We had such an amazing time with our 3-Day family at the 2021 Chicago 3-Day Virtual Kick-Off on September 12th. One big reason was getting to hear from a couple of our inspiring 3-Day walkers. Lisa Weier spoke at our evening celebration gathering and really moved us with her story. If you didn’t get a chance to hear her speak, here is her story, in her own words.
I’ve been a supporter of Susan G. Komen for years and became even more involved when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006 at the age of 57.
My mom was living in Las Vegas when she was diagnosed, but because of my deep respect and admiration for the medical community here in Chicago, I insisted that she come here for a second opinion. The doctors at UChicago confirmed her diagnosis and scheduled her mastectomy. I took it upon myself to coordinate her care and she stayed with me before and after her surgery.
After recovering from her surgery, my mom went back to Las Vegas for her chemo treatments. During that time, even though I wasn’t physically with her, I learned so much about breast cancer: how chemo is supposed to work, side effects of medication, and terms I never really wanted to know like neutropenic. As a testament to her determination, my mom finished her last chemo treatment on a Thursday, got on a plane on Friday, and that Saturday attended a black tie event that I had been working on for the American Cancer Society. We went together to my stylist beforehand to get all glammed up. I got my hair done; she got eyelashes put on and eyebrows penciled in. My mom looked stunning that evening and we had wonderful time.
After that, we planned to walk in the San Diego 3-Day in November 2008, to celebrate her 2-year survivor anniversary. Since there wasn’t a 3-Day in Chicago that year, nor one in Las Vegas, we figured that we’d go to San Diego for the big 3-Day finale with the beautiful weather and stunning scenery. We completed our fundraising goals, created t-shirts and coordinated our gear. We were excited!
That June 2008, my dad suffered from a ruptured brain aneurysm leaving him comatose. Nine days later, we took him off life support and he passed away. He was the rock of our family and my mom and I were devastated.
As anyone who’s lost someone they love can tell you, grief is profoundly exhausting. My mom and I weren’t sure if we would have the energy to actually walk 60 miles that November in the 3-Day. But we decided that my dad would want us to walk and so we did.
Since my mom was incredibly creative, she could sew, knit, crochet, pretty much do anything (I luckily inherited a small portion of talent), we decided that we needed to make it our goal to win the tent decorating contest at the 3-Day. We asked friends to give us names of people they knew who had been diagnosed with breast cancer and we put them on ribbons which encircled our tent. We used small twinkling lights, glow in the dark stars and pink carnations (my mom’s favorite). We won! That ribbon is one of my most treasured possessions because of everything that went into it.
The time we spent time together on the 3-Day was incredible, but I had no idea just how important those memories would become until 2 months later when my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This meant that while she had easily and happily walked 60 miles, her body was betraying her the entire time. For those of you who have been diagnosed when you feel completely fine, it is unnerving to know that your body is doing something unbeknownst to you and completely out of your control.
I was sitting by her bedside one night at my home where I was caring for her, when I told her that one day I thought I’d start a foundation and do something “more,” whatever that was. And she looked at me, and said, “I’ll be right there watching over you when you do.” That was the first time she even hinted that she knew it was her time to go. Then I asked her if she would do me a favor: “When you see dad, can you give him a hug for me?” Her eyes became really bright blue and she had this great big smile and nodded and said “Of course.”
Just six months after our 3-Day adventure and only 11 months after having lost my dad, I lost her, too.
I am eternally grateful for the time we spent together and all that she taught me about being brave and strong (as an aside, I personally hate that word “strong” because it just means you’ve just been through a bunch of crap that nobody would want to go through).
That next June, just after a year from losing my mom, when I was going through a divorce, working and raising my two boys who were 6 and 3, I was downtown at Northwestern for my mammogram. I was 37.
I discovered it is never a good sign when everyone in a doctor’s office, including those who arrived long after you did, go home and you are still there reading some “Us” magazine from 1988 waiting for someone to talk to you about your test results. So, I wasn’t surprised when the radiologist called me back to show me my images and said that it looked like I had breast cancer. I just sat there while the nurse who was seated next to me waited for me to fall apart. But you see, I didn’t. That’s how I knew my Mom was right there with me. And because I had been through her journey, I knew what was coming and just said, “Ok, what’s next?”
Two months later I had my mastectomy at Northwestern. And not only was my mom there with me that day too, but I had a waiting room full of beautiful friends who were, and still are, my biggest cheerleaders and advocates. My surgeon said that he felt like he was addressing a crowd when he came out to report on how things went. Like many of you, I often have a hard time accepting help because, of course, I can do everything myself. Except that I can’t and we aren’t meant to. Learning to accept help, love and support from those amazing friends is the gift breast cancer gave me. And I’m beyond grateful.
Three weeks ago, on August 23, I celebrated my 10-year survivor anniversary!
I decided last year that to celebrate this milestone I’d have a big party, check a few things off my bucket list and walk in the 3-Day since it was back in Chicago. Perfect! I wanted to walk in memory of my mom, in honor of a dear friend of mine who is also a survivor and in joy for all the blessings in my life. My friends were planning to have a cheering station and I was planning to collect stickers and buttons on my lanyard that those of you that have walked in the 3-Day know are small tokens of encouragement that you pick up along the journey.
But as we all know and have certainly been reminded of this year, life is uncertain and unpredictable. So instead of any of those things, I spent my 10-year anniversary going to brunch and watching a movie with my boys. Now that might not seem like such a big accomplishment. But my boys are now 13 and 16 and for those of you with teenage boys, you know how “easy” it is to convince them to spend time hanging out with their mom. The day was uneventful and quiet and ordinary which made it extraordinary and the perfect celebration.
I’m looking forward to celebrating my 11-year anniversary by walking in Chicago’s 3-Day next year and hope to see all of you there!
We thank Lisa for being so brave and sharing the story of her emotional family journey at the Chicago kick-off and again here for you all to read. We can’t wait to welcome you to the 2021 Chicago 3-Day next October!
To hear more inspiring stories like this, you have two more chances by attending our kick-off activities. Our next virtual kick-off is on November 7th. RSVP today.