My Village: The Difference Between Surviving and Being a Survivor

By Emily H.

This is my version of Emeril’s ‟BAM!” I have never loved my kitchen more than I do now! It is wallpapered with cards from friends near and far who are supporting me along my breast cancer journey. It started with the first card I received that reads, ‟Today’s showers bring tomorrow’s blooms.” I taped it right above my kitchen sink, somewhere I visit often, so I would see it over and over again, reminding myself this is only a part of my story. As more and more cards came in the mail I wanted a way to keep all those positive thoughts front and center. Away it grew to my whole kitchen! Words do not do my feelings justice. I have always known I had good friends and family, but when I needed them the most, they all showed up. I am both thankful and very blessed to have a village this strong! It has truly been the difference between surviving and being a Survivor. 

Community by definition is a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common. To me, community is an evenly balanced group of people who share passion for the same thing. Our 3-Day community is made of all types of beings (men, women, children, and pets) who share one common goal: to spread the Pink Bubble love. We all come to the table with different goals, some want to raise money, some just want to find a cure, some need support, and some just like to walk. But all in all we are a group of people (a community) that wants the world to be a little more pink. My community support means so much that without it I would fail. I know that no matter what challenge I am faced with I can turn to that community and someone will rise to the occasion and help me succeed. 

My 3-Day journey began five years ago when I registered to walk in celebration of my mother-in-law, Lori, who had just fought her own battle with breast cancer. I quickly found a passion for FUN-raising and was able to arrive to camp a Top 10 fundraiser my first year. I fell in love with the ‟Pink Bubble” and all the people who make the 3-Day happen. There were so many stories, so many hugs, and so many reasons to keep coming back. I brought my mother-in-law and sister-in-law, Heather, along with me for walk two and then a best friend, Rachelle, for year three. 2020 was our ‟year off” as I call it, and I was aiming high for 2021. I wanted to reach $20,000 in lifetime donations for my five-year anniversary. And I did!

But as 2021 began I was given a new challenge, being diagnosed with breast cancer myself. My diagnosis came as a huge shock as I do not hit very many risk factors. I am only 29, had all my kids young, breastfed all my babies, no family history, and am generally in good health. But as we all know cancer does not discriminate. One more reason to keep on walking. I look forward to being reunited with my ‟Pink Bubble” family in the future and know that my journey as a survivor is just beginning.

If I could only share one thing with the 3-Day family it would be don’t give up! Keep on fighting, fundraising, and spreading the Pink Bubble love. The past few years have been tough on everyone for different reasons. We all learned things and took the time to grow in personal ways. But overall as a society, I think we discovered we could all use a little work! So don’t give up and keep on fighting, for yourself, your mission, and anything and everything that brings you joy! You all bring me joy and I am so thankful. 

Through it all, especially in the Medical Tent, Hal G. shows PERSEVERANCE | Word of the Year

Next up in our “Word of the Year” series, meet Hal G. and learn in his own words why he chose perseverance.

I have participated in three events as part of the Medical Crew—Philadelphia in 2018 and 2019 as well as New England in 2019. I am registered to walk for the first time in San Diego 2021.

My experiences at the 3-Day events have been great. I’ve been able to meet so many wonderful people who have come together in support of people they know and don’t know. It’s about making the future brighter for friends and strangers alike…incredible people filled with hope finding a common mission of advancing breast cancer diagnosis, research, and treatment.

As part of the Medical Crew, I feel honored to be part of the 3-Day. My colleagues and I are dedicated to helping the participants finish what they started. I am at the event to help each individual achieve their own goal.

The days start early and end late as we have clinic before the route is open and afterwards into the evening. We provide medical care along the route with a team of incredible medical professionals and assistants. It is truly a well-coordinated team effort with each member doing their part to get each and every participant the care they need and to keep them safe.

My word of the year is Perseverance.

Perseverance is my word of the year as 2020 was a year filled with remarkable and unprecedented challenges. 

I participate in the 3-Day because of my girlfriend, Christine. We started dating in July 2014. Christine was diagnosed with breast cancer in December the following year. She and I never really talked about this again but as tears were streaming down her face in shock from her diagnosis she said to me, “This is more than you bargained for. If you want out of the relationship I understand”. I am still here. We are still here.

