Elizabeth Crutchley walks in Sykesville (above) photo by Nikola Tzenov
by Lois Szymanski
Elizabeth Crutchley Walks To Bring Awareness for Breast Cancer
Some days it’s not easy to get going, but Elizabeth Crutchley does, dressing in colorful costumes to walk along Route 26, from bridge to bridge. The 53-year-old Eldersburg resident covers three to four miles every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. She’s walked over 1,000 miles since June of 2020, all to bring awareness to breast cancer.
Walking for Lindsey
Crutchley’s niece, Lindsey Cohen, battled triple-negative breast cancer. They were only 23 when they passed. (Lindsey identified as nonbinary and used the pronouns they and them.) “It’s hard to believe it’s been over two years since they’ve been gone,” Crutchley said.
Lindsey studied sound design at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. On the day she was to graduate, she was in the hospital getting a port. She may not have walked the stage, but she got her degree, something that was important to her.
“This is why I dress up and walk,” Crutchley said. “Please do your self-checks and get tested. She was way too young.”
Crutchley shared how important her message is.“I couldn’t travel to see Lindsey due to Covid, so I started this to bring awareness to breast cancer and to the importance of self-checks, for women and for men, too,” she said. “I don’t want anyone to go through what our family went through. Cancer can hit anyone at any age. I had cancer too, in the early 2000s — five spots of malignant melanoma and ovarian cancer.”
Lindsey was a fighter, Crutchley said. “She was spunky and never backed down. She always thought she would beat this, even right up to a few hours before she died. During a check in November, they didn’t see the cancer, and then in February she passed. It came back so fast and spread through all her lymph nodes.”
Crutchley said she had to do something, so she turned to her love of walking.
Costumes for Awareness
“I thought wearing a costume would grab people’s attention and make them look, and then I could deliver the message with the signs I carry,” she said. “I’ve purchased over 30 costumes on Amazon, Goodwill racks — anywhere I can.” Her costumes include a pig, a girl riding a giant snail, a princess, a stalk of broccoli and more, but she says people appreciate her hamburger costume the most.
“Everyone loves the hamburger costume,” she said. “The guys stop in the road, cracking up laughing. I had this big burly truck driver pull his truck over and just burst out laughing. It made my morning!”
After three years, she says she often sees the same cars going by. They honk and wave and sometimes stop.
“Little kids will recognize me outside and I always wave to the school buses,” Crutchley said. “I must say “Good morning” hundreds of times every time I am out.”
Walking Fool for Breast Cancer Awareness
Crutchley’s Facebook page, Walking Fool for Breast Cancer Awareness, has a following as well. It’s a place where cancer victims find comfort, advice from others and the message that they are not alone.
“People have sent me photos and shared their stories about family members,” she said. “I have met a lot of nice people and chatted about what they are going through. I try to offer help in getting appointments, finding resources and whatever else they need.”
On the page are links to her favorite charities, so folks can donate.
“Zaching Against Cancer is the one I support the most,” said Crutchley. “They help out with groceries, gas, and even nights out for caregivers. They really helped my sister out. She lives here in Columbia and was driving back and forth to Cincinnati to care for Lindsey.”
Her page also includes Blossoms of Hope, a nonprofit that plants trees in memory of a loved one. Lindsey was a nature lover, so it means a lot. There’s also the Nicky and Bradley Bozeman Foundation. They set up a session for Lindsey to Skype with Justin Tucker when he was with the Ravens.
“The Ravens stepped in and made her last few months special,” Crutchley recalled. “At one time, they had her picture in the stands and on a billboard.”
Always Nursing and Caring
Healthcare has always been important to Crutchley. She studied nursing, worked in nursing homes, and was a board-certified national pharmacy technician for over a decade. She cares for her mom, who has dementia, and is a cannabis consultant and advocate, something she does for people of her mom’s generation “that need a little help.”
With osteoporosis, Crutchley says Tylenol is her best friend. She did take a break for a knee replacement and a hip replacement, and she covers herself in pain patches before walking, but has no plans to stop.
“My poor husband says he appreciates what I am doing, but he won’t be joining me,” she said with a chuckle. Crutchley’s biggest hope is that more people will be aware and get tested and that men will realize it affects them as well.
Asked why she continues, Crutchley doesn’t hesitate. “It’s meeting all the people, the smiling faces and feeling the positivity. It’s knowing that some of the women who have seen me have actually gone and gotten their mammograms. I just want to thank everyone in the community who has smiled, waved, honked or stopped to talk. They are the ones moving my feet down the road.”