Best Laid Plans, New Plans

When Dena M. made plans to walk in the 2014 Susan G. Komen 3-Day®, she set her sights high, registering for both the Seattle and San Diego events, and setting a goal to raise $10,000. But after crossing the finish line on Day 1 of the 2014 Seattle 3-Day in September, little did she know that her 3-Day ambitions for the rest of the year were about to be cut short.

“So I raised $10,500. And then I blew out my knee in Seattle. Day 1, 24 miles in. I crossed the finish line and danced and jumped and landed wrong. My teammates heard it.”

Even though Dena’s husband came out and pushed her in a wheelchair for Day 3, it soon became clear that her plans to walk in a second event this year were not realistic.

“My goal was to still walk here [in San Diego], so I went to several doctors and started physical therapy, my goal was to do at least 5 miles each day. But I ended up injuring my knee more by training, and got blood clots in my legs. My husband was going to come and push me in a wheelchair again, but the doctor said I couldn’t sit for that long because of the vein issues.”

Dena’s San Diego team, Mommies for Mammies, were almost all fellow Seattle-area friends who were bound for the Golden State, and Dena was determined to go with them, even if she wouldn’t be able to walk. Outside the entrance to a Day 2 pit stop was where I met her, while she waited for her teammates to come in, her knee still in a brace and her crutches leaning on the fence nearby. Speaking to Dena, the emotion in her voice was unmistakable. It was so difficult for her to not be walking herself, but still so important for her to be here in San Diego for her teammates. “This wasn’t my plan. I mean, I’m glad to be able to be here, but I wanted to walk. I know it’s about the fundraising, but for me, it’s about both. It’s been a tough couple of months.

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Dena cheers for the incoming walkers

“These women are amazing,” she says tearfully, referring not just to her Mommies for Mammies teammates, but all of the walkers (women and men) who stream past her into the pit stop.

I asked Dena what brought her to the 3-Day in the first place. “Three years ago, December 6, I lost my best friend, Jean. I watched her go through the process, and I was there when she passed.” Dena also mentions another member of the 3-Day community that they lost early this year. She stops for a moment, and I’m grateful for the pause, since I’m crying at this point too. “I also lost my aunt, and I have four friends currently going through treatment. So I do this for them, and I do it for other people who can’t walk, and will continue to walk. This means the world.”

In the midst of this solemn moment, Erika and Victoria, two of the other Mommies for Mammies, reach the pit stop and immediately greet Dena with a hug. Dena expresses again how she wishes she was walking with them.

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Mommies for Mammies greet Dena with hugs and cheers

“You just gotta take care of you this weekend, girl,” Erika replies. “We’re walking for you. We are your angels walking.” You can tell they’re a remarkable team, not only from their unwavering support for each other, but also from the fact that this year in San Diego, their very first event as a team, they are within the top 5 fundraising teams.

I asked Dena what her plans are for next year. Without hesitation, the emotion in her voice changes from sad to determined, and she says, “I’m going to walk all seven. I’m going do it, God willing, if my knee heals. I have surgery on the 9th of December.”

Dena shared one other story with me. After Jean died, her husband gave some of her ashes to Dena, asking her, when she was ready, to distribute them someplace that was special to Jean and Dena. “I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to let go of her.” Thinking about how Jean was Dena’s inspiration to get involved with the 3-Day in the first place, and how 2015 will bring Dena to seven cities across America to walk in Jean’s memory, I took a chance and suggested that Dena leave a small bit of Jean’s ashes in each of the 3-Day event cities next year. Her face lit up. “Yes! I’m going to do that. You have no idea how much that idea means to me.” It was one of the most beautiful moments of connection that I’ve experienced in all my years with the 3-Day.

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Dena, we’ll see you in all seven cities in 2015!

Dena’s best laid plans for this year may have fallen short, but there’s no doubt that she is far from done with her 3-Day journey.

Congratulations to the San Diego Milestone Award Winner, Debbie M.!

As we have done at every Susan G. Komen 3-Day® event this year, we took a moment during the Friday night camp show to recognize the Milestone Award winner for the San Diego 3-Day. This award is given at each 3-Day to a walker whose history of participation in the 3-Day stands out, and for San Diego, we were pleased to honor Debbie M. from Huntington Beach, CA.

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Debbie and Dr. Sheri share a moment at the Friday night camp show

The 2014 San Diego 3-Day is Debbie’s 13th event. Debbie, a self-described “food, wine and animal lover” has been an active San Diego walker since 2002. That was the year she founded the team Surf City Tittys, which has become one of the longest-standing teams on the San Diego event. Collectively, the team has raised nearly a million dollars during its history; on her own, Debbie has raised an incredible $73,592.

The 3-Day and the breast cancer cause are close to Debbie’s heart and home. She is a two-time survivor, and a carrier of the BRCA gene (as are 13 of her family members, including her daughter). She is outspokenly dedicated to finding a cure, and it shows through her outstanding commitment to the 3-Day.

Congratulations to you, Debbie! We’re so proud and happy to have you as part of our family.




Thoughts From the Top of a San Diego Hill

Anyone who has walked in the San Diego 3-Day knows of the route’s infamous population of hills. The peaks treat San Diego walkers to some really breathtaking vistas and views of the Pacific Coast, but getting to the top can be grueling sometimes. Yesterday on Day 1, walkers conquered the notorious Torrey Pines hill, and Day 2 has its share of hefty inclines, including a doozy between the 5 and 6 mile marks. We positioned ourselves at the top this little slope and asked walkers how they felt at the top. The positivity of (most of) their answers surprised and delighted us!susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer walk blog thoughts from the top of a hill san diego

“It’s a beautiful hill.”

“Way to wake us up!”

“Best hill of the day.”

“Was that the best you guys could do?”

“Not bad! I don’t mind hills.”

“Awesome, love it every year!”

“Not long enough!”

“I loved it, we need more!”susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer walk blog thoughts from the top of a hill san diego

“Nice hill! We’re from Seattle, that was a nice hill.”

“Fantastic. Can we have another?”

“We love it! Good one!”

“You’re the devil…” (But she was smiling when she said it, so we take that as a positive!)

“Loved it! Same as last year. Still steep.”

“Can’t wait to do more in a few minutes. I’m thinking about going back down and doing it again.”

“Better now that we’re at the top!”

“That was a good little warm up.”

“The down side is worse than this.”

“We rocked that hill!”

“What hill?”

“I did not feel anything, I’m not sure what you’re talking about.”

“I’m gonna hitch a ride down with a sweep and do it again!”

“As long as we don’t roll back down, we’re good!”

“Bring it on!”

“Whoever put this on the route, we’re gonna hurt…” (Can we just put that down as a good-hearted, harmless threat?)

“Easy peasy, lemon squeezy!”susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer walk blog thoughts from the top of a hill san diego

And finally, an adorable couple approached, holding hands, and we asked if they held hands the whole way up. “A good part of it. We were kind of dragging each other.” Sounds like teamwork at its best!

Congrats and thank you to ALL of the San Diego walkers on all of the peaks you’ve conquered this weekend. Can’t wait to do it all again with you (including more hills…) tomorrow!