Wave to Mary Clare Mazurkiewicz if you see her walking through Warrenton.
Mazurkiewicz, a Warrenton resident and cancer survivor, will take part in Washington D.C.'s last Susan G. Komen 3-Day, a 60-mile trek from Oct. 11 to 13 with thousands of other breast cancer survivors and supporters – and her daughter, Natalie Ganze.
Mazurkiewicz remembers the terrible shock of her breast cancer diagnosis, three days before Christmas in 2011. Neither her mother nor her “multitude of aunts” had the disease.
Even the radiologists seemed surprised when they told her the results of her biopsy.
For a week and a half, Mazurkiewicz wanted to bury her head in the sand. At first, she couldn't bring herself to talk to her coworkers at the Virginia Department of Health.
Then, she said, she got her “stubborn German” going. She is a nurse, she said, and nurses always want answers.
“I said, 'We're going to fight this, and I'm going to be OK,'” Mazurkiewicz said. “Step by step, we got it done. Give me a plan. Let me know what the plan is so I can deal with it and move on.”
The idea to join the 3-Day walk came from her daughter. Days after her mother's diagnosis, Ganze and her coworkers went on a New Year's Eve 5K run for breast cancer survivors and their supporters.
Their spirits were willing, but they hadn't trained for a 5K. One of Ganze's coworkers broke her ankle, she said.
But the run gave them a sense of having done something. It let them show Mazurkiewicz that they were in her corner. At the 5K, Ganze found out about the Three-Day Walk.
Now, Mazurkiewicz has completed her treatment. Her cancer is in remission, and she's getting ready to walk 60 miles on foot – 20 miles a day for three days, pausing at night to collapse into pink tents before resuming the pilgrimage the next morning.
Ganze plans to be at her mother's side through it all.
They've named themselves “Tommy's Pink Angels,” after Mazurkiewicz's son, who died nine years ago.
“It's the best thing I could ever do for her,” Ganze said. “I couldn't take the cancer from her, but I can do this.”
Mazurkiewicz's training has taken her all over Warrenton and its trails. She moved to the town in 1986 in advance of the suburban creep from the Beltway into Loudoun and Prince William Counties.
“I saw what was coming,” Mazurkiewicz said. “I moved out here.”
Ganze recently moved out of Fauquier County, but comes back on the weekends to help her mother train for the walk.
“Warrenton is my mom's life,” Ganze said. “She will never move. Warrenton is just our home, and it always has been.”
This will be the last 3-Day Walk in Washington D.C., Mazurkiewicz said, so she wants to do it right.
While the two of them train, they're also raising money for breast cancer research and outreach programs. To contribute, visit the 3-Day website
and search for their names.
Ganze said she's grateful for the encouragement she's seen from Warrenton residents – and she's inspired by her mother's dedication to her training.
“I'm so proud of what she's done,” Ganze said. “I'm so excited for this race.”