From Pain to Gain – and $1.4 Million

When Tina McDonough was asked to walk in the 2007 Seattle 3-Day with three friends in honor of her friend Michelle, who was living with breast cancer,  she couldn’t refuse. She remembers vividly how she felt physically while walking those 60 miles. “I had not trained enough, and was hurting – bad!” Tina confessed. That, she thought, would be her first – and last – 3-Day walk.

When Michelle lost her fight against cancer just two months later, Tina  was no longer deterred by her memories of the physical discomfort of her first walk. “I watched Michelle’s 12-year-old daughter and her husband fall apart,” said Tina. “Attending her funeral was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I knew I had to do something, so I started a team to walk in her memory. I figured training and fundraising as a group would make it easier.” So her team, Valley Girls and Guys, was born.

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Not Survive, But Thrive: Washington, D.C. 3-Day

To say that it rained on Day 1 of the Susan G. Komen 3-Day® in Washington, D.C. this last weekend would not be doing it justice. For 1,000 walkers and over 300 crew members who braved the elements (with rain really coming down just as the Opening Ceremony started), Friday was another defining feat in the lives of those who walk to find an end to breast cancer. From the Westfield Wheaton Mall where an inspirational tribute was given to breast cancer survivors to a lunch stop which gave time to change into dry socks, participants showed the resolve that I heard so many times over the weekend: “Well, it’s nothing like chemo!”

The 20.9-mile Day 1 traveled through Wheaton, Silver Springs, Chevy Chase, Bethesda and finally Washington, D.C. The old adage, “These are Komen miles” was particularly poignant as some walkers veered off course, adding more mileage and likely just trying to show how tough they really were! I admired many solo walkers (those who came without family or friends) who were pushing on alone, but constantly meeting new people. And who doesn’t feel loved when they encounter the themed Pit Stops and lunch crew along the way? Everything from the Western-styled cowboys and cowgirls of Pit Stop 3 to the Hawaiian luau theme of Pit Stop 2 delights a weary 60-mile walker.

The walkers ended the day at the Washington, D.C. Armory and were treated to a little relaxation while drying out from the day. John Shinar, walking all fourteen events, was recognized along with the top fundraisers. Ron R, a breast cancer survivor, gave the inspirational speech of the night, laced with his humorous personal style.

The 17-mile route on Day 2 remained mostly dry and walkers took advantage of it by quickening their pace. “I’m moving in case it rains later!” quipped one walker as she cruised by me in Pit Stop 3.  A special treat of the day was the “Pink Firefighter” at water’s edge. Having lost so many loved ones to breast cancer, he stood in remembrance in full pink firefighting regalia, with a fireboat blasting at full throttle just off shore. The sign in front read “John Glenn, Jr. and the crew honor all angels lost. Their flame will never be extinguished.” That night, inspirational speeches from Kimberley B, a co-survivor, and Lindsay R, a young survivor energized the audience of walkers and crew. Hearing from the Youth Corps gave everyone a renewed hope to fight, as their stories of why they became involved touched everyone deeply.

Sunday’s course of 16.9 miles started with a bang as an impressive amount of walkers were chomping at the bit to hit the streets as the route opened. Spirits were high as the group made its way around Washington, D.C. The streets were busy on Sunday, and the pink flags that the walkers carried turned heads as they crossed busy streets and moved through popular destination areas. The private cheering groups along the last few miles were a real bonus! One chalk drawing read, “59 miles” and parked cars with family and friends gave a last, supportive cheer. The emotional finish line and Closing Ceremony gave us all a time to reflect on our loved ones and the reasons we continue to help find a cure. After the Survivors’ Circle raised the flag of hope, the Washington, D.C. 3-Day walkers, crew, volunteers, and family and friends danced to “We Are Family!”

Thank you all for thriving on this Washington, D.C. 3-Day!

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Let Lindsay Inspire You

Lindsay rests during the Susan G. Komen Washington, D.C. 3-Day event

Lindsay rests during the Susan G. Komen Washington, D.C. 3-Day event

When I first saw Lindsay R on the Susan G. Komen 3-Day® in Washington, D.C. this year, she was sitting quietly in the corner of an outside building at a lunch stop. It had been a very long morning for the 60-mile walkers, and Day 1 of the Komen 3-Day was turning into a deluge. Soaked to the core, Lindsay had joined the rest of the walkers under the protection of a roof as they changed into dry socks, ate lunch, and bandaged blisters.

And no one complained.

Lindsay seemed shy as I stole a picture of her, the pink of her outfit matching the pink of the large flag she was carrying in the rain, which read “COURAGE.” Many of the walkers choose to carry flags along the route, but I was distracted and did not get to ask her about why she was walking. Day 1 of the Washington, D.C. 3-Day ended with rain on top of more rain, and the walkers, Lindsay included, plowed on the streets for Day 2 and the second leg of 20 miles. It wasn’t until the camp show on Saturday night that I realized my first impression of Lindsay was misguided.

Lindsay takes the stage to tell her story on the Washington, D.C. 3-Day

Lindsay takes the stage to tell her story on the Washington, D.C. 3-Day

“My name is Lindsay and I am a survivor!” Lindsay had the attention of hundreds of people in an instant. “On Friday, April 13, 2012, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.” The audience was fully present as she described her ordeal of trying to find help. No one believed that she could have cancer, and her frustration seemed to have boiled over. “I felt so incredibly alone in my situation. It was one of the darkest, loneliest times of my life.” She told of her connection to another 3-Day family member, Bridget Spence, whose words gave her the “ability to keep hope alive and to live life, really live life.”

Lindsay inspires the crowd of hundreds at Saturday's Camp Show

Lindsay inspires the crowd of hundreds at Saturday’s Camp Show

Her voiced boomed through the darkness in the Washington, D.C. night as the electrified crowd jumped to its feet. “CANCER WILL NOT BE THE END OF ME! Let me say that one more time. CANCER WILL NOT BE THE END OF ME!” To punctuate her attitude, she joined the crowd in the celebration of searching for a cure for breast cancer by dancing into the night. The experience of seeing her soul open as this transition from quiet, courageous walker to powerful advocate for hope was inspirational to the core.

From all of those fighting for a cure for breast cancer, we salute you Lindsay! Thank you for your inspiration!

Lindsay is all smiles at Pit Stop 1 on the last day of the Washington, D.C. 3-Day

Lindsay is all smiles at Pit Stop 1 on the last day of the Washington, D.C. 3-Day

The crowd moves to the traditional Saturday night dance party at the Washington, D.C. 3-Day

The crowd moves to the traditional Saturday night dance party at the Washington, D.C. 3-Day