“There’s more goodness than you’d ever believe.” – Ang’s Story

At the Atlanta 3-Day last October, I ran into Susan, the Atlanta participant coach, at camp, and she said, “You have to meet Ang.” She led me to a grey-haired man who was sitting in the dining area. I shook his hand and he introduced himself to me with a warm smile and a deep southern drawl that was thick and sweet like molasses. All I knew about Ang was the little bit Susan had told me— he was from Alabama, he lost his wife to breast cancer, he was walking in the Atlanta 3-Day for the third time, and he had raised an impressive amount of money. That was the basic gist, but within moments of meeting Ang, I could tell his story went a deeper, and knew I wanted to talk to him more about it.

I arranged to meet Ang at the Day 2 lunch stop on Saturday. I thought we’d talk there, but he was already ready to leave as I got there, so I did what people do on the 3-Day: I walked and talked with him.

Hugging friends as we left the lunch stop, Ang said, “These guys adopted me. The last 7 or 8 miles of my first walk.” That was in 2013, and Ang was walking alone that year. “They were stopped and I was stopped, and we started chatting. They said, ‘Would you mind walking 5 miles or so with us?’ And I said ‘I think that’d be wonderful, I’d love to!’ And we did, and they were so easy to talk to. We just had so much camaraderie. I guess they had heard my story, I don’t know. But my story isn’t any more special than anybody’s, really.

“I had a wife that did not survive breast cancer. She was diagnosed on February the 18th of 2010. She died on Valentine’s Day, 2011.” Ang’s wife, Patsy, was 61 when she was diagnosed and 62 when she passed.Christmas, 2009 064

As we walked, Ang told me about Patsy’s diagnosis. She had gone in for a regular mammogram, and mentioned to her doctor that she’d had a new bit of pain under one of her arms. There were no lumps, and the mammogram only showed a small shadow, but it was enough that Patsy’s doctor ordered a biopsy. Ang told me, “They called her from the doctor’s office after hours and said ‘Since the biopsy showed metastatic disease, we scheduled you an appointment with a surgeon.’ That’s how she got the news that she had cancer.” When the nurse realized that Patsy hadn’t already been told her results, the nurse was upset. “She said, ‘Are you alone or is there someone with you.’ When I heard her say, ‘My husband’s with me’ in a very soft voice…I mean, I knew.

“We just cried and cried and cried that night, you know, and I just kept saying, ‘We’re gonna do it. We’re gonna beat this, we’re gonna get through it. Let’s don’t panic yet. You know, breast cancer’s not a death sentence. The stuff you hear everybody say all the time.

“We had to go and talk to her daughter and the grandkids. And of course, when she went outside to talk with her daughter, the grandkids by then had all been told what’s going on, and they came over by me…” Ang gets choked up remembering. “And they were looking to me for answers. I didn’t have the answers.”

And so Ang and Patsy’s journey through the emotional and complicated world of breast cancer began. One of their first visits was to the hospital at University of Alabama: Birmingham.  “We got up there and there was somebody from Komen waiting. I didn’t know who Susan G. Komen was, didn’t know anything about the Komen organization. But that lady, I’ll never forget her, she sat down with us and said, ‘You are not fighting this alone.’ And there was not a lot she could do, but, you know, she was just so nice and so helpful, and I thought, that’s a good start.”

Patsy underwent numerous test and procedures, and each time, the doctors would talk to her and Ang about next steps and possible treatments. Each visit meant new information and Ang remembers feeling like they had to learn a whole new vocabulary: ductal carcinoma, triple negative, clear margins. Soon, Patsy started chemotherapy and eventually had surgery to remove the cancer.

“We went to a radiology oncologist who said, according to everything they were looking at, ‘You are now cancer free.’ That was in November. He said, ‘We still need to do about 45 radiation treatments, just to be sure.’ So for 45 days, she went through radiation. Within the last week or so of it, she started complaining about her back. The day after radiation ended, she was hurting so badly, I took her to the ER.”

They knew that something was wrong. For the next month, Patsy was moved between local and regional hospitals in southern Alabama, none of which could really identify what was happening. She eventually ended up at Emory University hospital in Atlanta, where their worst fears were confirmed: the cancer was back and had spread even more “When we got there, they saw her, and asked me to step out in the hall with them and said, ‘You can take her home.’ I said, ‘Well what did you do?’ ‘No, you don’t understand. You can take her home. To die.’”

At this point, Ang and I both tear up. “That was the first time that I knew… I mean, up until then, we were supposed to win. This is not a fight you lose.”

In any family’s experience with cancer, if the worst imaginable outcome becomes reality, it’s understandable that the people who are left behind feel emotions that can’t be described. Pain, grief, anger. Ang was no different. “When I lost her…I wanted to die too. It was the most miserable thing in the world. You start second-guessing yourself, you know, because why in the world are you hurting and she’s dead? What did I do wrong? I still struggle with that sometimes.

