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Thank You, Walkers!

Thank you to Michelle & all the amazing Avon39 Warriors!

On this Motivation Monday, I want to offer a heartfelt thank you to the more than 2,400 warriors who spent their weekend walking 39.3 miles around the streets of Manhattan in the Avon 39 Walk to end Breast Cancer.

As my repeat readers may remember, this marked the first time since 2014 I couldn’t participate in the New York City event. That’s because my Goddaughter Lauren gave me the honor of being her sponsor for Confirmation. However, you may also recall my good friend and four-time Avon39 walking buddy Sue and I earned our 39 in Boston back in June. In addition to knowing I’d walk the walk somewhere in the country this year, I also decided to get out on Sunday and cheer on the men and women who pounded the pavement in an effort to raise $6.4 million in the fight against a disease that still affects too many people.

Being a spectator was a truly moving experience. I saw so much strength, determination and tenacity on the faces of the walkers of all ages and races as they pushed their way to the finish line – blisters and all! Even more powerful was the chance to hug my new friend, Michelle, and the rest of her “Team Awesome” crew. Michelle is a two-time cancer survivor and she was the lone speaker at this year’s closing ceremonies. Knowing survivors like Michelle and of course, my beloved Mom, is a constant reminder that we all have a fight in us, even when life throws you a serious curve ball.

Of course I also couldn’t help but think of my dear friend Liz, who lost her brave battle with breast cancer less than a month after last year’s Walk. However, I had to smile remembering how she met me, Sue and Molly along the route armed with supportive hugs and signs of encouragement. Her fierce spirit will forever be a source of energy in my life – on future walks and on all the twists and turns I encounter on this road called life.

I close with a simple thought: Wherever you live, I encourage you to jump on any opportunity to get out and support people putting their hearts into a good cause. It is amazing the power a high-five or shout of “you rock!” can have on a weary body or mind. Whether we’re walking, running, donating some dollars or standing on the sidelines screaming a heartfelt thank you, each of us can play a powerful part in the fight against breast cancer and other diseases as part of our never-ending journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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Avon39 Boston

An Emotional Finish

While this isn’t the first time I’m writing a Motivation Monday post about the Avon39 Walk to End Breast Cancer, it is the first time I’m writing about it from a train.

A Toast to the End of Day One! (Thank You, Eileen!)

On this Sunday night, I’m making my way back to New York City from Boston just hours after completing my fourth Avon39 Walk to End Breast Cancer. It was the first time my friend Sue and I ventured outside our home state for the 39.3-mile journey. As I sit here next to James, my boyfriend and best cheerleader, with lactic acid attacking my muscles, I feel exhausted and exhilarated at the same time.

The mission behind the weekend-long journey remained the same: raising money for the fight against breast cancer in the hopes that one day, it will be just one more disease future generations only read about in history books. However, I never imagined how walking the Walk in a different city would open the door to so many amazing moments.

One of Many Welcoming Neighborhood Gestures

The main reason behind those moments were the people of Boston. As a die-hard Yankees fan, many of my previous encounters with Bostonians have happened thanks to some contentious baseball games and interesting post-seasons. So, it was truly heartwarming to hear the cheers and honking horns of these same people encouraging warriors from 36 states as we walked through the rainy city streets on Saturday morning.

Later that day when the sun came out, and again today when the humidity finally disappeared, the route took us through several lovely surrounding towns including Roxbury, Readville, Canton and Milton. That’s where cheers and high-fives could be found on many street corners and where homeowners offered everything from cold water and candy to a spritz from a garden hose or front- lawn sprinkler. Families set up tables with goodies outside their front doors, and kids of all ages made signs covered with words of encouragement.

This 8-Year Survivor Danced with Walkers At Many Stops

That support – along with help from the Avon39 crew who offered everything from safe passage at busy intersections to peanut butter snacks, blister triage and all the ice cubes you could want – made conquering each mile more manageable. Of course, getting hugs along the route from James, along with my cousin Claire and gal pals Eileen and Connie made the journey even more memorable.

Then there was the finish on a beautiful Sunday afternoon at Carson Beach. While I’ve shed several tears crossing the finish line before, this was the most emotional finale yet. I felt a surge of happiness knowing this marks my mom’s ninth year as a survivor, but I was also overwhelmed by sadness thinking of our friend Liz who lost her brave battle with breast cancer last November. The last time we saw Liz was along the route of the New York City Walk less than one month earlier. I cried because I miss her, but also because I knew she was with Sue and me every step of every mile in Boston, just like she’d always been since our first Walk in 2014. Liz’s warrior spirit will continue to motivate me on all my future Avon39 Walks – and all the journeys in this roller coaster called life.

