Elizabeth Crutchley calls herself the “Walking Fool” and has been taking routine walks for many years. Now, the Eldersburg resident is walking for a cause.
Crutchley’s niece, Lindsey Cohen, is battling triple negative stage 3 breast cancer and has been undergoing chemotherapy in Cincinnati, Ohio, since May 12. The coronavirus pandemic has kept Crutchley from traveling to be with Cohen, so she wanted to find a way to spread awareness and raise money for her niece from afar.
Crutchley started walking 2.5 miles on Md. 26 every other day at the beginning of June, donning bright outfits and holding colorful signs decorated with sparkles to get attention from passersby.
“I figured, why not try to raise money and have some fun, so I just tossed around the idea,” Crutchley said. “I was raised in a radio station, my family owned one, so I am not above putting on outfits to embarrass myself, whatever it takes. I figured I’d dress up every time I walk and if people donate, I’m going to keep on walking.”
Drivers often honk and wave at Crutchely while she walks and she has shared Cohen’s GoFundMe page to local neighborhood Facebook groups. The “Lindsey Cohen Cancer Slayer” GoFundMe page has raised more than $3,800 of its $40,000 goal.
‘All systems go’
Triple-negative breast cancer is cancer that tests negative for estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors, and excess HER2 protein, according to breastcancer.org. About 10% to 20% of breast cancers are triple-negative cases.
This type of cancer is more likely diagnosed in people younger than 50 years old.
A Columbia native, Cohen, 23, received a breast exam at her regular OB-GYN appointment in January. A lump was discovered, and it continued to grow over the next few months. Doctors completed a biopsy and Cohen’s results came back two weeks later — confirming the diagnosis.
“I kind of had a feeling, you know, you just kind of know in your bones about your own body,” Cohen said. “You never want to expect the worst so from that point on, it was all systems go. I started chemotherapy about eight weeks ago and I’m about halfway through.
“So far, so good … besides the bad news of getting the cancer, my body has responded the way it’s supposed to to the treatment.”
Cohen, a 2016 Atholton High School graduate, earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in technical theater and sound design from University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music this spring, but still had a few weeks left to complete her final semester when she was diagnosed.
Her mother, Pamela, Crutchley’s sister, left Maryland temporarily to live with Cohen in Cincinnati and help care for her. Cohen had a port placement surgery to prepare for chemotherapy on May 1, the day she was supposed to receive her diploma.
Cohen tested negative for coronavirus prior to her surgery and she takes anti-nausea medications and steroids every morning to aid in her recovery.
“My mom and I hang out, cook dinner, I do a lot of cross-stitching and play games on my computer,” Cohen said. “It’s been kind of nice in a way that since I’ve graduated, I’m not pressured to do anything. I was supposed to go to Utah this summer for a job and of course, that got cancelled way before I found out about my cancer, because of COVID.
“It’s a relief that I didn’t have to give up that work … my only job is to take care of myself.”
Crutchley is a cancer survivor and said she has been cancer-free for 12 years. She had ovarian cancer once and malignant melanoma five times. When she told Cohen she would be walking to support her, Cohen was certainly not surprised.
“I know my aunt, she’s always the first to fight for people,” Cohen said. “She goes out to stand up for people, that kind of thing. I honestly expected her to do something and just had no idea what it was going to be. It turned out to be this and I think it’s awesome. Of course, I worry about her, try to make sure she has enough water or walking too long.
“At the same time, it’s awesome to have a family member like her who wants to go out and do that kind of thing for me.”
Cohen said her mother, Pamela, previously beat cancer as well, and taking precautions is extremely important to her — especially now. She has good and bad days, but keeping up with her aunt’s efforts and staying in touch have made those days a little bit better.
Meanwhile, Crutchley is already preparing for her next walk.
“Breast cancer not only hits older women, but young women and breast cancer touches everybody somehow,” Crutchley said. “They have a friend, a family member, a coworker, someone they know. Even if they don’t donate to Lindsey, they can at least think about breast cancer and donate to the American Breast Cancer Society or something like that.
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“I just want to get the word out that it affects everybody at every age — man, woman, everybody.”