“For two years, I didn’t do anything. But I walked a lot on my own, and somebody said I should channel that energy. The support and encouragement that I was told was there, that’s what attracted me to the 3-Day.” So Ang registered to walk the 3-Day in 2013; he chose Atlanta not only because it was closest, but also because that year, the event started on October 18—Patsy’s birthday.

Like so many other first-time walkers, Ang wasn’t sure he could handle the fundraising. “My first thought was, I can’t raise $2300. But I sent out an email…” He stops, once again choking up at the memory of it. “And I got $2300 the first time I sent out an email.”

I asked him if that surprised him. “Yes! It still surprises me. I just…I did not expect that much goodness in people. And there’s more goodness than you’d ever believe. Some people are not gonna give, and that’s their choice, but people are generous beyond…sometimes beyond your ability to comprehend.”2015_3DAY_ATL_GF_0523

The power of that generosity began Ang’s healing, and he wasn’t about to stop there. “I set a goal of $6,200 because she was 62 when she died. Before I sent out my third email, I was over $6,200. So I changed it to $10,000. Weeks before the walk, I was well over ten-thousand. I left it there, and ended up, I think it was $13,200, give or take. It was just such an overwhelming sense of fulfillment. Because up until then, you feel…you just feel like there’s nobody out there that cares. And there’s a whole world out there full of people that care.

“There are so many people, you know, the people that walk, the participants…we’ve all been through it. There’s nobody here that’s been unaffected by breast cancer. I had people come to me and say, ‘My grandmother, my mother, my sister….my wife died of breast cancer. Twelve years ago, ten years ago, whatever. People that you just didn’t even know were affected by it. It’s just amazing how people just really came through and really just responded and supported me and wrote letters for camp, all of it. And it’s really crazy.

“And I decided, you know what, I’m gonna do it again.”

Ang signed up to walk in Atlanta a second time in 2014. “I thought, might as well set a goal of $10,000, but I probably won’t make it two years in a row. Now I’m begging, pleading with people. Sending them way too many emails. I’m not on Facebook so I don’t even know how to do that. Well that $10,000 came in, and I think in total I collected like $12,600 in the second year.”2015_3DAY_ATLsun_EDB (362)

So he was set to return to Atlanta with an extraordinary fundraising total, but that wasn’t all he was returning to. “These ladies–” he gestures up to the friends who had hugged him back at the lunch stop— “they contacted me and asked me if I’d walk with them. Barely knew them, had walked with them maybe an hour and a half, two hours. But I got to meet their families, and got to know them well enough, and I was absolutely flattered and just sort of humbled that they asked me. They had to do some extra legwork to find out how to get in touch with me. I don’t even think we swapped phone numbers or anything. But they got in touch with me and we met up again the night before the Opening Ceremony and I was just, again, blown away by the love they had, and just the outpouring of compassion and support.”

You can probably guess what happened next: Ang registered to walk his third 3-Day in Atlanta in 2015, and he came back with his most ambitious goal yet. “I thought, you know I don’t want to end on a low number. So I added up my first two years, subtracted them from 40,000, and said, if I can get this much, I’ll have raised $40,000 in 3 years. My teammates talked me in to getting on Facebook, so now I’m bombarding all my friends, not just with emails, but with Facebook too. And the donations poured in. I think 3 nights before the final deadline for donations, I hit $14,134. That was what I needed.”

For someone to achieve such incredible feats—over $40,000 in fundraising in 3 years, a team that loves him so much they’ve renamed themselves “Ang’s Angels” for the 2016 Atlanta 3-Day—you’d think he might let the pride go to his head. But that couldn’t be further from the truth in Ang’s case. He remains intensely humble and genuinely grateful for what the 3-Day has given him. “I don’t know where I’d be if it weren’t for my participation in this event. I just don’t know where I’d be. I was absolutely, positively lost. It’s hard to stay composed because you really realize how many people do care.”

We were approaching the pit stop and I realized I had walked 3 miles with Ang, listening to his story, being inspired by his words. Ang knew that he would be retiring his walking shoes after the 2015 Atlanta event (“Walking is hard. I’m 64 years old and the ankles just aren’t made the way they used to be.”), and I can’t help but be a little sad that I might not see him and his warm smile again in 2016, though in my heart, I have no doubt that we haven’t seen the last of Ang.2015_3DAY_ATLsun_EDB (374)

“Everyone I’ve dealt with, in the Komen organization especially, they all have just this wonderful attitude about being brought together by this terrible thing we have in common. We’re brought together by this thing we wish didn’t exist, but it does, and doing nothing is not an option. And in the meantime, look what we get back. We give a lot but we get a lot back. It’s a little bit like love—the more you give, the more you get.

