Coach Heather’s Mom is One in a Million. She’s Also One in Eight.

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As we approach Mother’s Day, we have a special guest post from Coach Heather, sharing her own family’s breast cancer story. This year, her mom will be celebrating Mother’s Day for the first time as a breast cancer survivor, and Coach Heather is sharing their journey together to remind us all the ways breast cancer can affect any one of us. We all think our moms are one in a million, but when they also become 1 in 8, everything changes.

 

Truly, never did I think that the 1 in 8 would be my mom. There has been zero history of breast cancer in our family. But sure enough, on the afternoon of February 18, 2019, she received the call with me by her side. I didn’t even have to ask…because I already knew. I could tell by the expression on her face. She had breast cancer.

The call came five days after her annual mammogram. In those five days she had two mammograms, an ultrasound, and a biopsy. They weren’t messing around…bam, bam, bam. This was all taking place in the hospital where she spent 37 years of her career and she had her “people” all around her.

Even after the call, we were in shock. Wait, what? Breast cancer? She had had no symptoms, no lumps, nothing that would ever concern her or lead her to believe she was at risk. She immediately started looking to blame this on something that she had done. Maybe she drank too much wine, maybe she consumed too much caffeine. She needed an explanation.

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Now, after some of the dust has settled, she is far more educated and realized that regardless of whether there were symptoms or not, she WAS at risk merely because she was aging, and because she was a woman. Sometimes, there is no explanation or logic.

The day after she heard her diagnosis, she left for a scheduled vacation. While I had the opportunity for the news to sink in and the chance to be angry, sad, and feel the roller coaster of emotions, she had to remain calm and cool because she didn’t want to put a damper on the vacation for those she was with. At least until she came home.

One week later we had a 3-hour appointment at the Cancer Center at Henry Ford Hospital in Macomb. We were so nervous, knowing that once this train left the station, it was rolling and there was no going back to life “before cancer.”

So, like we do in most situations, we walked through those doors optimistic, joking, and ready to tackle whatever came next. We met a wonderful surgeon who really laid it all out there. My mom had invasive ductile carcinoma, Stage 1, with a tumor smaller than a pea. A lumpectomy was discussed and the treatment plan that the surgeon, oncologist, and radiation oncologist laid out was far better than we originally thought.  The surgeon said “We caught this early. You are not going to die from breast cancer!”

Cue the BIG sigh of relief! But Mom still had so much ahead of her.

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The next week we walked back into Henry Ford for what Mom kept calling “three procedures.” We arrived at 8:30am for her 12:30pm lumpectomy. Prior to the actual lumpectomy, she had wires inserted to act as a roadmap for the surgeon, took a quick trip to nuclear medicine where she had dye injected into her nipple to further direct the surgeon to the location of the tumor, and then finally went into surgery. It went as well as it could go, and we were on our way back home by 3pm.  Mom felt great by 5:00pm, ready to eat Chinese food, and only needed two Aleve per day for the next few days. She was very lucky, and we knew that.

Outside of the breast cancer diagnosis, things have gone as well as they can for someone dealing with this life changing news and journey. About a week after the lumpectomy, Mom’s biopsy results came back with clean margins and no trace in the lymph nodes. Great news! Oncology testing results showed that chemo would not be necessary. So, a month of radiation and then five years of medication would be coming next.

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My mom is all about positivity but still knows that her life will never be the same. The days of reading breast cancer books, really “hearing” commercials related to breast cancer, checking labels for soy, and frowning on the red wine she used to love, are the new normal now. She doesn’t want to do anything to contribute to the development of another estrogen-induced tumor.

To say she is and was scared is an understatement. But much good has come of this as well. She is far more concerned about taking care of herself in regards what she consumes, her exercise regimen, and health in general from this point forward. She is also determined to share her story in hopes that her friends will understand the risks, re-evaluate their daily behavior, and (most importantly!) get their annual mammogram. As we always hear, and as Mom has learned, early detection is key.

I am part of a group of 9 women who have been friends since high school and in recent years, as we rapidly approach 50, I often wondered who would be the 1 in 8 to get breast cancer. Knowing the statistic that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, I was prepared that surely it would be at least 1 of us. I just never thought it would be my mom. But breast cancer can affect any and all of us. Now she’s not just one in a million. She’s also 1 in 8, and she is never going to quit.

Meet Your New Coach for the New England 3-Day, Coach Sharyn

It all started on a big birthday. In 2006, Sharyn was turning 60, and her daughter-in-law invited her to join her 3-Day team. And Sharyn thought, “Why not?”

Now, more than a decade later, she has walked in Boston and other 3-Day cities and joined the 3-Day team as your New England Coach for 2019! As soon she heard that the 3-Day would be returning to Boston, she knew she had to get more involved.

“Boston is my home walk and when it came back this year, I reached out to the powers to be and applied to be a coach. The 3-Day really needed ‘boots on the ground’ and I was contacted to see if I was interested in the coaching position…. Yes, I am! And here we are. 😊”

She is so excited to be returning to her 3-Day family in a new way. Though she has walked in many cities over the years, she is ready to welcome 3-Dayers back to Boston.

