SALEM — Lisa Cavallaro has walked more than 100 miles in the fight against cancer, participating in the North Shore Cancer Walk since its inception in 1991.
This year, as Cavallaro steps off Sunday with thousands of other walkers, the cause is much more personal. Cavallaro and her brother Robert were both diagnosed with cancer in the past year.
She will walk as much of the 6.2-mile route through Salem as she is able, and a team of her friends and family will walk in her honor.
"I have to have hope," said Cavallaro, a registered nurse and manager of The Birthplace at North Shore Medical Center. "You have to not give up, you have to have hope. I don't talk about my prognosis. I talk about getting up every day and putting one foot forward."
Since her diagnosis, Cavallaro has not missed a single day of work. She will be undergoing treatment for melanoma through March.
A Salem native, Cavallaro went to Salem State University and has worked at only one place — Salem Hospital, now part of North Shore Medical Center — for 31 years.
When she saw a flier for the first North Shore Cancer Walk 20 years ago, she signed up simply because it was a good cause, she said. She didn't know anyone with cancer personally.
She strapped her then-1-year-old daughter, Molly, in a baby carrier and walked the route with her husband, Rick.
Crossing the finish line gave her "the most amazing feeling in the world," she said.
"The first time I walked over finish line, I just sobbed and said, 'It feels so good to do this.' I always knew I was helping someone, somewhere," she said. "Now, it has come full circle. ... I became one of the people that I was walking for all those years."