“We lost our fight. That’s the absolute worst outcome you can have. And the most horrible part of anything like that is thinking that you’re by yourself. And you look at all of this, and it doesn’t cure your pain, it doesn’t take away the cancer, but there’s a comfort that you can’t find on your own that comes from knowing that you’re not alone.”

Amy and Alison: Two A+ Examples of 3-Day Crew Awesomeness

We’ve said it many times before, but the sentiment can never be overstated: the 3-Day absolutely would not be possible without the hard work put in by our dedicated, all-volunteer crew. “Extraordinary” is a word we really could use to describe any 3-Day crew member, but as National Volunteer Week continues, we’re happy to be able to shine the spotlight on a pair of crew members whose commitment truly sets them apart.

Amy Nadeau and Alison Glancz come from opposite points of the country, but they share something in common: they are both incredibly passionate about being part of the 3-Day crew, and have both been fixtures on the 3-Day for over a decade.

Amy lives in Dexter, Michigan with her husband Mark, and the two of them first became part of the 3-Day in 2006, a year after Amy was diagnosed with breast cancer. “When I finished my treatment, Mark and I were just beginning to think about how we could give back—or maybe ‘pay it forward’ is a better term—for the advances that made my recovery possible. I saw a commercial for the 3-Day, we went to a Get Started Meeting and the rest is history!”Capture

Alison, who hails from Atlanta, also attended a meeting at the beginning of her 3-Day journey: “I went to a meeting in 2005 as a sorority representative on UGA’s campus. I saw the video and knew it was something I had to be a part of, so I signed up that night. I guess 23 events later you could say I’ve become addicted.”

Alison Glancz

Alison Glancz

You read that right: 23 events for Alison; she walked her first three years and has crewed multiple events—20 total—every year since 2007. “Crewing honestly means the world to me. While I enjoyed walking, I LOVE crewing. It’s an opportunity for me to give back to walkers who come back year after year and devote themselves to an amazing cause. The crew is its own family, it’s just a giant reunion on event. What’s not to love?”

Amy’s 3-Day resume is equally impressive; both she and Mark have crewed the Michigan 3-Day every year since 2006, and Mark also walked in 2015 to celebrate Amy’s 10th year as a breast cancer survivor. “We chose to crew because we wanted to focus on serving the walkers. It’s a way to say thank you for what their efforts have made possible for me and all those who did and will come after me. I firmly believe that I would not be here today, if not for the advances made possible by the 3-Day and other events like it.”

Crewing the 3-Day means long hours and hard work, so making the commitment year after year to volunteer as crew members is remarkable in itself. But so often, crew members like Amy and Alison go above and beyond by spending months fundraising leading up to the 3-Day, in addition to working their tails off for 4 days at each event. Crew members are not required to raise money for the 3-Day, but that hasn’t stopped Amy and Alison.

“Mark and I fundraise, even as crew members,” Amy shared, “because winning this fight can’t happen without funding, and being a crew member rather than a walker does not change that need. We aren’t shy about asking people for their support–sometimes repeatedly–and we always use our personal story to illustrate why this is so important.” Together, Mark and Amy have raised over $100,000 since they first started with the 3-Day in 2006.

Mark and Amy Nadeau

Mark and Amy

Alison’s feeling about fundraising as a crew member is right there with the Nadeaus. “I’ve raised over $52,000 in these 11 years. So crazy! When I switched over to crew back in 2008, I still wanted to contribute, and my goal was always to raise the $2,300 minimum, just like the walkers. I wanted to have a similar impact. Each year my goal just kept increasing, and I learned not to be afraid to ask anyone and everyone.”

Who could say no to this?

Who could say no to this?

When I first reached out to these two ladies, I wasn’t aware of any connection they had with each other, and they each didn’t know that I was in contact with the other, so it was a delightful surprise when, coincidentally, Alison sent me a photo of her with Amy! Turns out that their paths crossed for the first time on the 2015 3-Day in Michigan. “Alison was captain of lunch in Michigan last year and I was on her crew,” Amy told me. Alison added, “It was my first event there, and everyone (especially Amy!) welcomed me with open arms. It was an amazing event, and I’m registered for it again this year.”

Amy and Alison looking cool

Amy and Alison looking cool

So what’s next for these two? As you might have guessed, their 2016 schedules will include more memories made crewing at the 3-Day. Amy and Mark will be in Michigan again this year, Amy on Camp Services and Mark on Gear and Tent. Same goes for Alison: “I will definitely be in Atlanta, in my usual Camp Services role. People know to look for me in my crazy costumes at camp every year! As of now, I’m also planning to be in Michigan and Philadelphia, definitely on the road.” We couldn’t imagine these events without them.

