“I didn’t have to watch anymore. I could walk.” – A Guest Post

For Susan G. Komen 3-Day® walker Carly M., walking has become a powerful tool for healing. She shares her story with us.

“From the time I was 13, cancer was a common term in my house. My youngest sister had leukemia when she was 9, underwent different kinds of chemotherapy for two and a half years, and beat it. It was my junior year of high school, and for a year, we were a normal family again. No cancer treatments.

“Then, the summer before my senior year in high school, a week before I turned 17, my mom was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer. The doctor had originally told her it was a breast infection because it presented as a red, inflamed breast. No lump. Not the normal presentation for breast cancer. She had breastfed her five children, and the youngest was in 8th grade, so she obviously was not breastfeeding anymore and an infection seemed unlikely. Frustrated, she indulged the doctor and treated it as a breast infection for a week but when nothing changed, she went back and told him to figure out what it actually was. After many tests, they determined it was inflammatory breast cancer. They said that if she had not come in when she did, she would have only survived six more months. IBD is a very aggressive form of breast cancer, the five-year survival rate at that time was not great. Today it is still not amazing; depending on stage when diagnosed (this form is usually a stage III or IV upon diagnosis) and estrogen receptor status, it can be as low as a 34% five-year survival rate.

susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer 60 mile walk blog mom

Baby Carly and her mom, Joan

“At the age of 49, with five kids ranging in age from 13- 21, my mom was not ready to throw in the towel. Over the next 10 months, she underwent chemotherapy, a mastectomy, a stem cell transplant and radiation. It was a harrowing year but we all made it through, thinking at the end that maybe we had beaten the odds. I graduated from high school and chose a university close to home to be able to help if needed.

“In January of that next year, my mom had a re-occurrence in her spine; the cancer had metastasized to her bones. For the next four years, we played a balancing game of radiation and chemotherapy, trying to keep the level of cancer cells in her blood low and zapping the sites where they landed.

“I graduated from college in May of 1999 and moved back home. My mom died in July, two weeks after my birthday. I was able to be there those last two months and help where I could. I still have many regrets about that time. I regretted the selfish things a college student does instead of spending time with their mom. I wish I had told her more often what an amazing mom she was to me. I wish I had reassured her that it was enough, that everything she had done for us was enough. But at 22, those words escaped me. And hindsight is always much clearer than when you are in it.

“I started walking in the 3-Day that next year. A very good friend of mine saw that I was floundering and found a way to give my emotions an outlet. This walk became one of the best things I could do for myself. The thing with cancer is it makes you feel helpless. You watch your mom become weak, her body a shell of what it once was. You watch her cry, giving her comfort when you can. You watch her throw up, again and again, and all you can do is give her a bowl and hold her hair. You watch her tell you she is not ready to die, and all you can do is cry with her. You watch.

“But with the 3-Day, I didn’t have to watch anymore. I could walk. I could fundraise. I could talk with other men and women who had experienced similar things. I could see the early detection programs that have been funded by the 3-Day. I could meet the women who are alive because they got treatment before their cancer had advanced. I could experience firsthand the good that the 3-Day can do. And it’s a lot of good. And I could walk some more. I didn’t have to watch anymore. I didn’t have to feel helpless anymore.

susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer 60 mile walk blog mom

Carly, now a mom herself, walks in the hopes that her kids won’t have to experience the pain she did.

“I know we haven’t found a cure yet, but to me, knowing that some children don’t have to say goodbye to their moms too soon is enough. And so I walk.”

Carly will be walking in her 8th 3-Day event next month in Michigan.

The First-Timers’ Guide to the 3-Day: Saying Yes, Part 3 of 3

The First-Timers’ Guide to the 3-Day is a series featuring blog posts from three brand new Susan G. Komen 3-Day® walkers (Crystal, Sheilla and Jodie). We met the First-Timers earlier this month, and now they’re back to tell us about how they got involved with the Komen 3-Day, and what compelled them to finally say yes and sign up to walk for the first time. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our other two First-Timers’ stories; Sheilla’s is here, and Jodie’s here.

Crystal (Michigan 3-Day)susan g. komen 3-day breast cancer walk blog first timers guide crystal

In the grand scheme of things, my life has been what my teenage daughter would refer to as “fluffy.” I grew up in a beautiful suburb and had family vacations where I got to spend quality time with my best friend in the whole world, my grandma. I have a sister whom I cherish with my whole heart. I have two beautiful children. Even though I lost my grandma in 2000 (just months before my daughter was born), all I can think about is how blessed I am to be surrounded by healthy, beautiful women. Breast cancer, fortunately, has not touched my family at all, and I count my blessings every day.  As the mother of an extraordinarily talented soon-to-be lawyer daughter, I want her to live in a world where breast cancer doesn’t exist.

When I was pregnant with my son, on bed rest, a commercial came on for the 3-Day®. I remember stopping in my tracks to watch it, and made a mental note to do that “one day.”

I’m sure you other moms out there can relate to how “one day” can easily turn into a decade without blinking an eye. I’ve dealt with many health problems, resulting in a hysterectomy this past February, but in the 7 years, as I dealt with issue after issue, unknown masses and scary, sleepless nights filled with worry, I made a promise to myself sitting in my doctor’s office that my “one day” would be this year.

