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

ryan II

“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.

IMG_4519.PNG

“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.”

ryan 6

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.”

ryan

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.

mom

“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.

ryan III.png

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.

FB_IMG_1494006896442

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.”

20160904_124745

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!”

FB_IMG_1491502215559

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.

20161119_154144

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.

Memory of a Mother: Mary Beth & Nicole

How would you describe your mother in just one word? If Mary Beth Nardoni had to be described in just one word, it would be kind. “She was a Special Ed teacher, and she had a heart of absolute gold. She started a Brownie troop for Special Ed students, because nobody else had the time to put it together. She got all of the uniforms donated, because most of the parents couldn’t afford them. At Christmas time, she made sure others had before we did. She would give you the shirt off her back,” said her daughter, Nicole.

It was 1998 when Mary Beth found a lump in her breast. “My mom said to me, ‘Cole, I feel something. And the crazy part is, I know it’s cancer.’” Because she didn’t have health insurance, Mary Beth couldn’t go to the doctor until several months later, where it was confirmed that her hunch was right: Mary Beth had breast cancer.

A deeply private person, Mary Beth didn’t want to concern herself with numbers, stages, or statistics. By the time she received treatment and had surgery to remove the tumor and her lymph nodes, the cancer had spread to a stage four. Yet Mary Beth refused to let her cancer get her down. “It’s just cancer, it doesn’t matter,” she would say, continually battling the disease with her head held high. Mary Beth battled for years, going in and out of remission.

Image

Mary Beth, throughout the years. Photos courtesy of Nicole Hercules

When Nicole was getting ready to leave for a long awaited vacation in Cancun, she heard that her mother wasn’t doing well after a procedure and considered cancelling her trip. When Mary Beth got wind of this, she quickly checked herself out of the hospital, told Nicole she was fine, and sent Nicole on her trip. As soon as Nicole was out of the country, Mary Beth checked herself back in to the hospital. She refused to let her illness affect her daughter’s vacation, later saying, “Don’t worry about me. It’s just cancer, and I didn’t want you to miss your trip.”

In March of 2004, Mary Beth fell down in a parking lot and broke her arm. She had been told she was in remission, but didn’t continue receiving scans as she didn’t have health insurance. When she broke her arm, she had bone scans and it was discovered that the cancer was back. Nicole flew to Oklahoma on April 1, and that’s when she learned her mother was dying. “On April 19 at 7:30 pm, I told the doctors to administer the morphine. On April 20, she passed away and I was there to hold her hand. I told her that I loved her. She gave me the greatest gift that day – because she was there to see me take my first breath, and I was there to see her last.”

It took Nicole a few years to heal, and she participated in her first Komen event, the Chicago Race for the Cure, in 2009. In 2010, she did her first 3-Day walk in Chicago. In 2011, she walked the 3-Day in Chicago and Dallas/Fort Worth, and then in 2013, Nicole’s dad passed away of lung cancer. The tragic loss of both of her parents prompted Nicole to walk all seven 3-Day events in 2014, and she was invited to speak at the Opening Ceremony about how cancer has personally affected her family.

2014_3DAY_SD_JF_0157

Nicole speaks at Opening Ceremony in a 2014 3-Day

Nicole’s sister was diagnosed with breast cancer in January, 2015. Her sister was HER2 positive, and is now in remission. Her sister will now be tested for the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 gene, and then Nicole can be tested, as well. (Insurance stipulations sometimes require positive test results from an immediate family member before the expensive test is covered.) Despite still waiting for the BRCA gene test, Nicole took preventative measures. “I became a previvor with a prophylactic double mastectomy on June 1st 2015. We lost an aunt to Ovarian cancer, and with my family, it was just too much.”

“It hasn’t been easy, choosing to have them taken off. I’ve had four surgeries, and necrosis, and a bunch of other stuff, but you know what? I’d take this any day over cancer.”

When faced with unimaginable loss, Nicole chose to stay and fight. In the past eight years, she has raised over $41,000 through the 3-Day, funding dozens of life-saving treatments and ground-breaking research. “I don’t do this because I think it’s fun or cute. I don’t do this to wear a pink tutu around town. That’s not why I do what I do. I do what I do so that my children will never have to hear, ‘you have breast cancer.’”

And that’s exactly why we do what we do, Nicole; so that you, your children, our children, our aunts, our mothers, our fathers, our friends, our sisters, or our brothers never have to hear, “you have breast cancer.”

3DAY_2016_Social_Text_Quote_NicoleHercules

This Mother’s Day, make the commitment to helping us end breast cancer forever. If you’re a first-time walker, use the code BYB16 by May 9th to receive a free round trip plane ticket to the 3-Day. If you last walked between 2008 and 2014, you may also be eligible for free airfare by using code SPRING16. Check your 3-Day email for details. You can also change your profile picture on your social media accounts to support moms everywhere, via Susan G. Komen. Click here to try it now.