Not Friends, But Sisters

Seattle Day 3

“The Faithful Fighters” stop at Pit Stop 1 of the Komen 3-Day on a rainy Sunday

As I move through the Susan G. Komen 3-Day® Series, I am continually amazed by the stories of each person who decides to walk 60 miles in three days. Each one has evoked my personal admiration and awe. The Seattle 3-Day was no exception. It was difficult to miss Katie K from North Bend, Washington, not because her recent need to use a wheelchair sometimes, but because there were so many of her smiling friends who pushed her and supported each other, all on their first 3-Day®. When asked how they managed the hills, one teammate said, “We figured out that if we stood behind each other in a line, it was easy!”

Team "The Faithful Fighters" push each other along the Seattle 3-Day

Team “The Faithful Fighters” push each other along the Seattle 3-Day (Photo courtesy The Faithful Fighters)

MY FRIENDS

“They aren’t my friends…They are my sisters,” said Katie. “They have been there for me through all of this and even before. They took me in and made me feel loved when I knew nobody. They have looked after my daughter when I have been rushed into hospital, they have driven me to appointments, they have sat with me when I didn’t want to be alone, they have brought me dinners when I am too tired to cook or feel like I am dying after chemo, they have covered for me at work, they have held my hand when all I need is to feel safe. Anything and everything I need, they are there for me!  That’s not something you find every day in a person. That is God’s Love!”

Seattle Day 2

Katie K from North Bend, Washington is surrounded by her teammates at the start of Day 2 on the Seattle 3-Day

ABOUT ME AND MY STUPID CANCER

“I am 34 years young and was born in a town outside of West London called Hounslow in England. I had an amazing upbringing with two extremely loving, caring parents who would drop everything for me.” Katie describes meeting her future husband, Jason, at Heavenly on a ski trip for work. “I managed to win him over, and we married exactly one year after we met in Monterey, California.” After their most wonderful little blessing, Kayle was born, they moved to North Bend, Washington, and never looked back.

Seattle Day 3

Katie K poses for a picture with a friend at the Closing Ceremony of the Seattle 3-Day

“I had found a lump in my right breast when Kayle was one-year old. I had recently stopped breast feeding, and I lost my health insurance when we moved to Washington, so I went to see a doctor for cash who told me it was just a blocked milk duct or cyst and that I should just ‘keep an eye on it.’”

“We had just celebrated Kayle’s 2nd birthday and everything was fine, until I found a 2nd lump right next to the first lump. I went back to the same doctor, and she ordered an urgent mammogram, which turned into a urgent ultrasound, which turned into a biopsy needed to confirm the cancer. We didn’t have insurance, and I wanted to be with my family, so we packed up our house, got my husband a visa and headed back to England. I had six months chemotherapy, a double mastectomy with reconstruction, and radiation and was given the ‘all clear.” After being ‘cleared,’ the family returned to Washington, and everything seemed fine until a routine screening in 2012 when she found out the cancer had metastasized.

Katie was devastated. “This meant that there was no longer a ‘cure’ for my cancer and that it was going to be a case of management from then on.   As you can imagine, ‘scared’ wasn’t a good enough word to describe how I felt.”

Seattle Day 3

The always-positive team “The Faithful Fighters” pushes through the rain

After so much news over the next year and with the 3-Day looming, Katie was to have yet another challenge.  “Two weeks before the 3-Day, my family and I decided to have a quiet day on the sofa catching up with TV shows,” said Katie. “My legs went numb from the knees down and I couldn’t walk. An MRI showed that I had a large lesion in my spinal cord that was causing my legs to stop working. Because of the amount of swelling in my spinal cord, my doctor decided to admit me to the hospital…3 days before the 3-Day!  I was devastated, again!  The thought of not being able to do the walk was too much for me! After talking to my doctors and the 3-Day organizers, we made some changes to our plan, and all agreed that I could walk.” Walk. Roll. Push. Push each other. Team The Faithful Fighters did all of the above. As they rolled out of Gasworks Park on a rainy Sunday morning on Day 3 and with at least ten miles to go, I noticed two things. First, they considered themselves a team over all else. Everyone moved together with no thought of splitting up or leaving someone behind. Second, they were always happy.

ONTO THE 3-DAY

“How did I find out about the 3-Day? A TV advert,” responded Katie. “I have wanted to do the walk for a few years, since we lived in California, but the thought of raising that much money was always so overwhelming. Once I was told my cancer was no longer curable, it changed things. I wanted to walk so that my precious Kayle Lily wouldn’t have to deal with this stupid disease, so that no other child will lose their mother for no reason, so that no other mother goes to bed scared and worried about leaving her child, so that no other husband loses his wife!  And so I called my friend, Carrie, who I knew would want to walk too and she agreed. We would walk!”

