I Walk for Mary Beth: Linda Harris’ 3-Day Story

“We meet people every day; it is important to pay attention to the ones who will make an impact. We all have a warrior in us, but I know my fight started with Mary Beth. She was the one.”

Linda H. began walking the 3-Day in 2012, and since then has joined our pink family everywhere from Michigan to San Diego to the Twin Cities this past year. She has walked and crewed and has supported Susan G. Komen’s mission throughout the years even when she’s not on one of our 3-Day weekends. This commitment didn’t happen by accident.

In 2012, she never thought she’d be able to walk 60 miles. But then she met Mary Beth L., and everything changed. Linda walks for Mary Beth, and for all of those in her life who have felt the cruel impact of breast cancer. She will never quit. After honoring Mary Beth at our Twin Cities 3-Day this past August, Linda shared her full story with us.

How did you first come to join the 3-Day?

About 10 years ago I was sitting at my son’s football practice. I had become friendly with one of the moms, Mary Beth, through our sons. We had met years earlier, but we only really started to get to know each other through football. Then one day, I noticed this well put together woman had extremely ugly feet. Not necessarily ugly, but blisters and toenails missing!

“Excuse me, I have to ask: What is going on with your feet?!”

She laughed and said, “I just completed the Susan G. Komen 3-Day.”

My heart immediately began to race! That was something that I had always wanted to do. She began to tell me that she had walked for years but had been diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer, so this past walk was especially meaningful to her.

All I could say was, “You just walked 60 miles AND you have cancer?”

I had always told myself that I was too busy or could never complete 60 miles in 3 days. This was the push I needed. I was meant to meet Mary Beth. I immediately went home and signed up. Over the course of training and fundraising we became extremely close. We shared our work obstacles, talked about our marriages and children all while she was undergoing surgeries, chemo, radiation and reconstruction. She had cancer but she always seemed to be helping me and taking care of others. Her smile, laughter and amazing outlook on life were contagious.

In 2012 we walked together in the Michigan 3-Day. It was absolutely life changing. The tears, laughter, pain and the emotional experience bonded us together FOREVER. After completing the walk, we both decided to crew together the next year.

And how did your and Mary Beth’s 3-Day journeys grow from there?

In early November 2012, I saw a post on Facebook from Mary Beth.

“Well, it looks like I am walking this year.”

I realized this was her way of telling us that the cancer was back. I jumped in my car to be by her side. She was extremely positive and always wanted to be strong for those who were around her. So, Mary Beth and I signed up to walk again, positive that we would walk together for years to come. We trained and spent time watching old movies and laughing. I remember so much laughing 😊

In retrospect, she was giving me her story to carry on what she had started.

My dear friend lost her battle with cancer on May 15, 2013, at the age of 39. She supported the Susan G. Komen organization until her dying breath. She was passionate about the cure and believed the research that this organization does will not only find a cure for breast cancer but pave the road to end all cancer. So, I will walk until I no longer am able to.

Mary Beth leaves behind a legacy of walkers who believe in her vision. Her amazing parents have supported me every year with encouragement and very generous donations. They have even donated to my teammates who were struggling to meet their goal.

In addition to Mary Beth, for whom do you walk?

I walk for my teammates and lifelong “Sisters in Walking Bonds” friends.

Andrea S.K., who has walked the 3-Day twice now. Karry C., who has walked with me four consecutive years and her beautiful daughter Lexi, who walked with us for the first time this year.

Colleen S. has also walked with me four times. She was diagnosed a few months prior to our San Diego walk last year, but she scheduled her radiation around the walk and didn’t let it stop her. I am proud to say she is now cancer-free!

I walk for my beautiful sister Lisa, who was diagnosed with breast cancer. She is also cancer-free today. I walk for all those who cannot. There will be a day in our lifetime, a WORLD WITHOUT CANCER.

What are some of your fondest 3-Day memories from years past?

Walking with Mary Beth in 2012 and in 2015 with my best friend since kindergarten to support her mom, who had just been diagnosed. I flew to Dallas, and my husband and son went with me ❤ Her mom is now cancer-free! And then, of course in 2019, speaking to the 3-Day community about why I started walking for Mary Beth, and raising the flag in her honor.

As a long-time walker, do you have any training tips for new walkers?

Train outside (always!), and train at least 5 miles at a time. Strength training is key, too! It helps with breathing and muscle memory helps with hills.

Any tried and true fundraising tips?

Email your target contributor with the intention of just saying, “I’m walking!” Make it personal and ask if you may send them the link. If you ask instead of just sending, 99 times out of 100 they will ask for it.

