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Amgen’s Breakaway Mile honors cancer patients and survivors 

Breakaway From Cancer, Breakaway Mile, Amgen, Tour of California, Cancer Support Community

Locally, the Breakaway Mile will take place at the start of the Amgen Tour of California, Stage 4 race course in Pismo Beach on May 13. Courtesy photo

Sign up now to be part of the local event in Pismo Beach on May 13 when Amgen Tour of California Stage 4 takes riders through the Central Coast

When the Amgen Tour of California passes through the Central Coast on May 13, there will be a host of onlookers cheering on the riders. Among them, two local cancer survivors, Thom Schulz and Holly Taylor of Paso Robles, will take part in the Breakaway Mile, a walk along the race course that serves to bring awareness to cancer, from prevention to survivorship – and they encourage other locals to join with them.

“The Breakaway Mile is a really neat experience and it is very emotional, with everyone cheering for all of the cancer patients and survivors,” says Taylor. “Come out if you have had cancer, if you are a caregiver or have been a caregiver for a cancer patient, if you’ve lost a loved one to cancer – this walk is for everyone that has been affected by cancer.”

With the Breakaway Mile, Amgen recognizes that “it takes a strong support network to help a person break away from cancer.” Nearly everyone we come into contact with on a daily basis has been touched by cancer, whether as a patient, a survivor, or as a caregiver for a family member or friend. The 2015 Breakaway Mile continues the annual tradition established in 2005 to “increase awareness of important resources available to people affected by cancer – from prevention through survivorship.”

Locally, the Breakaway Mile will take place at the start of Tour of California, Stage 4 race course in Pismo Beach on May 13. Space is limited; sign up to walk at Day of the race check in opens at 9 a.m., with the walk starting at 10 a.m. A hospitality booth, hosted by The Cancer Support Community, will open after the walk, with Stage 4 of the Amgen Tour of California race starting at 11:30 a.m.

“The Breakaway Mile is held in honor of cancer patients and survivors, their journey, and those that helped them along the way,” says Christie Kelly, Executive Director of The Cancer Support Community – California Central Coast.

Breakaway From Cancer, Breakaway Mile, Amgen, Tour of California, Cancer Support Community

Cancer survivor Thom Schulz of Paso Robles, far left, is pictured with Lara and Ted Muller of Paso Robles, far right, and a representative from Amgen in an ad for the Breakaway from Cancer initiative that recently appeared in People Magazine. Courtesy photo.

Locals to walk Breakaway Mile

Cancer survivor and champion Kristin Alexander of Arroyo Grande will lead 150 cancer community members in the Breakaway Mile walk along the race course and across the start line before the professional start, in honor of the millions of cancer survivors worldwide. It has been nearly five years since Alexander was diagnosed with breast cancer and she is dedicated to helping others so they do not feel like they are in the fight alone.

Riders will finish in Avila at around 3:40 p.m., with The Cancer Support Community hosting another hospitality booth for all Breakaway Mile walkers, their support team, and those wanting more information about local cancer resources.

Alexander will also present the Breakaway from Cancer Most Courageous Rider jersey at the end of the day’s race stage in Avila Beach. This jersey is awarded to the professional cyclist who best exemplifies the character of those engaged in the fight against cancer—courage, sacrifice, inspiration, determination and perseverance.

Thom Schulz is a prostate cancer survivor and, along with his wife Laura Coats, is a co-founder of The Cancer Support Community – California Central Coast where he serves as board chairman. He walks in the Breakaway Mile to show his support for cancer patients, survivors, and to draw attention to the many free programs offered through The Cancer Support Community.

“What’s special about The Cancer Support Community is the personal touch,” Schulz says. “You get people that care and people that have been through it – that is invaluable. I am so pleased with what this organization has done for our community. Speaking from experience, I can positively say that it makes a real difference in peoples’ lives.”

Breakaway From Cancer, Breakaway Mile, Amgen, Tour of California, Cancer Support Community

Cancer survivor Holly Taylor of Paso Robles is pictured with her friend Melissa Noone after participating in the Breakaway Mile during the 2014 Amgen Tour of California. Courtesy photo

Holly Taylor found support at the Paso Robles office location when her general surgeon, also a cancer survivor, told her about the local support center in Paso Robles after her diagnosis. She joined the Young and Young at Heart group and called it a “great resource.”

“It’s all about having somebody who really, truly understands what you are going through,” says Taylor, “and having that positive influence from survivors.”

When she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014 at the age of 38, it came as somewhat of a shock to Taylor, a vibrant nurse with no family history of the disease. She describes her husband of 12 years, Greg, as being an amazing supporter, from the time she found the lump in her breast and subsequent diagnosis, through eight rounds of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, 31 radiation treatments, a hysterectomy, and recovery.

“He is my rock,” says Taylor. “With the help of my husband and our children – Austin, 10, and Courtney, 7 – I was able to make it through this. When I would get down, Greg would say, ‘Okay, that’s fine, but now you have to get back up…keep moving forward.’ Together, we kept a positive attitude through it all and told our children that everything would be fine. He will be walking with me at the Breakaway Mile.”

Sign up to walk

“Amgen highlights the ‘Team Approach’ which, as so many of our local patients and survivors have experienced, is so critical in their journey. The fact that we have the ‘Tour of California” coming through our area is a huge blessing and opportunity for us here at The Cancer Support Community – California Central Coast,” says Kelly. “It is one of the few time that a national and local focus puts us in the spotlight for our work, services, resource and collaborative alliances not to mention the successes of the survivors as well.”

Space for the Pismo Beach portion of the Breakaway Mile at the start of the Amgen Tour of California, Stage 4 is limited to the first 150 participants – those wanting to participate are encouraged to sign up now at All Breakaway Mile participants will receive t-shirts to wear at the event and are invited to view the race action from a private reserved viewing area near the race finish line.



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About the author: Reporter Meagan Friberg

Meagan Friberg is a reporter for the Paso Robles Daily News and A-Town Daily News.