Black History Month Highlight: Margie W., Atlanta 3-Day Walker

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Meet “Miss Pink” – Margie W., who represents the 3-Day all year long; not just in her pink wardrobe, but in her sparkling enthusiasm. She has participated in fourteen 3-Day events since 2005, raised more than $32,000 (not including all the donations she has made to teammates over the years), and promotes the 3-Day spirit in every step of her life, not just those she takes on her yearly 60-mile journey.

Margie told us her story, her goal, and why it’s so important for the African American community to participate in the 3-Day. As we celebrate Black History Month, we also celebrate Margie and her vital message.

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Because she lost her favorite cousin to breast cancer, and because her sister is now a more than twenty-year survivor of the disease, Margie encourages everyone she knows to be on the lookout for early signs of breast cancer, to get their mammograms, and work to make every difference that they can.

“As an African American woman, it is so important to me to walk.”

And walk she does! When the 3-Day came to Atlanta in 2005, Margie says she was “over the rainbow” about making that sixty-mile journey. She has walked in other breast cancer walks, and has walked the 3-Day in other cities, but she keeps coming back to the 3-Day.

“When I started, I told myself I was only going to walk three years and I was going to be out of there. But I became addicted! I keep telling my donors it’s going to be my last year, but then every year, I call them again and say, “I lied. I’m walking again!”

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At almost 67 years old, she has been walking through knee pain for the last few years, but is going through treatment to try and walk this year if she can. But no matter what, she will crew. And she’s already begun fundraising!

“I already have $600 in my book. I am always raising money! That way, I can be there no matter what!”

For people who need help hitting their fundraising goals, Margie has plenty of ideas, but her #1 tip is simple: Just ask.

“ASK. ASK. ASK. I keep donation letters at work, in my car, in my purse. Anytime someone tells me I look pretty in my pink, I ask them! I’m always ready. I take whatever they give me. I could be in line at the grocery store, and if someone says something about all my pink, I tell them about the 3-Day.

I also used the 3-Day app last year. I sent out no letters, but I used the app and I was amazed! My thing is, you cannot just sign up, and throw fundraising on the back burner. You have not because you ask not. Ask!”

Her team, Tutu’s for Tatas, has also used fashion shows and a “Breast Cancer Mustang” event to help raise money. They were one of the first teams in 3-Day history to hit the million-dollar mark, and that’s thanks to dedicated fundraisers like Margie.

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She always donates to her teammates and fellow walkers who are struggling to meet their goals, and accepts any donation, no matter how small. That includes donations that are less than a dollar!

“The smallest donation I ever had was 37 cents. I was on a 12-mile training walk, and I stopped to use the bathroom. A little girl named Megan stopped and talked to me, and I told her I was walking for breast cancer. And she gave me thirty-seven cents, so I wrote a check for that thirty-seven cents and sent it in.”

To her, every cent, and every step makes a difference. Because she knows that all that work goes to helping people in need.

“It’s about seeing the symptoms, getting your mammograms. [..] There is a lot of help here! There are so many charities and help. That’s why people like me walk so hard and work and fundraise!”

She says that, “by the grace of god, I’m not a survivor, but I am a supporter” and she wants to support Komen’s Bold Goal as long as she can.

So, if you see her in Atlanta this year, give Miss Pink a big hug, and thank her for all her hard work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Sidewalks to Science: An On-Route Look at Komen’s Research with Dr. Maria Soledad Sosa

Opening Ceremonies

Dr. Sosa, can you tell us a bit about what led you to do breast cancer research?

My mom was diagnosed with ER+ breast cancer 18 years ago. Two years ago, her cancer returned and she needed a second round of treatment. Fortunately, she is doing well. My personal experience with this disease greatly impacted my decision to work in this field, and inspires me every day as I work to make an impact in breast cancer research.

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On the Route

Since we’ve got some time, could you tell us a bit about your current research?

Metastasis (or the spread of breast cancer to other organs) is what kills people with breast cancer. My research is aimed to avoid metastasis before it even begins by targeting the “seeds” of those metastases. These seeds are named DCC (disseminated cancer cells) and are “asleep” in the body, and can be found in important organs like the liver and bones even before a primary tumor is detected. But something causes them to wake up and become aggressive. I believe if we can figure out how these DCCs behave and spread, we might find strategies to eliminate them before they reactivate and form metastases.

At Camp

Now that we’ve made it “home” for the night and are enjoying the support of our crew, can you tell us about how your work would be affected without Komen funding?

