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'Take A Step' And Fight Cancer

When The Saturday Early Show anchor Gretchen Carlson introduced Suzanne Lawrence Forsberg last year, as an "American Hero," she was battling terminal colon cancer. But as she faced death, she already had her life mission planned; wanting to help others fight the disease that she ultimately could not overcome.

Suzanne's husband Chris Forsberg and their two children, Makayla and Gareth, are warming up to walk on a treadmill and take on a challenge like never before.

They're about to "take a step" in Suzanne Lawrence Forsberg's honor. The "Taking a Step" event at Gold's Gym in Dallas, Texas, is raising money and awareness for colon cancer. It was Suzanne's dream before she died of the disease last summer. She was just 34 years old.

At the fundraising event, her husband said, "Her dedication to helping others, willingness to fight when others would have given up, and loving spirit will serve as a testament to the world she left behind."

For Suzanne's family, the steps are difficult to take, but something each of them promised they would do.

Her mother Ann Lawrence says, "And she said, 'Mom, it's not about me anymore.' She said, 'It's about others - everyone who is suffering from this.' She said, 'Do something for me, Mom, keep taking a step going for me.'"

The giving spirit that was always a part of Suzanne was evident when The Early Show first met her in January of 2003. She'd been diagnosed with terminal colon cancer three years before, but had outlived every doctor's expectations.

Back then, she told The Early Show, "Colon cancer is the second leading cause of deaths in cancers behind lung cancer. And I was just appalled at how little medication is available to colon cancer patients. So I kept thinking, there's got to be something I can do, I have done this before. How can I get research funds?"

The answer lay in her past. In 1990, Suzanne became Miss Texas. But talent and beauty never guarantee an easy life. What many people didn't know is by the time she stepped on the Miss America stage, she had fought and won a seven-year battle with vaginal cancer.

She didn't win the beauty pageant but she was still victorious.

In her interview with The Early Show she said, "After I was third runner-up, I did have some reporters asking me, 'Aren't you devastated you didn't win the crown?' And I said, 'Devastated? Are you kidding? I was allowed to grace the Miss America stage and be among those women and be honored. And I am alive.'"

Soon after, she began a successful career as a broadcast journalist. But eight months into a new job at a station in Georgia, and pregnant with her second child, Suzanne got some devastating news. Cancer had returned - this time, in her colon.

She explained, "I went in for what I thought was going to be a routine colon resection and I woke up being told I had a year and a half to two years to live."

But Suzanne kept on fighting

"I wrote on a piece of paper one time, 'I have to live to hold my first grandchild.' I just forgot to put that my daughter can't be 16," she says with a laugh. "But, anyway, that's fine if she is. But I just told myself I have to keep going.

"I started thinking about The Walk for the Cure and Race for the Cure. And it hit me; Stairmaster."

Her idea? Climb for the Cure, climbing, hiking, and stepping up to raise money for colon cancer research and education. And almost as soon as Suzanne got them on the phone, Gold's Gym, the world's largest chain of fitness centers, stepped up to the challenge.

Now, in her memory, many pageant contestants Suzanne had inspired are giving back to her, taking part in the first fundraiser at Gold's Gym sponsored by the American Cancer Society. Now called Taking a Step, Suzanne's dream is being realized

On a stairmaster, Stephani Stokes, Miss Hurst Euless Bedford, says, "I'm so excited about this. I wish she could be here. But I think she's looking down on it with the biggest smile."

And it's not only local pageant contestants, but at the Miss America pageant in September, former Miss Americas joined forces to support Suzanne's cause.

Kaye Lani Rafko Wilson, Miss America 1988, says, "As a former Miss America, in her memory, it gives us all great pleasure and honor to be able to continue her work."

And Maria Beale Fletcher, Miss America 1962, adds, "When we take a step, it means to me, that we are acting; we're taking a step in love instead of running out of fear."

It's a step Suzanne Lawrence Forsberg would have been proud of.

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