Father’s Day

In recognition of Father’s Day, we asked 3-Day walker John S., who lost his daughter to breast cancer, to reflect on what being a father means to him and why he thinks supporting Susan G. Komen is so important. 

Father’s Day is a day where we as fathers celebrate those incredibly unique and precious relationships with our families and children. As a father who lost a young daughter to metastatic breast cancer, it evokes the fondest of memories, endless thoughts of what could have been while leaving a hole in your heart. No matter the age of a daughter, they are “forever your little girl.” It also demands that you ask yourself what you can do to support the fight against breast cancer and end this disease. 

Last year I participated for the first time in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day in San Diego. I initially registered in the summer of 2020, because our sweet daughter Melissa passed away from metastatic breast cancer at the age of 36 the previous year on November 21, 2019. The summer of 2020, we were in the depths of COVID and I was thinking of how I would spend the first anniversary of her passing. I heard of the San Diego 3-Day and coincidentally the Saturday of the event was the first anniversary date of her passing. Melissa had been involved in the fight against breast cancer. She was very impassioned about the cause. I thought it was the perfect way for me to be with my thoughts of her and a way to continue her legacy. The same day I signed up for the event I received a call just hours later to tell me they had to postpone the walk to 2021. As it turns out, the 2021 San Diego 3-Day Closing Ceremony was on the second anniversary of her passing.  

Initially, I wanted to walk alone with my thoughts about Melissa in the sea of walkers. As the time drew near, a colleague in California invited me to join a team and I agreed. I joined Sally’s “Hands Up for Hooters” team to walk with others. Earlier this year as part of its 2022 fundraising, this team passed the $1 million cumulative mark! It was the best decision I could have made, as I realized that no one impacted by breast cancer should make the journey alone. I was also honored to speak at the Opening Ceremony about Melissa’s passing, her fight against breast cancer, and taking “Action,” one of the four approaches of Komen. Here’s what I said:  

“Two years ago this Sunday, our sweet daughter Melissa passed away at the age of 36 of metastatic breast cancer after a four-year fight. She left behind her husband and two little girls ages 4 and 6. For years, she counseled women going through radiation treatment for breast cancer and served as both a spokesperson and fundraiser in the fight against breast cancer. I commit to do what I can to honor her legacy and continue her plea “that every woman under the age of 40, with a family history of breast cancer, be encouraged and provided an opportunity for a mammogram.” Also, to raise financial support for Susan G. Komen in finding a cure so that no parent will ever have to deliver a eulogy for a daughter dying of this disease.” 

Participating in the 3-Day event has been life changing as I am sure it has been or will be for this year’s new participants. To witness the grit and joy of the walkers including survivors, their emotional support network, and the generosity of their donors is truly inspirational. Since signing up for the San Diego 3-Day I have become moved to be more involved with Susan G. Komen by participating in the local walk, fundraising, legislative advocacy, and as a member of the Komen Leadership Council in Central Texas. 

Particularly on this Father’s Day, I am grateful as a father for the opportunity to support Susan G. Komen and the 3-Day. It not only helps to keep sweet Melissa’s legacy alive but also supports the survivors and their supporters in their journeys in finding the cures for breast cancer. With that I would like to share a short video about Melissa, being a father of a daughter passing away from breast cancer and why we walk. https://youtu.be/_fc3g0qKZCo 

I wish you and yours a Happy Father’s Day and a wonderful 3-Day experience! 

Best regards, 

John 

One Face, One Voice: Kim Crist’s Metastatic Breast Cancer Story

Guest Post By: Kim Crist

 

After I finished treatment for early stage breast cancer, I never considered that I was in remission. I told everyone I was cured. The doctors told me after four months of chemotherapy and 40 rounds of radiation that I would be just fine. It took me a long time to really believe that I was going to be okay. For years, I couldn’t drive by my oncologist’s office without having that “sick to my stomach, I had just had chemo” feeling. But the nauseating fears were finally gone when I hit the five-year mark. I remember driving by my doctor’s office and realized I didn’t think about my cancer. I had finally let go of my fears and realized I really did beat this.

It turns out there is no way to know if you have a cancer cell tucked away. It was almost 10 years after my first diagnosis that I was diagnosed with Metastatic, or stage four, disease. They say if you go five or 10 years, you’ve beat it… I thought I was home free. Not one doctor told me the true statistics for recurrence. If I had known, maybe I would have been more diligent in taking my estrogen blocker. Maybe I would have done more research at the time. Perhaps I would have known what symptoms to look out for. The maybes, the what ifs take a toll.

Funny thing is, I thought I was taking care of myself. I worked out and lifted weights, I took exercise classes. I even thought I was doing too much because on two separate occasions I ended up in the ER with crippling back pain. I had to actually leave during the middle of a workout class. Each time being sent home with pain meds and muscle relaxers. Not one doctor asked about a cancer history.

It wasn’t until a routine yearly blood work and oncologist visit to get my mammogram prescription that my doctor saw a rise in my tumor markers…the results you have figured out. What does this diagnosis mean; Metastatic Breast Cancer?? As far as I’m concerned Metastatic disease is a polite way of saying you have stage IV cancer. Stage IV?? We get it now. At least one would think so.

I believe Susan G. Komen is a wonderful platform. We have so much information to share and research left to be done. Walking and raising money allows me to share my story and hopefully teach someone else what to look out for and what questions to ask. Why didn’t those doctors know to ask if I had a history of cancer? Why didn’t I know that bones are the most likely place for initial metastasis? Why didn’t I think to, or better yet, why didn’t I know to ask for an MRI over an X-ray? X-rays don’t show cancer. This is important information that I wish I had known and needs to be shared.