Christine had surgery and radiation treatment and now has ongoing medical management and surveillance. After recovering from the stress and fatigue of treatment, Christine set her sights on walking the 3-Day. It was a monumental milestone in her emotional and physical recovery.

Christine has now completed three events, two as a walker and one as crew. We will be walking in San Diego together.

In December 2020, Christine became a 5-year survivor.

The 3-Day family to me is a gathering of people coming together to combat a common adversary. It is a group of individuals magnifying their strengths exponentially as they join the Pink Bubble. It is a reminder that nobody has to fight alone…there are friends we know and friends we haven’t met yet that are working together to improve lives today and for future generations.

My word of the year, Perseverance, embodies much of the 3-Day experience. Perseverance is about overcoming an obstacle. It’s defined as weathering a storm or difficult situation in life with strong determination. I have seen and treated many in the Medical tent and base camp who display a singlemindedness toward achievement. Also, perseverance can last for a lifetime.

The message I would like to share with the Pink Bubble is that you matter. You are important. What you do helps others. In this time of extraordinary challenges look for the good. The Pink Bubble is part of the good, and the Pink Bubble is not the same without you.

One thing that surprised me about volunteering for the 3-Day is that in helping others an unexpected side effect was that I helped myself. I didn’t see that coming. 

Thank you, Hal. As we move through 2021, we’re honored by the perseverance we see you and the Pink Bubble family show as we overcome obstacles together.

Other Word of the Year Blog Posts

Tracie G. is ready to INSPIRE everyone around her in 2021 | Word of the Year

Carolyn P.’s Heart is Filled with Generosity in 2021 | Word of the Year

Riley W. Chooses To Walk Into 2021 Being GRATEFUL | Word of the Year

My Breast Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment Story

By San Diego 3-Day Walker, Niki W.

I started doing the 3-Day in 2008 because a few of my fellow teacher friends invited me. I thought it was a perfect way to fundraise money towards breast cancer research, as I had lost a couple friends to this horrible disease. I also thought it would be a great way to spend time with these friends and to get exercise. I walked in 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018, and 2019. I plan on walking in 2021 as well.

In the midst of everything else that 2020 brought my way, I found a very large lump in November, in my right breast.

I went in two days later, and my OBGYN said it felt too big to be cancer and not to worry about it. She scheduled some tests anyway for December but told me it was probably nothing. I cancelled my appointments and moved them to January because the December tests conflicted with our holiday plans, and I figured it didn’t matter since my doctor had said not to worry.

I finally went in for the tests on January 18 and had a mammogram, an ultrasound, and blood tests. My mammogram came out normal but they were able to see the lump on the ultrasound and my lymph nodes were very enlarged. They scheduled a biopsy for February 3. On February 5, I was walking with a friend on the beach when my OBGYN doctor called and said that I had an invasive carcinoma tumor 7X6 cm that had already spread to my lymph nodes.

I was in shock for several days and stopped sleeping and didn’t have an appetite. The next two weeks were a blur of appointments, scans, and more, as I found out that I needed to start chemo right away for six months, then surgery (double mastectomy) followed by radiation, reconstruction and hormone therapy for five-ten years.

Once I got my test results back and learned that I was only Stage 3 and the cancer had not yet moved to my organs, I was able to get my hope back! I am now continuously leaning on God each day and knowing that he is here with me through this. 

My hair started falling out in early March.  After I couldn’t take it anymore, four of my 3-Day friends arranged an outdoor haircut in my backyard so that I would have support during this traumatic time. I woke up that morning thinking that this would be the hardest day of my life, and my stomach was in knots all morning. However, when they arrived all wearing cowboy boots and hats and blasting country music (my favorite!), I couldn’t help but smile. Throughout the haircut, I was filled with gratitude for these amazing friends being with me during this really difficult time. They turned my sadness into joy, and it became one of the most special, intimate afternoons of my life.

My friends and family (and particularly my 3-Day team) have been amazing and have been here for every step along the way with cards, gifts, flowers, and meals. They even added my name to our 3-Day team logo so that we will now be walking for me as well as many other teachers from our school who have fought the battle and survived! I can’t wait to walk in November and be at the other side of this battle and able to spread my hope to others. 

My message for others is to not give up hope and to rely on your faith, family, and friends to get you through this. You can’t do it alone and you will need their support! Embrace it and don’t reject it. There will be so many blessings if you allow other people in.