2016 Susan G. Komen San Diego 3-Day Wrap-up

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On Friday morning, a brilliant blue-tinged sunrise illuminated the smiling faces of over 2,600 walkers ready to take the first steps of their 60-mile journey starting at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

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Towering palm trees lined the paths to the coast, as walkers breathed in fresh sea air on their way to the cheering stations and pit stops, which paved the way for our entrance into the idyllic Torrey Pines State Park, known notoriously for its giant hills but also its sweeping views.

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At mile 10.6, the UCSD Scripps Institute of Oceanography cheered us on with joyful enthusiasm and pompoms, and then it was on to lunch at Kellogg Park. Our final pit stops of the day, at La Jolla Lutheran Church and Christ Lutheran Church kept us fueled up with grahamwiches and sports drink, and we loved the La Jolla Cove seals, who barked as walkers selfied.

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After an amazing day of 20.5 miles, back in camp at Crown Point Shores Park, we were treated to a moving speech by survivor Heather, 7-time walker and currently battling stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room, and we all walked back to our tents inspired to pound the pavement strongly on Day 2.

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Walkers worked out their aches and pains the first few miles of Day 2 with photo opps with friendly creatures from Sea World! A barn owl, a screech owl, a porcupine, and a river otter were along the path, along with the Sea World Mascot, ready to strike a pose with our fabulous 3-Dayers.

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From Sea World it was past Robb and Ocean Beach Fields, and then Pit Stop 2, at the top of a scenic vista at Sunset View Elementary, leading to a wonderful downward stretch back along the coast.

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Lunch at Bonita Cova was muy bonita, and filled with amusements, from Chippendales dancer straight from Las Vegas, to thousands of vibrant Gerbera Daises being gifted to our strong walkers and crew. The San Diego Police Department also entertained us with a long and rockin’ dance party.

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The way out of lunch gifted us with friendly pets and licks from therapy dogs, and then onward to South Mission Beach Park and Belmont Park. img_9852

Pit Stop 4 at Fanuel Park was aloha, and as walkers hydrated and stretched, they said Mahalo to the Pit Stop and Aloha to the famous Cookie Lady, passing out hundreds of homemade cookies.

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The last two miles brought us through our inspiring Survivor Stretch, lined with the warriors of breast cancer, inspiring us to go on. Back in Camp, we honored and celebrated our 2016 Award Winners, and then danced the night away with our Youth Corps before retiring to our pink tents to drift off to dream of a world free of breast cancer forever.

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At 8:00 a.m. on Sunday, we were all on our way toward Pit Stop 1 at De Anza Cove, and then the jubilant cheering station at the Mission Bay Park Visitor Information Center. The South Shore Park housed our Pit Stop 2, which at 7.1 miles, was where blisters were treated by our handy medical crew, water bottles were refilled, and the Youth Corps cheered up tired walkers with silly jokes and their energetic cheering.

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From Pit Stop 2 we began our walk into Old Town San Diego, where we started the ascent up the fabled Juan Street hill, aided by local Mexican restaurants serving free chips and salsa.

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Though the hill was challenging, we were applauded by survivors carrying signs saying “People like you saved my life”, spectators passing out sliced pickles, and adorable dogs in pink shirts.

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We loved the mansions towering over San Diego on our way into lunch at Pioneer Park, where salads and sandwiches helped us get ready for our final four miles of the day.

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The stunning Balboa Park housed cheering stations and our Pit Stop 3, where we posed with bronze statues, stretched, and then snapped pictures at the beautiful mile 59 marker drawn in chalk before our final two miles into Waterfront Park.

After 15.6 miles on Day 3, we marched proudly into the twilight of Closing Ceremony, surrounded by sweeping palm trees and our loved ones. Dusk descended upon the 3,000 people gathered in the park, and Dr. Sheri and Amber Livingston told us the astounding news that with our 2,600 walkers and 350 crew, we raised $7.6 million dollars. As we hugged and celebrated and danced, our message rang loud and clear; that though our feet may ache, our spirit, our tenacity, and our dedication will live forever; through aches, and pain, and blisters. We are shouting loudly and proudly that in this fight, where we seek to live in a world free of breast cancer, WE WILL NEVER GIVE UP. Thank you, San Diego. We are so very proud of you.

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If you’re ready to be a part of this incredible journey again in 2017, sign up now for just $35 at The3Day.org/Register.

