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Walking for warriors, walking for mom

For six weeks, Nancy Gorchals made trips to Appleton five days a week for radiation treatments.

The treatments followed three surgeries after her June 1 diagnosis with breast cancer.

On Monday, Oct. 15, her son Daniel made the trip to Appleton – on foot.

“I have amazing friends and family,” Nancy said minutes after Daniel left St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Fremont and began walking to Appleton Medical Center.

He was joined by four others in the 26-mile walk.

They left Fremont at 7 a.m. and arrived at the hospital 6 1/2 hours later.

Daniel’s father, Patrick, who is a Waupaca County Sheriff deputy, escorted him and the others along the way.

While Nancy traveled from Weyauwega to Appleton on U.S. Highway 10, they wanted Daniel and the others to be safe on their walk.

That is why they began in Fremont and walked to Appleton on State Highway 96.

“It was the most physically exhausting thing I’ve ever done,” Daniel said.

His walk, “Daniel’s Walk for Warriors,” raised funds for two groups of people – cancer survivors and veterans.

He has raised between $4,000 and $5,000 so far and donations continue to be accepted..

Half of the funds are being donated to Appleton Medical Center Foundation’s Cancer Care Support Fund, and half are being donated to Operation Muskie.

The hospital’s fund assists cancer survivors and their families with such items as gas cards for travel.

Operation Muskie takes veterans to Lake of the Woods in Minnesota for fishing.

Daniel served in the U.S. Air Force from July 2005 to July 2009. Seven of those months were a combat tour in the Middle East.

“That was the main thing that helped me – when I would go out in a little boat on the Wolf and learn how to fish,” he said regarding how his family encouraged him after he returned home.

When Daniel learned about Operation Muskie, he knew he wanted half of the money raised from his walk to help that organization.

He, too, would love to have a program that takes veterans fishing.

Daniel said he wanted to give back to the Martha Siekman Cancer Center at Appleton Medical Center, which helped his mother.

He decided that a miltary ruck march was the best way to do so.

Dressed in his combat boots and with a ruck on his back, Daniel made his walk as a mlitary ruck march.

“Everyone I knew who had been a combat vet thought it was cool to turn it into a good cause for multiple people,” he said.

When Daniel asked his mother what she wanted the funds raised for the fund to go, “fuel cards” was her answer.

Nancy said, “Pat and I figured it cost between $500 and $600 in gas” for her to travel from their Weyauwega home to Appleton for the radiation treatments.

She received a $50 gas card from the American Cancer Society, with friends and family covering the rest of the cost.

Nancy, 44, received the diagnosis of breast cancer after feeling a lump in one of her breasts.

She had never had a mammogram, and when she did have one, cancer was found in both of her breasts. Three lumpectomy surgeries were necessary.

“I think we put it off,” she said of what many women do when it comes to scheduling an appointment for a mammogram.

She completed her radiation treatments the end of September, and as Daniel began planning to do the walk, he decided to do so in October, which is “Breast Cancer Awareness Month.”

“She’s probably my best friend. She’s super young and beautiful,” Daniel said of his mother.

Two months ago, he began training. His cousin, Vincent Ruggiere trained with him.

As people heard of his plan, donations arrived. A benefit was held Oct. 13 in Fremont.

“We raised $500 on the walk, just in donations from people I didn’t know,” he said.

Before leaving for the walk, a group of children who go to St. Pauls’ Child Care in Fremont walked out of the church. Each child gave $1 to Nancy.

Today, Nancy is feeling well. On Feb. 1, she will have a mammogram to make sure everything is good.

And, she has one message for women.

“Get your mammograms,” she said.

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