Words to Encourage, Inspire and Motivate – A 3-Day Guest Blog

Today, we’d like to share a message from Lorraine H., Deputy Fire Chief for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department and Susan G. Komen San Diego’s 2014 Honorary Breast Cancer Survivor.

susan g.  komen 3-day breast cancer walk blog lorraine survivor san diego fire departmentAs Susan G. Komen San Diego’s 2014 Honorary Breast Cancer Survivor for the Susan G. Komen San Diego Race for the Cure®on November 2, and a Susan G. Komen 3-Day walker, it is my goal to bring awareness to this disease. The critical message is that one in eight women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. In addition, as an African American woman, I am concerned with the disparity that exists in African American women diagnosed with breast cancer compared to other races. Breast cancer in African American women is the most common cancer and second leading cause of cancer deaths. Although incidence rates are lower in African American women, the mortality rate is 41% higher than their Caucasian counterparts. I commend the Susan G. Komen California Coalition for recognizing this and taking action in the form of an initiative to address the disparities at both the system and individual levels.

susan g.  komen 3-day breast cancer walk blog lorraine survivor san diego fire departmentHaving survived breast cancer, it is my responsibility to give back to the community. If I can use my voice, my face, my story, my experience to get the message out about the benefits of early detection through mammograms and screenings while providing information about the resources that are available through Komen, then I believe that I will be doing what I’ve been called to do.

I hope by sharing my story I will do three things:

  1. ENCOURAGE women to advocate for their health. Women that are due for a mammogram must get one. We’ve all heard excuses such as “I don’t have time” or “it hurts.” None of these excuses are acceptable and none of them are worth dying for.

    My cancer was found through a mammogram. I could not feel a lump. I went in for my annual mammogram and soon after I was asked to return to the office for a follow-up. The message said it was nothing to worry about, so I didn’t. I didn’t return for a follow up until several months later. Because I did not have a family history of breast cancer, I thought I was not at risk. Fact is, data reports that 70% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history.

    When I finally did return for a follow-up mammogram, and after a subsequent ultrasound and biopsy, I was devastated to learn four days later that I had breast cancer.

    I want women to learn from my experience and not make the same mistakes.

  1. INSPIRE women by sharing my cancer journey. Four months before being diagnosed with breast cancer, I was diagnosed with diabetes. Diabetes runs in my family. Devastated by this diagnosis and not wanting to go on diabetes medication or insulin, I chose to go through a medically supervised weight loss program. Six weeks into the program and after losing 35 pounds, I was diagnosed with cancer. Throughout my surgery, treatment and beyond, I have managed to maintain the weight loss by following a healthy diet and strict daily exercise regimen. Because of the lifestyle I’ve chosen, I am proud to say that I am diabetes and cancer-free!
  2. MOTIVATE everyone regardless of the challenges or adversities you face, to focus on the positive and always try to do WHAT YOU CAN DO to BE THE BEST THAT YOU CAN BE every single day. Going through tough times builds inner strength and character. I have been a firefighter for 24 years and advanced through the ranks from firefighter to deputy chief. Those are significant accomplishments, by anyone’s standards, for an African American woman in a predominantly male profession. However, nothing compares to the accomplishment of surviving breast cancer.

    With the help of God, my doctors and my support network, I fought cancer and won. My mantra throughout my journey was “I will come out on the other end of this a better person.” I have, but I’m not done. It’s a continuous process and I choose to make the most out of every day.

My one-year cancer journey culminated by successfully finishing the 2013 Komen 3-Day in San Diego. It was seven months after my last chemotherapy treatment, and I was still suffering from some side effects. Despite that, nine amazing friends (fellow firefighters and friends) finished every step of the 60-mile journey by my side. Between team members and supporters we had more than 20 people rooting for us – as well as the entire San Diego community! We couldn’t have done it without them.

susan g.  komen 3-day breast cancer walk blog lorraine survivor san diego fire departmentThe feeling of accomplishment was amazing and giving back in such a bold way was even more rewarding than I could have ever expected. As I stepped into PETCO Park at the end of the walk, I was overwrought with emotion. It felt as though all of my suffering, physically and emotionally, was over and I could begin my life anew. I’ve always wanted to do the 3-Day but, like many others, the fundraising daunted me.

The entire group of 11 walkers raised the money through multiple FUNdraisers. I emphasize FUN because we really did have a good time raising money together. Our 3-Day team continues to grow this year and we all have people we are walking for.

This is a cause I truly believe in and as long as my legs can walk, this is how I will pay it forward. I knew I would do the 3-Day one day but nobody knew how soon and under what circumstances it would finally become my reality!

 

 

“If life puts a roller coaster in your path, ride it!” : The 3-Day Coaches’ Favorite Moments from 2013, Part 3

For the final post in the Coaches’ Favorite Moments series, we hear from Michigan coach Jennifer Hanskat. Jennifer has been a 3-Day coach for 9 years, and has also participated in the 3-Day 17 times. One of her most cherished 3-Day memories happened just this year in San Diego, where a promise made to a friend finally was fulfilled.

b and hanskat

Bridget and Jennifer on the 2008 San Diego 3-Day

“In 2008 I walked with Bridget [Spence] in San Diego. It was the first and only time that both of us were able to participate as walkers in two events within the same year. I had previously walked in Michigan with my family, Bridget in DC with her family, and then we came together in San Diego for the last event of the year. We walked the entire walk together, and on Saturday afternoon we saw the roller coaster at Belmont Park and talked about how fun it would be to ride the coaster.