“We need to laugh. We need to laugh at ourselves”

Now, people ask me, “Are you in remission? You’ll be cured, right? Are you done with your medicine?” The answer? No, no and no. They ask, things like, “how long will your medicine work?” Until it doesn’t. Then I’ll find another drug. All in hopes of going another three months praying and stressing that the next scan is stable. I can live with it in my bones, I dread the day it attacks my organs.

Right now, there is no time for being sick and no time for stinky thinking. No time for rest. Now is the time for faith and giving back. Being a Susan G. Komen walker and super supporter has given me an opportunity to talk to people from all over the country. The 3-Day brings together a large community of fighters, survivors and the surviving.

As a 14-year walker I’ve not only seen the impact we have made in research, but I’m living proof. Coming up on five years, I would have never thought I’d have the quality of life that I do. My bones are weakened by the cancer slowly eating away at it, but now there is a simple shot I take every quarter to keep me strong. My freedom and quality come from not being stuck in a chemo chair. Breakthroughs have happened!! But we have to keep working.

“It’s important to keep your strength and be out in nature”

Thank you, Susan G. Komen, thank you fellow supporters, sponsors and researchers. This walker will never give up and I will never give in.

Learn more about Metastatic Breast Cancer. If you or a loved one has questions or needs support, please call 1-877-GO KOMEN.

 

Official Sponsor of the 3-Day®

From Sidewalks to Science: An On-Route Look at Komen’s Research with Dr. Maria Soledad Sosa

Opening Ceremonies

Dr. Sosa, can you tell us a bit about what led you to do breast cancer research?

My mom was diagnosed with ER+ breast cancer 18 years ago. Two years ago, her cancer returned and she needed a second round of treatment. Fortunately, she is doing well. My personal experience with this disease greatly impacted my decision to work in this field, and inspires me every day as I work to make an impact in breast cancer research.

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On the Route

Since we’ve got some time, could you tell us a bit about your current research?

Metastasis (or the spread of breast cancer to other organs) is what kills people with breast cancer. My research is aimed to avoid metastasis before it even begins by targeting the “seeds” of those metastases. These seeds are named DCC (disseminated cancer cells) and are “asleep” in the body, and can be found in important organs like the liver and bones even before a primary tumor is detected. But something causes them to wake up and become aggressive. I believe if we can figure out how these DCCs behave and spread, we might find strategies to eliminate them before they reactivate and form metastases.

At Camp

Now that we’ve made it “home” for the night and are enjoying the support of our crew, can you tell us about how your work would be affected without Komen funding?

Komen funding is imperative to my research. With Komen’s support, I can look for ways to keep these dangerous DCCs “asleep” so they can’t grow and become metastatic tumors. It also allows us to find ways to eliminate DCCs while sleeping. My hope is that this work could someday lead to a cure for metastatic breast cancer.

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Day 2

What would you say to somebody who’s just been diagnosed with breast cancer?

My advice to people would be to have hope and be diligent about your own care. People with no sign of breast cancer should continue to follow-up with their doctor, follow the doctor’s recommendations, and continue to get screened every six to 12 months after treatment has stopped. It was a follow-up screening that helped my mom detect her breast cancer recurrence early. Typically, after a person is treated for breast cancer they are considered to have no sign of breast cancer. However, some people may have DCCs in vital organs that are “asleep.” They could stay like that for years — even decades in the case of ER+ BRCA patients — so it’s important to understand that risk and be proactive about screening. Early detection and follow-up could save the life of a person with no evidence of disease.

Cheering Station

Look at all of these enthusiastic supporters out along the route! Tell us about how you are involved with Komen outside of the lab.

I’m excited to be one of four Komen-funded grantees selected for the Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC) Research Grant crowdfunding opportunity, where anyone can donate funds to support a research project or researcher of their choice. You can learn more about my story on the Komen Facebook page and donate directly to my Komen-funded MBC research project here!

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Closing Ceremonies

Thanks for walking with us, Dr. Sosa. One final question, in working with patient advocates, how have they impacted your research by bringing the patient perspective?

Sandra Spivey is the patient advocate for my grant, and was so helpful in developing the Letter of Intent and grant proposal. She is very supportive, giving me feedback on how to highlight the patient perspective. I was amazed by her energy and passion. Even when she got sick, she kept working and sending me comments for this grant. I really appreciate all her help, and I am sure she will have a positive impact on my research.

Dr. Maria Sosa is an Assistant Professor at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and you can donate to her research project directly through Komen’s crowd funding web page. Since 1982, Susan G. Komen has funded $956 million in breast cancer research, second only to the U.S. government and more than any other nonprofit in the world. Learn more here.

Pit Stop

Three things to know about Dr. Sosa:

  1. I like dancing. And as an Argentinean woman, I dance tango!
  2. In my free time, I love to paint
  3. My family enjoys being outside and being active — doing things like hiking, kayaking, and swimming.

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Grab and Go

Here are three ways you can use this information to help reach your 3-Day fundraising or recruiting goals:

Sample Tweet:

Having seen the effects of breast cancer in her own family, Dr. Maria Soledad Sosa is now conducting research aimed to avoid breast cancer metastasis before it even begins! Learn more about her research here:

Sample Facebook Post:

Having seen the effects of breast cancer in her own family, Dr. Maria Soledad Sosa is now conducting research aimed to avoid breast cancer metastasis before it even begins! Komen funding has been imperative to her research, and she hopes to one day find the cure for metastatic breast cancer! Learn more about her work here: