Bonnie Beyer of Concord does not like referring to her 11-year relationship with cancer as a journey.
It’s been more of an ordeal, with multiple surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation. But the ordeal has included an important journey in which Bonnie and her best friend, Christa Chapman, have walked countless miles through thunderstorms, blizzards, cold winter nights and hot summer days. The walks raised Bonnie’s spirits and raised donations for Concord Hospital Payson Center for Cancer Care’s Lend Me a Hand Fund.
“Walking is my salvation,” said Bonnie. “It gets me outside into the fresh air, socializing with my friends.”
Walking also is helping others. During her treatment for metastatic melanoma at Payson Center, Bonnie learned of the Lend Me a Hand Fund that helps patients with out-of-pocket expenses such as gas and groceries. “The Lend Me a Hand Fund is so nice because it helps with transportation, helps with food and I thought if I am going to do anything, this is what I am going to raise money for,” Bonnie said.
She and Christa have completed walking challenges such as the Runner’s Alley Winter Warrior Challenge — walking three miles through sleet, snow and cold every day for the month of January. In 2018, they agreed to keep walking for 365 days — with friends and supporters pledging donations toward the Lend Me a Hand Fund.
Treatment prolonged the time period, and Bonnie lost some of her vision after brain surgery, but she and Christa completed ‘365 Days of Strength’ in February 2021. Overall, Bonnie’s efforts have raised $1,225.
“When I was diagnosed, I was angry, thinking ‘Why me?’ Then I got thinking I have to remain positive.
Walking every day gave me a purpose to get up in the morning,” said Bonnie, who is 69. “It kept me going.”
“Bonnie kept me going,” said Christa. “She is the toughest person I know.”
During one walk, Bonnie and Christa got caught in a torrential thunderstorm. “It was the most exhilarating day,” Christa said. “We were running, laughing, singing.”
In winter darkness, with headlamps and snowshoes, snowbanks became mountains. “We would pretend we were going up Mt. Everest,” said Christa, 46. “We made it a happy thing.”
Bonnie and Christa hope Bonnie’s determination will inspire other patients, boost the Lend Me a Hand Fund and increase community support for Payson Center in general. She is grateful for the expert cancer care she received, and for the extra help from Payson Center support groups, the Anticancer Lifestyle program, even a free wig when she lost some hair during radiation therapy.
“We are very lucky to have a place like the Payson Center in Concord,” Bonnie said. With her treatment completed, Bonnie’s next goal is to complete a 5K race with her grandson helping by her side. “It will be run, walk, run, walk,” she said. “I just want to make it to the finish line.”
Bonnie plans to participate in Rock ‘N Race this month with her family.