Terry Webber, 54, had always been close to her five sisters, but after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in May of 2012, she said they grew even closer, despite their living states apart.
"I moved down to Florida 12 years ago and everybody else is up there," Webber said. "It used to be years passing before I would visit. That's not going to happen anymore. I am going to go up there to visit every year."
Webber's sisters live in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Tennessee, while Webber lives in Gainesville, Fla., but despite their respective geographic divides, all six sisters have made it their goal to walk together next May in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in Washington, D.C.
The sisters made the commitment to come together for the walk this past May, when it was still unclear whether Webber's treatment would be successful.
Webber's eldest sister Debbie Shanks, and Shank's daughter Jessie, decided to walk in the 2013 Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in honor and support of Webber, and began training in October of 2012, while Webber was in the depths of chemotherapy.
"They told me Debbie and Jessie were doing the walk and I was just so excited that they were doing that for me," Webber said. "It was already so difficult being away from everyone."
Diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in her right breast in May 2012, Webber underwent bilateral mastectomy surgery that June, and more surgery to remove 12 lymph nodes a few weeks later.
In August, just after her birthday, Webber began a series of 10 chemotherapy treatments that stretched into December, and finally, between February and May of this year, underwent 30 separate radiation treatments.
So when the time came for Shanks to do the walk, she said she thought of her sister's perseverance through her treatment to keep going when things got tough.
"I am 61 years old and for me to walk 13.1 miles on a Sunday is quite a feat," Shanks said. "If I started feeling down, I just thought of Terry. I thought that if she could go through the chemo, I can walk."
Unbeknownst to Shanks, Webber had finished her radiation treatments by the time of the walk and was feeling well enough to come to Washington.
"[My sisters] Wendy and Laurie met us at the finish line and then the next thing I knew, Terry came out from behind them," Shanks said. "She had had flown up from Florida to surprise us. It was very emotional, it was quite the surprise."
Webber said it was an overwhelmingly emotional moment.
"It was my idea to surprise them," Webber said. "I have never seen that much emotion before and it scared me for a moment because I thought Debbie was going to have a stroke or a heart attack."
According to Shanks, the idea of bringing all the sisters together for the walk in 2014 came up immediately and was enthusiastically embraced by all those present and absent from the finish line, such as their sister Judy Dreyer that lives in Upperco.
"I was really sorry I missed [the walk]," Dreyer said. "When I saw it on the video I just cried ... So when they talked about doing it this year, I was like, 'yes, I am going to do this.'"
All six sisters, Webber, Shanks and Dreyer along with Wendy Robinson, of Glen Rock, Pa., Laurie Pulliam, of Chattanooga, Tenn., and Jeanine Peregoy, of Westminster, combined to form a fundraising team for the Avon event, chose the name Breast Foot Forward and began thinking of how to raise money.
The Avon Walk for Breast Cancer requires a minimum fundraising commitment, according to Dreyer, and while Shanks and her daughter had no problem raising the funds for their walk through letters and emails, the group decided to get more creative in meeting the requirements for next year.
"We each have to raise $1,800, that's a requirement for the walk," Dreyer said. "Debbie has done tea parties in the past, just for fun, for family and friends ... She decided that we would try it as a fundraiser."
On Sept. 14, when the sisters held their fundraising tea party at Shanks home in Manchester, Webber was back home in Florida but was able to speak with the guests at each table over a laptop and receive their congratulations: Webber had received the news that she was cancer free just three days before the party.
"To be able to Skype in, it made me feel like I was there," Webber said. "It was so much fun to see what they truly did, to see how beautiful it was and to be able to see the people and talk to them ... there is just so much love and support out there from all the women."
According to Shanks, the tea party drew 29 women and raised $1,275 and additional donations from women that could not make the party have been made on at the sister's website, info.avonfoundation.org/goto/BreastFootForward.
According to Dreyer, the sisters have already been hearing requests for another tea party before the walk next May.
"Every woman that was there was like, 'you need to do this again,'" Dreyer said. "We're hoping to find a place where we can do another one in March. We need to find a facility where we can have it in March weather."
Webber said that she hopes to be able to come to the second tea party, if it can be arranged, but said she still has a long road ahead, with multiple reconstructive surgeries and rehabilitation scheduled in the coming months.
Faced with all the work she has left to do, Webber said that the walk has given her something to focus on and look forward to.
"I think when you get a diagnosis, you can become depressed and very negative. But I truly believe that you have to be positive and laugh and continue on for you to be able to heal," Webber said. "I definitely think I want to keep doing it, maybe not the Avon walk in Washington, [D.C.], every year, but I definitely want to celebrate life with the family every year."