Survivor Finds New Strength in Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk

Written By:By Marie Cirelli Thornsberry

"You really learn that you're not alone from the events. There are people going through the same thing, and they understand the fight. You'll see that the disease affects so many people."

Kendall Smiley
Kendall Smiley - Stories of Hope

Kendall Smiley is not shy to admit that she’s a bucket-list kind of woman. In fact, in 2012 she set out to achieve her goal of becoming a professional bodybuilder.

Smiley had been active in a variety of athletic activities throughout her life and found success in fitness competitions, placing in several events. She was eating an incredibility healthy diet and exercising regularly.

“I was in the best shape of my life,” said Smiley. “I did everything right.”

But despite her healthy habits, in March 2013, she found a lump in one of her breasts after dislocating her shoulder. A biopsy revealed that at age 37, she had breast cancer. Further tests found it to be stage I.

Smiley took matters into her own hands and prepared to fight it. She made up her mind to do the best she could to maintain a positive outlook and continued to do the things she enjoyed, even if that meant exercising. She was even determined to carry on with her wedding plans, walking down the aisle in a designer wig.

photo of Kendall Smiley

During her journey with breast cancer, Smiley felt a need to reach out to others touched by the disease. She learned about the American Cancer Society and was connected to a breast cancer survivor through the Society’s Reach To Recovery program, which matches trained volunteer breast cancer survivors to people facing or living with breast cancer. The program gives patients and their family members the opportunity to ask questions, talk about their fears and concerns, and express their feelings.

As an occupational therapist, she was paired with a breast cancer survivor who also worked in the health care industry and was around her same age. “Sometimes you just need to talk to someone who’s been there,” Smiley said.

Little did she know that through the Reach To Recovery volunteers, she would also be exposed to a whole new community of people touched by breast cancer through the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk, a fundraising event that unites communities to raise money and awareness in support of the Society’s mission to help save lives from breast cancer. She immediately connected with the event, the people, and the cause, and has been rallying others to join her ever since.

“It’s like being part of a sorority that I didn’t sign up for, and I’m in,” Smiley said. “I’m all in!”

This past year she served as a Team Leader and committee member for the event in Barnstable, Massachusetts, recruiting an impressive 54 people to join her team and help fundraise.

“You really learn that you’re not alone from the events,” said Smiley. “There are people going through the same thing, and they understand the fight. You’ll see that the disease affects so many people.”

This October the American Cancer Society will hold nearly 300 Making Strides events in communities across the country, and it’s not too late to get involved. Visit to find an event in your community, form a fundraising team, join an existing team, or make a donation.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

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