Meet Jen B., a Preventative Mastectomy 3-Day Walker

Jen Besserman first learned about the Susan G. Komen 3-Day via her boyfriend’s mother, Karen. Karen has walked in 24 different 3-Day events for the past 15 years, but Jen’s connection to the fight to end breast cancer goes deeper. “My grandmother is a breast and ovarian cancer survivor, and she just turned 88. A few years ago, my mom found out she and my grandmother were BRCA1+, and last year I found out that I too share the gene,” said Jen.

Jen wasn’t surprised, as she had a feeling she might have it. “Right when I found out, I called my mom and dad and they were more upset than I was. I told them everything would be fine. I didn’t really think too much about it until I met with my genetic counselor and learned more about the gene.” After meeting with her genetic counselor, Jen did the difficult task of putting her emotions aside, and looked at the facts presented to her by her doctors. “The fact was that I had an 86% chance of getting breast cancer and if I chose to have preventative surgery, that risk would go down to under 5%. Those numbers alone sold me on the surgery…and I met incredible surgeons so it was a win-win for me. It also helped that I lived close to the mecca of plastic surgery, Beverly Hills. This made my decision easier as well,” she said.

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Jen’s mom Susan knew about her BRCA gene mutation for nine years, but hadn’t thought about a double mastectomy before. While she had opted to have an oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries), Jen said once she had made up her mind about her surgery, she called her mom and said, “Why haven’t you done this? It lowers our risk 95%. It’s a no brainer!”

Once Jen’s mom knew more about the surgery, she realized it made sense for her, too – so she opted to move forward, and chose to do it before Jen so that she could tell Jen what to expect. Susan is a professional baker and candy maker for her company “Susie’s Sweet Shoppe” in New York, and according to her daughter, has the “most positive attitude – all the time.” While there were no decisions made lightly about both Jen and Susie’s treatments, they found the process brought them together. “We are close and I feel that this surgery brought us even closer, not just because she flew in from New York and stayed with me in Santa Monica for four weeks to take care of me, but because we now have this bond.”

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Susan will be flying from New York to walk the San Diego 3-Day with Jen. Jen is a graphic designer at an advertising agency in Santa Monica, and her hobbies are painting, riding her bike along the beach path, anything related to music, and being surrounded by friends and family. Her fundraising efforts have been successful so far, and Jen is at 87% of the way to her goal. “On my one- year anniversary of my preventative double mastectomy in February, I shared a post on social media and let my friends and family know that I will be participating in the walk in November. Everyone has been very generous.”

What made Jen want to walk, besides her own personal connection to the cause? “Well, I like to try anything once. You never know if you will like or dislike something until you try it! I had the pleasure of witnessing the Closing Ceremony this year and the speeches almost brought me to tears and motivated me to participate next year. Plus half of the walk is by the beach, so the beautiful view will hopefully distract you from your sore muscles,” she laughs.

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“When I showed up to the 3-Day a few months ago, I knew immediately that I wanted to be involved. The energy and camaraderie that I walked into was incredible. I can’t wait to officially walk in November.” And we can’t wait to have you and your mother join us, Jen; and we’re grateful to you and others like you for so bravely sharing your story, and being a part of the fight.

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5 Ways to Talk a Friend into Walking with You

The time has come to ramp up recruitment for your 2017 3-Day team. Get started now to give all your team members as much time for fundraising and training as possible. If you are planning to grow your team this year, it is also the perfect time to start asking new recruits to join you. There are plenty of ways to talk someone through the great impact of the 3-Day and encourage them to join the cause.

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Tell them they’ll make a difference: This one should be a great opener, especially for anyone who has been personally affected or knows someone who has been affected by breast cancer. Susan G. Komen® has plenty of infographics and information explaining how all of your fundraising money is put to good work, but you can also see it first hand at any of the 3-Days. When you walk, you meet survivors, their families and many others who are or have felt the direct impact of the money raised by every 3-Day walker.

