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.”

 

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.”