I’ve never been one to take a risk or a chance, and certainly not one to ever do anything for myself. I’m selfless, I give all of my time to others. But participating in the 3-Day is something I wanted, a hunger deep within me. Once the decision was made that 2015 would be my year to walk, I didn’t discuss it with anyone, I just signed up on a sunny afternoon in December. I have many reservations about walking: that I’m not fit enough, or strong enough, or ready to do whatever crazy thing I’ve gotten myself into. But I figure I will go in it open-minded and expect nothing, and when I cross that finish line, I know deep within my heart and soul, not only will my grandma be with me in spirit, but I will come out changed forever.

I’ve learned something in my 38 years on this amazing planet: when you decide to make a difference for no other reason than to make a difference, not only do good things happen, but you become someone else and thankfully you can never go back. Life is a beautifully amazing journey, and I am so thankful I can make a difference.

 

 

The First-Timers’ Guide to the 3-Day: Saying Yes, Part 2 of 3

The First-Timers’ Guide to the 3-Day is a series featuring blog posts from three brand new Susan G. Komen 3-Day® walkers (Sheilla, Jodie and Crystal). We met the First-Timers earlier this month, and now they’re back to tell us about how they got involved with the Komen 3-Day, and what compelled them to finally say yes and sign up to walk for the first time. Sheilla shared her story yesterday (see it here), and today, we’re happy to hear from Jodie.

Jodie (Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day)susan g. komen 3-day breast cancer walk blog first timers guide jodie

Participating in the 3-Day® has intrigued me for a number of years. Jean, a dear family friend, took part in this 60 miles of pink (her fave color) several times even though neither she, nor her family, were physically touched by breast cancer. However, she was emotionally touched by the women and men affected by the disease. Jean repeatedly asked me to join her on this endeavor, but I was intimidated by the distance and by the amount of money that needed to be raised, so I declined. Sadly, I will never experience walking with Jean for 20 miles over 3 days. Her generous spirit reached to many facets of her life; while volunteering in a free eye clinic in Haiti with her longtime employers, she perished from injuries sustained in the 2010 earthquake.

Walking the Komen 3-Day with Jean became a heartbreaking lost opportunity, but other doors to the 3-Day continued to open to me. Belinda, one of my Pink Sistas, walked the 3-Day last year, and asked me to walk with her. My hesitations to join the event remained the same: too much walking and too much money to raise. However, when I viewed Belinda’s photos on social media documenting the 3-Day, I SO wanted to be a part of it; her smile said it all! I did not want to be apart from this event any longer. I began to give it serious thought. If I joined the 2015 3-Day, I would be walking it as a 12-year breast cancer survivor. I am not into numerology, but one of my favorite numbers is 12: I was born on the 12th of October, I was married on the 12th of June. I just like the number 12. I had convinced myself that I could do this! One week after Belinda posted those pictures of her and her fellow walkers—images of dedication, pride, strength and lots of pink, I registered online for the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day in November of 2015, where I will walk during my 12th year of survivorship!

I still worry that I am behind on my fundraising; I have emails and letters still to compose and send. I also fear that I’m behind on my training, as I experienced a pulled muscle, the pain and location of which had me overly concerned. On top of that, I’m currently home for a few days, with four prescriptions, and bronchitis. I promise, I truly believe I am younger than I actually am! But I know that these are just minor setbacks, and that my fundraising and training will resume.

When I signed up last November, I did so individually. In February, I was invited to a 3-Day meet-up, where I met Coach Gayla (what an asset to the 3-Day she is!) and some incredibly inspiring walkers, and at that meeting, I found myself being recruited to join the Boxing Babes team. I am extremely impressed with the many opportunities, for individuals and team members alike, to take part in meet-ups, trainings for walking and fundraising, and the varied fundraising events.

Like my fellow pink enthusiasts Jean, Belinda, and my other Pink Sistas, I have close connections to breast cancer as well. I began getting mammograms in my 30s, and on August 8, 2003, during a routine mammogram, I was called back twice for additional views. Further screening confirmed Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. Facing this diagnosis, I never thought, “Why me?” Rather, considering the statistics, I thought, “Why NOT me?” Luckily, my breast cancer was caught early, was small, and was treatable. But my connections with breast cancer go so much further than my own diagnosis. Nearly a decade after my diagnosis, my youngest sister Kellie called (from her home eight hours away) to tell me, “I have breast cancer.” It was exponentially more difficult hearing those words from her, 10.5 years younger than myself, than from my physician. When I was the patient, I knew what I had to do; my medical team and I had a plan, etc. With her, I felt helpless and so wanted to take it all away from her! Beyond that, my paternal aunt had breast cancer in her late 60s, and courageously fought for twelve years with several recurrences. Another aunt, by marriage, had breast cancer in her mid-60s. A dear childhood friend had breast cancer in her 30s with two young children under the age of two. An older neighbor had breast cancer. I’ve known several men who have had breast cancer (one 30+ years ago, when my father told us the man had “chest cancer,” because no one spoke of the disease in women, much less in men). Many co-workers and their relatives have had breast cancer. Women with whom I have worshipped, have been diagnosed, and countless current Pink Sistas I’ve met through Survivor/Thriver events have experienced various diagnostic procedures, surgeries, radiation, chemotherapy, and hormonal treatments.

You may have heard those four little words from a loved one or friend. And even if you haven’t yet, you may, as one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. For all the times I wished I could do something, or something MORE, or wanted to, but lacked the confidence, I did finally accept the 3-Day challenge, for all of the above reasons, and missed opportunities.

 

Tomorrow, our third First Timer, Crystal, will tell about how and why she got involved with the 3-Day. Are you a first-timer too? Share your story in comments!