There Are No Words…

On the Susan G. Komen 3-Day®, breast cancer survivors are always close to our hearts and bright in our thoughts. They are reminders of the great strength and courage that can grow out of horrible adversity, and they are proof that what we are doing matters.

Every survivor has a story and I was inspired to learn about Krissie, a 6-time walker, and 6-time cancer survivor.

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“I was first diagnosed with sarcoma cancer of the abdominal wall at the age of 15. I had several recurrences over the next few years and was finally cancer-free at 19.”

Krissie got married, had kids and thought that cancer was far in her rearview. Being a survivor, she was passionate about doing something that mattered. She saw a commercial for the Komen 3-Day in January of 2008 and thought, “That is exactly what I need to do. I thought, what an amazing event and it was my time to do something.”

But right around that time, while doing a self-exam, Krissie found a lump in her left breast. “I was 28 and we didn’t think the lump was anything to worry about until they got in there and discovered that it was cancer, and that it was in my lymph nodes as well. So they removed the lump along with a bunch of lymph nodes. At 28 I didn’t think I had to worry about breast cancer, especially with no family history. I started chemotherapy treatment and began the healing process.” Part of that healing came from the 3-Day.  “I had no idea that the 3-Day would become even more meaningful than I knew possible. I believe that everything happens for a reason and without this walk I would not be here.”

During her very first 3-Day in Chicago, Krissie met Lori and Kim. “We are all pretty fast walkers, and as we walked we started talking and talking and talking. We finished that walk that year and did not see each other until the next Chicago 3-Day, but when we did, it was immediately as if we had never been apart. That was the year that we realized that this was not just a ‘walk’ friendship but a lifelong friendship. We always say that something so horrible is what brought us so close, but I wouldn’t change a thing.”

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Lori, Kim and Krissie

I asked Krissie what advice she would give to new walkers. “The first time I walked, I was terrified that I would not finish. I was undergoing treatment at the time and had no idea what to expect. I had no idea that this walk would change my life forever. The walkers, the community and the amazing volunteers helped me finish my first walk with a new sense of strength and hope. My advice for first-time walkers would be to take it all in. Don’t miss a thing. It’s going to be a hard and tiring 3 days but it’s also going to be the most amazing 3 days of your life. Listen to the stories. Laugh with new friends. Cry with others. Enjoy every second and don’t rush through it!”

Krissie, Lori and Kim—or KLK, as their team is called—have walked together every year since 2008, and are traveling to the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day this November. “They have been there every step of the way. There was a year that I was not able to walk and those girls walked every mile for me. It was a gift that will stay with me forever.”

“There are no words for the support I have gotten from my family and friends. My husband has been my rock. He has seen more than any husband should. He has wiped my tears, held my hand and picked me up off the ground. I have been blessed to be surrounded by an amazing family who has supported me every step of the way. I have always said that I have no idea what it must be like on their side, the fear that they must have, but I continue to get strength and hope from them every day. They let me get mad and they let me cry. They make me smile when I don’t want to. My teammates show me the light at the end of the tunnel.  We will continue to walk together for as long as we can.”

I also asked Krissie what her relationship with other survivors has been like. “I have met so many amazing people along the way. I have heard stories that have given me the strength to go on, to keep fighting. Many I keep in contact with, and some I have lost along the way. There is a moment at the end of the walk when all the survivors are in their pink shirts and it’s as if we have all been there for each other the entire time. photo(37)

“You gain a new family.”

 

Make the Susan G. Komen 3-Day a part of your family. Visit The3Day.org for information.

 

“Like Talking to an Angel”

Team 211 poses for a picture at the start of the Tampa Bay 3-Day

Jane stopped to talk to me on the way to the opening of Day 2 on the Susan G. Komen 3-Day® this morning in Tampa Bay. She was part of a team of women bonded together by breast cancer survivors, friends, and one surgeon, all walking 60 miles to raise money for breast cancer research. I wanted to know more about her team and its leader, Dr. Sylvia Campbell.

Members of Team 211 attend the Opening Ceremony for the 2013 Tampa Bay 3-Day

“You know,” said Jane, “when I entered Sylvia’s office, there were pictures on the walls of breast cancer survivors, and Sylvia made it clear that she was there to give us hope. The way she talked to me…It was like talking with an angel.” I truly believed Jane as we stood there. I had worked around surgeons and doctors for many years, and my interaction with Dr. Sylvia Campbell (who prefers her patients call her ‘Sylvia’) was nothing less than extraordinary. Sylvia was dressed in a green imprinted t-shirt, decked out with the same pink accents that her teammates wore. They were all together, stage right, as the sun rose on the Tampa Bay 3-Day and its Opening Ceremony. I walked with the excited group of women (and one great guy!) as they launched themselves onto the streets of the greater Tampa Bay area on a three-day journey that would test anyone’s physical endurance.

Sylvia, however, was not surrounded by her current patients, past patients, and collected friends. She was surrounded only by friends.

Dr. Sylvia Campbell, or just “Sylvia,” is flanked by friends and teammates on the Komen 3-Day in Tampa Bay

“These wonderful people have all become so dear to me,” she smiles, as she points them out. Beverly, Jane, Sandy, Rosie, Paula, Cathy, Angie, Marvin, Bella, Marylynn, Sonja, Lauren, Janet…she names them off. She knows each one, and I start to ask about who has survived cancer, but then I realize that it doesn’t really matter. They all look wonderfully happy and that’s all that matters on such an exquisite morning among friends. “We’re Team 211!” She has to almost yell over the blaring music that pumps up the walkers continually. “Two Steps. One Goal. One Lifetime. 2-1-1. We started in 2006, and it was a way to tell people that I supported them.  I support YOU!” she exclaimed as a teammate puts an arm around her.

Dr. Sylvia Campbell, a surgeon in Tampa, leads Team 211 in the fight again breast cancer

Over the next two days, I see them on the route and at the rest stops. I see them laughing together in their camp and then back on the route. All I can think about when I see them is that there is a tremendous amount of hope and happiness in the group, which has been started by Sylvia. All I can think about when I see them is how lucky they are to have her as a physician and a friend.

Team 211 hits the road for 60 miles of walking in the Tampa Bay 3-Day

Team 211 moves over one of many bridges on the Tampa Bay 3-Day

Team 211 starts the route on Day 2 of the Tampa Bay 3-Day

Team 211 starts the route on Day 2 of the Tampa Bay 3-Day