 

The San Diego 3-Day Coaches Talk About…The San Diego 3-Day Coaches!

They’re the helpful cheerleaders on the other end of the phone call or email when you have questions or concerns. They’re the smiling faces welcoming you and your teams at meet-ups and workshops and building up community excitement for the 3-Day. They’re the guiding hands leading the crew captains and teams to greatness. That’s right, they’re your Susan G. Komen 3-Day® coaches!

As we’ve prepared to return to each of the seven splendid 3-Day locations this year, we’ve been taking a few minutes to catch up with the coaches from each event. You’ve gotten to know them pretty well over the past couple of years on the 3-Day blog and this year, instead of letting them talk about themselves, I asked their fellow coaches to do it for them!

The San Diego coaches—Kim, Staci and Nanette—are the stars of the show today! Click here to see what we knew about them already, and keep reading to see what they each had to say about each other.

Staci, Kim, Nanette

Staci, Kim, Nanette

Kim (San Diego Local Events Coach)

“I first met Kim at a 3-Day training walk leader training that I was hosting here in San Diego. She was signed up for her very first 3-Day and already willing to take the next step to guide others in their journey. That’s Kim – always willing to jump in with both feet! She is chock full of positive energy, with a radiant smile that reassures you it’s all going to be okay, and she’s not afraid to get her hands dirty and is a quick and creative problem-solver.” – Staci

“Kim has been my partner in crime as we tag team various tasks and events across the country. She’s great at cultivating relationships with participants and encourages teams to grow.  Kim’s dedication to her own team is amazing and she will do anything for you, even loan you her car if yours won’t start.” – Nanette

Staci (San Diego Participant Support Coach)

“Staci keeps us on track and is highly knowledgeable and organized. She’s the anchor to our team as she covers home base when Kim and I are out of the office. Staci has deep relationships with so many of our participants and we’re all grateful for her ability to make everyone feel super special.” – Nanette

“Staci has a passion for the 3-Day that I have admired from the first time I met her. I am so taken by her kindness, and I owe most of what I know about the 3-Day to Staci. Staci is a quiet but mighty force with an incredible knowledge of everything 3-Day. She is soft spoken, gentle, kind, quietly funny and so smart. Staci is incredible at helping all of our travelling participants and our local ones with every question they can come up with. She is calm, sweet, caring and so knowledgeable!” – Kim

Nanette (San Diego Crew & Volunteer Coordinator)

“Nanette is energetic, outgoing and a tiny yet mighty leader. She couldn’t love her crew more and it shows with every interaction. Nanette has a knack with the crew and can manage all the moving parts with style, grace and a great sense of humor. And often she needs that sense of humor during the event. I love that we get to work and play not just for the San Diego 3-Day, but also as travel companions while staffing other 3-Days. I love laughing with her and always looking for new adventurous places to eat! It’s kind of a thing for us to find great places to eat in each city.” – Kim

“Nanette has a calm and capable demeanor that helps keep our team well-grounded. It’s clear on the event that our crew members feel empowered under her guidance and that they fully trust her intuition.  Nan and I share a love for the excitement that comes while cheering walkers onto the route each morning from camp!” – Staci

 

Do you know the San Diego 3-Day coaches? How would you describe these fabulous ladies?

Male Breast Cancer: Rare but Real. Meet the Gillers.

Lee and Kathy Giller have been married for 35 years, making their home in Akron, Ohio. Lee and Kathy’s story is similar to many in our 3-Day community: a strong, loving partnership, an inspirational fight, and a family forever changed by a breast cancer diagnosis. However, there’s one unusual twist to this story. It’s not Kathy who has breast cancer—it’s Lee.

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“Lee was first diagnosed in 2005 after feeling a small lump in his breast. Even though we knew men could face breast cancer, it didn’t occur to either of us that this is what he might have. In fact, he first went to a dermatologist thinking the lump was just a cyst,” said Kathy. “The day Lee came home and told us that he had breast cancer, we and our children just huddled in embrace and cried. Cancer is still such a frightening word and is fraught with so many dark thoughts. But once we got past the initial shock and fear, we circled our wagons and began the fight of our lives.”

Like many who face the same diagnosis, Lee had a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. As Lee was finishing up his treatments, his daughter Pamela asked if he wanted to join her for a breast cancer walk. “At first, I was a little offended that Pam didn’t ask if I wanted to participate with them,” said Kathy. “But then she explained that the walk was 60 miles and you camped out and I knew why I wasn’t included! This was something far out of my realm. But it didn’t take me long to decide that if Lee could go through everything he had faced, then I should be able to walk 60 miles and even camp out.”