So I close with a thank you to all the warriors out there who inspire me everyday. Those we’ve lost their battle; those who beat it and those who continue to fight the biggest fight of their lives. I also want to thank all the friends and family who joined in the battle against breast cancer. Your generous donations made my first Avon39 Walk in Boston possible and were part of the total 2.9-million dollars raised by all those involved in this event. That money will help fund cancer research; treatment and preventive screenings and help patients cover the costs of everyday needs including childcare during chemotherapy; rides to medical appointments and meals for patients and their families. It’s amazing what we can accomplish together on the never-ending journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Pulling Out All the Stops

Thanks for all the support along my training walks!

We made it to the first Motivation Monday of June! It’s hard to believe we’re quickly marching toward the halfway mark of 2017. What’s even harder for my brain to comprehend is at this time in three weeks, I’ll be recovering from the Avon 39 Walk to End Breast Cancer in Boston.

As the days leading up to the weekend-long, 39.3-mile journey wind down, I’m pulling out all the stops and asking more of my wonderful readers to join the fight against this devastating disease. Every two minutes, someone in America is diagnosed with breast cancer. As most of you know, my mom was one of them. So was my dear high school friend, Liz. My mom beat the disease, but sadly, Liz did not. We lost Liz less than one month after the New York City Walk last October. A true warrior to the end, Liz’s spirit will no doubt guide me and my friend Sue as we take to the Boston streets for our fourth Avon 39 experience together.

While the ultimate goal of Avon 39 is to wipe breast cancer from the face of the earth, funds raised will immediately assist the local and national organizations that help women and men – regardless of their ability to pay- get the care they need. These programs provide everything from food and financial help to transportation and childcare assistance for patients going to treatment sessions.

I’m beyond grateful to the family and friends who’ve donated so far. Thanks to your generous spirit, I’m on the verge of breaking the $5,000 mark. For anyone who’s put off donating until later, well, later is now. It takes just a few dollars and a few minutes to make a difference. All you have to do is click here and you’ll be taken to my fundraising page. If you happen to live in the Boston area, I also hope you’ll consider supporting Sue, me and all the other pink warriors from the sidelines. A few cheers and high-fives can really make a difference!

Thank you again for all the support here and on my social media channels. It’s another reminder about the power of teamwork when it comes to our efforts to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

 

Earning my 39 on the Road!

The Trolls Fab Finish 2016

The Trolls Fab Finish 2016

Somehow we made it to the last Motivation Monday of February. As we prepare to welcome a new month with spring not too far in the distant future, I’m excited to share some news about what’s become an annual labor of love in my life. This marks the fourth time I’m training to  to lace up and join in the Avon 39 Walk to End Breast Cancer. The big change for 2017: In 117 days from now, I hope to cross the finish line in Boston!

You may remember, I typically join in the two-day, 39.3 mile journey here in New York City. However, one of my Goddaughters will make her Confirmation the same weekend in October and she’s honored me by asking me to be her sponsor. By pounding the pavement in another city, I am able to share such an important day in her spiritual life and keep up my efforts to help kick breast cancer’s butt!

Forever in our Hearts

Forever in our Hearts

Why do I keep walking the Walk? For me, it’s a very personal journey. While 2017 marks my mom’s ninth year as a breast cancer survivor, it also marks the first time I’ll earn my 39 without my high school friend, Liz, cheering for each and every walker from the sidelines. Liz lost her brave battle with breast cancer less than one month after Avon 39 in New York this past fall. She was 43 years old. It’s impossible to believe the photo you see here marked the last time my fellow St. Mary’s Gaels Sue and Molly and I got to hug her. Even though Liz is gone, I also know she’ll be with me every step of the way in Boston and wherever else the Walk – and life – takes me in the future.

Since there are so many other amazing women waging their own battle against this awful disease and because I still dream of a world without breast cancer for my Goddaughters and all the daughters and nieces out there, walking 39.3 miles seems the least I can do to join in the fight. Of course, I can’t do it without your help! I have to raise a minimum of $1,800 to get to the starting line, but I hope to raise much more than that and make 2017 my biggest year yet!  You can make a donation by simply clicking here and you’ll be taken to my personal page on the Avon 39 website. (You even have the option of donating by mail.)

