Male Breast Cancer: Rare but Real. Meet the Gillers.

Lee and Kathy Giller have been married for 35 years, making their home in Akron, Ohio. Lee and Kathy’s story is similar to many in our 3-Day community: a strong, loving partnership, an inspirational fight, and a family forever changed by a breast cancer diagnosis. However, there’s one unusual twist to this story. It’s not Kathy who has breast cancer—it’s Lee.

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“Lee was first diagnosed in 2005 after feeling a small lump in his breast. Even though we knew men could face breast cancer, it didn’t occur to either of us that this is what he might have. In fact, he first went to a dermatologist thinking the lump was just a cyst,” said Kathy. “The day Lee came home and told us that he had breast cancer, we and our children just huddled in embrace and cried. Cancer is still such a frightening word and is fraught with so many dark thoughts. But once we got past the initial shock and fear, we circled our wagons and began the fight of our lives.”

Like many who face the same diagnosis, Lee had a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. As Lee was finishing up his treatments, his daughter Pamela asked if he wanted to join her for a breast cancer walk. “At first, I was a little offended that Pam didn’t ask if I wanted to participate with them,” said Kathy. “But then she explained that the walk was 60 miles and you camped out and I knew why I wasn’t included! This was something far out of my realm. But it didn’t take me long to decide that if Lee could go through everything he had faced, then I should be able to walk 60 miles and even camp out.”

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While the thought of walking and camping were daunting for Kathy, she was most concerned about the fundraising. It’s no secret that at the 3-Day, we ask you to raise $2,300, an ambitious but reachable goal, and an amount that makes a huge impact in the fight against breast cancer. Luckily, Kathy said that fundraising was the easiest part, thanks to the generosity of family and friends. “We’re often asked how we raise so much money and the answer I always give is that like breast cancer, I’m relentless. I ask everyone, I’m persistent, and I always express our heartfelt gratitude. Fundraising is nothing more than a conversation, sharing your personal story. If you are compelling and sincere, people will respond.”

Just six months after Lee finished treatment, team Breast Man Walking walked 60 miles in the Boston 3-Day, using the slogan “Male breast cancer: Rare but Real” to spread awareness with every step. The Gillers have been walking since 2006: with family, their children, Pamela, Annie, and Jay, and a dear friend, Nancy Schrader, whom they met when she was walking on the 3-Day solo.

The Gillers registered for the 2016 San Diego 3-Day, which would mark their 19th walk, but unfortunately, the Gillers will not be able to join us us in San Diego this year. Since his recurrence in 2012, Lee is Stage IV and now fighting cancer in his lungs, bones, liver and brain. While we’re walking on the San Diego 3-Day, the Giller family will be close to Lee’s side, but they are hopeful to return to the 3-Day next year.

Susan G. Komen walkers gear up and take on Day 1 for breast cancer awareness.

After Lee’s diagnosis, he decided to have genetic testing. Being male, aged 48, and Jewish were all red flags that his cancer was hereditary. Lee learned that he was BRCA positive, which meant that there was a 50% chance his three children could have the same mutation. At first, only his daughter Pamela wanted to be tested. She discovered that she also had the same BRCA1 mutation. She was monitored very closely, beginning mammograms and breast ultrasounds at the age of 25. “Then one day when she was just 28 years old, we received a call that no parent could ever imagine. She said, “Mom, I have some good news and some bad news. I have breast cancer, but it was caught early.”

Pamela had a bi-lateral mastectomy but did not need further treatment, and just this past year, had a preventative removal of her ovaries, called an oophorectomy. “Once Pam was diagnosed with breast cancer, our other two children immediately understood how real this disease was. They were both tested for the BRCA1 mutation. Our son has it but our other daughter does not. Unfortunately, there is no protocol for screening men who are BRCA-positive. Self-exams and clinical breast exams are the only recommendations,” explained Kathy.

