“Dear Cancer, you lose…”: Meet Survivor and First-Time 3-Dayer, Sylvia G.

If I had to write a letter to cancer it would read, “Dear Cancer, you lose…”

Sylvia just finished five and a half weeks of radiation after being diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after her 40th birthday. Though she initially was shocked and numbed by her diagnosis, she gathered her family and friends around her and got “gangsta with cancer” by refusing to let it stop her from living her life and celebrating every minute of it.

Now, after finishing her radiation, she says, “I am feeling strong and just getting settled into my new normal. The silver lining throughout this process has been to just really LIVE because you never know! And of course, if you’re busy living, you have less time to worry about the small (or big) stuff.”

She is on the other side of one part of her breast cancer journey, but that doesn’t mean the journey is over. After her diagnosis, Sylvia did research into all of the work that Susan G. Komen does to support survivors and those living with breast cancer. This, in turn, led her to the 3-Day. She signed up immediately for the New England 3-Day and will be driving in from her hometown of Pelham, New York to walk in her first-ever 3-Day at our New England 3-Day in September. She’s already fundraised more than $3,500 and is continuing to spread the word about the 3-Day and breast health. To say that breast cancer hasn’t slowed her down is an understatement! But don’t take it from us! Sylvia is here to share her story in her own words…

Tell us your breast cancer story…

I had just turned 40 when my world was turned upside down. I received a call I never expected.

“You have breast cancer.”

And just like that I was numb. The music stopped, and the party was over.

While still in shock, my family immediately took me to my mom’s breast surgeon. She had just finished treatment for stage 1 breast cancer the year before and was a total champion throughout it all, I might add. I was able to get positive preliminary information specific to my breast cancer which helped me start to feel the ground a bit.

We decided to go for several other opinions with breast surgeons and reconstruction surgeons. After choosing the team I felt most comfortable with, we opted for the nipple sparing double mastectomy with reconstructive surgery. My diagnosis after surgery ended up being stage 2 breast cancer that had spread to one lymph node. I learned that I would have to have four rounds of chemo plus radiation.

In the days leading up to my first round of chemo, I kept reflecting on how blessed I am to live in a time of so many medical breakthroughs as well as options for treatment of breast cancer. This is when I realized that I needed to be part of helping to continue these advancements and fight to end breast cancer.

And how did this journey lead you to the 3-Day?

I had read online about Susan G. Komen and how much they have done for research, education, screening and treatment. I knew I had found the right match for my mission to bring us closer to a cure so that so many other people, including my children, will not have to suffer through this. I was gearing up to get gangsta with cancer!

And you have! You’ve been very successful with your fundraising efforts!

I immediately started my fundraising by following all the tips on the 3-Day website. Posting on Facebook, personally emailing all my family and friends, remembering to always send thank you emails as well as follow up emails and telling people about corporate matching gifts. At the end of the day, I really am so blessed to have generous and caring people in my life, some of who also have been impacted by this disease, and I am forever grateful for their support.

Though I have had success in fundraising there does come a point that you have to get creative to be able to keep getting donations outside of just family and friends. One way is to go through all your contacts and see who has a business or works for a company that can partner up with you to create a fundraiser. This in turn allows you to use their resources and reach a larger audience to support your cause.

So far, I am very proud of how much I’ve been able to raise, and I am really looking forward to meeting other survivors, hearing their stories of fearlessness, as well as bonding with my team. I can only imagine that feeling of accomplishment after finishing the 3-Day walk!

What are some of your other 3-Day goals?

I want to reach as many people as possible and remind them of the importance of getting regular mammograms because early detection of breast cancer can make the disease easier to treat. I will also continue to stay focused on my health and positivity so that I can be my best self.

I still have a long way to go but since becoming a survivor I don’t think I can ever justify sweating the small stuff.

I have been dealt a couple bad hands but at the end I plan on winning the game!