Seattle Day 3

Katie awaits the start of the Closing Ceremony with her team at Memorial Stadium on the 2013 Seattle 3-Day

“We called another friend to tell her about our excitement and from there, our idea spread!  Before we knew it, there were eight of us and almost $18,000 to raise!  We created a blog and spread the word.”

A MESSAGE

“If I could pass on a message to the world, there would be a few. First, God is good. Give Him a chance!  Second, don’t take your time on the planet for granted! God only promises us today and that could be taken away in a heartbeat! Love your family and friends. Show them grace and forgiveness because your last words could come when you least expect it.”

Seattle Day 3

Teammates from “The Faithful Fighters” hug during the Closing Ceremony of the Seattle 3-Day

“Third, life is complicated. It’s hard!  No one said life would be easy. God doesn’t promise an easy life. He tells us that life will be hard, but with His help, support and love, we can get through the difficult times and help others in the process of helping ourselves. Lastly, appreciate your time with loved ones.  House cleaning, laundry, work, TV, computers, Facebook. It shouldn’t come before spending time with our loved ones. Put down your cell phone, and go and draw with your daughter, go play dress up with her, do face painting together, go do something silly and laugh with friends.”

Katie participates at the emotional Closing Ceremony in Seattle

Seattle Day 1

Dr. Sheri and the Seattle 3-Day crowd go wild as team “The Faithful Fighters” enter camp with the 3-Day flag at the end of a long Day 1

Seattle Day 1

Katie embraces another 3-Day participate after raising the flag at camp on the Seattle 3-Day

Seattle Day 1

“The Faithful Fighters” pose for a picture after having raised the flag at the end of Day 1

Seattle Day 1

“The Faithful Fighters” are all smiles at lunch on the Seattle 3-Day

Seattle Day 2

“The Faithful Fighters” start Day 2 and another 20 miles of walking at the Seattle 3-Day

Seattle’s Pink Kilt

William K from Redmond, Washington, awaits the Opening Ceremony at the 2013 Seattle 3-Day

William K from Redmond, Washington, awaits the Opening Ceremony at the 2013 Seattle 3-Day

“Everyone recognizes the Backpack Guy,” mentions a pink-clad walker in the darkness of the Seattle Center. “He’s been doing this forever, and we even saw him in Tampa Bay last year!” The pink boas, the tutus, the extraordinary amount of pink necklaces that would make a rapper proud are the norm out here on the Susan G. Komen 3-Day®. It’s usually also safe to say that most participants are either directly or indirectly affected by breast cancer, and it is common to find man cancer survivors and even those in treatment out braving the elements and pushing their physical limits for the cause.

William K from Redmond, Washington, had no ties.

William K greets Susan G. Komen walkers on Day 1 of the Seattle 3-Day

William K greets walkers on Day 1 of the Seattle 3-Day

In his 9th year of walking the Seattle 3-Day, he has donned a pink kilt (a ‘Utilikit’), some seriously sturdy leather boots, and an unmistakeable backpack.  Not a small bag on his back or a fanny pack, mind you, but a full backpacking-style backpack. “It slows me down,” William mentioned in the pink light of the Opening Ceremony, with the Space Needle in the background. That and the large wrist weights that look like a superhero’s outfit. “Oh yes, the wrist weights,” adds William, noticing that I am staring at them. “They really help make your hands feel better.” That would make sense, since a lot of walkers notice the swollen hands that develop from swinging back and forth for 60 miles. After a good look at him, he appears something like a Scottish soldier with a serious penchant for pink. The overwhelmingly female crowd loves him, though, and he has become a staple to the annual event in Seattle.

William K in his pink kilt strides through the Ballard locks on his way to the Seattle Center and Closing Ceremony

William K in his pink kilt strides through the Ballard locks on his way to the Seattle Center and Closing Ceremony

“I’m a systems engineer in Redmond, but when I started, I had no connection to breast cancer. It was just a lot of fun,” says William between ‘hellos’ to people who recognize him as they pass. “Since I started though, I’ve had my mom and a sister diagnosed with breast cancer, so now it’s become very relevant.”

As a male with no initial connection to breast cancer, William still encourages other men and women to become involved, even if they don’t know someone directly. “I never worried about wearing the pink of the 3-Day, and it’s really easy to get involved! I would advise people to stand out, have fun, and make a strong statement!” Go William! He and 1,100 walkers and 300 crew members will wrap up the 60-mile route today that has raised $2.9 million to help end breast cancer!

William K awaits with Komen 3-Day® walkers at the beginning of the route on Day 2 of the Seattle 3-Day

William K awaits with Komen 3-Day® walkers at the beginning of the route on Day 2 of the Seattle 3-Day

William K embraces a fellow walker on the 2013 Seattle 3-Day

William K embraces a fellow walker on the 2013 Seattle 3-Day