Seven years ago, Gwen W., from Kirkland, Washington, had a feeling something was wrong. “It wasn’t a lump, but I had some discharge from my nipple,” Gwen said. She went to the doctor, and even though a mammogram and ultrasound didn’t show anything, she was sent to a surgeon. The surgeon did several tests and Gwen was diagnosed with Stage 0 breast cancer. “I’m a seven year cancer survivor, and I’m so fortunate to even be able to say that.”
This is Gwen’s first time joining the Susan G. Komen 3-Day®, and she walks for everyone cancer has taken away. “My sister had a really hard struggle with stage four breast cancer. And last year, she lost that battle. My brother died of prostate cancer four years ago, and in my 20s, my mom got cancer and she died. Cancer is such a horrible disease and has taken a lot from our family, and I wanted to give back.”
During Gwen’s treatment, she was a single mom with three kids. “I didn’t have to have chemo, but I did have to have radiation. I worked every day and my kids took care of me, and we made it a fun thing,” said Gwen. Gwen explains, “A mom is worried about how her children are going to be affected by this. When I got home after the surgery, I looked at my breasts. (After my surgery) I had a round circle, and a line, and we ended up calling them ‘Wink’. Even now, we laugh about Wink.”
Gwen went through 31 weeks of treatment, and at the end of treatment, she found herself struggling with depression. The counselor suggested Gwen take some time off. Gwen initially struggled with the idea of taking time off. “I’m just really a ‘do this, do that’ type of person, don’t worry about yourself – but I took some time off, and it was the best thing I could do. It isn’t weakness to take time off. It’s taking care of your body and doing what you need to do to heal. And that’s what I needed to do to heal.”
A large part of Gwen’s healing came from the support all around her, and Gwen’s eyes light up as she tells me about her children. Gwen has three children, her oldest, Emily, is 24 years old and volunteering at the Seattle 3-Day, her son, Michael is 21 years old and watching the family dog this weekend, and her daughter, Beth, is 18 and also helped Gwen with her ribbon skirt. As a new member to the 3-Day family, Gwen describes the incredible role that her children had not only in helping her through her diagnosis and treatment, but also in preparing for the 3-Day. As Gwen recalls her 31 weeks of treatment, she says, “It was a very difficult time, but my kids kept me going. With all of my heart. They are so amazing. They’re just amazing kids, and I want them to have a life they love. And I don’t want it to be stopped by cancer. They needed a mom. I needed to survive. I needed to win and get through it.”
Gwen’s positivity is obvious in all of the ways she discusses the challenges her diagnosis presented, and even as she discusses her first 3-Day experience, positivity radiates from her friendly smile. Beyond the very personal connection to breast cancer, Gwen said, “I like what the 3-Day stands for. The challenge of raising $2,300 was honestly part of the adventure and growth for me.”
Gwen mostly used social media for her fundraising, and said that she really loved engaging her community and inviting them to be a part of her journey by supporting her through her fundraising efforts. While Gwen says she had a late start with training, she found a lot of support from her workplace, which organized weekly walks, and at one point, she was walking in her neighborhood so much that “even the police officer recognized me in Kirkland!” Gwen also posted her training miles on Facebook for accountability and to let people know, “Hey, I’m in the game!”
As Gwen heads out of the lunch stop, she flashes a friendly, megawatt smile, ready to take on the remaining 12 miles of the day. Please join us in welcoming Gwen and all of our new 3-Day walkers and crew. We are so happy to welcome you to the 3-Day, and we’ll forever be grateful for your dedication to fighting breast cancer, because everyone deserves a lifetime.