As part of the 2021 Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day Virtual Kick-Off, we held a fundraising challenge during the week leading up to the Kick-Off, November 2-6. The 3-Dayer who got the largest number of individual donations during the challenge period won an amazing 3-Day branded prize — a Birdie Box with headphones, a water bottle and a Bluetooth speaker. The winner was Shelly F., who raised $2,136 with 18 donations in just five days!
We wanted to know how she did it and pass her advice and experience on to other 3-Day participants. So, we asked her a few questions.
What is your history with the 3-Day? I have walked in nine 3-Days. I started with Atlanta in 2010 and 2011. Then I did San Diego in 2012, 2013, and 2014. I walked Dallas/Fort Worth in 2016 and then back to San Diego again in 2017, 2018, and 2019.
Why do you walk? I walk because I have known too many people with breast cancer, and I want to see a cure. It’s that simple.
What is your connection to this cause? My children had a teacher in preschool who got breast cancer and died when her children were just three and one. It was heartbreaking for everyone at the school. My best friend also had breast cancer. Although she is now 15 years cancer-free, I have had several other friends who were diagnosed and treated during that time. As a Jewish woman, I know that I and many people in my close circle have a higher chance of getting breast cancer.
What techniques did you use to raise $2,136 in just five days? I sent emails to everyone I could think of letting them know that I am still fundraising and walking this year even though there is no in-person 3-Day event. Then, during the days immediately after the election I sent another email letting people know that if they were looking for something positive to do while votes were being counted, they could donate to Komen. Many people did, which led to my raising $2,136 in just five days.
What are your top three fundraising tips for other 3-Day participants?
Ask everyone you know, even if they haven’t donated in past years. Each year someone surprises me. Unfortunately, it is often because they know someone who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and they are looking for something positive to do, so they donate.
Send several requests. I always start with an email that has the subject line, “Please help cure breast cancer.” Then about a week later I send a second one with “second call” before the same phrase. Sometimes I do three or four calls and then end with “last call.” I find that this really helps people who procrastinate.
Don’t be shy about asking. In the beginning I was shy about asking because I felt like I was imposing upon people. Over the years I have learned that people are looking for positive things to do with their money, and many, many people have a connection to breast cancer. Sometimes they just need to be asked and then they are proud to support such a good cause.
Our 2021 Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day Virtual Kick-Off started Saturday morning, November 7th, with an inspiring morning kick-off hosted on Zoom. The highlight was getting to hear Julie’s survivor story, which was both poignant and also made us laugh. If you missed it, here is Julie’s story, in her own words.
It is Monday January 7, 2019, about 3:30 p.m., and I am sitting at my desk at work when my cell phone rings. It is the doctor who performed a needle biopsy on my right breast three weeks ago. I have an appointment with her tomorrow, but she wanted to give me a heads-up that the biopsy results came back positive for breast cancer. For a moment everything around me ceased to exist, froze, and it is as if time stood still.
I was not surprised. Deep down I had known for some weeks, a couple of months even, that something was not right; that this time, this lump, was different. But I was still shocked. That may sound like a contradiction, but I know all of you will understand that narrow distinction between a feeling and facing the cold hard truth.
When my Susan G. Komen 3-Day coach, Tisho, asked me to speak at the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day Virtual Kick-Off I was a little hesitant, I felt that compared to so many others, my breast cancer journey was fairly uneventful, even easy. As I talked it through with my wife Dawn, she reminded me that my journey and story was not just about the discovery and treatment events of the past year and a half, but the three decades I spent “paying it forward”. I did this by fundraising for and participating in breast cancer awareness events, including two other 3-Days, and my strong belief in being an advocate for one’s own body.
I come from a female-centric family, yet none of us, female or male, had been diagnosed with breast cancer until my diagnosis last year. In spite of that, a number of us, myself included, have spent more than our fair share of time being squeezed by mammogram machines, lubed up for ultrasounds and needled for biopsies or had benign cysts drained.
So when I first noticed a lump in my right breast, mid-September 2018, I was not overly concerned. If anything, I was a little frustrated as I already had two mammograms in the past 10 months; one my routine annual and the other when a reoccurring cyst in my left breast got to the size that it was causing discomfort and required draining.
At the time I was still on Active Duty with the Air Force, I had recently moved to a new assignment and military base and was still getting settled at work and in my personal life, so I figured I would just keep an eye on the lump and try and “wait it out” until my next scheduled mammogram in a few months.
