Archive for Thursday, September 14, 2006

A birthday gift to remember

Basehor woman to celebrate her 50th with 60-mile charity walk

September 14, 2006

This weekend, Basehor resident Julie Cogley will put on her tennis shoes and step out for the walk of a lifetime.

The event is the Breast Cancer 3-Day walk, which benefits the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

Cogley, and an estimated 1,800 or more walkers, will make a 60-mile trek in three days.

That's a workout.

And for Cogley, who described herself as "considerably overweight," it was a challenge. But after months of preparation -- leading up to where she can walk 10 to 18 miles at a stretch -- it's likely she will be among those who make it to the finish line.

The walk starts Friday at Kansas Speedway and will end Sunday at the Kansas City, Mo., Liberty Memorial.

Though camping with the walkers and crew is an option, it's one the 49-year-old Cogley plans to skip. She'll return to her Basehor home each night, resting in the comfort of her own bed before the next day's walk.

Her interest in the walk isn't directly related to a specific event in her life. No one in Cogley's family has had breast cancer. However, her husband, Gary Cogley, died from a form of cancer, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, six years ago at 49.

Since then, Cogley said, her life has been in transition.

"I was 43 when he died and you think you're going to grow old together and then everything about your life changes," Cogley said.

Each year since, she's done something special for herself on Valentine's Day. It might be as simple as buying a bottle of nail polish or getting a facial.

This year, she ventured further. She committed to participate in the 60-mile walk.

"I kind of decided I was going to do it for my husband," Cogley said.

She paid the $90 fee to participate and moved forward from there, with her long walks, and fund raising.

Cogley, who is a massage therapist, said her primary job is serving as vice president of development for a domestic violence shelter in Missouri.

Her background in marketing and fund-raising came in handy in preparing for the walk.

"Each person that walks has to raise $2,200 as part of the commitment," Cogley said. "They have a Web site where you can sign up."

So far, 50 donors have given Cogley money for the campaign, and her total amount was close to $3,000.

While Cogley, who has lived in Basehor for 13 years, may be thinking of her late husband while she walks, also on her mind are others who have been dealt cancer's strike.

When people made donations for her walk, she asked if they had someone they wanted her to remember during the walk.

"Right now I have about 60 names of people," Cogley said. "I carry this list when I train and I'll carry it with me through the whole walk. I try to think about these people."

Her list includes names of those who have had cancer, who asked Cogley to remember them and how they were connected to the person. Best friends, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, they're all on her list.

Cogley also will remember the campers she's met at Camp Bluebird, a camp for cancer survivors where Cogley volunteers her massage services.

"The most poignant thing to me is the fact that many of the people I work on, they don't have hair, they don't have breasts," Cogley said. "They have lots of different kinds of cancer and they're all at different stages of treatment and recovery."

She knows all too well how important it is to take cancer -- and life -- seriously.

"Breast cancer happens to real people. I could wake up tomorrow and discover that I have it," Cogley said. "I think the whole point is of living in the moment and really appreciating our blessings and believing that you can do things that are bigger than you are."

And meanwhile, she's focusing on her part in the walk. That means wearing the right shoes, eating right the right foods, getting plenty of rest. And because of the walk, she's already in better shape than when she started.

"I've dropped two sizes in my slacks," Cogley said. "I am obese, I've been obese most of my life. I'm not your typical sports nut who exercises all the time. I'm a normal person, that for whatever odd reason, just really felt called to do this walk."

Cogley, who will turn 50 in November, said she doesn't know if she'll be able to make the entire 60 miles. But she's determined to give it her best try.

"I'm going to go with a good heart and I'm going to carry my list and keep the intention for all the people that I'm walking in memory of," Cogley said, "and just go out there and celebrate being alive and turning 50."

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