What does the word “commitment” mean to you?

Commitment to me, it is a part of my heart. It’s not an obligation. It’s who I am.

“Dear Cancer, you lose…”: Meet Survivor and First-Time 3-Dayer, Sylvia G.

If I had to write a letter to cancer it would read, “Dear Cancer, you lose…”

Sylvia just finished five and a half weeks of radiation after being diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after her 40th birthday. Though she initially was shocked and numbed by her diagnosis, she gathered her family and friends around her and got “gangsta with cancer” by refusing to let it stop her from living her life and celebrating every minute of it.

Now, after finishing her radiation, she says, “I am feeling strong and just getting settled into my new normal. The silver lining throughout this process has been to just really LIVE because you never know! And of course, if you’re busy living, you have less time to worry about the small (or big) stuff.”

She is on the other side of one part of her breast cancer journey, but that doesn’t mean the journey is over. After her diagnosis, Sylvia did research into all of the work that Susan G. Komen does to support survivors and those living with breast cancer. This, in turn, led her to the 3-Day. She signed up immediately for the New England 3-Day and will be driving in from her hometown of Pelham, New York to walk in her first-ever 3-Day at our New England 3-Day in September. She’s already fundraised more than $3,500 and is continuing to spread the word about the 3-Day and breast health. To say that breast cancer hasn’t slowed her down is an understatement! But don’t take it from us! Sylvia is here to share her story in her own words…

Tell us your breast cancer story…

I had just turned 40 when my world was turned upside down. I received a call I never expected.

“You have breast cancer.”

And just like that I was numb. The music stopped, and the party was over.

While still in shock, my family immediately took me to my mom’s breast surgeon. She had just finished treatment for stage 1 breast cancer the year before and was a total champion throughout it all, I might add. I was able to get positive preliminary information specific to my breast cancer which helped me start to feel the ground a bit.

We decided to go for several other opinions with breast surgeons and reconstruction surgeons. After choosing the team I felt most comfortable with, we opted for the nipple sparing double mastectomy with reconstructive surgery. My diagnosis after surgery ended up being stage 2 breast cancer that had spread to one lymph node. I learned that I would have to have four rounds of chemo plus radiation.

In the days leading up to my first round of chemo, I kept reflecting on how blessed I am to live in a time of so many medical breakthroughs as well as options for treatment of breast cancer. This is when I realized that I needed to be part of helping to continue these advancements and fight to end breast cancer.

And how did this journey lead you to the 3-Day?

I had read online about Susan G. Komen and how much they have done for research, education, screening and treatment. I knew I had found the right match for my mission to bring us closer to a cure so that so many other people, including my children, will not have to suffer through this. I was gearing up to get gangsta with cancer!

And you have! You’ve been very successful with your fundraising efforts!

I immediately started my fundraising by following all the tips on the 3-Day website. Posting on Facebook, personally emailing all my family and friends, remembering to always send thank you emails as well as follow up emails and telling people about corporate matching gifts. At the end of the day, I really am so blessed to have generous and caring people in my life, some of who also have been impacted by this disease, and I am forever grateful for their support.

Though I have had success in fundraising there does come a point that you have to get creative to be able to keep getting donations outside of just family and friends. One way is to go through all your contacts and see who has a business or works for a company that can partner up with you to create a fundraiser. This in turn allows you to use their resources and reach a larger audience to support your cause.

So far, I am very proud of how much I’ve been able to raise, and I am really looking forward to meeting other survivors, hearing their stories of fearlessness, as well as bonding with my team. I can only imagine that feeling of accomplishment after finishing the 3-Day walk!

What are some of your other 3-Day goals?

I want to reach as many people as possible and remind them of the importance of getting regular mammograms because early detection of breast cancer can make the disease easier to treat. I will also continue to stay focused on my health and positivity so that I can be my best self.

I still have a long way to go but since becoming a survivor I don’t think I can ever justify sweating the small stuff.

I have been dealt a couple bad hands but at the end I plan on winning the game!

The Insider’s Guide to the 3-Day – Every Step is a Journey

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Welcome to the Insider’s Guide to the 3-Day! If you’re not sure what you’re in for, let us tell you!

If you haven’t read our earlier installments, you can check them out here:

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No one is better qualified to add to our Insider’s Guide than 3-Day Coach Gina, who has walked the Michigan 3-Day, and now leads both the Michigan and Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day as our Crew & Volunteer Coordinator. Gina is also a breast cancer survivor, and deep supporter of every member of our 3-Day family, from walkers to crew to Youth Corps and beyond. She is sharing her personal memories and 3-Day journey with us, in the hopes that her story might inspire others to join our family.