Then over the course of two weeks the lump grew noticeably and instead of feeling like the usual round tangibly unattached cysts, it became irregular and appeared to be connected to the breast tissue itself. At this point I realized my “wait it out” approach might not be the best way forward, so I went to the radiology department during their Walk-In hours to get checked out.
Well, it turns out you could only “Walk-In” if you just need an annual exam and have no symptoms. If like me you had a lump, you needed a referral from your primary care doctor for a scheduled appointment. Accomplishing those two steps took more than six weeks and it only happened that fast because I insisted on being a squeaky wheel. To say I was more than a little bewildered and frustrated would be an understatement.
By mid-October when I saw my primary care doctor, I was having noticeable discharge from my right nipple, enough that I needed to put a gauze pad in my bra each day. This was a first for me. Then there was how I was starting to feel physically in general. I do not even know quite how to describe it, I just felt “off’,” not myself. It was at this stage I started to think that something of significance could be going on.
The mammogram and ultrasound on November 19, 2018 showed exactly what I had been feeling, an irregular mass about two and a half centimeters long, made up of (according to the radiologist) a variety of different cell types, that while most likely benign (90% are) was worth further investigation by the Breast Care Center at Walter Reed Regional Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, as a precaution.
At this point I should say that I am what I like to call an optimistic realist. If the glass is nearly half full, I’ll call it half full, but if it’s only a third full, I’ll call it what it is. So, while I heard the radiologist’s words of optimism, somewhere deep inside I just knew I was going to be one of the other 10%. Over the next six months, I would become well acquainted with the amazing staff and facilities of the Breast Care Center, plastic surgery department, and oncology at Walter Reed Regional Medical Center.
The results of my December 16th biopsy revealed ductal carcinoma in situ. At this point, I should point out that my wife, Dawn, who I mentioned earlier, had only been my girlfriend for two weeks when I got my cancer diagnosis. But wow did she step up to help me get through both physically and emotionally. In addition, a week before my diagnosis, I had filed my formal retirement request after having spent over 27 years in the Air Force.
After discussing all the treatment options, recommendations and the fact that being the first in my family to be diagnosed with breast cancer technically put me at a genetically low risk for reoccurrence, I initially opted for a lumpectomy over a mastectomy. For “reassurance” it was decided to order a breast MRI just to confirm nothing else was going on.
So, on February 4, 2019, surgeons removed the mass, now four centimeters by two and a half centimeters and surrounding margins, and we all crossed our fingers and waited. While in the airport on Valentine’s Day waiting to fly from Washington, D.C. to Detroit to visit Dawn for a long weekend, my breast surgeon called to give me the news that results of tissue tests done along with my lumpectomy showed that they did not get clear margins. In other words, there were still some cancer cells left.
Also, the results of the MRI showed a few additional areas of potential concern. I do not know how most of you spent or envision spending your first Valentine’s Day with a new love but talking cancer treatment options is probably not at the top of your list. But that is what Dawn and I did that weekend along with talking to my parents and twin sister.
My mother at the age of 80 had gone through treatment for Stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2018, the first known case of any type of cancer in my family, and so she more than anyone could understand what I was going through emotionally. As well as being a pretty optimistic person, I am also quite pragmatic, but there is something about knowing there is a living “thing,” a cancer inside you whose ultimate course if left unchecked would be to kill you, that is disconcerting even for the most rational of us.
On March 11th, my right breast was removed during a skin preserving mastectomy. As at the time we did not know whether I would require radiation treatment, so a spacer was put in place until actual reconstruction could be scheduled. I had a nerve block prior to surgery and so the pain was minimal, but the fatigue and general loss of strength was unexpected.
Dawn is a nurse and so after my initial follow-ups a week after surgery, we were permitted to go to Michigan for the rest of my convalescence and she was able to remove my remaining drain. Thankfully, tissue and lymph node testing results would show no trace of further cancer and so negated the need for radiation or chemotherapy. Having seen my mother go through chemotherapy, I was most concerned about having to do the same.
Reconstruction on the right breast via an implant and surgery to “lift” the left breast (so one side didn’t look like it belonged to a 20-year-old and the other to my 51-year-old body) were accomplished in May, and at that point, I honestly expected life would go back to normal.
