Man takes a long walk in his wife’s memory

May 22, 2013

Dave Brown is a man on a mission — 14 miles a day.

Brown, of Valley Forge, Pa., donned his Legionaries cap and one of his six pairs of walking shoes Tuesday morning and set off from Thompson Hills Shopping Center with plans of hitting La Monte by nightfall. A retired information technology worker, Brown left his home on Feb. 28 and has been making his way along U.S. Highway 50  — just over 1,100 miles so far — to raise awareness and honor the memory of his wife, Joan, who died of ovarian cancer in August 2011.

“About a month after she passed, I went and saw a movie called ‘My Run,’ ” Brown told the Democrat. “The movie opened up with him saying ‘My wife just died of cancer.’ ”

The movie tells the story of a man named Terry Hitchcock who, following his wife’s death, decided to run 75 marathons in 75 days to raise awareness of single parent families.

“I saw that movie and in one second I knew I could walk across the country,” Brown said.

Originally from Ohio, Brown said he has long been interested in the history of U.S. 40, the first federally-funded road in the United States and once a major east-west corridor before much of the route west of the Mississippi was lost to the construction of the interstate highway system.

With much of the old system gone he settled on U.S. Highway 50 and has spent the last 83 days walking his 14 miles “plus or minus one mile” — with each day starting off with him driving his car to his next destination and getting a ride back to his starting point.

Along the way, he has stayed ahead of inclement weather, met some supportive temporary walking companions (including a couple of puppies) and has had an opportunity to see a broad swath of the United States.

“Half of those 83 days, people have walked with me, sometimes multiple times. The people have really been great,” Brown said. “And, everything looks a lot different when you aren’t seeing it at 65 miles per hour.”

Though he has enjoyed his experience, Brown doesn’t miss an opportunity to educate people about ovarian cancer.

“They used to call it the silent disease because a lot of women don’t realize they have it,” he said. “Many don’t have symptoms or the symptoms aren’t severe until it is too late.”

He produced a business card with a list of symptoms: A swollen or bloated abdomen; persistent pain or pressure in the abdomen or pelvis; difficulty eating or feeling full quickly; urgency or frequency of urination; change in bowel habits; and unexplained vaginal bleeding.

“A woman may experience any one of these and it has nothing to do with ovarian cancer, but if she has multiple symptoms or feels these symptoms for more than two weeks, she should see a doctor just to be safe,” Brown said.

Like many forms of cancer, early detection is a key. Brown said if ovarian cancer is caught early (stage 1 or 2) the woman’s chance of survival can be as high as 90 percent.

“If it is in stage 3 or 4, like with my wife, survivability rates are a lot worse,” Brown said.

Looking ahead, Brown hopes to be through the Rocky Mountains before the first snowfall and plans to end his trip in San Francisco on Oct. 12.

For more information about Brown and his journey, see his blog at or his Facebook page,