“Love will still be there…” – A Guest Post Love Story

While February is generally considered to be the month of love, we wanted to keep those warm fuzzy romantic vibes flowing into March with a very sweet Susan G. Komen 3-Day® love story. Our guest blogger is Rachel T., a breast cancer survivor who is returning to walk in the Philadelphia 3-Day this year.

With my bleach-blonde locks hidden beneath a dense spraying of hot-pink hair spray, my eyelashes quadrupled in length by a pair of shimmering-glue-on “falsies,” my neck adorned with over a dozen strands of pink (some of which had the sole purpose of carrying any and every 3-Day®-themed button I could get my first-time-walker hands on) and my clothing saturated in quite possibly every shade of pink ever created, I clearly had not dressed in anticipation of having my first encounter with the man of my dreams. At twenty-six years old, I had cracked the ever-so-mysterious code of what most guys my age were interested in: beers, bros and babes (especially babes with boobs, two things I had recently said “ta-ta” to) and had concluded while getting dressed that there weren’t enough of any of those things offered at the 3-Day to make any guy my age choose to spend their weekend walking sixty miles rather than his usual weekend bar plans.susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer 60 miles walk blog rachel toomey

And yet there he was, walking right beside me within the first few miles of the 2012 Philadelphia 3-Day: my knight in shining fire gear. My teammates took notice of him first, quickly striking up a conversation with him about his clothing of choice (he was fully outfitted in firefighter gear, including a 40-pound air-pack), and subsequently introducing him to me, the “Rach” in Team Race for Rach’s Rack, the survivor they had all gathered to walk with who had been diagnosed with breast cancer just one week after her twenty-fourth birthday. He quickly became an honorary member of our team and he marched the entire 60 miles without complaint, responding to everyone who had asked him about his struggles that they were nothing compared to the many faced by the survivors currently walking beside him. He won what seemed to be every walker’s heart within those three days, including mine. Soon after, I would learn that that weekend, where he went the extra mile (or sixty, really), were only a glimpse of what my future would hold, as he soon became my main source of support, my best friend and the man I will always love.

Many of our friends refer to our love as a fairy tale, and our story is adored by those who enjoy romantic endings. But the romance of it is not the only reason I find myself wanting to share our story. When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, my biggest fear was that I would never find a man who would be willing to take on the baggage I came with. I was convinced that all men were too visual, too obsessed with physical features, to be able to get past my boob-less chest. I assumed that once I opened up that they would see how physically and emotionally torn apart I was, and wouldn’t want to deal with all of it. So I decided to give up, knowing I couldn’t face the pain of heartache on top of having so much other pain to fight through. I closed myself off, shut my heart down, and became someone I was not. I made sure that no matter what I did, it didn’t involve romance, because that way I couldn’t get hurt.susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer 60 miles walk blog rachel toomey

I share the story of my knight in shining fire gear because I know so many other young survivors suffer from this same fear. I can’t help but think that if I had heard a love story like mine, I would have been able to keep hope. I am a romantic at heart; I want to love and I want to be loved, and I have been that way for as long as I can remember. Having this fear forced me to become someone I wasn’t, allowing cancer to take control of that part of my life. Today, I tell everyone I know that it is you who determines what cancer can and cannot do. It is how you decide to react to your diagnosis that matters. You are still in full control of what you see in your mirror and who you are as person.susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer 60 miles walk blog rachel toomey

It is my goal to share my story in order to provide the hope I wish I would have kept while fighting my battle. I share this blog post not just to share a happy ending, but to inspire that single woman—the one who is a true romantic, the one who holds this same fear—that they can be themselves, that cancer doesn’t have to change the things that make them who they are, and that this fear is fueled by the mirage of what we think cancer can do, rather than what it actually does. Cancer can’t change who you are or those qualities that you carry which someone who truly loves you will adore despite your cancer. I want that young survivor to keep hope, to keep dreaming, to not let fear take over the strength and beauty she has within her. Love will still be there, walking towards you one day, maybe not in full fire gear, but always wearing his heart on his sleeve, ready for you to start the rest of your lives together.

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One Step at a Time – Meet Pala, a Survivor

Survivors are the heroes of the Susan G. Komen 3-Day®. They remind us of one of the many reasons why we walk: because everyone deserves a lifetime. Today, we’re delighted to introduce you to Pala L., from Livonia, Michigan. Pala walked the Komen 3-Day in Michigan last week and is going strong for another 60 miles this week in the Twin Cities. This is Pala’s 14th 3-Day® since 2009, and she has previously walked Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Cleveland, Atlanta, Tampa and Arizona. “I was going to walk it once to see what it was like,” said Pala. “I was training in 2009 and when registration opened in 2010, I registered before I even walked the first time! I never dreamed I would be walking so many events per year.”

