If cancer could be destroyed by love of people alone, Eric Latham would be its terminator.
The 6 foot 4 inch communications graduate and former Las Vegas journalist left Nags Head, N.C., on April 14 to attend the Bridge for a Cure event at 2 p.m. Nov. 5 on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
He has walked the entire trip, passing through Carson City on Monday.
Latham is walking across the country to raise funds for the American Cancer Society through his organization, Walk About America, which he founded in 2004.
"This campaign is all about people," he said while giving his feet a break at Carson- Tahoe Hospital's Cancer Resource Center. "Cancer affects everyone in different ways."
The walk that began in April on the beach in Nags Head and will end at the Golden Gate was inspired by his experience volunteering at the Massey Cancer Center in Richmond, Va., where he lives.
"I was really inspired by the (cancer patients) strength and wanted to do something," he said. "I don't know if walking 3,600 miles was what I should do, but that's what I did. It's about the people affected by cancer - that's my fuel,"
Toting a 60-pound pack with water, clothes, first-aid supplies and a healthy love of people, Latham found sustenance with the people he met along the way, many of them cancer survivors.
"Luckily for me, Americans are caring people," he said. "I love people, and so many have been affected by cancer, either having it themselves, or a relative or a friend. I had so many people talk to me and offer to share their meal."
He traveled between 17 to 25 miles a day in the East, and between 25 to 35 once he made it to Nebraska and the West because of the longer distances between towns.
Along the way he interviews cancer survivors and adds their stories to his. In Carson City, Pat Williams, a cancer coach for the Cancer Research Center, shared his battle with prostate cancer with Latham. Those interviews and Latham's experiences will be the basis for a book he plans to write.
"They're going through a life-changing experience," Latham said. "I have a greater appreciation for life after volunteering and walking for them."
After two nights in Carson City, Latham is headed for South Lake Tahoe.
He has no financial sponsors other than a shoe company, Montrail Shoes of Seattle, that provided him with two pairs. The first pair made it to North Platte, Neb., and the second pair should last to the Golden Gate, he said.
He has raised $14,130 for the American Cancer Society, according to the Web site, www.walkaboutamerica.com. "I started out trying to raise $50,000 and I still feel like we can do it on this last campaign," he said.
Did he ever get discouraged? Right away, he said.
"About an hour into the walk, I thought, 'What am I doing?' he said. "But these people I meet who encourage me are my reason. And the people who have suffered because of this disease."
n Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 882-2111, ext. 351.
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