Kathy’s dear friend Nancy describes Kathy as unstoppable. “Being a co-survivor for both Lee and Pamela has been a labor of love. She will do anything for them, and does. She is passionate about her fundraising because she wants a cure!” said Nancy. Kathy is applauded in the 3-Day community as a fierce advocate for male breast cancer awareness, and has raised a whopping $340,000 since 2006, and over $50,000 this year alone. Kathy’s team has raised almost a half a million dollars since 2006. As Lee’s primary caretaker, Kathy, along with Lee and her family, have made enormous contributions, and not just in fundraising. Kathy avidly encourages the inclusion of the word “men” anytime women and breast cancer are mentioned, and these victories have been evident to those who are close to this cause.

“For those people who think not enough has been done to advance breast cancer research, I would say that of course, we always need more. We still haven’t found the cure. But we have come a long way and Lee is living proof of that. When he was diagnosed with his recurrence 4 years ago, he was told that the average life span would be about 26 months. He’s still here. He still has many treatment options. This would not be the case if it weren’t for organizations like Komen and others who have dedicated themselves to fighting this disease.”

While it is both tragic and unfair that Kathy’s family has been so personally hit by breast cancer, we know that her contributions, while working alongside her family, have changed the public awareness of breast cancer in innumerable ways. We are continuously grateful to warriors like Kathy, Lee, Pamela, Annie, Jay, and Nancy for coming together, to shine a light for families in their darkest times. We all long for a day when breast cancer is just a thing of the past, and new patients can be treated quickly, effectively, and cured. But until then, Kathy reminds us that while we have made so much progress, we must still stay and fight, because: “Breast cancer is an equal opportunity employer: any age, any gender, any color. Be diligent.”

Susan G. Komen walkers gear up and take on Day 3 for breast cancer awareness.

 

 

 

2016 Seattle 3-Day – Saturday Award Winners and Honorees

At the end of Day 2 on the Susan G. Komen 3-Day®, we gather to celebrate: walkers celebrate completing 40 astonishing miles of route, crew members high-five over giving hours upon hours of service to their fellow 3-Dayers, and everyone celebrates each other. Every walker and crew member could be given a medal for their accomplishments, but we do like to take time at the Saturday evening camp show to recognize some stand-out walkers and crew members. In Seattle, we were pleased to award the following outstanding walkers, crew members and teams:

Top Training Walk Leader

img_5755The top training walk leader for the 2016 Seattle 3-Day is Tath Hossfeld. Tath will be a 33-year survivor this November, and has participated in the 3-Day 24 times in the last 13 years (she’ll be doing walk number 25 in Atlanta in a few weeks). She is the captain of the team Flamingo Road, a mentor to other walkers, and a devoted volunteer. Tath has been a training walk leader for the last 10 years and this year, she led 29 walks with 114 attendees. She is meticulous about planning her training walks and goes out of her way to make sure everyone there feels comfortable, supported, and informed while also looking for ways to make them fun for everyone. Tath also won the Local Impact Award in Seattle last year.

Top Youth Corps Fundraiser

img_5502The 3-Day Youth Corps are kids between the ages of 10 and 16 who come out to cheer and support the 3-Day walkers and crew members. They are required to raise a minimum of $500 in order to participate, which makes it all the more extraordinary to share that 15-year-old Lauren Simpson, a first-time Youth Corps member from Danville, CA, raised $1,905 this year. Way to go, Lauren!

Top Crew Fundraiser

img_5719Congratulations to Cathy Youngling, the top crew fundraiser for Seattle, who raised an astonishing $10,040 this year, bringing her lifetime fundraising total to $97,333. Cathy is part of the Pit Stop 2 team, and this year’s Seattle 3-Day is her 11th event in 8 years. She is captain of the team Are We There Yet? in Seattle. Cathy is also a 21-year survivor, and is Grammy to two sweet girls who love to wear pink (not because of breast cancer but because it’s pretty with their sparkly shoes).

Top Individual Walker Fundraiser

img_5734For the third consecutive year, the top individual walker fundraiser in Seattle is Loretta Englishbee, with $26,115 raised this year. Loretta has raised nearly $400,000 alone since starting with the 3-Day 11 years ago. Unfortunately, due to a family emergency, Loretta and her Team Bee teammates were unable to join us at the Seattle event this year; her teammate Michelle and friend Kathy accepted the award on Loretta’s behalf.