Meet Pala from Livonia, Michigan, who walked Michigan and Twin Cities this year

Meet Pala from Livonia, Michigan, who walked Michigan and Twin Cities this year

In 2003, Pala was diagnosed with breast cancer. “I went from being told in March I had a clean mammogram to a lumpectomy in July because I found the lump. I had a six month old granddaughter, and the hardest part of my treatments was not being able to see her because of my low blood count. I don’t want her and that generation to worry about going through things I did. Her other grandmother was diagnosed a year after me, and she has it coming from both sides. I can’t have that.”

In 2007, the 3-Day route went by Pala’s house. Pala was two years out from treatment, and had no idea the 3-Day was in town. “I went outside and cheered. The walkers would say thank you for being here, thanks for coming out. And I thought, I’m just standing here, you’re doing all the work. In 2008, my husband and I stood out there, and again, they thanked us. In 2009, I said to my husband, I want to try this. I want to see what it’s about. I want to see if I can do it. I had no idea if I could fundraise. I had no idea if I could walk 60 miles. 14 events later… here I am.”

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Pala proudly wears many buttons and pins.

Pala works on fundraising for ten and a half months out of every year, and after walking 14 events, she’s learned to approach fundraising from many different angles. “I do everything that I can think of,” she said. She starts with writing letters, but her biggest fundraiser is her annual garage sale, and she also dabbles in recycling cans and ink cartridges. Pala also teaches monthly card-making workshops for donations, and reminds nervous fundraisers that the best way to fundraise is to think about what you like to do and figure out how you can make donations from it.

Pala’s passion for the 3-Day is obvious as she describes her love of finding creative ways to fundraise and the joy she gets from being around so many inspiring people. Pala embodies the type of commitment and dedication we see in so many 3-Day participants. What does she tell herself when the last few miles of the day are feeling tough? “Put one foot in front of the other. It’s like a person going through treatment who says, how can I get through this? One day at a time. One step at a time.”

Pala walks with her friend Becky, who also helps her with her annual fundraising garage sale

Pala walks with her friend Becky, who also helps her with her annual fundraising garage sale

Congratulations to the Twin Cities 3-Day Top Fundraisers!

Today marked Day 1 of the Susan G. Komen 3-Day® in Twin Cities , and walkers and crew enjoyed Minnesota’s lush green landscape at scenic spots like the Lake Harriet band shell, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, and B.H. Nelson Park.  Upon arrival at the Komen 3-Day camp, participants enjoyed new camp elements that premiered last weekend in Michigan, like a make-your-own trail mix bar, and cozy bean bags and foot rests. The 3-Day® camp show wrapped up a beautiful day, and our friends from Bank of America helped us recognize the top fundraisers for the Twin Cities 3-Day. Please join us in saying congratulations to these inspiring people!

Top Fundraising Team: Northern Nippys, $62,445 raised

This is the Northern Nippys’ sixth year at the 3-Day, and in that time they’ve raised an incredible $184,195 total. The 2014 Northern Nippys team has 33 members.

Northern Nippys Team Captain Laura

Northern Nippys Team Captain Laura

Top Crew fundraiser: Sharon Gruenhagen, $4,650 raised 

Hats off to Sharon Gruenhagen who raised $4,650; and has raised $21,963 lifetime total. This is Sharon’s  7th event as a crew member in Twin Cities; she is part of the Sweep team this year.

Top Crew Fundraiser Sharon G.

Top Crew Fundraiser Sharon G.

Top Individual Fundraiser:  Patricia Miller, $14,000 raised 

Patricia Miller raised $14,000 this year; and has raised an astonishing $70,739 in the six years and six events she has completed. Patricia lost her mother to breast cancer 60 years ago when she was just 5 years old. She walks today because she wants to help others who fight this disease.

Top Individual Fundraiser Patricia M.

Top Individual Fundraiser Patricia M.

We’re so grateful to these amazing participants and for all of you who take steps every day to help us end breast cancer forever. To learn more about the top individual, Crew and team fundraisers in Twin Cities, as well as our eight series walkers, check out the framed table-top displays in the dining tent in camp.