Defying the Odds: Shirley E.’s Empowering Journey as a Breast Cancer Survivor 

At 81 years old, Shirley E. has already signed up for all five 3-Day events in 2023, inspiring others with her unrelenting spirit. As a breast cancer survivor, Shirley believes in the transformative power of walking and encourages everyone to join the cause. Read on to learn more about why Shirley continues to participate in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day. 

My 3-Day walking adventures began in 2009 with my first walk in San Diego. I was not familiar with Susan G. Komen and the 3-Day until the previous year, 2008, when my niece sent me a donor request. I told her I would donate if she would walk again the next year so that I could walk with her. She did, and that was my first 3-Day and it changed my life. At that time, I was a 13-year breast cancer survivor, so I was walking to celebrate that. Now I am a 27-year survivor and walk in hopes that we find the cures so that no one else hears those words, “you have breast cancer.”   

My mammogram did not show any cancer, but I had felt a lump that my gynecologist did not find, so I thought I was imagining it. The following year there was still no indication from either the mammogram or the doctor that there was a problem, but I said, “what is this lump?” He did not think it was anything to worry about but sent me to see a surgeon to check it out. After an ultrasound found nothing, he decided we should take out the lump anyway. I then heard the words “we’ll send it out, but I think it is probably cancerous.” It was, and I had to have a second surgery to get a wider margin, followed by eight weeks of radiation. At that time, they did not take a sentinel node to see if the cancer had spread, so I had about 27 lymph nodes removed. I had thoroughly memorized Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book and knew I was at risk for lymphedema, so I requested physical therapy to reduce that risk. The surgeon agreed and it worked! 

I was determined not to let the breast cancer diagnosis interfere with my life. I was a teacher at Eastern Connecticut State University, and because I had been teaching extra classes over the previous few years, I was able to take a reduced teaching load in order to get through treatment easier. The schedule was still very tiring. I taught an undergraduate class on Monday mornings, went for my radiation treatment, and then taught an evening graduate class. On Tuesdays I went for my radiation treatments and then went home to bed. Wednesdays were a repeat of Monday. Thursdays I was able to go home to rest after my radiation treatment. On Fridays I taught an undergraduate class and then my husband (who was retired so he was driving me through all this) and I went to lunch and went shopping. This gave me something to look forward to each week.  

I have completed 27 Komen 3-Day walks, walking all four of them in 2022, and five planned for this year. Why do I keep doing this? Because I now know too many people whose lives were cut short by breast cancer. I know too many families who have lost a loved one to breast cancer. I want to be part of the reason why breast cancer is defeated. I want to see little girls not worry about becoming part of a breast cancer statistic. The money that I am able to raise will help do this. Asking for donations is not easy, but these donations do so much toward the goal of defeating breast cancer.   

When I am walking the 3-Day I am enveloped in the Pink Bubble, which makes walking so much easier than when I do training walks alone. The Pink Bubble has given me so many friends over the years. My message to the Pink Bubble is to embrace the experience and take a piece of it home with you to see you through until the next 3-Day walk, because once you do one walk, you are hooked and you keep on coming back.    

Be an advocate for yourself and remind others to as well. If I had not intervened, I would have gone another year with that lump and possibly not have had as good of an outcome. 

Keep on walking. We will defeat breast cancer one step at a time. 

We all walk and fundraise in hopes of a world without breast cancer. Read more inspiring stories like Shirley’s here.

My Story – Gwen A. Shares Why She Commits to the 3-Day 

Hi, my name is Gwen and I want to share the reasons I’m walking in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day in San Diego this November. 

My friend Linda formed a team to support her sister-in-law, Tracy, after she was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. She invited me and numerous other friends to join her. I said yes! 

I had been toying with the idea of either walking the Susan G. Komen 3-Day in Denver or San Diego this year but hadn’t committed yet. Linda’s invitation helped me decide! 

