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.

Meet Gwynne M., 3-Dayer and Recruiter Extraordinaire

All it takes is a little spark of inspiration to start a whole movement. If you need proof of that statement, Gwynne is the perfect example. This year will be only her second one walking in the 3-Day, and she has already single handedly recruited 25 people to her team, Gwynne’s Friends. She’s also already surpassed her fundraising minimum. And she still has more than six months until she walks the San Diego 3-Day. Imagine where she’ll be by November!

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Gwynne first became introduced to Susan G. Komen’s efforts in 2012 when her friends participated in the Race for the Cure in her honor. That same year, she had a bilateral mastectomy, finished up chemo and underwent radiation all due to a Triple Negative breast cancer diagnosis.

Four years later, in 2016, Gwynne decided to get more personally involved and signed up for the Philadelphia 3-Day. Gwynne’s Friends came back to life as a team! Shortly after signing up, however, Gwynne learned that her cancer was back, and was metastatic, Stage IV breast cancer.

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“I started treatment and my training all in the same month. We had a total of six people on our team and after completing the 24-week training program, we walked.”

With her friends by her side, Gwynne took on the 3-Day.

“I couldn’t believe the number of people that were there cheering us on. I had a catheter hanging out the side of my chest and my feet were peeling from the chemo but I managed to walk about 55 of the 60 miles. It was amazing. There was such excitement and spirit between the walkers, crew and community that you hardly realized you were walking all day.”

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She says that training was a huge credit to her success last year, especially her long weekend training walks.

“It is so much easier when you have someone to walk with. One weekend my nephews were visiting and we had them rotate and walk a mile with us and then switch. They loved it! Many of my friends would join me to walk while I was training.”

Just getting the word out made a huge difference., Gwynne said that once people knew she was walking the 3-Day, she was amazed at the amount of support, training companions and donations she received. It also made a huge difference in her personal motivation.

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“When you’re undergoing chemotherapy and the doctors are telling you that you’re terminal, having a goal to walk in a 3-Day has such a positive impact on you emotionally and physically.”

That motivation led her to sign up for the 3-Day again in 2017.

“I decided to sign up for the San Diego 3-Day. Sun, sand and the ocean. What more could you want when walking? I put the word out to my team members, and a couple of them decided to join, along with my husband.”

She utilized the “Bring Your Bestie” Promotion to gather friends from out of town as well! Though she had previously walked in Philadelphia, she used social media to encourage friends to make the trip West with her.

 

“I created a video that started with a little chat about me and some photos from our 3-Day walk in Philadelphia the year before. In the video, I invited anyone who wanted to join us in San Diego. and if they couldn’t join us I asked for them to donate. Then I posted it on Facebook. I was so humbled by the outcome. I raised all my donations in one week and we now have 25 team members!”

Soon friends, cousins, sisters and sister in laws joined. And then their friends joined along with them.

“That’s what friends do,” Gwynne said simply. “They support each other. The 3-Day is family, friends, community, volunteers and LOVE!”

Walk on, Gwynne.

 

Sister, Sister: Meet Angela and Shelly

The bond between sisters is truly unique and special, but the bond between “Titsters” is even deeper! Just ask Angela and Shelly, a sister duo who are part of the 3 Day family. Angela is currently battling breast cancer, and Shelly walks for Team Titster in the Twin Cities 3-Day in her honor.

From a young age, these two were joined at the hip, which meant Angela getting all her hair cut off when Shelly wanted to play “beauty parlor” or putting on plays and concerts together in their neighborhood. These “Titsters,” Angela’s childhood name for her sister, have been there for each other through it all.

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That journey and support also includes Angela’s ongoing fight with breast cancer, one that Shelly has been a part of since Angela’s diagnosis. Angela was initially diagnosed with cancer when she was seven months pregnant, and her sister “was there immediately to ensure she was there for the birth of my baby girl and to hold my hand during my first chemotherapy. During that chemotherapy, all we did was laugh at videos, reminisce on memories, and I think about that more than being sick after the treatment.”

“After I completed my treatment after my first round of breast cancer, I went to a pretty dark place. The mental and physical struggle after treatment can be more challenging than anything. Woman and men feel more alone than ever. They have constant help, messages, and support during treatment, but what happens after is way more crucial. During treatment, we are in survival mode and cannot fully comprehend that we are going through cancer. Once treatment is done, the messages and help dwindle but the pain is still there. Our body is adjusting and still combatting the toll of chemotherapy, surgeries and radiation. Mentally, we never recover. The constant thought of recurrence always lingers and life is never the same. At the same time, we gain strength in a different way and look at the world and see that life is a gift. We cherish memories differently, we see the kindness of family and our community, and know that every day counts.”

Angela’s treatment will continue for the rest of her life, as she was diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer in January of 2016. Stage IV research made up nearly 40% of Susan G. Komen’s overall research investment in 2016, with more than $166 million in funding for over 400 research grants and more than 40 clinical trials focused on metastatic disease to date. Aside from research and monetary support, Angela says she is constantly amazed by the support she receives from her family and even the community at large.

