About a year and a half ago, in March 2010, Eva Cobuzzi of Pearl River found out she had breast cancer.
Over the 12 months that followed, she went through five surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
"I finished my last treatment right before Christmas last year," Cobuzzi said. "I finished the reconstruction surgery in May and I'm completely done with everything. I go every three months and they check my blood, but I'm cancer-free for a year."
Cobuzzi's story helped draw together 14 other women to form Eva's Divas, who raised $30,000 and took part in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer this past weekend in New York City. The event drew approximately 4,500 women and raised $8.4 million.
"We met some really nice people," Cobuzzi said. "It's very organized, structured and a lot of fun.
"It's definitely emotional, especially being a survivor. It hits home when you hear everybody else's stories. I'm a survivor, but people lost their mothers, sisters or daughters along the way. It's emotional in that aspect."
Peggy McGuinness was the team captain for Eva's Divas. The rest of the group included Annemarie Berardi, Fran Cantry, Maryann Collopy, Peg Confrey, Kate Confrey, Donna Garrison, Meg Mandella, Noreen McMullan Oriagh Maguire-Moore, Mary Ortega, Debbie Paciello, Denise Rooney and Cheryl Ward. The walk is spread over two days and ranges from 26 to 39 miles.
"I was a little sore and tired this morning, but we had a great time," McGuinness said. "I slept 14 hours and I'm a new person."
McGuinness said many of the team members had not met before, but Cobuzzi was the common thread for them.
"We all went out for dinner in the city Friday night," McGuinness said. "We went around and introduced ourselves and said how we knew Eva. By the end of the weekend, we were all great friends."
That is one reason the group will stay together to raise funds and take part in the Avon Walk again next year. Many of them had done the walk before, just not all together.
"This was my sixth walk," McGuinness said. "I started with Debbie Paciello and Cheryl Ward. I said before the walk, this was the last year I was going to do it. After this weekend, I'm already signed up for next year."
McMullan, whose daughter Kiera plays for the Pearl River varsity girls soccer team with Cobuzzi's daughter Francesca, said that Cobuzzi has been an inspiration to all of them. She said Cobuzzi was one of the first people she met when her family moved to Pearl River and they even took part in the walk together once 10 years ago.
"She's a mother of two, a working mom, a girl scout leader," McMullan said. "She had a tough time last year. She is an inspiration ot everybody. She kept working and doing all the things she had to do through that tough time last year and she came out of it with a lot of support from friends and family."
Cobuzzi was touched by the efforts of others on her behalf.
"It was really heart-warming to see my friends and family and especially people in Pearl River," Cobuzzi said. "People dropped off dinners. The sent cards and called. They took my daughter to soccer for me. It was unbelievable, the community support I got throughout. There are a lot of wonderful people in this community."
Cobuzzi said her story is another example of the importance of early detection in treating breast cancer. She had gone for yearly mammographies and that is how her own cancer was caught. She knew the importance regular testing because her mother is a 25-year survivor of breast cancer.
"I was in the early stages," Cobuzzi said. "If I hadn't gone regularly, I wouldn't be talking to you. That's the whole point of walks and raising money, for early intervention and screening."
Cobuzzi was even able to work in between treatments.
"I weathered the treatments better than the average bear," Cobuzzi said. "I was very lucky."
McGuinness pointed to the statistic that a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer every three minutes as something that motivates her and others to keep working to help those with the disease and to raise money to aid in awareness, research and treatment.
"Even in our group, it's probably not a matter of if, but when," McGuinness said.
That is one reason why she believes events like the Avon Walk are important.
"We do it for Eva and other women out there," McGuinness said. "It's a great thing."