Instead what followed were eight months of real struggle with the way my body now looked and felt and accompanying guilt over feeling that way, knowing that compared to many, I got off “easy” — no radiation or chemotherapy. I also struggled with my body’s reaction to taking the preventative hormone treatment Tamoxifen. I was having up to a dozen hot flashes a day. My sex drive and ability to enjoy physical intimacy all but disappeared. I was tired and getting depressed and I just felt disconnected much of the time.
In February of this year I made two decisions. One was to stop taking the Tamoxifen and schedule a prophylactic mastectomy on the left side. By then I had gotten used to how my right side looks and feels and taking all breast tissue out of the equation would address the nagging fear of a new episode of cancer occurring. And it would definitely help my wife Dawn, who would have preferred I had a double mastectomy to begin with. She’s more of a butt person than a breast person, so no loss there, LOL.
Then COVID-19 hit and the surgery had to be put on hold. It was finally rescheduled for the end of July, and then I got into poison oak while clearing land for a chicken coop and goat run and the surgery got postponed again. Is the third time a charm, or is the universe trying to tell me something? Well, I know the option to have the surgery is there for me when and if I want it.
One of the reasons I wanted to speak at the Kick-Off is to encourage you all to be ardent advocates for your own bodies and medical care. Listen to what your body is telling you and trust your instincts. If you do not get answers or care that makes you feel you are being adequately being taken care of, be the squeaky wheel. I was on the phone every day, sometimes multiple times a day, until I finally got a referral for a radiology appointment back in November 2018.
Experience is good, but sometimes youthful enthusiasm wins the day. A brand-new officer and doctor picked up my care and proactively got me in the queue for an appointment with the Breast Care Center while we waited on radiology. Once I was in the system at the Breast Care Center, my confidence level rose, and I would recommend them to anyone eligible to get care there.
In May of this year, Dawn and I moved from Michigan to Delaware into a house we had been renovating for the previous year. It sits on an acre and a half just outside of town and so we are realizing a lifelong dream of mine (and one Dawn has bought into) of a small homestead and pet-sitting business.
At this point I am feeling the full benefits of not taking the Tamoxifen and am under close surveillance by the Breast Care Center, so surgery is on the back burner for now. I think about giving the Tamoxifen another try, it might be the responsible thing to do. But I know I would not be able to stick with it if the side effects came back.
So for now the plan is to be diligent in keeping up with my follow-up plan and living life to its fullest, which brings me to the second choice I made in February of this year — to register for another Susan G. Komen 3-Day. When we walk in Dallas/Fort Worth next year, it will be 15 years since my first 3-Day and 12 years since I last walked.
I distinctly remember waiting in the finishing area of the 2006 Boston 3-Day, my first. As more and more finishers gathered, I commented to my friend on the palpable energy and that surely if there was anyone in there who was sick, there was healing power present. I can still feel it just thinking about it.
I have wondered what it will feel like participating next year as a survivor. I know I will feel immense gratitude. Gratitude for life, for sharing the experience with my wife (who will be participating for the first time) and gratitude for all the other participants (walkers and support staff and volunteers) present who are “paying it forward” until we find the cure.
We’re looking forward to seeing you in Dallas/Fort Worth in 2021, Julie and Dawn!
To hear more inspiring stories like this, you have one more chance by attending our San Diego 3-Day Virtual Kick-Off on November 21st. RSVP today.
From the bottom of our hearts, we thank our Veterans for their service. Many members of the 3-Day family are Veterans or active service members and today we are honored to share some of their stories on the 3-Day blog.
Meet Frank M., Dan S., Sherry P., and Sandi BJ. Between the four of them, they have participated in an astounding 106 3-Days. As Veterans of the Air Force, Navy, and Army, they have shown dedication to our country and to our 3-Day community, and for that, we are truly grateful.
When we asked Dan what message he’d share with the Pink Bubble, “As a dad and a Veteran, let me share this. In this life you get two families; one was given at birth or assigned shortly thereafter and one you chose. Your given family is just that, and certain facets of those relationships are out of your control. Your chosen family are those you let into your inner peace; choose them wisely and cherish them. Some will last for just moments; others will last a lifetime. Be kind, be gentle and smile.”
To Frank, Dan, Sherry, Sandi, and all of the active service members and Veterans within our 3-Day chosen family, we thank you, and we cherish you. Spend a little time getting to know these four inspiring 3-Day participants.
