Meet the 2019 Walk for Hope marshals
The lives of 2019 Walk for Hope marshals Joel Blackwell, Jennifer Morrow and Heidi Sherburne – and the many family members and friends who love them – have been significantly impacted by cancer.
While each of their cancer paths have been unique and different, the path they will follow on Saturday, Oct. 12 will be the same as they lead the 5K walk through Augusta as our community rallies around them and so many others who have been touched by cancer.
Joel served our country, returning home from a military deployment in 2006. He had a plan for his life - rising in the ranks of the military, getting married, having children. Cancer changed everything.
He was diagnosed in 2006 with Hodgkins Lymphoma and received treatment at “the old” MaineGeneral on 6 East Chestnut Street in Augusta. He went into remission – and then his cancer came back.
In 2013, he received treatment at the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care (HACCC) and again, his cancer entered remission. And then it came back. Another round of treatment in October 2018 has sent his cancer back into remission. This battle on the home front has been a wakeup call to Joel - to his faith and purpose.
When asked what the Walk for Hope means to him, Joel says, “The Walk represents strength – there are so many who can’t walk and who aren’t here. Walking for them is important, showing a united front in the face of cancer.”
Joel was surprised and honored to be nominated as a 2019 Walk marshal. “It allows me to represent a greater group of folks who can’t partake. It is honoring a larger group of people who are still fighting, have fought or will fight.”
The HACCC has been a big part of Joel’s story.
“I’ve been a patient for 15 years and a beneficiary of so much of the good MaineGeneral offers. People ask, “Where do you go for your care?” and I’m proud to tell them the HACCC. It's my home - these are my people, my doctors, my family. They know my wife and kids. Supporting a place like the HACCC is huge.”
Joel is thankful for the care and support he's received. He knows the importance of living in the present, taking life day by day and looking forward to the future. The Walk for Hope is a day to do just that – to be surrounded by hope, healing and support and to be lifted up by a community that cares.
Jennifer was pregnant with her second son when she noticed swelling under her arm. A lump developed in her breast and she became concerned she wouldn’t be able to nurse her baby. She knew something wasn’t right, and further testing and diagnostics gave the answer no one wants to hear – breast cancer. Shortly after Keegan was born, Jenn began a rigorous round of chemotherapy – thankful that a targeted treatment was available for her specific, rapid, aggressive, tumor type.
Jenn is still fighting. With testing, surgery and potential radiation treatments looming, she wakes up daily prepared to fight and to be strong for 6-month-old Keegan and 8-year-old son, Blake.
They are why she walks.
This is the first time Jenn has participated in the Walk for Hope. When asked why, she says, “Before it was just a walk – I knew it was important, but I never felt a direct connection to it. Now it’s more than a walk – it’s me. It’s my life. The walk brings awareness to all of us who are fighting and reminds those who aren’t to take care of themselves – check yourself!”
She continues, “Bringing everyone together is so important. The money completely, 100 percent, does good in our community – there is a purpose and it makes a difference. We need to support the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care so they can continue to provide the care the community needs – that I need.”
Jenn was humbled to be nominated as a marshal for this year’s walk. “I’m excited to lead the pack. People see my bald head and it triggers conversations - in grocery stores, at gas stations. People want to share their stories. They want to talk about it and they want to show hope and solidarity.”
The Walk for Hope brings people together – a convergence of hope, healing and support. Jenn is adamant that she will be at the walk this year. There is a chance that her health may not allow for it. This is why we walk – for her, for her family and for so many others who have similar stories. “Every one of our paths is different, yet we walk them together.”
Heidi had just gotten married in June 2005. She and her new husband were celebrating their honeymoon at the beach when she felt a stabbing pain in her chest. After several rounds of diagnostics, she was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer.
8 rounds of chemotherapy.
35 radiation treatments.
An ovarian cancer diagnosis.
Removal of her ovaries.
Each followed the other, challenging Heidi every step of the way. But every day, she got up and she fought. She fought for her life and she kept working while doing it. A coworker who nominated Heidi to be a marshal at this year’s Walk for Hope comments, “Heidi never let cancer stop her from going above and beyond in her work. She has been resilient and strong and I can’t think of a better person to lead the Walk for Hope.”
When asked what the Walk means to Heidi, she says, “The Walk is my favorite day of the year – right up there with the birth of my grandchild and children. It’s an amazing day – cancer is so sad, and this is a day of hope and a day of happiness. You are surrounded by people who understand – who support you, who are lifting you up.”
Heidi has only missed one walk since 2005. She encourages others to join us.
“Come out, have fun and look around you at the hundreds of people who are happy to be alive and honoring those who aren’t. Your support makes a huge difference – to me, and to them. Cancer is awful and sad – the Walk for Hope is the opposite.”