Local breast cancer survivor knows benefits of Steppin’ Out In Pink

More than 6,000 walkers took part in the 4 1/2 mile walk.

Driving through La Crosse Saturday, you more than likely saw quite a bit of pink. That’s because Saturday was the 10th year of Steppin’ Out In Pink.

More than 6,000 walkers took part in the 4 1/2 mile walk.

Steppin’ Out In Pink helps fund breast cancer research at Gundersen Medical Foundation and 100 percent of the money raised stays local.

That’s one of the many reasons Mary Ann Peterson walked for the first time this year.

In the summer of 2013, Peterson retired and moved from the suburbs of Chicago to Soliders Grove, Wisconsin. Six months after moving she went to Gundersen Health System to have some things checked out and received a diagnosis she never expected.

“On Valentine’s Day, that Friday, I was diagnosed with breast cancer,” Peterson said. “My whole life flashed in front of me.”

After a bilateral mastectomy, eight “very aggressive” chemo treatments and 33 radiation sessions, Peterson has been cancer free for eight months.

Saturday she was Steppin’ Out In Pink as a way to say thank you and raise money in hopes that others can have a similar success story.

“I made a promise to myself last year at this time that if I was up to it I was going to participate in Steppin’ Out In Pink because of all of the wonderful things that the hospital has done for me and helping me survive,” Peterson said.

Peterson is also walking because she knows how beneficial the money raised by the thousands walking beside her can be.

“Living down in Soilders Grove, it’s a 50-mile trip one way,” Peterson said. “Paula’s Purse provided me with a card that helped me with my gas back and forth. That would have been awful hard, especially during my radiation, to be doing on a daily basis.”

Peterson said too many people go through life thinking, “It won’t happen to me. I won’t get breast cancer.” But she said after losing almost an entire year battling the disease she’ll walk each year for those who can’t.

“This was very, very important to me to be here to be able to do this. Not only for myself, but for others, too,” Peterson said.

Since Steppin’ Out In Pink began the event has raised $3.4 million for cancer research.