In her shoes

Neighbors: Profiles of our community

Kihei resident and breast cancer survivor Linda Lafragiola is gearing up for her ninth Susan G. Komen 3-Day — a 60-mile walk to promote breast cancer awareness and raise funds for breast cancer research.

Twenty-four days. 480 miles. One mission.

Kihei resident Linda Lafragiola has gone to great lengths to help find a cure for breast cancer — literally. Since 2012, she’s completed eight Susan G. Komen 3-Days, walking 60 miles over the course of eight three-day weekends to promote breast cancer awareness and raise funds for breast cancer research. And she’s not stopping there: Lafragiola is now training for her ninth 60-mile walk, which will take place Nov. 16 through 18 in San Diego. “It’s become such a big part of my life,” she said. “And it’s something I need to do.”

The Susan G. Komen 3-Day made its debut in 2003, and since then, more than 500,000 participants have raised more than $820 million to support 2,500 cancer research projects and 460 clinical trials (and counting). 3-Day participants raise a minimum of $2,300 and walk an average of 20 miles a day for three consecutive days. For the past few years, the annual events have been hosted in San Diego, Seattle, Michigan, the Twin Cities, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Dallas/Fort Worth.

Clearly, walking 60 miles is no small feat — especially when you factor in inclement weather and hilly terrain — but any 3-Day participant will tell you that the aches, pains and blisters are worth it.

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, 1 out of 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, and an estimated 2,470 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year.

Linda Lafragiola will continue to go the extra mile to help find a cure for breast cancer. “People are diagnosed every day,” she said. “That’s why I walk.”

Lafragiola learned she had breast cancer in 2011. Fortunately, it was an early diagnosis and the cancer was limited to a small tumor; she underwent surgery that summer, followed by six weeks of radiation. Midway through her treatment, a friend asked Lafragiola to join her at the Susan G. Komen 3-Day in San Francisco in June 2012. “I thought, ’60 miles, three days . . . if I can survive breast cancer, I can do that.’ “ she recalled.

Lafragiola’s final radiation appointment was on Nov. 1, 2011, and the next morning, she and her sister, Kathi, laced up their sneakers and started training. Several months later, the sisters had logged more than 1,000 training miles and raised over $5,000 each — enough for two 3-Day walks. So, they decided to register for the San Diego 3-Day in November 2012, too.

Lafragiola says her first 3-Day in San Francisco was emotional, inspiring and eye-opening. “It really hit home,” she said. “I met so many women and men whose lives had been touched by breast cancer. It was mind-boggling.” And, she said, “It helped me go from feeling like a victim — saying, ‘why did this happen to me?’ — to actually doing something about it.”

Not long after completing their second 3-Day in San Diego, Lafragiola and her sister started a team — cleverly named the “AwareWolves” — and have walked every year since in San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle and Philadelphia. The two siblings and their fellow teammates have raised more than $150,000 — money that could help fund the next breakthrough in breast cancer research.

“There’s got to be a cure somewhere,” Lafragiola said. “It’s my hope that if Susan G. Komen can find a breast cancer cure, they’ll also find a cure for all types of cancer.”

Now cancer-free for seven years, Lafragiola says she has no plans to retire her walking shoes anytime soon. “I keep walking because I can’t walk away,” she said. Lafragiola hopes others will follow in her footsteps and register for an upcoming Susan G. Komen 3-Day. “You can step outside of your comfort zone and do something that makes a difference,” she said. “It’s a weekend that will change your life.”

To learn more about the Susan G. Komen 3-Day, visit www.the3day.org or Lafragiola’s fundraising page at www.the3day.org/goto/LindaLafragiola.

* Sarah Ruppenthal is a Maui-based writer. Do you have an interesting neighbor? Tell us about them at missruppenthal@gmail.com. “Neighbors” and “The State of Aloha,” written by Ben Lowenthal, alternate Fridays.

Go Pink:

Susan G. Komen 3-Day events are held throughout the year in seven cities. It’s equal parts glitter and grit. Pink-clad and costumed participants (many of whom are breast cancer survivors) walk 60 miles over the course of a three-day weekend and are cheered on by supporters every step of the way.