I walked the AVON 39 breast cancer walk in September of 2016 in Santa Barbara. It was an incredible experience! I walked in honor of the many women in my family and life that have had breast cancer. My grandmother Veronica and my aunt Terrie were both diagnosed in their 30’s and lost their lives to breast cancer in their late 40’s. My aunt Patty, aunt Rosie, cousin Yvette and friends Marla and Lee are all survivors!  

I asked two friends to join me on the AVON 39 walk. We trained diligently and were able to meet our fundraising goals. We stayed in a hotel and ate dinner at fun restaurants. It was a wonderful weekend. But I was truly amazed at how life changing the actual walk was for me. I met so many wonderful people while walking mile after mile. I heard their stories of loss, love and hope. We walked on September 11th. It was such an inspiring place to be 15 years after such a tragic day in our country’s history. I was touched by how hundreds of strangers were brought together to give hope to those fighting breast cancer and to honor those who lost their battles. 

Two years after walking AVON 39 in 2016, my friend Carrie invited me and many of her friends to participate in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day in Atlanta. I said yes, again. We trained and fundraised successfully. The experience was fabulous! We were a group of eight women, many whom had walked in previous Susan G. Komen 3-Days. Again, I was in awe of the people participating in the walk. I listened to my fellow walkers’ stories and became connected to these people whom I had just met. I was blown away by the support from volunteers and the people who cheered for us along the way. Another incredible experience! 

In 2019, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. She completed all her treatment and is enjoying life as a soon-to-be survivor. In 2025 she will be an official survivor! 

In 2020, I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. The pet scan revealed a suspicious spot on my breast, and in 2021 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I, too, have completed my treatment. My mom and I both take daily medication to prevent recurrence. I am in remission and look forward to 2027 when I will be an official survivor! 

My multiple myeloma is also in remission but is not curable. Thankfully it is treatable, and I tolerate the monthly treatments well. 

I am walking for many reasons. First and foremost, to honor all the women I know who have battled this disease including myself. Although some have gone down, we are all warriors! Second, to raise funds for breast cancer awareness programs and research. Third, to connect with the other walkers and volunteers. The walk is a truly hopeful and joyful experience. 

As a past walker, I know the time, effort and diligence it takes to be successful. Starting now is the best way to achieve those goals. “A little progress everyday adds up to big results!” 

You can read more inspiring stories about members of the Pink Bubble on the 3-Day Blog.  

A Limitless Goal – Rachel B. Reaches $250K and Isn’t Stopping There! 

After her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, Rachel B. decided she wanted to do something to make a difference. When she saw an advertisement for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day in a newspaper, she knew she had found that “something.” Now, 19 years later, she has raised more than $250,000! 

How long have you been participating in the 3-Day and how many events have you done?   

This year, Dallas/Fort Worth will be my 29th Susan G. Komen 3-Day event. I’ve participated since 2005 and have done 27 60-mile walks including 3-Day Nation, and I also crewed one year. I am fortunate to have walked in every city the 3-Day has ever been in.  

What is your connection to breast cancer? 

My mom is a survivor and that’s why I got involved. My mom has walked, crewed and cheered for the 3-Day. Since my first event, I’ve had many friends get diagnosed with breast cancer.   

Why do you think it’s important to raise money for this cause? 

I don’t think I understood the importance of fundraising when I walked my first 3-Day in 2005. I did understand that I couldn’t sit idly by when my mom had gone through radiation treatments to beat breast cancer. In 2004, you didn’t talk about breast cancer. Now we talk about it, which allows for more specific research and treatments. We’ve seen the advances in treatments and the importance of educating everyone about annual mammograms (Have you scheduled yours?).  

We raise money to help fund research. You can’t provide research or help to those in need without money. When people work together, you can raise a lot of money and have a greater impact in a shorter period of time.    

What makes you go above and beyond the fundraising minimum? 