Tell them they can raise the money: Fundraising is one of the topics our coaches and team captains get asked about the most.  Not everyone is comfortable asking for monetary support, even for a cause as important as ours. However, there are plenty of different ways to effectively fundraise, including letter or email writing campaigns, bake sales, charity events, selling homemade goods and more! New walkers receive lots of support from their teams, their coach, and our online community as well. We will help you find a fundraising plan that works for you, and do all that we can to help every walker reach their fundraising goal.

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Tell them they can go the distance: Another obstacle some people have to overcome is the prospect of walking all those steps. Very few people walk 60 miles in a weekend when they’re not on the 3-Day, so it can seem like a daunting task. Luckily for anyone with reservations, we have your back. With a fully supported route, including Sweep Vans that can pick up walkers and take them to the next rest stop, you only have to walk as far as you can!

Tell them there will be laughter: Is the 3-Day a lot of work? You bet your pink tutu it is! But it is also a whole lot of fun. From sharing stories on the walk, to themed rest stops and lunch tents, to dance parties and glamping, there is no shortage of smiles and laughter on every one of the 60 miles. This is an especially good approach for those who are afraid of potential monotony of walking for 3 days in a row, or who don’t know as many people on your team. No matter who you know, you will always have a friend on the 3-Day.

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Tell them they will gain a family: One of the best parts about the 3-Day is that you become part of a family. Beyond your team, or those who share tents near you at our camp site, you will leave your 3 days with us as part of something larger than yourself. For anyone who has participated in charity events in the past, reminding them of that feeling of family you get when you’re all trying to accomplish something together will be one of the easiest ways to encourage them to participate. It will also probably help you feel reinvigorated for your own training and fundraising goals.

How have you convinced people to join your team?

A Team of Two: Meet Team Sweet 16

Imagine you’re the mother of a seven-month-old baby. She’s your second child, so you’re familiar with the joy of motherhood—the chubby hands grasping around your pinky, the sweet coos, the late-night awakenings where you’re overcome with exhaustion—but you know that it’s all worth it. You’ve been nursing fine for six months, and then on the seventh month, your daughter suddenly stops nursing out of one breast. You go to the doctor and are told it’s common, just a typical nursing infection like mastitis. You’re given an antibiotic… but it doesn’t get better. You go back in, and by then, the skin on your breast has changed in appearance. You are told you have stage 3 inflammatory breast cancer.

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This is Laurie and Miranda’s story. Laurie is Miranda’s mother, a soft-spoken woman with a bright smile. Laurie has walked the Susan G. Komen 3-Day three times; and while every Komen 3-Day is a special experience, this third time is celebrating her sixteen-year anniversary of survival. “I did a year of chemotherapy and radiation all while she was a baby,” Laurie says, as Miranda stands next to her. “I had a double mastectomy, a hysterectomy… all while she was a baby.”

Miranda wasn’t just in Dallas/Fort Worth cheering her mother on. She was walking for the first time, celebrating her sixteenth birthday with a sixty-mile walk. “My mom is a survivor and I lost my dance teacher to breast cancer. Breast cancer has had a huge impact on my life, and I wanted to do something to help,” she said. “It’s just us two, mom and daughter… and this is why we call this the Sweet 16.”

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Being a teenage walker presents unique challenges. “I’m a junior [in high school], and I have a lot of homework to do and honors classes. It’s tough to be here, but it’s absolutely worth it. It’s a rewarding experience and one that I wanted to have.”

As a three-time walker, Laurie found that fundraising was much easier than she thought it would be. “People want to support you, because breast cancer impacts everyone. Everybody knows somebody,” she said. Laurie and Miranda sewed ribbons and sold them as donations. Donors were invited to write on the ribbons with the names of people they loved who were affected by breast cancer.

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Laurie and Miranda were tired on day two of their walk, but they felt strong in their conviction to walk. “When you’re with this group of people, you don’t feel the pain. It’s nothing like the fight you go through with breast cancer.”

What’s it like to be a sixteen year survivor, walking sixty miles with your sixteen-year-old daughter? “I had a 10% survival rate. I didn’t think I’d be here. It’s incredible to do this with her – so that hopefully, one day, she won’t have to do this with her daughter.”