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.