Steamboat Springs Carolyn Corogin first met her friend of five years because of her laugh.
It was 2006 in Denver, and Corogin had traveled to the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer from Steamboat Springs on her own.
So had Melissa Cartan, a bubbly blonde with a smile the size of her home state of Texas.
“I thought, ‘She sounds fun,’” said Corogin, who was a recovering workaholic. “I could just tell she had a good outlook.”
And that’s what Corogin, who still bears the scars of surgery from her bout with breast cancer six years ago, really needed.
Three hours into the marathon fundraising walk, the two were walking in stride. Five years later, the two have banded together to raise about $25,000 for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, and they have traveled more than 200 miles on foot in cities across the country.
Clad in matching pink outfits, the two have attended Avon walks in Chicago, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, Calif. Once they have completed the nine Avon walks in the U.S., they hope to expand their travels to other countries.
Cartan said raising money was important, but not as much as the awareness raised and camaraderie experienced during the event.
“My mom is a survivor, and I just wanted to do something,” said Cartan, who organizes garage sales to raise the minimum of $1,800 needed for each walk. “Sometimes, just giving money doesn’t seem like enough. This just brings so much awareness to people. And if someone goes out and gets a mammogram, it’s all worth it.”
With every step, the women learned more about the disease that will affect one in eight women in their lifetimes.
“After you do the first one, you just hear so many stories,” Corogin said. “Every city is another adventure. It’s addictive.”
She recalled meeting a woman who already had raised $1 million for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. Another was cutting off her knee-length hair an inch at a time as she raised funds.
The pair even recalled meeting two men on their travels who had been diagnosed with the disease. And from each of those stories, they learned and in turn, shared their own.
Corogin’s story began in 2004 with two surgeries and radiation therapy. But the effects of the experience didn’t stop there.
As an interior designer in Thailand before she was diagnosed, Corogin was working seven days a week.
“I know what my life was like before,” Corogin said. “I was always pushing myself and stressed.”
Although battling cancer is not usually viewed as a blessing, Corogin said her life has changed for the better since surviving the disease.
“You start to think about what’s important in life,” she said. “And it’s friends, family and personal health.”
And since meeting Cartan and sharing in an annual adventure, Corogin said she’s grown even more.
Although Corogin maintains that she hasn’t taught her friend anything, Cartan contends her fundraising partner has inspired her.
“It’s just that life is short and embrace it and have a good time,” Cartan said about her lessons from Corogin. “Friends just make it all more fun.”