While proceeds help national research programs, some of the Boston area beneficiaries from 2016 include:

  • Boston Medical Center
  • Community Servings
  • Massachusetts General Hospital
  • Silent Spring Institute
  • Tufts Medical Center

Be sure to look out for updates here on my blog and on my social media feeds. If you’re not following me yet, I hope you’ll check out LauraLovesFitness on Facebook and find me @FitnessLaura on Twitter and Instagram.

I close with a big thank you in advance for your support and a wish for a wonderful month ahead filled with new adventures and plenty of chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Avon39 2016

Sue, Molly, Me, Liz & Lori Earn our 39!

“Troll Sisters” Forever!

While doing the same thing over and over again can sometimes lead to boredom, I guarantee walking 39.3 miles in the fight against breast cancer is not one of them.

fullsizerender-2As I sit here on this Sunday night covered in sports cream and fighting to stay awake after completing my third Avon39 Walk to End Breast Cancer, I hope you’ll forgive this somewhat simplistic but heartfelt Motivation Monday post. I offer two lists that sum up my emotions another unforgettable weekend here in New York City.

What I’m Thankful For:

  • My mom is now an eight-year survivor.
  • My generous supporters who got me to the starting line.
  • Joining my friend Sue for our third Avon39 Walk together.
  • Adding Molly, another St. Mary’s Gael, to this year’s experience.
  • The birth of two new friendships with Liz, a survivor; and Lori, Liz’s friend who flew in from Dallas.
  • The fun “hairstyle” Sue created for all of us, quickly transforming us into the fierce five unofficially known as “Team Troll.”
  • Seeing countless survivor t-shirts and pins along the walk.
  • Meeting so many people with unstoppable strength and determination, including Mike, whose 39.3-mile journey in Manhattan marked his 100th Avon39 walk to date.
  • The Avon39 crew members who kept us safe and cheered for us along 26.2 miles on Saturday and 13.1 on Sunday.
  • The strangers who took some time out of their weekend to stand on a street corner and offer a high-five of support.
Gaels Forever! Liz comes out to cheer us on.

Gaels Forever! Liz comes out to cheer us on.

What I Hope For:

  • To see even more survivors, including another high school gal pal Elizabeth, on next year’s walk.
  • To see more New Yorkers out on the streets on future walk weekends showing the pink warriors some love.
  • That one day in my Goddaughters’ lifetimes, we won’t have to ever walk again.

I wrap things up with a huge thank you to everyone who generously supported my third Avon39 Walk to End Breast Cancer. Because of you I threw a  5,175-dollar punch in the fight against breast cancer, making this my biggest fundraising year yet. Please know that money will be used to support organizations that help men and women, regardless of their ability to pay, receive the medical care they need. I also want to thank everyone for your encouraging emails and texts and all those who liked or shared my social media posts documenting my preparation for the journey right through the weekends’ highs. I simply couldn’t have done any of this without an amazing team behind me. If you’d like to see even more fun photos from the weekend, you’ll find them on my LauraLovesFitness Facebook page.

The Trolls with 100-Walk Mike!

The Trolls with 100-Walk Mike!

If you’ve been thinking about being a part of Avon39 or other activities to wage war against a disease that remains the number one cancer killer of women, now’s the time to get out there and do it! Putting your best foot forward – literally – is probably one of the most empowering ways to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Special Saturday Edition: Happy October!

Getting Pumped for Walk #3!

Getting Pumped for Walk #3!

I’m making this rare Saturday “appearance” to wish everyone a happy and healthy start to the new month! October is important to me for two very good reasons:

  1. This is the month the most important woman in my life, my mom, came into the world and
  2. It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month

In exactly two weeks from the moment you’re reading this, I’ll be making strides in my third Avon39 Walk to End Breast Cancer. Thanks to a generous group of friends and family, this looks to be my biggest fundraising year yet. Now I’m pulling out the stops to bring in as many dollars as I can in the fight against breast cancer.

