Meet Carley Cummings, Twin City 3-Dayer

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“She was a light that shined so bright that the light still remains even though she is gone.”

That’s how Carley Cummings, team captain of Twin Cities 3-Day team “Live Like Laurie,” describes her late mother.

Carley, her sisters Anna and Liz, as well as her best friend Beth have collectively walked in more than 20 3-Days in the Twin Cities in honor of Laurie, and they don’t plan on stopping!

IMG_0301.JPG “The walk has given us a way to cope. Knowing that we can continue fighting my mom’s war by helping to end breast cancer helps us a lot. The walk has given us purpose and has helped us to be strong.”

Much of that strength comes from her mom. Laurie was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002 when she was only 38 years old. After a double mastectomy and seven years in remission, the cancer came back in her bones. The cancer then eventually spread all over her body and into her brain. However, with three young children and a loving husband, she refused to give up.

Laurie lived with Stage 4 cancer for five more years.

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Carley says, “She never let the cancer define who she was. She smiled, danced, and laughed through the pain and the long days of chemo and radiation rounds. To say she fought hard is an understatement.”

Laurie had an amazing doctor and was constantly blessed with new treatments and support from family and friends that kept her going.

She also continued to be a part of the 3-Day, walking for 10 years in total. She walked her first 3-Day shortly after her 2002 diagnosis, when Carley was just in kindergarten, and made the 3-Day a part of her whole family’s lives. She even walked one year with a back brace, and just a few months after she got her hip replaced. Carley was able to walk side-by-side with her mom in Laurie’s final 3-Day.

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Later, in 2014, Carley and Anna were hesitant to walk because Laurie’s health had rapidly declined, but she encouraged them to walk without her. Just a few hours after crossing the finish line of the walk, they and their family held their mom’s hands as she took her last breath. Carley truly believes Laurie held on long enough for them to finish.

“Even when my mom was dying, she was still filled with so much life. She was passionate about life and put all her energy into living in the moment. She left us with the most amazing memories. My mom was one of kind. She did more for us in the time we had with her than most moms do for their kids in a lifetime. Her love still gets me through each day.”

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After her passing Carley and her team re-named their group “Live Like Laurie,” in her honor. They continue to walk together, supported by friends and family, and wear a photo of Laurie on their backs as they take on those 60 miles year after year.

“Walking with my sisters and having my dad cheer us on along the route is amazing. We are constantly supporting one another and encouraging one another throughout every mile. I don’t think that I could do the walk without my sisters. They help me to finish strong.”

They also help each other train, and fundraise as a team by sending out letters every year to family and friends and selling custom designed t-shirts. This past summer, they also organized a donation garage sale, and all the money they made was put towards their 3-Day fundraising. These creative ideas have helped them meet their goals each year, and return to their 3-Day family side by side.

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“The 3-Day is an emotional roller-coaster for me. Those three days are filled with tears, laughter, and conversations that move you. We are lucky enough to have friends and family cheer along the way which helps me out a lot. Everyone we meet along the way cheers us on as well and makes us feel so loved.”

Carley also feels the love of her mom as she walks. And whenever the trail gets tough, it’s the memory of Laurie that keeps her going.

“I keep walking because I can’t walk away. I promised my mom I’d fight to find a cure. Just because my mom lost her battle doesn’t mean this war is over. I walk so others don’t have to go through the pain that my family and I have had to endure. I will keep walking for a future free of all cancer.”

We will continue to walk alongside you, Carley.

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A 3-Day Family Affair: Mother’s Day with Heather Morse

Some moms will spend this Mother’s Day weekend at brunch or the spa, on a vacation with their families, or even by simply taking the day to sleep in and relax. For others, including mother and 3-Dayer Heather Morse, this Sunday will mean a town-wide canning event to raise money for her long-time 3-Day team “Cup Crusaders.” Luckily, Heather wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Joined by her family, including three sons aged 16 to 29, Heather will once again be supporting the 3-Day this year, and that includes on Mother’s Day.

Being a mom has shaped much of Heather’s experience with the 3-Day family, including speaking at 3-Day camp in San Diego last year.

“My sons didn’t know I was doing it until that night, but I thought it was important for them to see. I wanted them to see what I was capable of. I wanted them to see the inspiration, and the hope and why it was so important to me.”

That was evident in her speech, where she broke out her 3-Day journey into steps. She walks her initial 8,000 steps for her boys, because they come first in her life. The following steps are for all the other children’s parents who have the disease and everyone with loved ones who are fighting.

“I wanted it to be more impactful and inspirational, but put a little humor in it. I even talked about lunch where you laugh and cry and talk with people. You can feel alone when you have this diagnosis, but ever since I’ve done the 3-Day I’ve had an outlet and a support group to not feel so alone.”

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Her first breast cancer diagnosis came before her involvement with the 3-Day, but once she was re-diagnosed, Heather realized it was something she had to do. She started off by crewing, and then joined a team to walk those 60 miles. After the first few years, her youngest son joined the Youth Corps to support her and last year, all three of her sons walked side-by-side with her as she continues to fight Stage IV breast cancer.

That diagnosis was the original reason she became a part of the 3-Day, because she wanted to meet others also battling Stage IV. She was looking for a “little hope” from a new support system, and the one she found has also become a support group for her boys.

“It has made me feel so proud, and I was so happy that they were getting an outlet as well. It makes me happy for them to see so many cancer survivors, because it gives them hope.”

20170509_122911Hope and passion are something Heather and her family have in spades, as is evidenced by their increasing involvement in the cause. This involvement begins, and continues, with fundraising.

Though her family was involved with her fundraising efforts “since day one,” that fundraising has grown and evolved over the years. In addition to her annual Mother’s Day canning event, Heather and her team also fundraise on their personal social media channels, at local restaurants, and with a motorcycle barbecue.

“We do a motorcycle ride every year where people pay to be part of a guided motorcycle ride, and then there is also a whole BBQ with live music and vendors. We’ve done it for a few years so almost everything is donated, and we raised around $3,500 last year. Then we had a few local companies do a $1,000 match as well, so we end up making even more for our team!”

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The key, she says, is to look professional, and take your fundraising as seriously as possible.

“You need to have posters and signs and dress in pink and present yourself well. Really try to look as legitimate as possible!”

It is the fundraising aspect that makes the 3-Day truly unique in Heather’s eyes.

“It’s amazing the people that you meet and how they touch your lives,” she says. “This raises so much wonderful money, and so much awareness for Stage IV. When you do the fundraising, you meet a lot of people. You touch a lot of people, and they touch you. You learn their stories! And then on the 3-Day you become a family.”

Morse is, of course, lucky to always have her own family on event with her. This is what she is looking forward to most for 2017; seeing her sons walk and captain the Youth Corps again. She can’t wait to watch them succeed along with her friends and breast cancer survivors.

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These wins, and positive successes, are part of what keeps her going year after year.

“The biggest thing in the world, and one of the ways you survive, is keeping your psychological part of your body healthy.  If you keep your mind healthy, that helps keep your body healthy. Being positive and keeping busy and active, I think plays a direct role in your physical health.”

That’s why you’ll see Heather out and moving with her family this weekend, and this coming 3-Day.

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.”