The Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day Coaches Talk About…The Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day Coaches!

They’re the helpful cheerleaders on the other end of the phone call or email when you have questions or concerns. They’re the smiling faces welcoming you and your teams at meet-ups and workshops and building up community excitement for the 3-Day. They’re the guiding hands leading the crew captains and teams to greatness. That’s right, they’re your Susan G. Komen 3-Day® coaches!

As we’ve prepared to return to each of the seven splendid 3-Day locations this year, we’ve been taking a few minutes to catch up with the coaches from each event. You’ve gotten to know them pretty well over the past couple of years on the 3-Day blog and this year, instead of letting them talk about themselves, I asked their fellow coaches to do it for them!

The Dallas/Fort Worth coaches—Gayla, Liz and Val—are the stars of the show today! Click here to see what we knew about them already, and keep reading to see what they each had to say about each other.

Val, Liz, Gayla

Val, Liz, Gayla

Gayla (Dallas/Fort Worth Local Events Coach)

“Gayla is super caring and a bundle of energy. She is so very passionate about the 3-Day and helping ensure it is the best possible event for every walker. Gayla will go out of her way to spend time helping a walker set up her fundraising page or learn how to navigate the 3-Day website. Her passion and caring frequently inspires walkers to register for the following year before they have even participated in the current year. She is so knowledgeable about the Dallas/Fort Worth area and really knows how to get local folks involved and out to support the walkers.”– Liz

“I have never met anyone with more spirit than the One and Only Gayla Cruikshank, 3-Day cheerleader extraordinaire. Even when the going gets rough (and it sometimes does) she has a smile on her face and a skip in her step. Her only concern is ensuring that our participants have what they need to have a life-changing event. Liz and I are truly blessed to have Gayla walking this journey with us, she’s an amazing co-worker, mother, and friend.” – Val

Liz (Dallas/Fort Worth Participant Support Coach)

“Gayla and I like to say that Liz is the voice and email of the DFW 3-Day and that couldn’t be more true. She is my ‘go-to’ gal for any question, any time. She supports our walkers and crew members in millions of different ways, always wanting to ensure they have everything they need to succeed. In addition to all that, Liz is one of my ‘besties’ both at work and in the real world. I truly treasure every interaction with her and count down the days until my next visit to to see her, her husband and their two kitties.” – Val

“There are so many words to describe Liz! She is kind, helpful, available, smart, willing, dedicated, passionate, knowledgeable, determined. Liz is always available and can fix any problem participants throw at her. She is focused and brings calm to any situation, even when I call her in a panic. I love every time I get to see Liz. We video chat almost every day of the work week and sometimes talk on the weekends, too! I’m really looking forward to hanging out with her in our minivan in November.” – Gayla

Val (Dallas/Fort Worth Crew & Volunteer Coordinator)

“Val is generous, helpful, organized, smart, friend, loyal and kind. She is very detailed oriented and has the most beautiful handwriting for the kind notes she sends to participants. She puts thought in to any communication to people and intentionally makes them feel extremely special. The memory that makes me laugh the most about Val is when we finished staffing the Michigan 3-Day in 2014 and were at the airport Sunday night flying home from an exhausting/exhilarating weekend; we got so slap-happy we couldn’t even keep it together for an airport selfie (laughing tears)!” –  Gayla

“Val puts her heart and soul into creating a positive experience for the Dallas/Fort Worth crew. She plans all year on what she can do or create for the crew to let them know how special and appreciated they are. We have so much fun together outside of work and even did a Grand Canyon road trip together last year.” – Liz

 

Do you know the Dallas/Fort Worth coaches? How would you describe these fabulous ladies?

A Survivor’s Story: Tracey Aho

This October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’re sharing stories of survivors. Read our most recent post from Sherri O’Berry here, and today, we’re honored to share Tracey Aho’s story.

Like many others before her, Tracey’s breast cancer journey started when someone close to her—her mother—was diagnosed. It was after her mom’s second breast cancer diagnosis, Tracey recalls, that she took action for her own health. “Based on my family history as well as previous scares on personal mammogram results, I decided to see a specialist as a preventative measure. After a few visits and a few tests, we decided that I would have an MRI. It was then that the tumor was spotted and a biopsy was ordered. I was told that the results would take a day or two and knowing my doctor, I knew she would call me as soon as she had the results.”

Years prior to this frightening turn of events, Tracey became part of the Komen 3-Day. “I had heard about the 3-Day over the years but was watching TV one night in 2014 and saw a commercial. This was shortly after my cousin was diagnosed with breast cancer and I sat there thinking, “I should do that. I’m not doing anything for Jennifer (my cousin) just sitting here”. I thought about it for a few minutes and then decided to register. Almost immediately after I did, I thought, ‘What in the world did I just do?’” What she did was step up to the challenge of the 3-Day and crush it. She raised over $2500 for the 2014 Michigan 3-Day, then came back and did it again in 2015.tracey-aho-1

Flash back ahead to the spring of 2016, and Tracey was in a meeting when her phone rang with the call that would change her life. “My boss knew I was waiting for this call and of course immediately excused me from the meeting. My doctor asked me if I wanted to go home first and then call her back but based on her question alone, I knew I was going to want the results right then. She confirmed that I did indeed have breast cancer.

