Continuing on with our 3-Day Superheroes series, we wanted to recognize those in the Pink Bubble who continue to show their outstanding commitment, support and care as part of each 3-Day they participate in. We asked our 3-Day coaches and staff to highlight someone, whether walker or crew, who goes above and beyond the call to action. That is what being a 3-Day superhero is all about.
Anne is one of those quietly powerful Superheroes who will go above and beyond to help any participant, and always approaches people with love and grace (and the world’s best hugs). She is always willing to jump in with the speed of light and come to the rescue of anyone in need. She’s the kind of dependable, rock steady, strong survivor that makes being her coach so wonderful.
What inspires you to go above and beyond for this cause?
I have made many wonderful friends through the 3-Day and have joyfully celebrated the survivors. Sadly, though, when one lives immersed in a breast cancer world, sometimes friends are lost to the disease; I’ve lost count of the 3-Day friends gone too soon. It is never easy to lose a friend, therefore I keep walking and raising funds in an effort to bring breast cancer to its knees. Outside of the 3-Day, I have come to know many people affected by breast cancer. Both my mother-in-law and my dear friend Katie, who did more than any doctor to get me through my own breast cancer journey, died in 2015. While my mother-in-law led a full life, Katie was fairly young and left behind four children who needed a mom — this fact is unacceptable to me and fueled my passion even further. Last month my friend Claire, one of the very best people I’ve ever known, succumbed to breast cancer. My anger at the audacity of this disease to claim such extraordinary people will propel my aging body forward to do everything I possibly can to end this disease. As long as I have an ounce of energy left in me, I will raise my voice to fight and fundraise and walk to give everyone the full lifetime they deserve!
As someone who walks, serves on our Medical crew team, co-captains a Lifetime Commitment Club team and is a very generous donor, we wanted to highlight the unique role Sheryl plays as part of our 3-Day family.
What is your connection to breast cancer?
I have to answer with a bit of a story because I connect in so many ways. I completed my Family Practice medical residency and moved to Dallas in 1992. I was a young doctor with boundless energy and entered into a random 5K run to get some exercise and to get a free t-shirt. That 5K was the Dallas Race for the Cure, and I was impressed with the incredible organizational skills of the race and marveled at the fact that it was an event put together by women for women. Medicine then was still predominately a man’s profession, and I was quite intrigued with this classy, efficient, smart, strong, confident women’s organization in healthcare. At that time, the five-year survival rate for breast cancer was only 75% and the five-year disease-free statistics were even worse. Breast cancer threatened the life of every woman I diagnosed with it, and I counseled each one to update her will before starting treatment. That 5K culminated in a survivor’s march of women walking arm-in-arm *celebrating* their successive years of life since being treated for breast cancer. Their triumph, resolve, and joy permeated me…body, mind, and spirit…and I stood there with tears streaming down my face. I heard Nancy Brinker assert that the mission of Susan G. Komen was to eradicate breast cancer as a life-threatening disease in our lifetime. I’m not sure I truly believed it could be accomplished, but I knew I wanted to ride that wave of vision and determination!
So it was a free t-shirt and a great business model that got me interested in breast cancer initially. I had lost my own mother to colon cancer when she was 47 years old and I was 21. I quietly and discreetly gravitated toward older women who could mentor me personally and professionally. Two race chairs, Sue Ann and Ellen, helped introduce me to Komen. I learned how to conduct a business meeting, I learned how to be assertive, I learned how to manage business finances, and I learned a lot about breast cancer and about its impact on the women’s and men’s lives it affects. I learned that some parts of the organization need to be operated like a battleship ready for combat, yet other aspects need to be operated like a cruise ship setting sail for vacation. None of those things had been taught in medical school. It made me a better doctor, a better businesswoman and a better person.
I do have a family history of breast cancer. When I was young, my Aunt Evelyn let my twin sister and I throw her breast prosthesis like a bean bag toy. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in her thirties, had a radical mastectomy, but passed away in her eighties of other causes. My Aunt Gin was diagnosed in 1990 and was a proud 27-year survivor when she passed away at age 90, also of other causes. I have had countless patients and friends affected by breast cancer, each of whom has touched me in a special way. Now I am captain of a 3-Day team called STEPS (Screening, Treatment, and Education Programs). I have walked and/or been medical crew for 28 3-Day events. I am a staunch advocate for those affected by breast cancer and have donated to Susan G. Komen for 30 years. I don’t always agree with Komen Headquarters about some of their policies, but my support of the science and life-saving research has not wavered. Sometimes I get lazy, arrogant, or complacent about my commitment. Then I turn to my team and other Pink Bubble family and I am inspired. I see my teammates train through blisters, heat, and with burdened hearts from being in treatment or loved ones being in treatment. At the end of the 3-Day 60-mile walk they give you a free t-shirt. So I guess that’s my connection to breast cancer… the free t-shirts.
As the saying goes, “not all superheroes wear capes.” Some wear pink. Thank you to all of you who show insurmountable support and commitment to finding the cures to breast cancer!