A 60-mile walk transformed into a life-changing experience for a local woman.

Melissa McMahon recently completed the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure, a three-day trek to help raise awareness and funds in the fight against breast cancer. Organized in various locations across the country, pink-clad participants gathered for an event McMahon said she would always remember and cherish.

After months of training, the rural Ottawa resident hit the roads in and around Phoenix Friday through Sunday. Make no mistake: Though it was a walking event in mild weather conditions, the experience wasn’t easy, McMahon, 49, said.  

“This was one of the most physically and emotionally challenging events in my lifetime,” she said. “I would put it with the birth of my children.”

Finishing near the middle of the pack of more than 900 walkers, many of them breast cancer survivors, McMahon said, she was pleased with her overall performance. To see that many people walking for such a great cause, she said, was an “awe-inspiring” sight. The experience helped demonstrate to her that she is stronger than she thought she was, McMahon said, both physically and emotionally.

“I did awesome. I walked and kept pace with men and women who have participated many different years,” she said. “I took my training as seriously as my work schedule would allow. And as such, I was able to complete the entire 60 miles without a single blister.”

A continuous show of support was on display throughout the event, she said. Words of encouragement echoed throughout the crowd and among the participants — along with the mantra “no walker left behind.”

Citing the immense support of the community, McMahon said she broke her $2,500 fundraising goal for the event, raising $3,122.85 in all. A very well-organized activity, McMahon said, her experience with the 3-Day for the Cure was so good she already has committed to the 2013 event — though she hasn’t yet chosen the location where she plans to walk. The dedicated walker said she would recommend the event to anyone wishing to make a difference.

“It is so rewarding to know that no matter how small your part is, it does matter,” she said.

It’s difficult to find the correct words, she said, to describe just how much she was impacted by last weekend’s event. Walking alongside survivors and their family and friends, as well as loved ones of those who lost the battle, McMahon said, she was shocked by their toughness.

“The strength of character that an individual and the people closest to them develops when confronted a cancer diagnosis is quite amazing,” she said. “I walked side by side with several survivors and was completely amazed with how open they were with all they had been through, and how much tenacity they possessed.

“These women are heroes to me.”