My first year at the 3-Day, my younger sister raised over $3,000 in five days with less than ten people, so she showed me what was possible. I naturally set large goals that push me to raise more money or sign up for more events. In 2012, I remember setting a goal that I wanted to earn the big tent that a sponsor used to provide to the top fundraiser. That year, they changed the reward, and the top fundraiser got something different. I was proud to be top fundraiser, but I really wanted that big tent! The sponsor representative surprised me with it when I arrived at camp. What a selfless gift, and an amazing representation of the Pink Bubble! I know it’s crazy that I was excited about a tent, but we stayed at camp in tents for the first 10 years. Once we began earning a free hotel for our fundraising, our team enjoyed the comfy bed and dry conditions, so we have been glamping. 

We are an Ohio team, and therefore, the incentive to earn a flight and hotel motivated our team to be super fundraisers. Some years our team is small, and one year we had 17 people participate on the Bouncin’ Buckeyes team. Raising extra money allows us to help our teammates so they reach their fundraising requirement. 

I see a number like this: $281,064 raised and say to myself, I can reach $300,000. 

What are your best fundraising tips? 

Keep asking. Email and send physical letters with your donation form. Send reminders, because we all get busy. Create a sense of urgency (like, two days before the deadline). Share your story. There are many worthwhile charities and the people that donate have a set amount of money. By sharing your passion, they will donate to you and your efforts. Send thank you cards with your link for the following year, so you kick off fundraising for your next walk. 

My older sister worked for a company that offered matching gift donations and her donations helped us tremendously. We are so grateful for her generosity! 

Any advice you have for those struggling to meet their fundraising minimum? 

Set goals. Make it fun! Remember why you signed up. If you are speaking negatively, change your mindset. Don’t get discouraged when someone doesn’t donate. I have extended family members and friends that have been diagnosed that haven’t donated to me. I’ve also had strangers and people that I barely know who have donated to me. Refer to the fundraising tips on the 3-Day website. Share your pictures from the 3-Day and from your training walks. Be sure to include the link to your donation page. If someone has to turn to Google to find out how to donate, they may not take the extra steps to make a donation.   

What impact has being on a team made for you? Would you advise other walkers to join a team? 

I’ve been part of a team of two and a team of 17. They are different experiences, and all bring great joy. I’ve been walking with one of my teammates, Heather, since my second walk and with another teammate, Bobbi, since my third walk. We have people that have walked once and some that have walked and crewed multiple years. All of these situations were exactly what we needed as a team for that year. Life takes us in different directions and even though we can’t all gather to walk the 3-Day, we have amazing support from those that have walked with us over the years.   

I have walked in 3-Day events where people walk alone, but they really don’t walk alone. You always see people say “hi” as they pass by or even walk with them. It’s an amazing community. New walkers should try to train with others. If I had not met Dancing Lady and her team in 2005, I don’t believe I would have been set up for success. As we did training walks, we learned what shoes and clothes work and which ones do not. Training alone can be challenging to stay motivated for a 5–8-hour walk, but if you are a solo walker, you will never be alone during those 60 miles. 

What does the 3-Day/Pink Bubble mean to you? 

I look forward to the “Pink Bubble” each year. It’s a few days a year where people gather that have made sacrifices to end breast cancer. We are an elite group that sees value in improving lives around the world. Remember, if it were easy, everyone would do it. We show up so that others can have moments with their families.   

We are a loving and inspiring “Pink Bubble” and I only wish I lived closer to more of my 3-Day family. Since we can go a year or more between seeing each other, it makes the 3-Day even more special. Thank you, social media, for bringing us together throughout the year! 

What’s something you want the Pink Bubble to know about you? 

I love animals (I have two golden retrievers and two cats). Our team always stops to pet dogs. If I see a snake on the road I will jump and run away (happened on a training walk). I love taking vacations with my mom, two sisters, nephew and friends. I love to visit National Parks! 

Anything else you’d like to add? 

I’ve worked very hard to raise the money that I have for Susan G. Komen. I wouldn’t be successful without my family, team and our supporters over the years. My older sister has walked but we all love that she is now our mobile cheer station and supports us on route. To date, our Bouncin’ Buckeyes team has raised over $654,974 since 2005. I had no idea when our team of three signed up in 2005 what this would turn into. We each make a difference! Thank you! 

For more inspiring stories and fundraising tips from our other $250,000 lifetime fundraisers, click here.