The money raised will help fund research, awareness and education while also providing assistance for those affected by breast cancer and their loved ones. My beloved mom is a breast cancer survivor and one of my high school friends continues to wage her own war against the disease, so I can tell you from experience how each and every dollar really does count. I hope you’ll consider joining the fight. All you need to do is click here to make your tax-deductible donation. In case you’re wondering, more than 3,500 people participated in Avon39 here in New York City and raised more than $8.7 million. Since 2003, Avon39 walks around the country have raised nearly $590 million.

Aside from fundraising, I’ve been busy breaking in my sneakers on 10- and 13-mile training walks with my amazingly supportive boyfriend. I have at least two more training “sessions” in my future before the October 15th start. Soon, I’ll be buying my moisture-wicking socks, Band-Aid Friction Stick and other Walk “tools” for the 39.3-mile journey around Manhattan. Each day, I’m getting more and more excited to join fellow St. Mary’s Gael Sue for our third walk together. This year, we’re excited to have Molly, another high school gal pal, join in the fun! While Avon39 has become one of my new favorite fall traditions, my hope is that one day we won’t have to walk anymore.

One final note before you go off and enjoy some well-deserved weekend fun: thank you to all my readers for supporting all my adventures on this never-ending road to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Asking for a Little Help from my Friends

I Need Your Help to Make this My BIGGEST Avon 39 Walk Yet!

I Need Your Help to Make this My BIGGEST Avon 39 Walk Yet!

We made it to the first Motivation Monday of August! Not only am I excited to savor what’s left of the summer season, but as many of you repeat readers know, this is also the month I take a break from writing and recharge my batteries by the beach as much as possible.

Before I go on hiatus, I hope you won’t mind this call for help. In 75 days from now, I hope to be joining my high school friend Sue in our third Avon Walk to end breast cancer here in New York City! As the daughter of a breast cancer survivor and friend to other amazing women who are waging their own battle against the disease, walking 39.3 miles seems the least I can do to join in the fight. The catch: I can’t do it without your help. I have to raise a minimum of $1,800 to get to the starting line on October 15th, but I hope to raise much more than that and make this my biggest and best fundraising effort yet! (To that end, for those of you who follow my other social media channels, get ready to see some fundraising posts on those, too.)

Net funds raised will go to organizations right here in the New York area that help with everything from preventative screenings to holistic therapies to help patients manage the many effects of this terrible disease. Some of these groups include:

You can make a donation by simply clicking here and be taken to my personal page on the Avon39 website.  Despite all the advances in research, the sad reality is 40-thousand will die from breast cancer in the United States this year. So let’s do this! While I look forward to another weekend of making memories to last a lifetime, my dream is that one day we won’t have a need for the Walk.

I close with a big thank you in advance for your support and a wish for a wonderful month ahead filled with good times with family and friends. Just remember to stay hydrated, wear sunscreen and listen to your body when it needs a break. Now get out there and soak up some sunshine and get on with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous! See you in September!

Avon39 NYC 2015

IMG_0279Is it possible to feel absolutely exhausted yet completely exhilarated at the same time? Absolutely! All you need is a weekend and a goal to walk 39.3 miles in the fight against breast cancer.

As I sit here on this Sunday evening slathered in sports cream, I feel beyond blessed to have completed my second Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in New York City. I’m thankful I could join my fellow St. Mary’s High School Gael, Sue, for our second journey together and equally elated we could add Christine, Stephanie and Lisa to this year’s pink warrior adventure. While each of us walked for relatives and friends touched by the disease that remains the number one cancer killer of women in the United States, we also teamed up on behalf of an organization aimed at improving the quality of life for those living with breast cancer and their families.

At the You Can Thrive! Cheering Station

At the You Can Thrive! Cheering Station

You Can Thrive! offers free and low-cost support services and long-term prevention and survivorship tools for breast cancer survivors. This includes everything from acupuncture to massage to nutritional education and to peer support. Sue and I learned about the foundation thanks to the group’s volunteers who have helped our fellow Gael pal, Elizabeth, who is still waging her own war against breast cancer. Being greeted by You Can Thrive! volunteers and many survivors with hugs, pom-poms and loud hoorahs at their cheering station one mile from the finish line was in a word, overwhelming.

