Northeast Times

Walk of hope

Work­ing out: Harry Palumbo, a 45-year-old Frank­ford High School his­tory teach­er who will be walk­ing from Fox Chase Can­cer Cen­ter to the Taj Ma­hal in At­lantic City to raise money for the Amer­ic­an Can­cer So­ci­ety, works out reg­u­larly at the Power­house Gym. M

— Harry Palumbo will walk from Fox Chase Can­cer Cen­ter to At­lantic City to raise money for the Amer­ic­an Can­cer So­ci­ety in hon­or of his moth­er and fath­er.

To hon­or his moth­er and fath­er, who both died of can­cer, Harry Palumbo figured he could down a dozen shots of Sam­buca and get a tat­too that reads, “Mom and Dad.”

“But I’m scared of needles,” he said.

Palumbo, a 45-year-old Fox Chase res­id­ent and Frank­ford High School his­tory teach­er, has a pretty good backup plan.

On April 26 and 27, he’ll walk 66 miles from Fox Chase Can­cer Cen­ter to the Trump Taj Ma­hal in At­lantic City to raise money for the Amer­ic­an Can­cer So­ci­ety.

There are doubters who say he won’t make it.

“I’m a middle-aged guy with a bum knee,” he said.

To those doubters, he asks what fla­vor of salt­water taffy they want from a shop on the At­lantic City board­walk.

Palumbo is con­fid­ent he’ll com­plete the long jour­ney.

“Fail­ure is not an op­tion,” he said.

Born and raised in South Phil­adelphia, Palumbo lost his mom to meso­the­lioma at age 49. He and his sis­ter, An­gela, both col­lege stu­dents at the time, felt like orphans.

Palumbo’s dad was a body­build­er who died in 2009 at age 76 from stom­ach can­cer.

“The guy lived and breathed fit­ness,” his son said. “There’s no rhyme or reas­on he got can­cer. My fath­er fought to his last breath.”

Be­sides los­ing his par­ents, Palumbo has a friend who lost her hus­band to brain can­cer. A 31-year-old co-work­er is bat­tling breast can­cer.

Palumbo, though, wasn’t in good enough shape last year to con­sider a walk to be­ne­fit can­cer re­search. He un­der­went re­con­struct­ive sur­gery on his right knee in March 2012.

On Christ­mas Eve, he saw a pic­ture of him­self. He was car­ry­ing about 235 pounds on his 5-foot-9 frame and likened him­self to a “little But­ter­ball.”

“My fath­er would smack me if he saw me look like that,” he said.

Palumbo didn’t make a mere New Year’s res­ol­u­tion to lose weight, he made a “life-chan­ging res­ol­u­tion.”

In ad­di­tion to stick­ing to a bet­ter diet, he walks ex­tens­ively and works out re­li­giously at Power­house Gym in Lawndale.

Today, he is a svelte 183 pounds, mean­ing he’s lost more than 50 pounds in less than four months. His size 36 pants don’t fit any­more. He wears a size 32.

All the train­ing has paid off.

“My knee is sore af­ter­ward,” he said, “but I suck it up.”

Palumbo, who has taught at Frank­ford for 14 years, hopes to raise $10,000. He en­cour­ages people to make flat dona­tions, or pledges of a dol­lar or two for each mile walked.

In ad­di­tion, he is selling T-shirts for $10. Frank­ford seni­or Shantelle Flip­pen de­signed the shirts, which read, “Fox Chase to A.C. One step closer to a cure,” with a pic­ture of a sneak­er step­ping on the word “can­cer.”

As the walk gets closer, he is hope­ful people will sup­port his fight against a dis­ease that wreaks hav­oc on young and old, rich and poor.

“Every­body knows some­body who has can­cer or some­body who has passed away from it,” he said.

Palumbo’s quest will be­gin at 5 a.m. on April 26, a Fri­day. He’ll walk from Fox Chase Can­cer Cen­ter over the Ta­cony-Palmyra Bridge. He ex­pects to walk 36 miles the first day be­fore set­tling in for a good night’s rest at the Ham­mon­ton Inn.

On April 27, he’ll walk the fi­nal 30 miles.

“Four to five miles an hour is a pretty good pace,” he said.

Palumbo will have to make stops along the way to go to the bath­room and change his socks and sneak­ers. He’ll also have to nav­ig­ate traffic. He plans to ar­rive at the Don­ald Trump-owned casino hotel about 3 p.m.

“If The Don­ald is there, I won’t give him hair tips, but I’ll ask him for a dona­tion,” he said.

As he walks, he plans to be think­ing about his par­ents. He’ll be car­ry­ing ros­ary beads and listen­ing to mu­sic on head­phones.

Palumbo is ready for the chal­lenge. He walks on the Power­house Gym tread­mills for hours at a time and also lifts weights and hits a heavy bag. He can be seen reg­u­larly walk­ing the streets of Fox Chase and around Ab­ra­ham Lin­coln High School, build­ing his way up from 18 to 21 to 27 miles a day.

If Mi­chael and Vir­gin­ia Palumbo could battle a deadly dis­ease, he can walk 66 miles in two days.

“They didn’t back down,” he said.

By walk­ing such a long dis­tance in such a short time, Palumbo hopes to in­spire oth­ers. He’d love to hear someone say, “I’m go­ing to top him. I’m go­ing to walk 70 miles.”

“I’m do­ing this for my par­ents and any­body else who has had can­cer,” he said. “Maybe the money I raise can save some­body.” ••

To buy a T-shirt or for more in­form­a­tion, vis­it www.66milein2days.webs.com or check out the Fight­ing for Can­cer Step By Step page on Face­book.

Dona­tions can be sent to Fight­ing for Can­cer Step By Step, P.O. Box 24666, Phil­adelphia, PA 19111-24666. Fol­low Palumbo’s pro­gress on Twit­ter @thehman1967.

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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