My 3-Day Experience: Checking in with Former AVON 39 Walker, Debbie

This year on the 3-Day, we were happy and honored to welcome many past AVON 39 walkers to our pink family. One of those walkers, Debbie S., joined the 2018 San Diego 3-Day and was our Top individual Fundraiser for the event! After raising more than $75,000 as a six-time AVON 39 walker, she raised $32,000 in her first year on the 3-Day.

We were so honored to have this breast cancer survivor and grandmother of two on the 3-Day this year. After her first 60-mile walk, she’s giving us an inside peek at her journey, and her top fundraising tips!

You are a fundraising rock star! What are your favorite fundraising techniques?

I fundraise very simply, yet diligently. I start about six months ahead of the walk. I create a personal email message, which I also used on my participant center page. I include a picture of myself to keep it personal. I sent the email to every email address I have in my contacts, everyone that has ever emailed me, everyone I know, lots of people I do not know; friends, family, friends of friends and family, doctors, work contacts, clients etc. Hundreds of emails!

The first round of emails always gets a good amount of donations and keeps me going. For the next 3-4 months I send out monthly emails to those who have not yet donated. I change the email message up each time, but still keep it very personal. I continue to send my original email to ‘new’ email contacts I have gathered along the way. I ask everyone for their email and ask friends and family to share their email lists.

By September I was sending emails to those remaining donors every other week. Come October I was sending emails every week and took advantage of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Sometimes I was just sending a picture or a saying or a cartoon and my link to my donation page. It was my goal to stay in their face every time they went to their emails. I figured, the worst thing that could happen is they would just delete or block me! 😀 No harm! Many thanked me for reminding them, because with all the emails we get, they do get lost and forgotten. I sent emails every week, all the way up until the day of the walk.

I immediately sent every donor a personal thank you email. Also, every once in a while I would update those who already donated on my progress, showing them how much they were a part of raising so much money, which would occasionally make them donate again! I stressed US, and WE, not just me! I showed them what a big part of finding a cure and reaching a goal they were. The fundraising is so fun to me and gives me a great sense of accomplishment! I would wake up every morning and check email immediately to see my donations. The more I got, the more I wanted! I would raise my personal goal accordingly.

I didn’t do anything big or unusual, but I just never stopped asking!

What about training for your 60-mile walk?

As for training, I am a walker by nature. I walk year-round. I started walking diligently 13 years ago, after my cancer diagnosis. It was my escape. I have not stopped walking since. I walk an average of 30 miles a week!

You were also a part of our Opening Ceremony….

The Opening Ceremony was great! Being a part of it was so amazing and special. It was the right length of time and got everyone motivated to get out there and do this! I appreciated the time taken the day before for rehearsal and the time put into making it great!

What were some of your favorite spots along the route?

The route was beautiful! After very chilly mornings, the weather was spectacular, and the views were magnificent. Day 1 had gorgeous ocean views, but every day was beautiful. Having walked in 6 AVON 39 walks in different cities, I must say San Diego blew me away. I have never walked in a city with so much neighborhood support! It was amazing! The crew and residents and businesses were out everywhere! It was a wonderful feeling of love and support, from survivors and women going through treatment thanking us to kids and elderly showing their love!

As a survivor I couldn’t feel more support and love. The crew along the way was great! On Day 1, as it heated up, I took off my long-sleeved shirt. As I was attempting to tie it around my waist, a woman came right over to me and offered to bring it to camp for me. She put it in a bag, wrote my name and phone number on it and delivered it to camp! It seems silly, but so great to not have to walk with a shirt wrapped around you for 20 miles! She even called me later that night to make sure I got it! That’s just how people were! So sweet!

What was it like crossing the finish line?

Crossing the finish line was super special. My son walked the last day with me as a 20-mile walker! I can’t tell you how special that was! We had a great time and as we approached the finish line, my 6-year old granddaughter made a mad dash for me across the field. I picked her up, carried her and the three of us crossed the finish line together! My son said he would love to do it again, maybe all 60 miles, and my granddaughter said she would walk with me in 10 years, when she’s 16! 😀

It looks like we have a future 3-Dayer on our hands! Thank you to Debbie, and all our former AVON 39 walkers who made this 3-Day season something truly special!