“Some of my favorite memories are reconnecting with 3-Day friends you’ve met along the way; strangers who became friends and who’ve truly touched your heart. I’ve walked in many cities and crewed in others and it always excites me to see the beautiful faces and reconnect. I know that’s going to be a huge event in Boston!”

Aside from all the welcome friendship and love, Sharyn wants to get the rest of the walkers and crew excited about some other aspects of the weekend:

  • We will be staying in hotels and that’s become a huge attraction for a lot of walkers…especially some of the more seasoned veterans.
  • I also think the route, this year, will have our walkers and crew very excited…especially people who’ve never visited our city before.

With both of those in mind, it’s time to start getting ready and pumped for the New England 3-Day. As a veteran herself, Sharyn has tried and true advice for your training plans.

“I always tell people who start their training to start where they are most comfortable. It’s sort of like that old saying, ‘How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!’ 😉 Start small, start now and build your distance each week. I think if you can easily do a 10-mile walk with no issues, you’ll be just fine. Do a few long walks each week and be sure to train on different inclines. Not every city is flat, so you need to be prepared for hills. Building your way up on a variety of terrains will have you more than ready!”

But always feel free to reach out for help! Sharyn is already helping walkers and crew out on her New England 3-Day Coaches Facebook Page, and encourages everyone to reach out with anything “from complicated issues to silly ones. Pick up the phone and call or drop us an email or Facebook message. Nothing is too small…especially if it concerns you.”

She understands all your concerns because she’s been there! She’s walked 25 events, crewed 6 times and raised approximately $85,000 over her time with the 3-Day. And she’s just getting started!

“Committing three days is a lot to ask when it involves walking 60 miles and raising $2,300…but it’s so much easier than a breast cancer diagnosis. The commitment is the easy part when it’s important to you. Make the commitment. And I’ll see you in New England in September!”

 

For tips about healthy living, click here for advice and support to keep you on track for the 3-Day and beyond. http://the3day.co/amgen2019. Thanks to the support of Amgen and in partnership with American Bone Health, the Healthy Living series was designed to prepare your mind, body and bones for the 3-Day.

Meet Your Philadelphia 3-Day Coach

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In 2004, one of Carol’s family friends passed away from inflammatory breast cancer, only 6 months after she was diagnosed. That was a moment that changed Carol’s life, because it prompted her to sign up for the 3-Day the minute she saw a commercial for the walk. Though she wasn’t able to participate until a few years later due to pregnancy (and the awesome kids that followed), she has had the 3-Day in her life ever since that year.

Over the years she has formed lasting friendships with 3-Day participants and continued to be exposed to more people in her own life who were directly affected by breast cancer. She’s learned the importance of the event, and the work that Susan G. Komen does year-round, which led her to want to be more involved in the 3-Day. And this year, she achieved that goal when she became our new Philadelphia 3-Day coach! She is already jazzed for the fall, and to engage with all our participants in a new way.

If you haven’t met her on the 3-Day yet, get to know her now, before she helps you tackle those 60 miles in Philly.

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What are some of your favorite 3-Day memories?

Favorite memories are so hard to choose from 12 years of events, but here goes!

  • First, the Closing Ceremony when I received a gift of earrings from a walker I did not even know. The song “Suddenly I See” became my inspiration after that, thanks to that happy memory.
  • An interaction with a very dear woman who taught me the importance of being your own best advocate. Her family continues to remind me of the goodness that exists in the world, when you shut out all the other noise.
  • Strangers becoming friends and pulling together to support one another in difficult times.

How did you find your way to the coaching job this past fall?

I found my way to the coaching job through not only my passion for the event, but my outgoing personality and can-do attitude. I was blessed with the opportunity. I have walked, I have crewed, I have volunteered, I have made myself available to the 3-Day as I will make myself available to its participants.

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What are you most excited for the 2019 event?

The thing that I am looking forward to the most is to the opportunity to share my passion with others.  I also look forward to making new connections and hearing new stories and helping others make new lasting connections.

What do you love most about the 3-Day Crew?

They give selflessly of themselves day after day, and whether it is their first event or their 20th event, they continue to give of themselves without asking for anything in return.

What are you top training tips for walkers?

  • Training is KEY and it’s also important to find the correct shoe/sock combination. Be sure to train in all types of weather and elevation if you can.
  • It is a walk not a race, so take your time and do not forget to stretch at every opportunity.
  • Hydration is SO important. Drink a lot and encourage others to do the same.

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If someone is nervous about doing the 3-Day for the first time, what would you say to them?

I would share with them that not only are they not alone in that emotion, but that they will never be alone on the event. On the 3-Day we are one community that unites together for a common goal. No one walks alone and no one gets left behind. You will always be supported. Do not ever be afraid to ask for help because there will always be someone there for you.

In 2019, we are asking people to #COMMIT3DAYS …What does commitment mean to you?

To commit 3 days means that you are committing to the cause. I am committing myself to do what I can so that others are successful in their goals. We can all do this together!

What are some things your 3-Dayers should know about you?

I never shy away from a challenge! And I put my all into everything I do. 😊 Plus, I hear I look great in pink! 😉

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