The friends and family of Margie Walter made quite the splash in 2011 when their team of more than 200 members participated in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure event.
That year, Walter herself battled with the rare and aggressive form of breast cancer known as triple-negative breast cancer. Walter, who was diagnosed in November 2010, succumbed to the disease last October.
Those left behind — her brother Josh Braun and sister-in-law Janette Braun, and her husband Eric Walter — are continuing Margie’s legacy this year. They plan on participating in the 2013 Walk for the Cure on June 2 at Seattle Center.
For all of them, this year also marks the chance to start raising awareness about triple-negative breast cancer. That particular form of cancer typically is found in younger minority women. While Walter was not a minority, she was 31 when she was diagnosed, and 33 years old when she died.
“What we’re going to do is focus on triple-negative breast cancer, since there’s not a lot known about it. And it’s basically incurable at this point,” said Josh Braun. “In my sister’s case, she had a double mastectomy and her cancer was gone. She did her checks, went in for her checks to do the bloodwork to make sure she was cancer free still. And then, right at about a year, it came back. It came back in her bones and her liver. That was brutal.”
“Awareness awareness awareness,” Janette Braun added. “It’s crazy. Their ability to fight it is so minimal, and the awareness level is so small.”
Walter also stressed the importance of trying to raise awareness about triple-negative breast cancer, saying that because of the age group it affects, and its aggressive nature, more women need to adjust their mindset when it comes to getting screened for breast cancer.
“A lot of women, especially in their 20s or early 30s, even getting into their early 40s, they think they’re outside of the realm of breast cancer,” Walter said. “You kind of don’t think about it too much, and it flies under the radar. Since Margie’s diagnosis, I’ve had two other friends’ wives that have been diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer. If it runs in your family, you need to pay attention a little bit earlier than they usually do.”
While part of their mission is to raise awareness of triple-negative cancer, this year’s walk may help in the healing process for those who were lucky enough to be blessed by Margie’s friendship and love in life.
“My sister was beautiful,” Josh said. “The biggest part of my sister was that she was kind and thoughtful and loving to everybody.”
“Pure,” Janette added.
“There was no fake, there were no ifs, ands or buts, and it took a lot to make her mad at you. She never wanted to make anything about her, ever. It was always about somebody else,” Josh said. “I miss her every day. She’s the only person that ever really knew me, because she’s the only person who could tell me what to do. She was my baby. I protected her, and it killed me that I couldn’t protect her from that. My whole life, that’s all I did, was protect her.”
Walter said that Margie’s network of friends and families has been a big help for him and Margie’s daughters, Vanessa and Brooke.
“Margie was so blessed to know so many people. She was the kind of person that people really gravitated toward. It’s a nice feeling to know they’re all still there for me and for her daughters,” he said.
“While (Vanessa and Brooke’s) mother is certainly not here, they’re going to have a lot of great women in their life to keep their mother’s memory alive and be good roles models of strong women in their life. Which is really important to me as their step-dad.”
Walter said the last year has been a roller-coaster of emotion, with his marriage to Margie in June 2012, and her passing five months later in October. Margie actually became a significant local news story when she took a trip to Hawaii and fell ill. In order to get her home, Walter said they had to hire a private jet and medical staff to complete the job.
“We got her all lined up for that. The costs for that were a little less than $60,000. Thankfully we were blessed to be in a situation where financially we had the money to cover that,” he said. “Out of the kindness of people’s hearts, someone set up an account with a group called Band of Brothers…These guys reached out to me and asked, ‘What can we do?’ And the only thing I could really think of (was to have them) help raise funds to replenish some of that money. Within about 30 hours, they had already raised $60,000 and we were able to cover that bill completely.”
Walter said he and Margie and the kids got home to Seattle the morning of Oct. 12 of last year.
“Thankfully we got her on a flight out of Honolulu. We got back to Seattle on the morning of the 12th, and then she passed away later that afternoon, about 3 p.m.,” he said.
“The last few months have certainly been tough,” he added. “It’s time like these that make you re-evaluate life and what’s important, and family and friends are certainly at the top of the list.”
To learn more about the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, visit www.komenpugetsound.org.