Learn from 3-Dayer Catherine Stoch: Commit to the 3-Day in 2019

“To make a difference for someone else. To dispel the myths. For research. For screening. For treatment. To educate people about what Komen does for women, and men. That’s why I walk.”

Why do you walk? Everyone has a reason. This year, we are asking you to find your reason, and commit to the 3-Day. Commit to walking 60 miles in the fight against breast cancer. Commit to joining 3-Dayers like Catherine Stoch, one of our Twin Cities 3-Day survivor speakers in 2018. Commit. You won’t regret it!

Take it from Catherine. She has been walking for a decade, two of those years as a breast cancer survivor, and she’s not stopping anytime soon. In fact, she’s already signed up to join us again on the Twin Cities 3-Day in 2019!

Tell us about your 2018 journey…

Last year was full of a lot of things, like getting body parts removed to prevent cancer’s spread, lots of recovery, and reconstruction. And during ALL of this, I was completely, 100% supported by an incredible team of friends, family, medical professionals, good insurance coverage and my husband who has been by my side every step. And I know not every woman’s story is like this. That’s why I walk.

The net proceeds raised by the Susan G. Komen 3-Day help Susan G. Komen® build a world free of breast cancer through research, community, care and action. The funds raised have helped Komen‘s mission to save lives from breast cancer, by investing more than $956 million in breakthrough research and more than $2.1 billion to support people and communities most at risk through programs to provide access to screening, treatment assistance, patient navigation and education. How could I NOT walk?

What would you say to someone who is nervous about joining the 3-Day?

I was VERY nervous too, at first. Walking 60 miles and raising $2,300 is a big commitment, but as a friend of mine—who joined me as a first-time walker in 2018 shared, “You pushed me to do more than I thought I could.” I think that is what I have learned over the years of walking this—that you can do more than you think.

What are your top training tips for first-time 3-Dayers?

  1. FOLLOW the training regimen and take it seriously. If you are a runner, you may think, “Yah, I run.” But training your feet for waking, especially a long walk, is different. And another tip: buy your shoes ½ size larger than you usually wear. This was critically important to keeping my feet in much better shape. And…don’t wear NEW shoes on the walk. Your feet will suffer.
  2. Drink more water than you think you should. Over five walks, I’ve seen people be way too casual about it, and run into serious problems. Dehydration is COMPLETELY preventable on the 3-Day.
  3. Walk in all kinds of weather. You never know. I trained in heat, humidity, rain, and because I live in Minnesota, I did train in snow. Then you will be ready for whatever weather comes your way. It’s a long walk, and thorough preparation will get you ready both mentally and physically for the elements.

Komen has a Bold Goal to reduce the current number of breast cancer deaths by 50% in the U.S. by 2026. Why is this goal so important?

On a larger scale, women’s overall health is important to me, and all my life, women’s health has been under fire, with too much interference, and not for the better. Fewer women dying from breast cancer means more healthier women globally. And there’s still such a cultural stigma about breasts, just saying the word in 2018 still makes too many people squirm. By continuing to call out breast cancer deaths raises awareness that women (and men) still DIE from this. Totally unnecessary.

What are some of your personal goals for the New Year?

Be mindful of my good health and do my best to not just take up air space on the planet, but use my time, energy and talents well. A hero of mine is John Muir, who was exceptionally passionate about the natural world stated, in part: “Most people are on the world, not in it.” I want to remain very IN, and given I have a new job in the health care sector, it’s incredibly exciting for me to utilize my job-related skills as a grant writer to promote healthy living for ALL!

 

What are YOUR goals for the New Year? Have you already committed to walking the 3-Day in 2019? Tell us your story in the comments!