Every year the CancerCare Manitoba Foundation presents Challenge for Life, a fundraising/awareness initiative whereby participants commit to raising $1,000 for the organization while also pledging to practice a healthier lifestyle, reducing their risk of cancer up to 50%.
This year, Challenge for Life culminates with a 20-kilometre walk on June 8, beginning and ending at Assiniboine Park.
This is the fifth year Shawna Schimnowski has taken up the Challenge. For her, it’s very personal.
Schimnowski’s story starts on December 20, 2008, when her son Ryker was born still. Just over a month later she was told she had choriocarcinoma, an aggressive form of cancer stemming from the placenta. On the same day she received her diagnosis, her brother-in-law John was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia, a cancer of the white blood cells.
To support the Schimnowskis, her friends and family formed a Challenge for Life team called Team Schimmer in 2009, which has raised almost $75,000 for CancerCare Manitoba in four years.
"If (cancer) never would have happened to me I don’t know if I would have been involved in Challenge for Life, only because I didn’t know about it," says, Schimnowski 35, a mother of three who has given birth to two healthy children since losing Ryker.
"Now I’m so emotionally tied to it, to honour the people who supported me in the beginning. I will continue to walk because they chose to do that for me and to let other people know I’m walking for them."
As far as the actual walk, Schimnowski says it’s tough and you do need to train, but that any able-bodied person can do it. In fact, in 2009 when Schimnowski was battling cancer, she would receive chemotherapy in the morning and do her training walks in the afternoon. She says it was worth it.
"The whole day of the walk is just so emotional and exciting and you feel so good about yourself for being there and accomplishing what you did," Schimnowski says. "You’re helping people that may not even know that you’re helping them. That’s a really good feeling to have."
For more information on Challenge for Life call 204-927-LIFE (5433) and visit www.challengeforlife.ca.