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Stepping out against cancer

POULSBO — Sue Mutter’s battle with breast cancer began what seems like a lifetime ago, even though it’s only been 15 years.

On Friday, she and seven other women from Little Norway will join an estimated 3,500 other walkers as they begin the Breast Cancer 3-Day, which will cover 60 miles before it concludes on Sunday.

“When my husband and I first heard I had breast cancer, we immediately began making funeral arrangements,” Mutter said, reflecting on a decade and a half of being cancer-free.

Advances in treating the disease continue to be made and options for those diagnosed have greatly improved in the last 15 years, but the disease still remains a fact of life for many women, she said.

“I can’t believe there are still women out there who don’t do early detection,” she explained, noting that the practice dramatically increases women’s chances for survival.

Promoting awareness as well as raising funds for continued research are just two reasons she is participating in the 3-Day, Mutter said, pointing out that each participant had to accumulate $2,100 for the event.

Mutter, who works in the food service department at North Kitsap High School, said one of the ways she raised the required amount was through candy bar sales in the staff lounge.

“I set out a box in the staff lounge and explained what I was doing and people were extremely supportive,” she recalled. “I also sent out letters to people I knew asking for their support as well.”

While fund raising was an important aspect of the pre-walk preparations, the physical aspect was equally demanding and time-consuming, Mutter said.

“We began with our first walk at Battle Ground Park on Bainbridge Island in February when it was freezing rain and blowing sideways, so we’ve walked in all kinds of conditions,” she recalled with a smile.

Since then, trips around Poulsbo have been led by fellow walker Becky Carlson, who volunteered to be a group leader.

“I didn’t want to walk by myself, so I decided to become a group leader,” Carlson said.

As such, Carlson said her primary responsibility has been to ensure that the group reaches its mileage goal for each walk, which have been from four to 18 miles.

“We walk different routes all of the time and it’s just a matter of making sure we walk the right mileage,” she explained.

Even though the group has spent the last six months training for the event, it’s arrival still came as a surprise, Carlson said.

“Next Saturday, it’s going to be strange not having to get up and walk,” she said.

For the last six months, Mutter and Carlson said their normal routines have changed to meet the demands of preparing for the 3-Day but their families have taken the changes in stride.

“I have a 1 1/2-year-old son and my husband’s been getting up and watching him every Saturday while I’ve gone on my walks,” Carlson remarked. “I couldn’t have done it without him.”

For Mutter, her husband will be with her every step of the way, even though he’s not walking in this year’s event.

“My husband has volunteered to be part of the crew, which helps put on the event, so he’ll be right along with me,” she said.

With less than a week before the event, Mutter said she’s not ready to take a break quite yet.

“I’m going to walk 10 miles today,” she said Monday. “I’ll walk eight miles tomorrow and then I should be ready.”

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