Top 5 Fundraising Teams

The top fundraising teams for the 2016 Seattle 3-Day are:

5. Team Bee – $44,606 in 2016; $487,597 lifetime – 7 team members, 11 years as team – Team Captain: Loretta Englishbee
4. Sole Mates – $51,149 in 2016; $244,127 lifetime –17 team members, 7 years as team – Team Captain – Kathy Bressler
3. DHL Dynamos – $72,186 in 2016; $1,583,269 lifetime – 40 team members, 6 years as team –Team Captain: Ann-Kathrin Seit
2. Kindred Spirits – $135,385 in 2016; $2,680,407 lifetime – 79 members 13 years as team – Team Captain: Penny Kellam

img_5708And big congratulations to Valley Girls & Guys, which was both the largest team on the Seattle 3-Day (150 members) and the top fundraising team, with $320,480 raised this year. Valley Girls & Guys, captained by Tina McDonough, has raised $2,398,313 in its 8 years as a Seattle 3-Day team. Wow!

*The 2016 Seattle 3-Day marked another big milestone for the top 3 teams on this list: DHL Dynamos surpassed the $1 million lifetime mark, and both Valley Girls & Guys and Kindred Spirits flew past the $2 million lifetime milestone.

 

Milestone Award and Local Impact Award

 These two other special awards are presented to participants who stand out and shine extra brightly in a sky of very bright 3-Day stars. The Milestone Award is given at each event to one participant who has an extraordinary history of involvement with the 3-Day, and the Local Impact Award recognizes a participant in each 3-Day city who has been instrumental in strengthening the 3-Day in their community throughout the year.

img_5749This year’s Seattle 3-Day Milestone Award winner is Randy Gangnes. Randy has been a 3-Day participant for 12 years, and all 12 of her walks have been in Seattle. She is the captain of In The Pink, and in her years as a 3-Day walker, she has personally raised over $67,400. When she’s not out training or fundraising for the 3-Day, Randy teaches first grade, enjoys singing, reading and traveling, and is an avid Seahawks fan and season ticket holder. Her husband Ron—who has also been a Seattle 3-Day walker for 12 years—told us, “Randy is shy and unassuming and will definitely be embarrassed by this attention.” Randy herself is also a breast cancer survivor, having been diagnosed with DCIS in 2003. “Komen is a way of life for us, something our family, still to this day, doesn’t understand completely,” Ron shared. “Randy is the definition of selflessness. She feels that if she can prevent just one person from having to go through what she did, then all the miles she’s walked (probably over 6,000 miles) are worth it.” Merrilyn, a close friend and long-time teammate of Randy’s told us, “Randy is my inspiration for walking in the 3-Day.  I see her passion for the cause, and witness her tireless efforts in fundraising and training, and know that I want to match her enthusiasm with my own. Randy not only walks in the 3-Day, she walks the belief in Susan G. Komen all year long. She is a true ambassador for the 3-Day and everyone who knows her understands that raising money for curing breast cancer is one of her life values. Randy is absolutely deserving of this 3-Day Milestone Award!” We couldn’t agree more!

img_5752We were delighted to recognize Kathy Bressler with the 2016 Seattle 3-Day Local Impact Award. Kathy has been a 3-Day walker and captain of Sole Mates for 8 years, and has personally raised over $30,000 for the 3-Day. Like so many others, her reasons for becoming involved with the 3-Day were deeply personal: both her grandmother and mother died from breast cancer. Kathy’s involvement with the breast cancer cause has been a life-long passion, extending even further than the 3-Day; she has served as board president of Komen Puget Sound for a two-year term while holding her position as President of Franciscan Health System’s Saint Clare Hospital. Her teammate Jennifer shared, “Kathy has always been an advocate for finding a cure for breast cancer for others, never thinking that she would be the 1 in 8.” Yes, Kathy herself was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in late 2015, and not surprisingly, she faced it head-on. “Through her journey she has never taken the role of a victim and she was not going to succumb to this disease. She has spoken often of the advances that have come from funds raised through Susan G. Komen and the 3-Day, but that there is more work to do.” Since her diagnosis, Kathy committing to growing her 3-Day team even more, and this year, they were the fourth highest fundraising team in Seattle. Kathy was the Survivor Speaker in the Friday camp show in Seattle as well.