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Getting Ready: 3-Day Fundraising

  • Ask everyone…and then ask again! Never doubt how much family and friends want to support you on your 3-Day journey. For participants, “the ask” isn’t easy, but you are asking for a cause you believe in, so allow donors to see your passion and how much you are willing to do in this fight.
  • Whether or not a person donates, ask them to forward your email onto their family and friends…And watch your donor circle grow. Always remember that follow-up is key!
  • Utilize social media and have fun with it. Try a Ten Dollar, or Twenty Dollar Tuesday, “I am walking for…” Wednesday, High Five Dollar Friday…the possibilities are endless. Create that sense of urgency and enjoy the process of connecting with folks while watching your fundraising grow.
  • Double (even triple) your fundraising dollars with a matching gift. Check out our matching gift page at The3Day.org/Matching for detailed instructions. Simply ask every donor, “Does your company participate in a matching gift program?” That $25 donation might become a $50 donation!

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Getting Ready: 3-Day Training

  • Follow the suggested training program and make it your own. Given everyone’s busy schedules, it might seem daunting when you look at the entire 24-week or 16-week training schedule. Take it week by week and get the miles in when you can.
  • A lunchtime or evening walk (once it’s not so hot!) is always good. You’ll probably find that the weekends will be when you train the most, but this will differ from person to person. For me, it was important that I saw my mileage increase each week, not necessarily my number of training walks.
  • Look for official training walks being led in your area at org/TrainingWalks. These are led by 3-Day training walk leaders and are an excellent way to train, meet fellow walkers and have some good ‘ole 3-Day fun!

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And then it begins…Friday morning on the 3-Day

You cannot deny the buzz in the air the morning of the Opening Ceremony. Excitement, nervousness, anticipation, lots of moving pieces…And lots of PINK! Get your tissues ready (or at least I did!) once the Opening Ceremony begins, because it’s an experience like no other. An experience that sets the stage for your three days ahead.

Taking on 60 miles!

To say you are fully supported on the 3-Day route is an understatement.

From the pit stops, where you refuel and rehydrate to the Porta-Potties, where you…well, you know! The cheering stations where families, the community and strangers who are now friends come out to cheer on walkers and sprinkle encouragement through their words and signs.

I must give a shout out to our all-volunteer and all-around amazing Crew. Crew members commit to all three days like the walkers and experience a different kind of 3-Day. You will find Crew around every turn, and at camp, making sure walkers are fully supported. At pit stops, the lunch stop, and patrolling the route on motorcycles and bicycles. Crew sets up camp, hauls participants’ gear. Medical Crew makes sure participants are happy and healthy all weekend.

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One of the high points for me personally is seeing the Youth Corps, our friends in yellow. These are youth who commit to serving the walkers throughout the weekend. To see these kids and teens giving their time and energy to the fight against breast cancer really speaks to our future.

If I can sum up my experience it’s that I remember, at times, thinking, “I cannot walk another step.” Then I would look around, see my fellow walkers, and the support, and I would realize that walking is the easy part and we keep going because hearing the words, “you have breast cancer” will forever change a person’s life.

Camp: A More Than Pink Sleepover!

Camp is otherwise known as the fabulous “pink bubble.” Coming from a non-camper, this is not the camping I would normally think of. The word “glamping” is much more like it, and even then, I am always amazed the detail that goes into making sure 3-Day participants are made to feel welcome and comfortable all weekend.

Your pink tent will be your home away from home, and you’ll eat a yummy breakfast and dinner in the dining tent. My advice is to immerse yourself in the 3-Day campsite; it’s really part of your experience. Watch the camp show, visit 3-Day Main Street, and shower in the shower trucks. It’s a memorable experience like no other.

Just like on the route, you are fully supported and won’t want to leave this sweet bubble of love and kindness. Alas, Sunday will arrive, you’ll bid farewell to camp, pack up your belongings and be reunited with your gear at the Participant Finish Area.

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Closing Ceremony and the morning after…

For me, the last day of the 3-Day is bittersweet. Walking into the Closing Ceremony is indescribable. Since each participant has their own reason for participating in the 3-Day, each participant might have a different feeling when they take their final steps of the Victory Walk from the Participant Finish Area into the Closing Ceremony.

I always feel the walkers and crew of the 3-Day are part of a special group, bound together by their passion, enthusiasm and drive to make a difference in the fight against breast cancer. I will never give up, and you will feel this drive and passion from the moment you register for your 3-Day journey, too!

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