Komen funding is imperative to my research. With Komen’s support, I can look for ways to keep these dangerous DCCs “asleep” so they can’t grow and become metastatic tumors. It also allows us to find ways to eliminate DCCs while sleeping. My hope is that this work could someday lead to a cure for metastatic breast cancer.

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Day 2

What would you say to somebody who’s just been diagnosed with breast cancer?

My advice to people would be to have hope and be diligent about your own care. People with no sign of breast cancer should continue to follow-up with their doctor, follow the doctor’s recommendations, and continue to get screened every six to 12 months after treatment has stopped. It was a follow-up screening that helped my mom detect her breast cancer recurrence early. Typically, after a person is treated for breast cancer they are considered to have no sign of breast cancer. However, some people may have DCCs in vital organs that are “asleep.” They could stay like that for years — even decades in the case of ER+ BRCA patients — so it’s important to understand that risk and be proactive about screening. Early detection and follow-up could save the life of a person with no evidence of disease.

Cheering Station

Look at all of these enthusiastic supporters out along the route! Tell us about how you are involved with Komen outside of the lab.

I’m excited to be one of four Komen-funded grantees selected for the Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC) Research Grant crowdfunding opportunity, where anyone can donate funds to support a research project or researcher of their choice. You can learn more about my story on the Komen Facebook page and donate directly to my Komen-funded MBC research project here!

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Closing Ceremonies

Thanks for walking with us, Dr. Sosa. One final question, in working with patient advocates, how have they impacted your research by bringing the patient perspective?

Sandra Spivey is the patient advocate for my grant, and was so helpful in developing the Letter of Intent and grant proposal. She is very supportive, giving me feedback on how to highlight the patient perspective. I was amazed by her energy and passion. Even when she got sick, she kept working and sending me comments for this grant. I really appreciate all her help, and I am sure she will have a positive impact on my research.

Dr. Maria Sosa is an Assistant Professor at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and you can donate to her research project directly through Komen’s crowd funding web page. Since 1982, Susan G. Komen has funded $956 million in breast cancer research, second only to the U.S. government and more than any other nonprofit in the world. Learn more here.

Pit Stop

Three things to know about Dr. Sosa:

  1. I like dancing. And as an Argentinean woman, I dance tango!
  2. In my free time, I love to paint
  3. My family enjoys being outside and being active — doing things like hiking, kayaking, and swimming.

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Grab and Go

Here are three ways you can use this information to help reach your 3-Day fundraising or recruiting goals:

Sample Tweet:

Having seen the effects of breast cancer in her own family, Dr. Maria Soledad Sosa is now conducting research aimed to avoid breast cancer metastasis before it even begins! Learn more about her research here:

Sample Facebook Post:

Having seen the effects of breast cancer in her own family, Dr. Maria Soledad Sosa is now conducting research aimed to avoid breast cancer metastasis before it even begins! Komen funding has been imperative to her research, and she hopes to one day find the cure for metastatic breast cancer! Learn more about her work here:

Susan G. Komen Mission Webinar Recap and Full Video!

Earlier this year, the 3-Day held a series of Komen Impact Forums in 10 cities across the country. The forums were hosted by Chrissy Mathews, the 3-Day program manager for Susan G. Komen, and she was joined by other members of the Komen leadership team, as well as grantees in each city who have received funds from Komen. The goal of the Impact Forums was to initiate a dialogue between Komen and the 3-Day community, addressing common questions and concerns and allowing the 3-Day participants to hear first-hand from the doctors, caregivers, patients and advocates in their own communities who have benefited from Komen funding.

In that same spirit, Komen held its first ever Mission Webinar in early June with the goal of reaching even more of its supporters, no matter where they live. Like with the in-person Impact Forums, the webinar was an opportunity for people (especially those who support Komen through their participation and donations to the 3-Day) to learn a little more about how Komen funding works and hear directly from a researcher, Dr. Justin Balko, whose work has greatly benefited from the money raised by the 3-Day and other Komen efforts.

Dr. Justin Balko is an extraordinary young researcher (his list of titles is remarkable in itself) whose lab is making tremendous discoveries in the field of immunotherapy as a treatment option for triple negative breast cancer. If that sounds overwhelming, don’t worry; Dr. Balko is also a teacher and does a wonderful job of explaining his very complex work in a way that anyone can understand.

We invite you to take time to view the recording of the Komen Mission Webinar and learn about these exciting advances yourself.