Let Sweep Vans Sweep You Off Your Feet on the 3-Day

When I first heard about the Susan G. Komen 3-Day®, one of my first thoughts was, “Twenty miles each day for three days? Could I really do that?” Thankfully, the people around me who knew and loved the Komen 3-Day immediately reassured me that if at any point I couldn’t walk, there was a solution: sweep vans! Hearing this term, I couldn’t help but think of vans with giant brooms attached to them, like Zambonis for suburban roads. Thankfully, I quickly learned about what sweep vans really are, and with that, I signed myself up for the 2014 San Diego 3-Day® and dove wholeheartedly into fundraising and training. On Day 1, I was thrilled to have made it to about mile 13 with no ailments. However, shortly after lunch, I developed a blister the size of a quarter between my toes. Ouch! The kind folks on the medical crew fixed me up, and I hobbled on. Then, at mile 16, I took a step and felt a searing pain as the blister popped. I took a few more tentative steps, but decided I needed to wrap it up for the day. So I hopped in a sweep van for the first time, and was instantly delighted to be in a mustache-themed rolling relief station, complete with disco music blaring and two incredibly kind ladies who brought me to the final pit stop.

Besides the great music, smooth ride, and the chance to rest and relax my aching foot, I got to meet several 3-Dayers – some brand new, some veterans on their 15th walk. I loved hearing their stories about why they did the 3-Day, and in just a few miles of that ride we bonded over the reasons, both heartbreaking and inspiring, that we were all in San Diego that weekend. Though the circumstances that had brought us to walk were sometimes tragic, what was empowering was knowing we were all in it together, fighting breast cancer with our footsteps. No blister, leg cramp, or exhaustion could take away our desire to keep up the fight. And without the shared experience of being “swept” in San Diego, I may have never heard those stories or made those lasting connections. It was an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Last week on Facebook, we asked people for their experience with 3-Day sweep vans. As usual, the stories from our 3-Day community made us smile. Your experiences, while diverse, always pointed back to one overarching theme: What an amazing community the 3-Day is to be a part of. Please enjoy a few stories of the sweep life, and to read through them all, visit this post on Facebook.

“Our very first 3 day, we had to be swept at the end of day 2. We were all so upset and very emotional about it. The ladies that picked us up were so wonderful and reminded us how far we had come and that we had no reason to be upset. The 2nd time we walked the whole thing without being swept but still love the encouragement they give while driving by!” – Sarah

“In January of 2005, at age 32, I completed my treatment and reconstruction from my breast cancer diagnosis. To celebrate my journey, I wanted to walk in the Arizona Susan G. Komen 3-Day. I signed up & one week later found out I was pregnant w my due date being 3 weeks after the walk! Nothing was going to stop me, I was determined to walk despite being 36 weeks pregnant. However there was something that did stop me on Day 1; CONTRACTIONS!! But thanks to the sweep van, I made it through Day 1 & the rest of the weekend! I am an 11 year survivor & my son is 9! THANK YOU SWEEP VAN!” – Bonny

“I went into last year knowing that I would have to sweep. I have bad hips. It was the best experience that I’ve had in the three days journey ever. The crew is unbelievable and is so nice. I went into year for last year knowing that I would have to sweep. It was the best experience that I’ve had in a 3-Day journey ever. The crew is unbelievable. A week after the 3-Day last year I had my second hip replacement, my left hip. This year I walk with two replaced hips. I can’t wait for the journey but I can tell you this I will probably sleep because it’s so much fun. Love you guys, thanks for all of your support!” -Sue

And here’s a little perspective from one of your friendly crew members on driving a sweep van:

“Being on the sweep van crew is all about having a servant heart! We truly love the walkers and we know encouragement along the way is just as important as providing a ride! We know there are walkers that hate the idea of sweeping and we get it. We won’t make you ride if you don’t want to, but we can’t guarantee we won’t circle back around and check on you repeatedly!” – Carrie

Have you ever ridden in a 3-Day sweep van? What was your experience like? As we enter 3-Day season, we want to remind you that there is no shame in taking a sweep van at any point during your 60-mile journey. Whether you’re a resistant passenger or a willing rider, the sweep van gets you closer to the goal that we all share: a world without breast cancer.

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Things No 3-Day Walker Said, Ever

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You hear a lot of things on the Susan G. Komen 3-Day®, but we’d bet our fanny packs that there are some things you’ll never hear a Komen 3-Day walker say.

  • “Pink isn’t really my color.”
  • “No thanks, I think I’ve had too many grahamwiches already.”
  • “I haven’t needed to pee for like 6 hours!”
  • “I wish the crew was more helpful and spirited.”susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer walk blog 60 miles
  • “I just walk, ya know. I don’t really even pay attention to how far I have left to go.”
  • “Nah, we don’t need a picture of that.”
  • “Oh, are the local bike cops here? I hadn’t noticed.”
  • “That cheering station was way too loud.”susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer walk blog 60 miles
  • “Woo! That hill was AWESOME! How long till the next one?”
  • “Mac n’ cheese? Pass.”
  • “I just love how everyone’s wardrobe choices are so reserved.”susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer walk blog 60 miles
  • “Why is that man wearing a bra? That’s just weird.”
  • “Why is that motorcycle wearing a bra? That’s just weird.”
  • “I think I have too many pins.”susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer walk blog 60 miles
  • “I know we’re stopped at a light, but I really don’t feel like I need to stretch.”
  • “Tell you my story? Sorry, I don’t really like talking to strangers.”
  • “It’s too bad no one ever comes up with any clever team names or t-shirt slogans.”susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer walk blog 60 miles
  • “The 3-Day? Eh, it was okay, but I should’ve just stayed home.”

 

“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.

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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.

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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.