A Daughter’s Love, A Doctor’s Support: Robin Elm’s 3-Day Story

Robin Eggert Elm has been walking the 3-Day since 2002, first with her mom and sister, and now with an ever-growing team. Since that time, she has lost family members, endured hardship, and found a new home in Greensboro, Georgia. She has also made a new friend in her neighbor, Dr. Radha Vemuri, an oncologist who has support her 3-Day journey and many other breast cancer charities and research projects for years. Recently, Dr. Vemuri was diagnosed with brain cancer, prompting Robin to reach out to share his story…and her own…with the 3-Day community.

She says that Dr. Vemuri, or Radha to her, has been a constant source of support for her and her family over the years.

“He’s supported me in my 3-Day walks and he’s shared his commitment with me. He was originally from Kalamazoo, which is about 40 minutes from my parents. In 2017, my mom went in for a chest x-ray as they thought she had pneumonia. Once they began talking about other cancers, I called Radha immediately.”

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Robin’s mother passed away from meslotheomia in July of that year, after inspiring “dozens of walkers including my sister and me, granddaughters, nieces, cousins, and friends” to join in the 3-Day with her. Robin still walks in her mother’s memory, and with the support of Dr. Vemuri. She shared the story of that journey with us…

And how has Dr. Vemuri supported you and the 3-Day’s mission?

He continually advocates and supports initiatives for breast cancer education.

He says that as a doctor, ‘It is deeply disturbing to me that, in Greene County, more than half the women in the African-American community who are diagnosed with breast cancer will die from breast cancer. The national average for breast cancer mortality is 1-in-5. Our rate is more than twice the national average. That is unacceptable. Through education, screening and getting more women into the healthcare system, we can do much better.’

Radha was also a godsend to our family throughout my mom’s cancer journey. From the early days before her diagnosis through hospice and death, he selflessly gave his time and supported our family.

Why is it so important that people continue to support the 3-Day?

Simply, because we can. I travel all over the country for business. I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t have a breast cancer story. As one of my client’s told me, “I was impressed that you walk, but really didn’t understand it all until my daughter did the walk.” It’s not just writing a donation check. It’s making a commitment. It’s seeing, hearing and experiencing why we need to find a cure.

Tell us some of your fondest 3-Day memories with your family!

The memories are really those of a lifetime. It would be impossible to articulate what our support of Susan G. Komen has meant to our family. We receive so much more than we give. Our entire family, not just the walkers, share their Komen stories. My nieces couldn’t wait until they were old enough to do the walk. When my brother’s triplets were three, they had a lemonade stand “for the cure.” Then, years later when one of their hockey teammate’s mother was diagnosed, they told their story and got everyone to paint pink ribbons on their helmets. My niece started bedazzling bras for all the walkers.  Last year, all the guys also had bedazzled bras. My husband likes telling how his came in handy to hold snacks and a small water bottle. I love our family pictures after closing ceremony with a couple dozen family members in matching shirts who cheered us on.

Some other true highlights were:

  • At the 2014 Twin Cities walk, we walked for a while with a family. The grandmother, who had done many walks, was being pushed in a wheelchair by her 15-year old grandson, Austin. She had walked with her other grandchildren and wanted to live long enough to walk with him. […]  One month to the day later, I lost my own son, also named Austin.
  • In 2015 Atlanta, at lunch on Day 3, my mom started talking to a crew member who had dragonfly earrings as dragonflies are an important symbol to our family, representing the cycle of life and death. My mom told her about the loss of my son. Later at Closing Ceremonies, someone tapped my mom on the shoulder. It was the crew member and her husband. She told my mom that each year she finds ‘her person’ but “I hadn’t found my person on this walk until I met you. I want you to have my earrings.” We still have no idea how she found my mom among that massive crowd! My mom kept the earrings on her nightstand. They remained there until she died. Now, my cousin, a survivor, wears them.
  • Finally, at the San Diego 2017 Opening Ceremonies, we looked up and saw a rainbow and just knew my mom was with us.

As a long-time veteran, what are your top fundraising tips for the 3-Day?

Tell your story. I walk in honor of someone different each year and interview them for my fundraising letter. I try to find honorees who’ve been impacted differently.

One year, I walked for my mom’s friend’s daughter. She was 15 and lost her mom. She told me, “I grew up with breast cancer. I had no one to talk to. No one I knew had a mom with breast cancer.”

Another year, I walked for a local woman I never met. She had contacted a local charity for support.  When I interviewed her, she said, “I never thought this would be me. I work. When I got divorced, I was going through treatment and got dropped from my husband’s insurance. I couldn’t pay my medical expenses and my other bills. I want to fight this, so I can support others.”

In 2018, Robin walked in honor of Dr. Vemuri. She will continue to walk as long as she can, fighting for a cure.

Do you have a 3-Day story like Robin? Do you want to show support for someone who has helped you on your 3-Day journey? Share them with us here!

Honoring a Mother’s Legacy of Love: Meet Ryan D. of the Philadelphia 3-Day

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“I walk 60 miles so my wife, daughter, friends and those I don’t even know, don’t have to fear this disease. I walk so every grandchild can be spoiled by their grandmothers. I walk today so others will not have to walk tomorrow. I walk because everyone deserves a lifetime.”