“My immediate reaction was not shock; I had prepared myself for the worst but prayed for the best so I was mentally ready to hear the diagnosis. Of course there were tears and nervousness but my next two thoughts were ‘How am I going to tell my son, husband and the rest of the family’ and ‘What’s the plan?’

“I received my diagnosis on March 17, 2016 and my husband and I were in the doctor’s office the very next day discussing treatments. I had a couple of options which included a lumpectomy but due to other health issues that I have, we decided on a bilateral mastectomy followed by reconstruction surgery.

“Follow-up treatment was still unknown at that time but eventually, my doctor ruled out radiation and my oncologist wanted to run an oncotype test to determine the aggressiveness of the tumor before he could advise if chemotherapy was necessary. My results came back in the low intermediate stage so we decided that I would not need chemo.”

Tracey had walked in the 3-Day two times before her diagnosis, but 2016’s Michigan 3-Day was special for her: “This year was a little different for me because it was my first as a survivor. I kept thinking, ‘I’m very blessed. I could be getting chemo treatments or worse right now but I’m here.’”tracey-aho-2

We’re glad you’re here, Tracey, and thanks to you and all the people in our 3-Day community, we’re working hard on ending breast cancer forever.

A letter for the 3-Day family from Dr. Judy Salerno, Komen CEO

For nearly 35 years, our organization has changed the way the world thinks about, talks about and treats breast cancer, and we are about to break new ground again. None of what’s happened or is about to happen would be possible without women and men in communities nationwide who share our passion to see this disease eliminated once and for all, and who take action. People like you – our amazing Komen 3-Day walkers.

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From left: Loris Maris, Vice President of Komen Affiliate Network, Me (Dr. Judy Salerno), and Amber Livingston, 3-Day Specialist

I was lucky enough to join some of you in Philadelphia for what turned out to be a beautiful weekend (which I hear has not always been the case). And you all looked fantastic in your More Than Pink capes!

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Passing out More Than Pink capes

 

To most people, just the idea of walking 60 miles is exhausting. But you know that with the strains, blisters and bruises comes hope. And more importantly, progress.

The early 1980s weren’t that long ago, but it’s hard to remember that there was a time when the words “breast cancer” weren’t spoken in polite company. Or when breast cancer was perceived to be just one disease (and treated as such, with a one-size-fits-all approach) instead of the family of diseases we know it to be today.

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Through our bold community of supporters, we’ve created a new reality. Every day we learn about breakthroughs, many of which Komen has helped to fund. We are moving toward the day when we can deliver precision medicine for every individual’s unique tumor, to improve all patients’ quality of life and to detect and cure breast cancer at its earliest stages. And perhaps to even prevent breast cancer.

This is possible, thanks to you. With every step, mile, pink tutu and colorful wig, you have elevated our mission and touched the lives of millions. You proudly wear your pink bling because you know that it’s much, much more than a color. It’s a movement, and one that makes a tremendous impact.

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We at Komen recently came up with a new way to describe those who go above and beyond for our mission: “More Than Pink.” The goal is to recognize and celebrate the impact that one person taking action – no matter how large or small – can make.

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Tina at the Seattle 3-Day in 2015

Like 3-Day’s own Tina McDonough. After losing a dear friend to breast cancer, Tina realized that she had to do something to ensure that no one else died of the disease. In 2007, Tina began walking in the Seattle 3-Day. Her team, “Valley Girls and Guys!” continued to grow each year, and today is one of the largest 3-Day teams in the country. To date, her team has raised more than $2.6 million for breast cancer research and community programs. Further, in Tina’s hometown of Seattle, she founded her own nonprofit with the goal of providing direct patient support to women and families battling breast cancer.

Tina is More Than Pink. So are all of you. You said “Yes!” to walking 60 miles … and raising $2,300 … and doing training walks … and talking about our mission with your friends and family. Your time, sweat, and financial investment have already made an enormous difference in this fight.

But don’t retire the moleskin or the HikeGoo just yet.

Despite all the progress that has been made, the reality is that 40,000 women and men still die of breast cancer every year in the U.S.

We can, and will, do better. Starting now.

Komen has set a Bold Goal: To reduce the current number of breast cancer deaths in the U.S. by 50 percent within the next 10 years.

It’s an aggressive goal, but we know it is achievable. To get there, we will focus on our organization’s strengths in two core areas:

  • Investing in breakthrough research to find new treatments for the most aggressive forms of breast cancer like metastatic disease, triple-negative, Luminal B and inflammatory breast cancer, and to leverage transformative technology to detect breast cancer at the very earliest stage.
  • Ensuring quality breast cancer care for all by identifying ways to overcome the financial, geographic and cultural barriers that too many people experience in our country.

This work is already underway, and through the 3-Day blog, we’ll make sure you continue to be updated on this vital mission work that your walks support. The 3-Day team has been hard at work pulling together stories, research updates and more. In the coming months, get ready to meet the scientists and clinicians who are in the midst of this fight – women and men who are also More Than Pink.

Together, we’re going to change that 40,000 number, and the future. Because as much as we all love the Komen 3-Day, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we didn’t need to walk anymore? If this devastating disease didn’t take our mothers, friends, daughters and loved ones?

I know we’re all eager for that day.

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