again “stalked.”
Duan is not walking this year because the chemotherapy has taken a toll on her bones and she tires easily, so Melodie is walking in her place. In addition to honoring her daughter-in-law, she wants to show support for others in her life who have been touched by breast cancer. A quilting buddy is a four-year survivor, and in her extended family, one cousin is a four-and-a-half year survivor and another cousin recently completed her chemotherapy treatments.
Melodie is now in training for the October walk, logging three to four miles a day and on the weekends with her team members, who call themselves “Walking in Sunshine.” By the end of August, they expect to be up to 14 miles a day.
To raise the $2,300, Melodie’s stepson, Brandon Swiggart, has created tee-shirts to sell at www.store.goofiegolfer.com and Melodie has put up a donation page, www.the3day.org/goto/melodie. For donors who want to honor someone, Melodie will add their name to a banner she will wear on her walk. Every dollar that is donated will go to the Susan G. Komen Foundation in hopes that a cure can be found. “Every step I take I pray this cure will come soon,” she says.
PHOTO: Melodie wears her “Walkin and Golfin Off Fore a Cure” tee-shirt designed by her stepson, Brandon Swiggart.