MY WORD:Walking route to visit Oprah passes through Shelby County

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By Sam Neace

In autumn of 2009, I left my hometown of Hazard on a 500-mile walk to Oprah Winfrey’s studio in Chicago, Illinois, only 18 months after I finished extensive chemotherapy. The walk served two purposes: raising money for the American Cancer Society and hand delivering my writings to Oprah. I’ve dreamed of being an author since I was 6 years old. Operation Oprah led me up and down the Appalachian Mountains, through the entire state of Indiana and finally into the windy city. Along the way, I walked through your beautiful town of Shelbyville.

My adventure was filled with both tribulation and jubilation. This wasn’t what I planned in the beginning, but it all came about because I simply laced up my shoes and set out on the road, one foot in front of the other. Along the way, I not only discovered the true majesty of purple mountains and fruited plains, but I also discovered myself.

My journey spanned 22 days, with an average of 25 miles walked each day. The shortest distance I walked was 15 miles, the longest 32. Mental endurance played as much of a factor in my success as physical endurance. There were several occasions when I wanted to give up and go home but never due to physical exhaustion. I had to fight my mind. For three weeks, my life consisted of nothing more than waking before dawn, walking until dusk and then falling asleep. It does not take long for this routine to get old. However, completing the walk turned out to be one of the

most spiritually fulfilling moments I will ever know, even though Oprah would not meet me.

This is what I would like for people to take from my story. Sam Neace was never the kid picked first in sports. Often, I wasn’t picked at all. There are no track and field medals hanging from my mantle. I was a shy kid who has now grown into a shy man. Cancer opened my eyes to a part of human nature that I had seen in others but never identified within myself. The potential to do great things exists within all of us, and you do not have to face cancer in order to tap this potential. Bravery and persistence are just as much part of human nature as fear and dread. They live within all of us, and if Sam Neace can successfully walk 21 marathons back-to-back, you can conquer one or several.

One chapter of the book is devoted to the day I walked through Shelbyville. Thanks so much to the people of Shelbyville for giving me a warm welcome. You can order a copy by simply searching Sam Neace on amazon.com. More information about my life and my work is also available on samneace.com. Send me an E-mail from the Web site and share the glory of your story. I would love to hear about your adventures.

Sam Neace lives in Hazard