Celebrate with Team ‘Las Bombas’

Team 'Las Bombas' gears up for the Arizona 3-Day at Opening Ceremony

Team ‘Las Bombas’ gears up for the Arizona 3-Day at Opening Ceremony

“Celebration!” was the feeling this morning from Jacki, captain of Team ‘Las Bombas,’ a group of 44 women who are walking 60 miles this weekend in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day® in Arizona. “I took over this large team on the Arizona 3-Day around 2008,” said Jacki as she readied herself for the last 16 miles of the course this morning. She was surrounded by teammates Amanda, Carolyn, Jerline, Chesha, and Row. Their coordinated outfits were a lovely shade of purple and made them stand out of the crowd, along with their pink flashing hats. Teams of women and men often train, fundraise and then walk together on the grueling 60-mile course that raises money for breast cancer research, treatment, and screening.

Team 'Las Bombas' awaits the opening of the route on Day 3 of the Arizona 3-Day

Team ‘Las Bombas’ awaits the opening of the route on Day 3 of the Arizona 3-Day

Six breast cancer survivors help keep the perspective on the large team, which raised over $70,000 on this event. Walking with women who have survived breast cancer can evaporate thoughts of blisters and joint pain, considering the survivors have gone through much, much worse. “The cheering stations are vital!” said Chesha, who is walking the 3-Day for the first time. “Not just the big ones, but the small ones along the way really keep us going. They were essential yesterday.”

Chesha of Team 'La Bambas' walks through camp on Day 3 of the Arizona 3-Day

Chesha of Team ‘Las Bombas’ walks through camp on Day 3 of the Arizona 3-Day

The team holds an annual golf tournament as a fundraiser, now in its fourth year. There are logos of very supportive sponsors on their outfits, each having sponsored a hole on the course. The rest of the donations have come from individuals, but the team comes together so that every one who wants to walk can participate.

Members of Team 'Las Bambas' start the final day of the route in Arizona

Members of Team ‘Las Bombas’ start the final day of the route in Arizona

“We will be celebrating at the finish line today!” the team agrees as the countdown begins for the route to open. One thing is for sure: Team ‘Las Bombas’ is not going away! “We’re planning on being at other events next year,” exclaimed Jacki as the route opened in Arizona, a beautiful sunrise illuminating a pink sky. “Look for us in other cities as ‘Las Bombas AZ’!”

“I Carry Your Heart With Me”

Poet e.e. cummings penned some of the most memorable lines in a love poem, which a close friend of mine recently read at his wedding. As an artist, my friend found the simple stanza to be worthy of the tribute that he gave to his bride of only a few hours: “i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart)” While I have loved the poem myself since I first heard it, I recognized it again in visual form. I am much more accustomed to seeing the poetry of life through a lens, but the marriage of e.e. cummings’ lines met the reality of life this weekend on the Susan G. Komen 3-Day® in Arizona. The memorial of a face, obviously a loved one, was strapped to a dedicated 60-mile walker. The Komen 3-Day asks its participants to fundraise for breast cancer research in exchange for the physically demanding challenge of walking for three days and 60 miles.

Brenda carries images of her mother who passed away from breast cancer when she was 14 years old

I was enlightened suddenly by the scene that I had witnessed from Boston to Seattle and from Atlanta to Arizona. The physical reminder of a loved one who had been affected or who had passed away from breast cancer was literally being carried. It was the act of bringing that person as close as possible to themselves: not only their memory carried in the heart of the walker, but the image, the photograph, the tribute. The photograph of a person is often how we want to remember them, a powerful memoir to have on the journey that will tax them.

John walks out of Opening Ceremony on Day 1 of the Arizona 3-Day, wearing the shirt he has carried over 720 miles on Komen events this year

The walkers will often imprint t-shirts, a particularly poignant similarity to cummings’ lines: “(anywhere i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done by only me is your doing,my darling).” The reminder of a loved one who is battling breast cancer or who has passed is often reviving to a participant on Day 2 when perhaps the heat of the desert starts to drain them emotionally.

Arizona Day 2

In the third stanza, the poet dives deeper into the relationship of his beloved by sharing with the reader “the deepest secret nobody knows” and then referring to this secret as “the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart.” After discussing why people walk the 3-Day over the past thirteen weeks, I have found that there are many “deepest secrets” that only begin to surface as someone explains their relationship to the person for whom they are walking. What they cannot or sometimes do not want to discuss is this relationship of deep love that will always be difficult to express in words.

But they carry them. They carry them deep in their hearts, and the poet finishes his work even more directly than he began: “i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)”.

“I Like Climbing Mountains”

Justine looks into the crowd at Opening Ceremony on the Susan G. Komen Arizona 3-Day

Justine looks into the crowd at Opening Ceremony on the Susan G. Komen Arizona 3-Day

When Justine was diagnosed with breast cancer at the young age of 23, she did not think that she was going to live for more than three years. “It’s been four years now,” she says with a smile. “My kids were two and three years old when I was diagnosed,” she mentions as the practice run for the Opening Ceremony for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day® in Arizona was wrapping up. “I don’t cry a lot, but when Dr. Sheri talks about having both parents at their kids’ graduation, that gets me.”

Justine is all smiles as she leads over 700 participants out onto the streets of the Greater Phoenix area on the Arizona 3-Day

Justine is walking the Komen 3-Day in Arizona for her first time and while in chemotherapy treatment. “I had a treatment last Friday,” she mentions, almost as a sidenote. She appears strong, but admits that she feels the effects of the treatment.

Justine joins other breast cancer survivors in an inspirational beginning to the Komen 3-Day in Arizona this weekend

Then why push yourself on a three-day, 60-mile course? “I’m pretty stubborn. I made the decision six or seven months ago, and I joined up with a team from work, Team Ortho Arizona, so we’re doing this. I also like to climb mountains, and since I can’t make it up Squaw right now, I’m doing this.” Although there may not be the vertical of her usual mountains she likes to climb, the 3-Day in Arizona is no joke. Participants, some in chemotherapy like Justine, will push themselves to the limits in order to complete the 60-mile course.

Team 'Ortho Arizona' starts its 60-mile journey on the Komen 3-Day in Arizona

Team ‘Ortho Arizona’ and friends start their 60-mile journey on the Arizona 3-Day

Justine has put in extra time fundraising beyond her busy schedule at work and with kids. She sold jewelry for a company on the side and then had enough donations to participate in the walk. As she stands on stage this morning, hands raised high, she represents women and men who are pushing through the emotional, physical, and financial battles of breast cancer. Give her a hand when you see her this weekend on her first 3-Day!