Jill Levy started a 60-mile walk to Washington on Friday, part of a journey that began 12 years ago when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
She lost her breast but says she gained a sense of duty to help others cope with the disease.
Miss Levy was among 2,800 people, including about 400 breast cancer survivors, who made the three-day trek from Frederick, Md., to the District to raise money for prevention, detection and research.
Their effort ended yesterday at the Washington Monument.
“For me, the walk is a spiritual commitment to myself a way of teaching other women there is life after breast cancer, that we are strong and that we will survive,” said Miss Levy, 62, a labor leader from New York City.
The hikers, most of them women, cheered as they left Hood College in Frederick on Friday for a hike that was to average 20 miles a day.
They spent the nights on the road in tents but did not need to worry about cooking. Hot meals, hot showers, massages and evening entertainment were supplied by Avon Products Inc., sponsor of the walk.
“After you walk 20 miles all day, you want some pampering and fun at your campsite,” said Patricia Sterling, senior manager of the event.
Officials said the hike already has raised $6 million through pledges of at least $1,800 that each walker had to gather. It is the first of seven such events the cosmetics company is holding across the country from May through October.
Avon has sponsored five previous hikes since 1998, netting more than $20 million to fight a disease that will kill 41,200 women this year, Miss Sterling said.
And the walk to Washington has been the most popular, she said. Officials had to close registration in March.
The walkers arrived in Frederick on Thursday and got lessons in safety, stretching and hydration. Miss Levy said she expected to drink at least a gallon of water daily and possibly much more because of the unseasonable 90-degree heat that dropped in on the area Friday.
Several walkers struggled with the heat. Firefighters in Montgomery County, where the walkers spent Saturday night in Rockville, treated about 40 walkers, mostly for heat exhaustion and dehydration.
Other walkers took several breaks for rest, water and stretching.
Lisa Samuels, who has been on breast-cancer walks in Los Angeles and New York, said the events are about more than raising money.
“I made so many friends, it was so amazing,” said Miss Samuels, 30, a Web site producer from Reston. “I heard so many stories from so many people that touched me so deeply, I knew I had to do this.”