Frank M. | Air Force Veteran 15-Time 3-Day Walker. Walking in New England and San Diego in 2021.
Why did you join the armed forces? I signed up for the Air Force during my senior year of high school in 1978. I went in soon after graduation in August of 1979. I knew I didn’t want to go to college right away and wanted to learn a career. I ended up selecting a career in Inventory Management/Logistics. I spent the next 20 years traveling around the world. Best decision I ever made because it set me up for the rest of my life!
What does the 3-Day family mean to you? I can’t say enough about my 3-Day family! Since doing my first walk in 2010, I have made so many lifelong friends. The hardest part of 2020 was not getting to see them on our regular 3-Day weekends in Boston and San Diego! I think the 3-Day attracts a lot of big-hearted people and that is why the “Pink Bubble” is such an awesome experience! We need more of that loving, caring feeling in the world!
Are there any things you learned or experienced in the military that you brought to your 3-Day experience, or vice versa? A couple of things! 1. In the military you also become part of a family, especially when you are stationed overseas and you have to count on each other. 2. Teamwork! On my first walk, I was lucky enough to join the “Men with Heart” team in Boston. We decided to be the “Boy Scouts” of these walks. We all carry backpacks filled with supplies anyone on the walk might need. We brought this same teamwork to Philly when there was no 3-Day in Boston that year. We joined forces with the “Friends with Heart” team there and ended up being the top fundraisers for the Philadelphia 3-Day four years in a row. I am so proud of that team that I co-captained with my dear friend and survivor, Sharon Slosarik.
This Veterans Day, if you could share one message with the Pink Bubble, what would it be? In the military, you learn to adjust and adapt! This year has been hard on all of us. Know that we WILL get back together in the “Pink Bubble,” but until then, we still need to get together as a team to raise the money that is still so desperately needed for this cause we come together for! I can’t wait to see you all out there on future walks! Much love to my pink family! ❤️🤗
Dan S. | Navy Veteran 11-Time 3-Day Walker. 44-Time 3-Day Crew Member. Crewing in Chicago, New England, and San Diego in 2021.
Why did you join the armed forces? In 1968, most of us had two choices if we were healthy: Join the military or get drafted. I preferred to enlist to have a little say in my future. Being from a Navy family — my father, brother, and 8 uncles all served — it just seemed like the right option. After I completed four years of active duty, I was given the opportunity to sign on with the reserve component of the Navy Air Wing. I was assigned to a brand new squadron flying out of the Detroit area. VP-93 was a squadron of land-based P-3 aircraft which patrol the oceans in an anti-submarine capacity. Within the squadron, flight crews were formed, and those men were your family.
After 28 years, I retired from the Navy and found a lot of time on my hands and an energy I could not describe. And then I became involved with the 3-Day back in 2004 to complete a civic service phase of a class I was taking. The following year, my daughter asked me to do it again with her this time. Then, after a couple more years, a bond began to form, and our little pink family took root. To my daughter’s team I was just “Dad.” As the years went on and our family expanded, it changed to “3-Day Dad,” as I am significantly older than most, and that newfound energy gave me a purpose.
Are there any things you learned or experienced in the military that you brought to your 3-Day experience, or vice versa? In the military, as years went by, you took the younger service members under your wing and trained and protected them as if they were your own. At the 3-Day events, as part of the crew I found myself doing much the same thing. Sure, staff is there to run the walk, as it should be, but they may not get to see the individuals change as the 3-Days go on, and even more so as the years progress. I have, and it has changed my life!
What does the 3-Day family mean to you? I have made acquaintances, friends, and a “Pink Bubble Family” through my time with Susan G. Komen. Being a multi-city crew member and walker, I have met so many people over the years that I call friends and some that I call anytime I want to. I have become a minister to officiate at their wedding, and I sadly have attended too many of their memorial services.
Sherry P. | Navy Veteran 14-Time 3-Day Walker. Walking in San Diego in 2021.
