It always seemed to me like there was so much money being raised to help fund new cancer advancements and treatments. I never really understood how more money could POSSIBLY be needed to finally find a cure.
Last year I read Promise Me, by Nancy Brinker and discovered not only the answer to my fundraising question, but I also learned how very far we’ve come in terms of cancer prevention and treatment. This book opened my eyes to how every dollar that is donated to Susan G. Komen truly brings us closer to a cure. Money raised and donated funds the invention and production of better mammogram machines, allows dedicated doctors to conduct their ground-breaking research, opens clinics where many people would not otherwise have access to treatment or early detection, etc.
Learning the history of breast cancer research and treatment dissolved my skepticism about whether anything I did, or any money I donated would actually bring us closer to a cure and ensure that the women I love remain free from cancer. I take that back, I learned that the money that I donate to SGK will not only help me protect the women I love, but also every man, woman and child in the world because finding the cure for breast cancer means finding the cure for all cancer.
So, I was clearly inspired by the book. I had already committed to walking in the San Diego Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure before reading it, but now my doubts about walking had disappeared and I knew that I would walk with passion for 3 days with other advocates and survivors. I understood that what I was doing mattered and that every little bit of money put towards finding a cure really does make a difference.
What I didn’t realize was how life changing the experience doing this walk would be. I thought it would be a physical challenge and knew that it would be fun to spend 3 days with my best friend. However, I was not prepared for the range of emotions I would feel during this 3-day period. I never could have anticipated the feelings I would have from being part of something so much bigger than myself.
Decked out in our pink outfits and “flare,” with our Camel Backs strapped to our backs my friend Elisa and I walked into the opening ceremonies before 6:00am on the first morning of the walk. I was uneasy and a bit disconnected because I didn’t know what to expect. There were, literally, THOUSANDS of other walkers there waiting for the ceremonies to begin who seemed to know where to go and what to expect.
Luckily, Elisa was a seasoned veteran and I just followed her around in silence, trying to take it all in. When Dr. Sheri Phillips, the spokesperson for Susan G. Komen, began to speak I recognized some of the facts about breast cancer that I had read about in Promise Me. Then Dr. Phillps invited the flag bearers to come onto the stage.
That is when I lost it.
Tears streamed down my face completely uncontrollably as I watched these men and women hold the flags stating who or what they were there to fight for…
Sister. Mothers. Daughters. Friends. Co-workers. Neighbors. Fathers (Yup. If you didn’t already know this, men can get breast cancer too). Anniversaries. Birthdays. Futures.
Chills ran down my spine as I watched them cross the stage and I was assured of what I was doing there on that cold, November morning. I remembered my purpose for being there; to help save the people currently fighting breast cancer and remember those that we have lost. I looked around again at the thousands of others standing there and felt connected to each of them. As Elisa and I crossed the gates that began the 3-day course I could not control my tears. I can’t even say what I was crying about. I was just so completely overcome by emotions. I understood the slogan that I had seen countless times; “I walk because I cannot walk away.”
The first day of walking I was relatively quiet. There was so much to take in. The countless other walkers, the pins they wore sharing how many times they had walked in the past and signs they held in honor of those they were walking for were a lot to take in. There was a group of young survivors that wore pageant-style sashes stating how young they were when they were first diagnosed. Some were as young as 20 years old when they were first diagnosed. Can you imagine? While we were going to frat parties these girls were fighting for their lives!
One walker had her bald wrapped in a beautiful pink scarf and was clearly in treatment. She alternated being pushed in a wheelchair by her family and friends and walking on her own. Her determination to finish the 60 miles and to fight this disease was inspiring. I will never forget her.
For three days I walked, camped, ate, cried and laughed with Elisa and the new friends that I met along the route. I was reminded how grateful we should be for our health and that having support from others can help us overcome even the most challenging times.
One special group that I dare not forget to mention is the fans who cheered us on and thanked us for walking for the entire 60 miles of our journey. Supporters handed out candies, tissues, mimosas, snacks and pretty much anything you can think of along the course. They held signs and encouraged us to keep going. One girl that I will never forget sat in her wheelchair and held a sign that said, “Stage 3 and cancer’s kicking ass.” Wow. I was inspired by her strength and her attitude. To be out there cheering me on while she was clearly suffering was enough to move me to tears. I kept walking.
Among the thousands of cheering fans were a special group of supports known as “The Walker Stalkers.” These supporters met us multiples times a day along the 60 mile course to support us and encourage us to keep going, though our bodies may ache and our blisters may be painful. Their faces became familiar and welcoming during the walk and I will never forget seeing their faces one final time as we walked into closing ceremonies on day three. Once again, I was brought to tears. I couldn’t believe that these men and women spent there entire weekend making sure that we kept walking. It made me realize just how important this walk was.
My husband and children came down to San Diego on Day 3 to cheer me on and celebrate with me at closing ceremonies. I loved having them there not only to share in this 60-mile accomplishment, but for them to see and understand what had taken me away from them that weekend. I learned important lessons that weekend that I knew that I could never explain to my family. They had to see for themselves and I am so glad that they did. I learned that one person really can make a difference, that we can never take our health for granted, we can overcome just about anything if we set our minds to it.
I also gathered a clear understanding of why I walked. I walked because I couldn’t walk away, but I also walked for everyone there and around the globe who has been touched by cancer. I walked because I believe in helping others and that I can make a difference. I walked so my children won’t have to.
I have already registered to walk in the 3-Day in San Diego in November 2012. I am looking forward to another incredible experience and have a clear understanding of how my actions can help find a cure for cancer. Registering is simple and the walk is held in 14 cities around the United States each year. Visit www.the3day.org for more information.
When I came home from the 3-day walk, I was excited to register for my next walk, but I also knew that I did not want to wait an entire year before showing my support for finding a cure. I am proud to say that my Pier to Peer partners and I have created a team for the upcoming Race for the Cure 5K in Los Angeles on March 24th. The Race for the Cure event is an amazing way to show your support for breast cancer research and awareness. We encourage and invite all of our readers, their families and friends to join us in participating in this event.
Here are two ways you can make a difference..
1. Join the Pier to Peer Girls in the 5K Race for the Cure on March 24th. Click here to register. Password: Southbay (capital “S”)
2. Donate to Team Pier to Peer and help us meet our fundraising goal of $5000 — that’s 40 mammograms! Click here to donate to our team.