“By the time we were at the pit stop next to the coaster it was late in the day, we were tired, hungry and just ready to be done. For a variety of reasons we passed up the coaster and didn’t ride it. The very next day we talked about it and decided, we should have done it. The regret of not riding the coaster came up a few times over the next few years and we came up with our very own slogan: ‘If life puts a roller coaster in your path, ride it!’

“When I registered to walk in San Diego this year, I knew I was going to ride that coaster, to honor the memory of my beautiful friend, Bridget, who passed away earlier this year. I discussed this with my team and many were on board with me. A few weeks before the event, I learned that the route may have changed and that we might pass Belmont Park early in the morning before it was opened. I was disappointed but ultimately thought that if it was meant to be, it would work out.

“As we began Day 2 I realized that yes, we were going to pass by Belmont Park later in the afternoon on the way back to camp. I was walking with several members of my team and I told them that I was riding the coaster. As we neared the pit stop close to Belmont Park, several more members of my team ended up at the same location. It was meant to be!

“In the end, 13 of us rode the coaster…I rode in the front car with my dear friend, Nanette, who was also very close with Bridget. We rode that coaster with our hands in the air the entire time, laughing and celebrating the life of Bridget. I am sure that Bridget was smiling and laughing from heaven as she watched us. It worked out exactly like it was supposed to.”

coaster hands up

Jennifer and her teammates rode the Belmont Park roller coaster on the 2013 San Diego walk, to celebrate Bridget’s life.

coaster coming in

The riders come home!

 

I was honored to be one of the 13 coaster riders that day too, and I can’t help but smile at the correlation between that literal roller coaster ride we took and the symbolic roller coaster ride that so many experience on their 3-Day journey. You approach the coaster with excitement and maybe some trepidation. Maybe you made the choice on your own or maybe your friends talked you into it. You wait, you prepare and finally, you board the train. From there, you take off on a thrilling ride that’s exhilarating and sometimes scary. It’s full of ups and downs, unexpected turns and bumps, and in most cases, lots of smiles and laughter. It’s the same with the 3-Day, and I am thankful every day that I said “Yes” to that ride the first time.

Right There With You: The 3-Day Coaches’ Favorite Moments from 2013, Part 2

In the last 3-Day blog post, some of our coaches shared their favorite moments from 2013. The inspiring interactions and conversations that the coaches have with the Susan G. Komen 3-Day® walkers and crew members are an immensely rewarding part of the job, and part of what makes it so easy for our participants to connect so closely with the coaches is that many of the coaches participate in the 3-Day themselves.

Let’s hear more from the coaches who walked and worked alongside you in 2013.

Seattle coach Aubrey Cushing was a first-time 3-Day crew member in 2013. As part of the Camp Services crew team in San Diego, she had many opportunities to meet and congratulate the walkers she had been in touch with by phone or email all year long. “I adored coming to San Diego and finally putting faces to names of participants I had spoken with over the course of the year. The hugs and high fives were some of the most special ones I’ve received and I cherish the love that was shared with me that weekend. Do something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. I have been gifted the opportunity to connect with the world’s most impactful people. Who could ask for anything more?”

Paula Hultman, another Seattle coach, walked in San Diego with her husband George. Together, the Hultmans have walked a combined 26 3-Day events (wow!), but the emotional impact of the 3-Day is as strong now as it has ever been for them: “I was moved to tears twice this year, at the outpouring of community support by the people of San Diego. On Day 1, as we climbed the first hill to the picturesque town of Del Mar Village, we were met by several blocks of well-wishers who lined the sidewalks in front of their businesses, offering their thanks, and showering us with words of gratitude and support. It was remarkable. On Day 2, when I was walking with tremendous knee pain, we came across yet another stretch of supporters along the San Diego River. Again, their cheers, signs and thanks brought tears to my eyes, and eased the pain I had to deal with. My husband and I are forever grateful to the community support we have found in our 11 years of walking in San Diego.”

hultmans

The Hultmans pause for a picture in San Diego

Val Jones, one of our Dallas/Fort Worth coaches, was part of the 2013 3-Day event staff, working as the on-event crew coordinator for all 14 3-Days this year. “We had so much to do on the Twin Cities 3-Day with the changing of Day 3’s route, due to excessive heat.  What struck me and can occasionally make me tear up thinking about it is the kindness of the crew.  Upon receipt of the news regarding the scaled down Day 3, they immediately went into action doing what needed to be done and being so extremely flexible!  The Camp Hydration Captain, Tom B., stands out most, as he made it his mission to ensure that every walker, crew member, AND staff member was staying hydrated.  Tom didn’t have to go above and beyond, but he did, and for that, I will forever be grateful.”

tom b. and wife

Tom B. and his wife at the Opening Ceremony in Twin Cities

For coach and walker Kim Collings, one of the most moving things she saw was at the very beginning of the San Diego 3-Day.  “I saw a father and daughter walking next to each other just after the Opening Ceremony, with smiles and tears, knowing that his wife, her mother had just passed away on the Tuesday before the 3-Day.” Kim also shared another stirring sight that waited at the end of a particularly grueling hill climb. “Just after finishing the famous Juan Street hill, we walked through that really pretty neighborhood. We came up on a nice house with a little boy in a swing clapping and thanking us for making his mommy better. Then I saw a handwritten sign on cardboard and looked up on the porch to see the woman who had written it sobbing while thanking us for walking. I had to run back and up to her for the best hug ever! If I had any doubts as to why I walk, they all went away with that hug.”

sign

A heartfelt display of thanks

Thank you coaches, for letting us experience the 3-Day through your eyes. Readers, what about you? Post comments about your experiences with the 3-Day coaches!