Why did you join the armed forces? One day when I was seven, I went to work with my Daddy. When a young guy walked up and asked him a question and then listened to the answer before thanking him and walking away, I thought, “WOW! My Dad must be important!” I asked him why that guy had talked to him like that. Daddy said, “Because I’m a Navy Chief! He’d better talk to me like that!” I asked what was more important than a Chief and he said a Senior Chief. I told him that was what I was going to be. He laughed; I laughed. Ten years later, I joined the Navy. I am so thankful for the opportunities I had in the Navy. I traveled the world, made friends, and earned two college degrees — the first in my family to do so. I would do it all again if I had the chance. By the way, when I retired in 2011, I was a Senior Chief, and my Daddy was my biggest fan!
I actually started walking in the 3-Day because a newly promoted Navy Chief friend of mine had walked in 2008 but couldn’t walk in 2009 because he was being deployed to Iraq. I told him I would take his place and walk for him. He said, “You have to raise $2,300.” I replied, “Okay.” Then he said, “You have to walk 60 miles.” Again, I said, “Okay.” “Why would you do that?” he asked me. “Because that’s what Navy Chiefs do. We take care of each other. You made a commitment, and the Navy isn’t letting you keep it. So, I’ll do it for you,” I told him. The rest was history.
What does the 3-Day family mean to you? One of the first things you learn in the military is that family isn’t always blood or marriage; most of the time it’s just people who share life-changing experiences. Family is about people who are there when you need them and will drop everything when they get your call. Some of my family, the people who mean the most to me, I met while we shared a few miles, smiles, or tears on a 3-Day event.
I’ve walked in 14 events in 9 locations, Denver, Dallas/Fort Worth, Arizona, San Francisco, Atlanta, Seattle, San Diego, Twin Cities, and Michigan. I have seen some of my 3-Day family at multiple 3-Day events, and others I have only seen once. Some of my Navy family are also a part of my 3-Day family. How cool is that? It’s amazing how such a diverse group (politics, race, gender, marital status, geographic location, hobbies, etc.) has come together for a cause so much bigger than each of us. After one event, and before the next one, we keep in touch via phone or social media. Together we celebrate each other’s successes, mourn losses, and everything in between. It truly has been a blessing to me. The 3-Day may not be my family by blood or marriage, but they are every bit as important in my life.
I have 3-Day/Navy family in almost every state. I live in the middle of nowhere outside of Amarillo, Texas, and some of my favorite memories are when someone rolled into my driveway in the middle of the night needing a place to park, warm bed, a cup of coffee, or just a hug.
Just like I followed my Daddy’s footsteps in the Navy, my youngest son followed mine (literally) in the 3-Day. Robby served on the Youth Corps for two years (Dallas/Fort Worth 2016 and 2017) and has walked in two events (San Diego 2018 and Michigan 2019). My 3-Day family has watched him grow into a terrific young man, and I love watching their kids grow up, too!
Are there any things you learned or experienced in the military that you brought to your 3-Day experience, or vice versa? Change your socks! HA! Anyone who has ever been in the military or the 3-Day has been told to change their socks early and often. I know it sounds simple, and maybe that’s the point. Something so simple, and often overlooked, can make a world of difference.
This Veterans Day, if you could share one message with the Pink Bubble, what would it be? This year has been difficult on so many levels with a pandemic, events cancelled, politics, weather events, etc. It can be overwhelming, but if we focus on the important things in our life, our friends, our family, and our faith, we will get through.
Sandi BJ | Army Veteran 9-Time 3-Day Walker. 13-Time 3-Day Crew Member. Walking in New England and Chicago in 2021. Crewing Dallas/Fort Worth and San Diego in 2021.
Why did you join the armed forces? I was in my second year of college when I joined the Army. I joined for the GI benefit. I originally wanted to join the Army’s Nursing School, but there was a year’s wait. So, I took a job in Europe.
What does the 3-Day family mean to you? The 3-Day is “family” to me. Over the years, I’ve met a group of “acquaintances” who have become family, especially during my multiple cancers.
Are there any things you learned or experienced in the military that you brought to your 3-Day experience, or vice versa? There is a saying shared among soldiers in the Army — “Don’t volunteer.” I did the opposite — I volunteered. I continue to volunteer in my community, women’s Veterans’ groups, charity events and the 3-Day. I walk and I crew.
This Veterans Day, if you could share one message with the Pink Bubble, what would it be? Thank a Veteran — especially women Veterans — who are often ignored. When I was in the Army, Veterans and military members were not treated well by the public due to Vietnam, even though Vietnam had been over for a few years. It was not until the Gulf in the 1990s that Veterans and the military were “thanked for their service.”