IMG_0291When our fierce team of five finally crossed the finish, we did so hand-in-hand and tears immediately filled my eyes. I was bombarded by a flood of visions from the two-day trek: the woman wearing a pink cape covered with too many ribbons  showcasing the names of those she’s lost to breast cancer since she her first Avon walk 11 years ago; the volunteer firefighter wearing full gear for the entire Walk; the woman who completed the journey with help from an amazing support group who not only pushed her wheelchair around the city streets, but even carried it up the stairs to the Manhattan Bridge; and the survivors – young and old – proudly wearing sashes and smiles. I thought of my own mom, now a seven-year survivor. I thought of Elizabeth, and how much I want her to join us in this journey next year. Finally, I thought about how wonderful it will be when we don’t have to have to walk ever again.

IMG_0225

With Dale Emmerich, “Cancerfighter”

I end with a huge thank you to everyone who generously supported my journey. Thanks to you, I raised more money than last year, reaching $3860. I also want to thank all of you who sent supportive emails and texts or liked and shared my social media posts documenting everything from my preparation for the journey to the weekend milestones. I couldn’t have done this without an amazing team effort! If you’ve been thinking about being a part of Avon39 or other activities to wage war against a disease that’s hit close to home, get out there and do it! Putting your best foot forward – literally – is probably one of the most empowering ways to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

The First of Many Avon Walks to Come

Ready to Roll!

Ready to Roll!

People often talk about life-changing experiences. At 40, I can say I’ve had a few. Yet nothing compares to the two-day, 39.3 mile journey around New York City shared  with thousands of people from all over the country, all sporting pink for a purpose. Being a part of the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer can be summed up in one just one word: empowering.

When I arrived at Pier 84 along the Hudson River just after six on Saturday morning, I immediately felt a surge of energy. Then Sue, my fellow St. Mary’s Gael, and I found each other among the masses of people stretching, filling their water bottles and taking photos before the start of the journey and my excitement intensified through the duration of our bear-hug greeting. After the opening ceremony featuring motivational music and moving stories from breast cancer survivors and those who lost loved ones to the disease, we were off. When the journey ended nearly 30 hours later back at the spot where it all began, Sue and I had tears in our own eyes as we gave each other another bear hug and crossed the finish line.

26.2 Miles Done!

26.2 Miles Done!

The journey took us through many New York neighborhoods from the Upper West Side to Greenwich Village, over the Brooklyn Bridge, to Randall’s Island and back to where it all started. As we crossed streets with safe guidance and motivation offered by an amazing crew of volunteers, and welcomed pom-pom animated cheers from well-wishers in the different neighborhoods, we met people with so many different stories. A nine-year survivor who’s already looking forward to next year when her three granddaughters will join in for their first walk. A man from North Carolina who has participated in 91 Avon walks around the country in honor of his son who had a double mastectomy at the age of 17 and a friend who’s also battling the disease. The other first-timers who knew after mile one they’d be back next year – just like me and Sue.

We did it! 39.3 Miles!

We did it! 39.3 Miles!

The stories and the hometowns were different, but we all came together for the same purpose. To literally take steps toward wiping out a disease that affects far too many lives each year. At the closing ceremonies, while we celebrated the fact that the New York event raised seven-point-one million dollars, we were also presented with the sad reality that while we walked, another 150 people lost their lives to breast cancer over the weekend. But as the survivors walked into the ceremony site, their spirit reminded us that we can’t give up the fight against breast cancer. Their determination, matched with the challenge of finishing a 39-mile journey taught me we are all stronger than we think.

Gaels for Life!

Gaels for Life!

As many of you already know, I’ve wanted to walk the Walk since my mom beat breast cancer in 2008. Then this year, Sue and I learned we had a common source of motivation as one of our classmates is now waging her own war against the disease. On Sunday afternoon, Liz joined us at the closing ceremonies and we all agreed we couldn’t wait to start planning our next walk when she would join us as a survivor.

I write this post realizing I’ve probably never been this sore or tired in my life, but I also realize I’ve also never felt so exhilarated. There is something amazing about pushing your body to the limit with the help of sheer determination stemming from something close to your heart. Once again, I want to thank all my friends and family who made a donation and helped me get to the starting line and whose faith kept me pushing through to the end. Please know these are only a few of dozens of great images I captured over the weekend. If you’re following me on Facebook, be sure to check my page for the complete Avon Walk album to be posted soon! (And if you aren’t following me there yet, now’s the time to do it!)

IMG_4541If you’ve been thinking about joining the Avon Walk or other similar efforts to take up the fight against a disease that’s hit close to home, get out there and do it! Putting your best foot forward – literally – is probably one of the most empowering ways to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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