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While the thought of walking and camping were daunting for Kathy, she was most concerned about the fundraising. It’s no secret that at the 3-Day, we ask you to raise $2,300, an ambitious but reachable goal, and an amount that makes a huge impact in the fight against breast cancer. Luckily, Kathy said that fundraising was the easiest part, thanks to the generosity of family and friends. “We’re often asked how we raise so much money and the answer I always give is that like breast cancer, I’m relentless. I ask everyone, I’m persistent, and I always express our heartfelt gratitude. Fundraising is nothing more than a conversation, sharing your personal story. If you are compelling and sincere, people will respond.”

Just six months after Lee finished treatment, team Breast Man Walking walked 60 miles in the Boston 3-Day, using the slogan “Male breast cancer: Rare but Real” to spread awareness with every step. The Gillers have been walking since 2006: with family, their children, Pamela, Annie, and Jay, and a dear friend, Nancy Schrader, whom they met when she was walking on the 3-Day solo.

The Gillers registered for the 2016 San Diego 3-Day, which would mark their 19th walk, but unfortunately, the Gillers will not be able to join us us in San Diego this year. Since his recurrence in 2012, Lee is Stage IV and now fighting cancer in his lungs, bones, liver and brain. While we’re walking on the San Diego 3-Day, the Giller family will be close to Lee’s side, but they are hopeful to return to the 3-Day next year.

Susan G. Komen walkers gear up and take on Day 1 for breast cancer awareness.

After Lee’s diagnosis, he decided to have genetic testing. Being male, aged 48, and Jewish were all red flags that his cancer was hereditary. Lee learned that he was BRCA positive, which meant that there was a 50% chance his three children could have the same mutation. At first, only his daughter Pamela wanted to be tested. She discovered that she also had the same BRCA1 mutation. She was monitored very closely, beginning mammograms and breast ultrasounds at the age of 25. “Then one day when she was just 28 years old, we received a call that no parent could ever imagine. She said, “Mom, I have some good news and some bad news. I have breast cancer, but it was caught early.”

Pamela had a bi-lateral mastectomy but did not need further treatment, and just this past year, had a preventative removal of her ovaries, called an oophorectomy. “Once Pam was diagnosed with breast cancer, our other two children immediately understood how real this disease was. They were both tested for the BRCA1 mutation. Our son has it but our other daughter does not. Unfortunately, there is no protocol for screening men who are BRCA-positive. Self-exams and clinical breast exams are the only recommendations,” explained Kathy.

Kathy’s dear friend Nancy describes Kathy as unstoppable. “Being a co-survivor for both Lee and Pamela has been a labor of love. She will do anything for them, and does. She is passionate about her fundraising because she wants a cure!” said Nancy. Kathy is applauded in the 3-Day community as a fierce advocate for male breast cancer awareness, and has raised a whopping $340,000 since 2006, and over $50,000 this year alone. Kathy’s team has raised almost a half a million dollars since 2006. As Lee’s primary caretaker, Kathy, along with Lee and her family, have made enormous contributions, and not just in fundraising. Kathy avidly encourages the inclusion of the word “men” anytime women and breast cancer are mentioned, and these victories have been evident to those who are close to this cause.

“For those people who think not enough has been done to advance breast cancer research, I would say that of course, we always need more. We still haven’t found the cure. But we have come a long way and Lee is living proof of that. When he was diagnosed with his recurrence 4 years ago, he was told that the average life span would be about 26 months. He’s still here. He still has many treatment options. This would not be the case if it weren’t for organizations like Komen and others who have dedicated themselves to fighting this disease.”

While it is both tragic and unfair that Kathy’s family has been so personally hit by breast cancer, we know that her contributions, while working alongside her family, have changed the public awareness of breast cancer in innumerable ways. We are continuously grateful to warriors like Kathy, Lee, Pamela, Annie, Jay, and Nancy for coming together, to shine a light for families in their darkest times. We all long for a day when breast cancer is just a thing of the past, and new patients can be treated quickly, effectively, and cured. But until then, Kathy reminds us that while we have made so much progress, we must still stay and fight, because: “Breast cancer is an equal opportunity employer: any age, any gender, any color. Be diligent.”

Susan G. Komen walkers gear up and take on Day 3 for breast cancer awareness.