“The General” Marches On

Gwen M. (aka "The General") smiles on Day 1 of the Boston 3-Day in 2013

Gwen M. (aka “The General”) smiles on Day 1 of the Boston 3-Day in 2013.

When the women said, “This is The General,” I had to ask. “Gwen here works as an access nurse at Mass General for newly diagnosed breast cancer patients” her friends responded. Gwen M, from Boston, has been working in a key position at The Gillette Center for Breast Cancer,  caring for women at a time when there are unanswered questions and an unknown future.

Gwen is surrounded by a solid group of wild women on the Susan G. Komen Boston 3-Day and by chance I was photographing in Cambridge on Day 3 at a cheering station when Gwen waltzed in. She immediately pulled Nancy P. (an original member of their team “Wild Women Originals” and cancer survivor) out of her wheelchair and waltzed with her!

Gwen M. (aka “The General”) dances with close friend, cancer survivor, and original member of “Wild Women Originals” Nancy P. on the Boston 3-Day 2013.

Thank you Gwen for your inspiration, warm smile and dedication!

Outside the Pink Tent

A walker takes down her tent on the Susan G. Komen Boston 3-Day®.

A walker takes down her tent on the Susan G. Komen Boston 3-Day®.

After yesterday’s hot weather that had so many walkers finding water at new, makeshift stops, this morning’s mood was calm with a hint of satisfaction. I moved through camp as I have for the last few days, somewhere between a visitor and a photographer. My position in relation to the walkers is one of allowance. They permit me there, possibly so they can get a photograph in the slideshows or possibly because they want to feel like someone from the “outside” has seen them amid hundreds of others, someone unique in a sea of so many similar stories. But of course, they are unique, and the uniqueness of each story — every one — is overwhelming to someone who is invited to listen to them and watch their movement of 60 miles by foot over three days.

A Susan G. Komen Boston 3-Day® walker suits up in her tent on the last day

A Susan G. Komen Boston 3-Day® walker suits up in her tent on the last day.

I am grateful for it, and admittedly, we are both exposed. The walkers to the elements, to each other, and most difficult sometimes, to the camera. I find myself exposed as well. I wear the dark grays and blacks of a staff member; they wear pinks. I am a man; a large percentage of them are women. I am not often walking with them; they are pushing up hills in 95 degree weather. I stand out and I am identified by most on Day 3 as a photographer. There is no hiding. My movement around their tents, around the only sacred space for three days, leaves me careful with the camera and whom I approach. It’s a delicate balance with those who want to talk more this morning and those who are quiet, and anticipating the long journey into the heart of Boston, the final destination of this powerful movement of people.

Encouraged By Dear Friends

Kevin Barry and Jenny D'Amato rest during lunch.

Kevin Barry and Jenny D’Amato rest during lunch.

Kevin Barry was watching TV in his Phoenix home when a story about the Susan G. Komen 3-Day® came on TV. Any other year, this may not have caused him to think, but in 2002, his sweet wife had passed away after a nine and a half year battle with breast cancer, and he felt moved to do something. She was diagnosed only six weeks after his daughter was born in 1988, and her passing came just before their daughter’s 8th grade graduation. He walked his first Komen 3-Day in Arizona. The Boston 3-Day this weekend is his 17th walk.

Kevin Berry's pink puffs ride atop his pink running shoes.

Kevin Barry’s pink puffs ride atop his pink running shoes.

Why the Boston 3-Day? Kevin and Jenny D’Amato from Philadelphia struck up a friendship on a previous 3-Day® (as so many walkers do!), and they keep in touch. It was Jenny who encouraged Kevin to fly to Boston and to participate in the cause that is so dear to the Bostonians. Even though Jenny is from Philadelphia, she is connected to friends in the area and is motivated by a close friend from college who is currently battling breast cancer.

The world of the 3-Day knits together people from all over, a touching reminder to me that we are all connected in the fight to find a cure for breast cancer.