Kathy’s Sole Mates teammates Maureen and Betsy agreed that an award about impact is perfect for Kathy: “She is a force to be reckoned with on anything she puts her mind to! She prods others into self-improvement, encourages growth and positive change, and if she really believes in you, invites you to hot yoga and to walk with her in the 3-Day!” They continued, “Kathy not only changes lives but she makes you a believer. You get a job, your children go off to college, you learn to plank, you make incredible friendships and you truly believe you can make a difference because you believe in a cause. Because of Kathy, and the impact she has made on the lives of every person she has come in contact with, you believe there will be a cure.” Jennifer echoed the statement about Kathy’s strength. “Kathy fully believes that there will be a cure if we continue to fight for one. She is truly a warrior and I can’t think of anyone who would deserve such an honor more than Kathy.”

2016 Michigan 3-Day – Saturday Award Winners and Honorees

What a fantastic Day 2 we had here in Michigan yesterday, starting with a beautiful day out on the route, and capped off by a camp show that was packed with recognition for some fantastic Michigan walkers and crew members. Keep reading and give a virtual “HIP-HIP-HOORAY!” for all of these extraordinary participants.

Top Training Walk Leader

IMG_3958The Michigan 3-Day’s Top Training Walk Leader for 2016 is Janice Shore. Janice has been a 3-Day participant and training walk leader for 8 years, and this year, she hosted 41 training walks with 162 attendees. Janice, who describes herself as stubborn, is known as someone who keeps going no matter what. So on training walks and the event, she’s always telling people to “do as I say, not as I do,” as far as listening to your body.

Top Youth Corps Fundraiser

IMG_3069Ten-year-old Dylan Rawlins from Silver Spring, MD, who was recognized as the top Youth Corps fundraiser in Friday’s camp show, raised an amazing $4,513 for the Michigan 3-Day this year.  This is Dylan’s first year on Youth Corps.

Top Crew Fundraiser

IMG_3867Amy Nadeau from the Camp Services crew team is Michigan’s Top Crew Fundraiser, bringing in $8,021 this year, for a lifetime total of $79,491. Wow! Amy has been part of the 3-Day for 11 years, with this year’s Michigan walk being her 12th event. “I have always said my purpose in life is to make everyone else feel tall…and I do it really, really well!”

Top Individual Fundraiser

IMG_3903Huge thanks and congratulations to Bert Stein, the Michigan 3-Day’s top individual fundraiser. This year’s walk is Bert’s 12th 3-Day, and he alone raised an astonishing $22,559 this year. His lifetime fundraising total over the last 12 years is equally remarkable: $218,785.  Bert’s friend of 45 years and his 3-Day walking buddy, Sye, says Bert is the Energizer Bunny: he winds him up and lets him go. Bert gets up at 5:30 AM every day and never seems to stop. At age 83, Bert is in the process of retiring from being a CPA.

We also gratefully acknowledged the next two top fundraisers. With $9,390 raised this year and a $76,109 lifetime total over 7 years/events, Nancy Turken was the second highest individual fundraiser. And rounding out the top three was Nancy Schulman who raised $8,747 for the Michigan 3-Day this year, and $56,884 total over her last 9 years/events.

Top Fundraising Teams

The funds raised by Michigan 3-Day teams are a big part of what drives Susan G. Komen to be able to do so much good in our communities. The top five fundraising teams in the Michigan 3-Day this year are:

5. Juju’s Angels for the Cure – $21,910 – 10 team members, first year as team – Team Captain: Jennifer Curtis.
4. Team LIVErnois – $34,525 in 2016; $55,167 lifetime – 13 team members, second year as a team – Team Captain: Amy Woznick
3. Coconutter Strutters – $44,362 in 2016; $417,055 lifetime – 18 team members, 10 years as a team – Team Captain: Vanessa DeKoekkoek.

A small margin separated the top 2 fundraising teams (which also happen to be the two largest teams in at the Michigan 3-Day this year). The fundraising totals from these two teams for this year alone is impressive, but in 2016 both teams also achieved the prestigious milestone of surpassing the $1 million lifetime mark. Congratulations, teams!

