'Sisters for Life' end trek across state in Cape

Saturday, June 9, 2007
Rhonda Netherton, left, hugged fellow cancer survivor Carrie Pendley upon reaching the end of their nine-day, 450-mile trek across Missouri on Saturday. The walk, which raised money for cancer research, began in Loma Linda, Mo., and ended at the Broadway floodgate in Cape Girardeau. (AARON EISENHAUER ~ aeisenhauer@semissourian.com)

Seven women ended their walk across Missouri to raise money for cancer research Saturday morning at the Mississippi River floodgate on Broadway. However, raising money was not their only goal.

Carrie Pendley, 48, of Frankclay, Mo., has beaten cancer on three occasions. After she turned back breast, ovarian and brain-stem cancer, her close friends and family decided it was time to do something to celebrate.

"It's impossible to comprehend what Carrie has gone through, so we felt we needed to do something to celebrate Carrie's victories and her courage," said Pendley's sister, Cathy Phipps. "So we got together, and here we are, ready for the walk of a lifetime to raise money for cancer research."

The women, who call themselves the "Sisters for Life," began their walk June 1 in Loma Linda, Mo., where the Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri borders meet. They walked relay-style, in three teams of two each, with each team walking two miles then switching off. A van carrying the teams to their positions followed behind carrying the "spare walker."

The idea of the walk came from a friend, Pendley said.

"I walked two years ago in another event, and I had a friend who kept track for me," Pendley said. "And he came up with the idea that I could walk across Missouri. He passed away three days after that, and it kind of stuck in my head. We actually started talking about it a couple summers ago, but then Cathy broke her leg."

Each of the walkers is related to Pendley in some way. Besides her sister Phipps, other walkers included sister Rhonda Netherton of Atlas, Okla., sister-in-law Tammy Myers of Park Hills, Mo., Myers' daughter-in-law Sarah Myers of Park Hills, niece Kim Kinnard of Frankclay and close friend Debbie Loewe of Bonne Terre, Mo.

Even with all the support from friends, family and each other, the women said the walk wasn't what they expected.

"Sometimes it was hard, it got hot, you didn't have enough shoulder to walk on," Phipps said. "But sometimes people were driving by and honking their horns and sticking their arms out the window giving us a thumbs up screaming 'Good job.' That would make your step a little lighter."

Penley's niece, Kim Kinnard, has a different view of the 450-mile trip on foot.

"It was nothing," Kinnard said. "Like one morning, we woke up and we knew we had 25 miles to walk. Now that's nothing. But when I call people they are like '25 miles!' It's a big deal for them, but we can do that in no time."

They also were able to walk through some of the state's most beautiful areas.

"All of it, the whole state is gorgeous," Debbie Loewe said. "Missouri is such a beautiful state, all the way across. But it's all uphill."

"We got to see things that when you're driving in a car you get to see for about two seconds," Kinnard said, "and we were seeing this stuff for about 20 minutes."

To train for the trek, the group began walking four miles a day in March.

They hoped to raise $20,000 for cancer research through donations.

"We won't really know how much money has been raised until later in the month," Pendley said. "We picked that figure because we hoped us walking across the state would be worth $20,000 to the American Cancer Society."

However, the women say that, even if they come short of the goal, "Sisters For Life" is still a success.

"The money matters because that's what will help find the cures," Phipps said. "But if we don't make our total, it won't be any kind of disappointment. Anything we raise will help."

But the walkers say they will not be taking such a trip again.

"We've done this now, so let somebody else try it," Phipps said.


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