Cancer survivor hiking to help sick children

Barbara Hootman

Beth Padgett knows what it is like to wage war with cancer and be low on wishes.

On her way home from a doctor’s appointment in 2013, she saw a billboard for the Trailblaze Challenge, a 28.3-mile one-day hike to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“I knew without a doubt that I would make a wish come true for a sick child who hadn’t had many wishes come true, lying in a hospital bed waiting for the next treatment to start, or the pain to stop,” Padgett, a Black Mountain resident, said. “I knew I could make a difference in one life. If I pass the next CT scan in April, I will walk the 28.3 miles in June.”

Padgett, 56, was diagnosed with stage four terminal cancer in 2013. She had been a marathon runner and an athlete who worked out hard every day.

“I was given six months to live without treatment, one to two years with treatment,” she said. “Treatment would be palliative, meaning it would sustain life, not cure in any way. I went to Duke University Hospital where I was given the option to fight the cancer knowing the odds were very long. I chose to fight.”

The oncologist said that after chemotherapy, she had a 15 percent chance of surviving long enough to make it to surgery. The first surgery was followed by more chemotherapy, radiation, and another surgery.”

Now, two years and eight months since Padgett was diagnosed, her last three CT scans showed no signs of cancer growing.

“I still remain at the statistically terminal stage four,” Padgett said. “ Eight months into treatment my husband, Bobby, said ‘Beth, you can’t die yet, you’re not done giving.’”

Bobby Padgett, who works part-time at Cheshire Fitness Center after retiring with 31 years of service with Norfolk Southern Railroad, was right. Beth is not finished giving.

“I used to watch her train for marathons, and I knew how determined and strong she was,” he said. “We were on a roller coaster right after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She and I decided together that she would fight the disease. If anyone can do the walk for Make-A-Wish, she can. I think it is a hard challenge and will be demanding of her strength, but I’ll be there checking on her every four miles.”

Padgett said she is doing the walk as a challenge for herself, and to help a sick child.

“The ability to give is a gift, and it shouldn’t be squandered,” she said. “Life can be tough, but when you give selflessly, it comes from the core of one’s humanity. Children live in the moment. So I want for even a short time to replace a child’s pain and misery with joy and happiness. I have the ability to do that, so why wouldn’t I do it? It is a moral thing with me.

“It is a challenge for me, but not nearly as much a challenge as sickness is for a child. Also, I want to show my sponsors how hard I am working to do this walk.”

The fight to survive cancer has taught Padgett the importance of family and friends.

“Cancer has been an eye opener,” she said. “It makes you appreciate the little things, and it makes you appreciate the love and support of family and friends.”

One of Padgett’s three sisters, Karen Cadwell, also a Black Mountain resident, has been with Padgett throughout her fight with cancer.

“Fortunately I retired shortly after Beth was diagnosed,” Cadwell said. “This enabled me to be with her and her husband through most of the journey. She has had seven surgeries and much chemo and radiation. I have a bit of a medical background, so I was along to bring up questions, pounce on seeming discrepancies, and just be an overall sounding board for the plethora of information and decisions that had to be made. She is the one helping us get through this with her.

“Being the stereotypical big sister, I can’t say I’m happy about her doing the 28 miles, but I know her well enough to know she will do it. I told our mother I’m torn between wanting to protect her and wanting to support her. Mom said that I should support her, and she would protect herself. I know that is true.”

To support Padgett by donating online, go to You can also donate by check mailed to Make-A-Wish Central & Western NC, 1131 Harding Place, Charlotte, NC 28204. Reference the Trailblaze Challenge Spring 2016 with the name of the person you wish to sponsor.

You can also give cash or a check made out to Make-A-Wish to Padgett. You will receive a receipt from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Padgett’s first donation came from Cathy and Jack Ollis of Black Mountain.

Beth Padgett can be contacted at