It’s difficult to put into words the effect that the 3-Day has on a person, whether they be a walker or crew member or some combination of both. Amy and Alison stand as two examples of people who embody a belief that you can’t help but share once you’ve felt the 3-Day magic. Alison sums it up perfectly: “I honestly can’t imagine my life without the 3-Day. I’ve seen a lot of things in 23 events, but one thing always stays the same: this is the most amazing, brave, beautiful, strong group of people I have ever met.”

 

Give a Little, Help a Lot: Be a 3-Day Volunteer

Next week (April 10-16), we recognize National Volunteer Week. The Susan G. Komen 3-Day is a bold, ambitious, large-scale event series that simply would not be possible without the time and talent of thousands of amazing volunteers. We do a lot to thank and praise our all-volunteer 3-Day Crew, but today, we’d like to tell you a little bit about the other behind-the-scenes heroes of the 3-Day: our day volunteers.2015_3DAY_ATLsun_EDB (462)

Crew or Volunteer: What’s the Difference? – Crew members are 3-Day participants who register for the event months in advance and make a commitment to volunteer for the duration of the 3-Day event weekend (Thursday through Sunday). Crew members are assigned to a specific job far in advance of the 3-Day, and that is their job for the entire event. Volunteers (whom we refer to as “day volunteers”) are folks whose hearts burst with the same spirit of helpfulness that crew members have, but may not have as much time to give. Volunteers typically sign on for shifts that are a few hours at a time.2015_3DAY_ATLsun_EDB (450)

Easily spotted in their purple shirts, 3-Day volunteers are a special kind of awesome. They show up to help, sometimes not even knowing what that might entail, and then give their time, energy and enthusiasm to creating 3-Day magic. Often, these are folks who, for months, have been supporting friends or family members as they raised money and trained for 3-Day, but they still come out and continue to give. Smiles and high fives from 3-Day volunteers have the special power to make a walker’s day while also bringing complete joy to the volunteer too! We can’t say thank you enough to these wonderful workers, and we’re always happy about welcoming new volunteers into the 3-Day family. 2014_3DAY_DFW_JF_1345

There are all kinds of opportunities for people to be part of the 3-Day as day volunteers.

Before the Event – Even months before any walkers step out on to their 60-mile 3-Day route, volunteers (many of whom will be walkers or crew members when the 3-Day rolls around) are part of the 3-Day’s outreach efforts, spreading the word and getting people excited about the 3-Day coming to their towns. This type of community outreach might include attending informative meet-ups with the 3-Day coaches, sharing information about the 3-Day at other community race expos (such as the Komen Race for the Cure®), or being part of the “street team,” which has the exciting job of canvassing neighborhoods a few weeks before the 3-Day to let the locals know that a parade of pink will soon be passing through, and encourage them to decorate, cheer and support.

On-Event Volunteers – While many of the on-event jobs are taken care of by crew members, the 3-Day still has tasks that need to doing. Day volunteers to the rescue! If you have a few hours that you can give on one or more of the 3-Day’s event days, you can help out with:

  • Cheering Stations – One of the most fun and inspiring ways you can volunteer your time is at a cheering station along the route. This is especially great if you have a group that wants to volunteer.2015_3DAY_SDsun_EDB  (224)
  • Campsite Operations – Some jobs in and around the 3-Day camp can use extra hands from time to time, including traffic control, food service, trash pick-up, help with putting up sleeping tents, and more.
  • Participant Finish Area – This area is located at the end of the route on Day 3, and volunteers here help with a number of jobs before the Closing Ceremony, including handing out snacks and water to walkers at the finish, Victory t-shirt distribution, traffic management and gear retrieval, to name a few.2014_3DAY_ATL_JF_1167
  • Specialized Jobs – If you are a medical professional (doctor, physician assistant, RN, physical therapist or paramedic/EMT) or an ASL interpreter, the 3-Day would love your help!

Kids Welcome! – Many of the 3-Day’s day volunteer opportunities are open to kids aged 10 or older (with adult supervision).2015_3DAY_SDsun_EDB  (248)

Groups = Great! – Are you part of a group that’s looking for volunteer opportunities? Consider the 3-Day! We welcome charity organizations, scout groups, high school or college clubs and teams, workplace groups and church groups to fill special roles.2015_3DAY_DFWsun_EDB (739)

Learn More! – Volunteers interested in these opportunities should reach out to the 3-Day coaches at 800-996-3DAY or coaches@The3Day.org for more information. You can also visit The3Day.org/Volunteer to view and sign up for volunteer opportunities that are already open, and can subscribe to the Volunteer Bulletin, an email newsletter that will alert you of new openings. And don’t forget to Like the 3-Day Coaches on Facebook too!