2. Hines Pink Pathers – $86,837 in 2016; $1,056,341 lifetime – 65 team members, 10 years as a team – Team Captain: Janice Shore.
1. BC Babes – $91,015 in 2016; $1,041,439 lifetime – 70 team members, 12 years as team – Team Captain – Beth Northman.IMG_3835

 

Milestone Award and Local Impact Award

These two other special awards distinguish participants who stand out and shine extra brightly in a sky of very bright 3-Day stars. The Milestone Award is given at each event to one participant who has an extraordinary history of involvement with the 3-Day, and the Local Impact Award goes to a participant in each 3-Day city who has been instrumental in strengthening the 3-Day in their community throughout the year.

IMG_3928Michigan’s 2016 Milestone Award winner is Amy Nadeau, who was also the top crew fundraiser. Amy has participated for 11 years, always as part of the crew, often as a crew captain; she has never walked, but her husband did last year to celebrate her 10 years as a survivor. The fact that Amy has never been required to raise any money makes her lifetime total of over $73,000 that much more remarkable. But Amy remains humble, never taking credit for her fundraising, always saying, “I work with very generous people.” She leads with love and humor and her crew teams adore her. Amy first signed up to do the 3-Day when she and her husband saw a TV commercial for it six months after Amy completed her breast cancer treatment. Her advice to walkers is: “Don’t be too concerned about walking every step. It is more important to take the time to savor the experience–you will never have another experience quite like this. You’ve done the hard part with your training and fundraising; now enjoy!”

Amy’s fellow crew member and friend, Tracy, shared this: “Amy is one of the most committed, caring, AMAZING persons, and I am proud to call her my friend. She is passionate and steadfast. She works hard to take care of people both on and off event. She will send care packages and notes to check in on folks and help them know that they are thought of and loved. Amy is also a fundraising machine! She has raised SO much money and by turn, awareness, for the cancer fight and research. No matter what her goal, she puts forth the effort needed to go above and beyond what is required. Amy is a great example of the good that is out in our world. Whether it is battling cancer for herself or her husband or friends, her armor is on and she is ready to take on whatever comes their way. Hearts do not come much bigger than Amy’s. Small and mighty is an apt descriptor of my friend. I am blessed beyond measure that we were on the same crew team so many years ago and we are still friends to this day. My world is richer for having her in it and I am the lucky one!”

IMG_3942For the Michigan 3-Day, the 2016 Local Impact Award was presented to Rhoni Hamel. Rhoni has been part of the 3-Day for 11 years, with this Michigan walk marking her 12th event, and she has raised a lifetime total of $54,692. Rhoni’s enthusiasm and commitment for the 3-Day reaches far beyond the event weekend itself and her own personal fundraising and training. She has said that from the moment Closing Ceremony is over, she is counting down the days, hours and minutes until her next Opening Ceremony. Rhoni is a dedicated supporter of the Michigan 3-Day year-round. Ann Love, the Local Events Coach in Michigan who presented the award to Rhoni, is especially grateful for her help with street team activities in the months before the walk. An ambitious fundraiser, Rhoni is currently coordinating a fundraising cruise trip that will donate a portion of the proceeds directly to Komen. In addition, each year she gives of her own time and money to shuttle traveling walkers to and from the airport on 3-Day week so that they do not have to incur additional expense to get to their hotels. It is not unusual for her to make 5 or 6 trips (it was 9 this year!) a day—up to 6-10 hours of driving—to the airport once the event draws close. Rhoni’s fellow participant Robin said about her friend, “What a wonderful lady. She amazes me! I love the shuttle she runs to the 3-Day from the airport, which costs people nothing except ‘a big 3-Day hug,’ in her words. When I walk and I’m tired and I feel I just can’t keep going, I see her and I can walk 20 more miles. She’s just amazing and a true 3-Day sister.”

 

Our warmest appreciation and congratulations go out to all of these irreplaceable Michigan 3-Day walkers and crew members. Thank you for making this event and the Michigan 3-Day family so special!