Lisa Meurgue is a well-known, very popular Marco Island woman who received the dreaded report that she had cancer on Nov. 21, 2008. She underwent chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and undergoing reconstruction. Her next surgery is scheduled Nov. 20, one day short of a year from her diagnosis. Her chemotherapy was done in Naples, while her surgery continues to be at the Mofitt Cancer and Research Center in Orlando. Through her daughter Margaux’s urging, she took part in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer on Oct. 10. Here is her story.
Participating in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer was my 17-year-old daughter’s idea. Margaux, thanks to my brother, Dr. Philip Mercado in Los Angeles, volunteered this summer in their Avon’s Santa Monica office. She enjoyed the people and the experience. She also suggested that we participate in the New York event as it is Avon’s largest event of the nine they sponsor and the walker’s route goes past a lot of interesting sites. After having gone through my breast cancer diagnosis last November, we felt compelled to participate.
Margaux got the wheels in motion, engaging ourselves, my brother Philip, Desiree Buhelos of the Boathouse Motel, my cousin, Nan and her friend, Cindy and former Marco Islander, Terri Wainscott. Registering for the walk was the easy part. The more difficult task is once you register, you commit to raising a minimum of $1,800. Thanks to many of my family and friends, we met our individual goals.
As Margaux had never visited New York and will be going off to college next year, we decided to make a special mother-daughter weekend out of it. We had a fabulous four days –two spent with the walk. Prior to the walk, we ate Waldorf salad at the Waldorf Astoria, walked and lunched in Central Park, saw Rockefeller Plaza, visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral, bought a dress for Lely’s Homecoming, went to the Metropolitan Museum of art, saw “Hair,” shopped in Soho, ate a hot dog from a street vendor, ate NYC style pizza then did the walk.
Saturday morning’s start was in the dark! Registration started around 5 a.m. We grabbed a quick bagel and started the yoga exercise to warm up our bodies, literally, for the walk and it was cold for us Floridians!
The walk started at about 6:45 a.m., in a sea of pink. The route was well indicated with rest stops or quick stops located every two to three miles. The volunteers, well over 400, were great. Working as crossing guards, helping with medical needs, serving lunch, water or snacks, but most importantly, cheering us along the route. I was touched by the enthusiasm of the “Youth Crew” (you must be 16 to walk) who helped in every aspect possible. Seeing their smiling faces gave you encouragement to walk. Also key to the success of the walk was the support of New Yorkers who, while out doing their errands, or playing soccer in a park, stopped to applaud, encourage and congratulate us.
We ventured past Grant’s tomb, Riverbank Park, Soldiers and Sailors Monument, Lincoln Center, Chelsea Market, Bleecker Street, Julliard, Columbia University, Harlem, Hell’s Kitchen, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, crossing the Brooklyn Bridge, Chinatown, St. Mark’s in the Bowery, the United Nations and New York-Presbyterian Church before crossing another bridge to the Wellness Village on Randalls Island. Distance, 26.1 miles.
The walk was brutal. Our group started out together, but based on different levels of physical fitness, ended up splintering. Margaux, Philip and I stuck together. Philip was a drill sergeant, working hard to keep us on pace. Three different times, I wanted to stop.
They had people along the route asking if you were OK. Two of the times when I thought I had had enough, no one was there to ask me if I was OK! Then the next time I saw someone, I thought, ‘I feel pretty good, I can continue.’ The third time I was well behind Philip and Margaux, with only a few miles to go. Margaux waited for me and I told her I couldn’t do anymore. She said, “Yes you can Mom!” She kept me going. We also saw a woman whom we had seen all day long. She was, I would guess, between 65 and 70 years old, and she was in front of us. Margaux said, “If she can do it mom, we can.’ We crossed the finish line together.
The oldest walker that day, was 91. Don’t know how much she walked, but just to show up and start the walk – wow!
Crossing the finish line, I must admit, I felt a great sense of accomplishment as my “peg legs” slowly guided me to the food tent. A mylar blanket never felt so good!
Margaux, Philip and I were the only three of our seven to walk across the finish line that day. The sweeper bus helped the others. After sitting for awhile to eat dinner, stiffness set in. It was a long walk to the car! A hot shower, some Ben Gay and a warm, comfortable bed were all nice treats that night.
The next day, our teammates finished the 13 miles.
Highlight: Nothing to do with the walk, but on our way to the closing ceremonies, we saw Hugh Jackman! The closing ceremonies were heartfelt and emotional for me. Hearing stories of survivorship brought tears to many, as did the celebration of hope for a cure.
It was an amazing experience. Our team contributed over $13,000 towards the total amount earned – $9.5 million. Financial guru Suze Orman, was guest speaker at the closing ceremonies, giving details of the grants our funds were supplying. These grants support access to care and finding a cure for breast cancer. Some of the funds stay in the geographic area of the walk and some grants are awarded to national programs and organizations across the U.S. There were 6,000 registered walkers and about 4,500 walked.
And it all started because Philip got Margaux a volunteer job in the L.A. office of the Avon breast cancer walk. It was so worth it. Seeing the sights in NYC, being with family and friends and the whole walk experience. Amazing!
After my diagnosis, chemo and surgery, being able to complete 26.1 miles in one day – as they say in the Mastercard commercial: Priceless!
Many thanks for all the support, especially my husband, Denis, our daughters, Margaux, Alexandra, Emmanuellle, my parents, Roger and Judy Mercado, my brothers, Philip and JR and our friends who helped me get across that finish line!
As Philip lives in Los Angeles, he thinks we should do the Santa Barbara walk in September, 2010. Registration for Santa Barbara has started. There are a total of nine walks. It would be fun to say I have done them all.