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“What is so enlightening with all these clinical trials is that everything is so new at this point. And it is scary regardless, but what I like to tell people is that every day is a gift, but also a battle. Cancer is not going to control my life. It’s always going to be a part of me, but it does not define me.

“I’m also confident that I will live my life to inspire people and show people that despite being diagnosed with cancer, it doesn’t define you. I keep a happy journal, and at the end of every day I write my favorite part of the day, whether it’s a wonderful moment with my kids or a great conversation with my sister.”

3day20153Angela also credits Shelly as her rock, even from states away.

“The bond I have with my sister has helped me tremendously with this struggle and she truly showcases the bond that sisters have. She was there to comfort me and help me understand this it’s okay to still cry, but more importantly to laugh. We live in different states and I know that signing up for the 3-Day was just another way to show that she’s always there to face my battles with me, even if we cannot do it together.”

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Part of Shelly’s support has come through her involvement in the 3-Day, which began as a crew member and has continued as a walker and fundraiser for the team she formed last year, Team Titster. Her first year on the 3-Day was a monumental one.

“When I signed up to be in the crew, part of the sign-up mentioned possibly being a part of the Opening or Closing Ceremony, speaking and carrying the sister flag,” Shelly explained when talking about speaking at her first walk. “The day before the walk at Crew Training, I met a bunch of very friendly, fun gals, who when I spoke on stage the next morning, cheered me on, even though I was nervous, and even though I was a stranger to them up until the day before. That has been my experience with everyone connected to the walk. Just good people.”

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For her second year with the 3 Day, Shelly took to the trails and walked in her sister’s honor.

“When I decided to walk the next year, I was a little intimidated by the fundraising. But I found that when I reached out to my network to let them know why I was walking, and asked them to consider donating, people were more than willing to support me and Angie and the cause. I also found that almost every one of them had a connection to breast cancer. That alone is sad, but it motivated me even more to walk for those who also had loved ones battling or had battled the disease.”

Shelly helped her fundraising cause by casting a wide net for her initial email ask with a link to her page, along with a write up about Angela and a picture of “my little sister hero.” She also writes a 3-Day blog and shares that along with thank you cards to all her supporters to help them feel like they were there for her journey along the 60 miles.

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When she started Team Titster in her third year on the 3-Day, Shelly expanded her fundraising email list and worked on her social media to raise even more. She targeted her competitive spirit and eventually raised more than $2,000 more than her first year. She was also the #7 Top Fundraiser for the Twin Cities 3-Day.

This success is no surprise to Angela, who has always been inspired and supported by their sisterhood.

“Shelly has always been my role model, and is someone that I’m inspired to be like. She is always the first person I want to talk to when I’m having a bad day, but more importantly, I want to talk to her in my great days.”

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The love is certainly mutual, with Shelly calling Angela a super hero.

“Angie is small in stature but big in personality, perseverance and mostly in heart. She is feisty and fun, outgoing and stubborn, and those are all things we have in common. […] I realize that I have the best sister in the world. She doesn’t judge me, she’s been there for me when others have not been, and I am so proud of her in every way possible. Angie is my heart.”

That heart is going to finally experience the 3-Day for the first time this year. Angela will be making the trip from Chicago to the Twin Cities 3-Day in 2017 to cheer on Team Titster, which Shelly hopes to grow this year as well.

“I’m excited to be there the first time to cheer on my sister and Team Titster!” Angela enthuses. “I’m also happy to be able to volunteer and see the 3-Day. I’m thrilled and a bit nervous for the emotional experience but more importantly, I can’t wait to see and listen to the inspiring stories, and to hold the hands of Team Titster and fellow walkers.

“I know this walk means a lot to Shelly, and I know that every mile she walks, she truly is walking in my shoes to take some of the pain away. I’ve always looked up to my sister. She has more determination, heart and spirit than anyone I’ve ever met. I’ve also come to realize that those qualities are what inspires me to fight harder every day.”

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Shelly echoes that determination, saying that the 3-Day is “emotional (lots of crying, both happy and heart wrenching), challenging (walking and training to walk 60 miles is no easy feat), and unforgettable (experiences and memories that are priceless and make you want to come back).”

Both Angela and Shelly will continue to come back as walkers, volunteers or supporters, until a cure is found.

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“There is still no cure for breast cancer,” Shelly states simply. “That in itself gives me purpose and determination to keep doing the walks. My favorite button on my 3-Day water pack is ‘Every Blister Saves a Sister.’ I am prone to blisters, no matter how much training I do, (last year, I had 11 by the end of Day 3) so walking until there is a cure is something I feel like I can do, and will try to keep doing until there is no more breast cancer. Blisters do not hurt, physically or emotionally, as much as cancer does. And of course, my sister inspires me, not just to do the walk, but she inspires me every day.”

The power of sisterhood on the 3-Day is real, and every step makes a difference.