Mother’s Day is a chance to honor the women who mean the most to us, whether they are able to celebrate with us or not. For Philadelphia 3-Dayer Ryan D., this means that on Sunday he will not only be celebrating his wife, the mother of his children, but also the mother he lost to breast cancer.

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“Mother’s Day is one of the days I do take time and specifically reflect on my mother and remember all of the great Mother’s Day we celebrated.”

He has been walking “For Mama Doc” since losing her in 2011, spreading her loving and giving spirit with every step he takes. On this holiday, and always, he wants to ensure that no one else loses a mother to breast cancer. The 3-Day, he says, is a new part of his family, and one that helps him remember his mother in the best ways.

“I really wish everyone who has been impacted by this terrible disease could experience a 3-Day at least once, and I can tell you for sure it wouldn’t be their last. It is even hard for me to verbalize what the experience is. There is just something to be said about walking when you are sore and both physically and emotionally spent, to then have a car honk their horn or have someone say, ‘Thank you for walking.’ […] The 3-Days have been some amazing moments of my life.”

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In addition to his 3-Day family, he has been able to share his experience with his brother, who joined Ryan’s mission, and started walking in 2016. They were motivated, in part, to walk together because Philadelphia’s Closing Ceremony that year fell on what would have been their mother’s birthday. They walked all sixty miles together, and each crossed the finish line with their young daughters in their arms. Seeing the 3-Day anew from his brother’s eyes, Ryan says, brought them even closer.

“You can never truly appreciate what a 3-Day truly means until you participate in one. And I saw firsthand the awe on my brother’s face while he walked the first few miles and experienced these things that are so hard to explain.”

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Other family members support them, with Ryan’s dad even walking next to him for a few miles of Ryan’s first ever walk in 2012. They also have helped Ryan raise nearly $25,000 for the 3-Day cause, a landmark he hopes to pass this year. He also looks forward to once again feeling the support of the 3-Day community this fall.

This support is one he especially appreciates given that it was so important to his own mother to support those battling breast cancer. Following her initial recovery from breast cancer in 2009, she mentored countless people suffering from cancer by offering comfort and advice. Though “through the path of recovery there is tremendous uncertainty, fear, pain and self-esteem issues,” Ryan saw his mother provide support, guidance and empathy. This is true to how she lived her whole life, and how Ryan hopes to live his to best honor her legacy.

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“During these last years, my Mom has missed many wonderful events, which include her youngest son’s wedding, witnessing the births of her two beautiful granddaughters and a grandson. I walk to help ensure that no other family misses these special moments with their mothers.”

Ryan walks, and will never quit, for mothers everywhere. Today, and always, hold your family close, and remember that you walk for a reason. You walk for Ryan, for “Mama Doc,” and for families all over the world. And you will never quit either, until we end breast cancer forever.

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A Family United: Julie G. and the “Trekkers for Tudy’s Tatas”

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I Walk For: My Daughter. My Sister. My Niece. Myself.

On the 3-Day, we hear that people are walking with and for family members all the time. They walk alongside them, in their memory, and with their family cheering from the sidelines. What we don’t always see, though, is four sisters all walking together, alongside their daughters and nieces. All as one, walking for seven years!

That’s the story of Julie G. and her “Trekkers for Tudy’s Tatas” team in Dallas/FortWorth. In 2017, she walked with her sisters Kim, Lori and Chris, along with her daughter Lindsey and her niece Morgan.

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Julie’s sister Chris first brought the family into the 3-Day bubble, walking for two years as a part of another team. Then, in 2010, Julie’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Immediately, all three sisters signed up for the next 3-Day walk, and have walked ever since in her honor.

Julie says they have all walked together simply for the “sheer joy it brings our mother. She is so humbled by the fact that we fundraise, train and walk all in her name.”

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Since that first year, their team has also added Julie’s own daughter Lindsey, and her niece.

“Walking with family members is by far the most special part of the walk. It started out with just my sisters and then it has grown to my daughter and my niece. We are a family of 18 including husbands, sons and other nieces, and to see that whole group standing with matching t-shirts along the route screaming our names and holding up posters bring tears to my eyes.

It really is a family effort. My husband and son are so supportive when it comes time to train and when the walk actual takes place. They are there every day driving around making sure to hit every cheering station along the route. But the most special part of the walk is the finish line and seeing my mother there. She knows it’s for her. We include her in the closing ceremony because she is the reason we walk.”

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Each member of the family approaches the walk differently, although they all swear by the 16-week training program. They try to train together on weekends, and Julie recommends early morning walks for quality time and cooler weather. Also, Julie says to be sure to get your walking shoes EARLY so you can break them in. All of this will have you ready to go when 3-Day weekend arrives and let you just take time to enjoy your 60-mile walk.

That is what Julie says she and her family loves most about the 3-Day: all the small moments of happiness that happen throughout the walk. Her daughter is a fan of “the silly outfits teams wear as well as the signs that husbands hold up along the way,” while Julie can’t get enough of our puppy supporters. The rest of the family loves seeing all the pit stop and cheering station themes, and they will even be hosting their own cupcake-themed cheering station this year.

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It’s a family affair from start to finish for Julie and her family, but it always comes back to the matriarch.

“My mother can’t put into words what it means to have us walk year after year. She knows it’s a sacrifice for us financially and physically and that proves to her more and more how much we love her and how proud we are to call her our mom.”

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