When you start talking to Susan G. Komen Michigan 3-Day crew members Janine and Laurie, it doesn’t take long before you can tell without a doubt that they’re sisters. It’s not just the similarity in features and body language; the two women finish each other’s sentences and banter back and forth with playful ribbing that screams “siblings.”
Originally from Boston, Janine and Laurie are two of ten children in their family. Janine now lives in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, and Laurie calls the San Francisco Bay Area home. When I asked them how often they get to see each other, they replied, “At least once a year on the 3-Day®! That’s part of why we keep doing it, otherwise we wouldn’t get to see each other as much.”
Laurie, though the younger of the two sisters (Janine was good-humoredly offended at how quick Laurie was to point out who was older), is the more veteran 3-Day participant, with the 2014 Michigan 3-Day being her twenty-fourth event; she has walked eighteen times and crewed six times, including this Michigan event, and will walk again in San Diego this November. But Janine’s 3-Day experience is impressive too; she has walked seven times and this event marks her second year on the crew. Even hearing them try and itemize their 3-Day resumes (“No, you’ve walked eighteen times, not seventeen.” “Eighteen? Are you sure?” “How can I know this and you don’t know this?!”), their sisterly rivalry—though energetic and affectionate—is unmistakable. They shared stories about how last year, working a pit stop in Boston, their captain kept mixing up their names until the two ladies decided to write them in large black letters across their crew shirts, and another story about how one morning on the Arizona 3-Day, when Laurie was worried that they’d overslept, she let the air out of Janine’s air mattress right under her to get her sister moving. You can just picture them laughing through the whole thing.
Looking back at her long history with the 3-Day, Laurie recalls that she planned to take a break from walking after her third event. But then Janine was diagnosed with breast cancer. Laurie recalls what it felt like when her big sister shared the awful news: “I remember Janine said, ‘This is not supposed to happen.’ She took care of herself, she walked for other people with breast cancer [in the Race for the Cure] every year. It was like getting hit by a truck.”
Laurie immediately knew she had to walk again. So she signed up again, trained and raised money. Janine’s birthday was on Day 1 of Laurie’s walk in San Diego that year, and she called her sister to tell her, “This one’s for you.” Janine’s response? “Next year I’ll be there with you.” The following fall, Laurie and two of their other sisters joined Janine on her first 3-Day, where she proudly walked as a survivor.
Fast forward to 2014, when Janine and Laurie arrived from opposite coasts to meet and crew together again in Michigan. I asked them what the 3-Day meant to them, and Janine’s response was perfection: “This is one of the most gratifying events anyone can do. Being able to share this with my sister is incredible. She really is my co-survivor. Even though she wasn’t physically with me through all of my treatment, she was always there for me. We celebrate every year. Two nights ago [when we arrived in Michigan] was 11 years to the day of being cancer free. So I celebrated with my sister. And then it’s a big party with everyone else joining! It’s tremendous. I have 2 daughters, I’m one of 6 sisters, and we have a whole mess of nieces and grand-nieces. Enough is enough. I get angry when someone else is diagnosed. If I ever think, ‘I don’t want to keep doing the 3-Day, I’ll take that time and money and go on vacation instead,’ I say no, not till this is done.”
Michigan 3-Day participants can look for Janine and Laurie at the lunch stop this weekend. Where you find one of the sisters, the other is sure to be nearby.