The Deepwater Dames and the Heli-Deck Walk

Every once in a while, we hear a story from one of our Susan G. Komen 3-Day participants that really captures our imagination. That reminds us, “We are part of something really, truly special.” When Michelle Yelovina told us the story of her team, the Deepwater Dames, and how they commemorated the 2020 Chicago 3-Day that wasn’t, we knew we had to share it with all of you.

We’ll let Michelle tell it in her own words.

“I’m team captain for the Deepwater Dames. We are a team of women who work offshore on an oil drilling ship in the Gulf of Mexico. Normally I walk alone and have been supported and sponsored for the last 10 years by my coworkers out here (I’m offshore now). Last year while I walked the San Diego 3-Day, one of the rigs I was formerly on held their own “3-Day helideck walk.” They walked laps around the deck where the helicopter lands (23 laps make a mile). They logged the miles and the captain and clients pledged $1 a mile. As a group the crew walked a total of 242 miles during those three days and raised almost $3,500 for me.

“This year I recruited some of the ladies I work with (there are just a few) and we formed the team Deepwater Dames aka DD’s. I was supposed to walk in Chicago this year, but as you know it’s not happening. So we decided to have the captain of our vessel (Asgard) challenge the vessel that walked “with” me last year (Proteus). The challenge was to see who could walk the most miles and who could raise the most money. The challenge would take place September 11-13 (the dates that the Chicago 3-Day was to take place). I wanted to be a part of the Virtual Kick-Off, but our internet connection out here is spotty at best so I wasn’t able to.

“I started doing these 3-Day walks in 2008. I wanted to see if I could walk the 60 miles and thought the whole idea was really cool. My mother’s best friend had died from breast cancer and I adored her. So I walked Michigan and only did 50 miles. So in 2010 I tried again in Boston and only walked 37 miles. In 2012 I was determined to walk all 60 if I had to crawl across the finish line. And I did it!!!! I met an amazing woman whom I walked most of that journey with and she had done two walks back to back. When I finished the walk she was there and asked me what I was going to do now that I had made my goal and walked all 60, to which I replied, ‘I’ll walk two in one year.’

“I signed up for the Cleveland and Tampa 3-Days in 2013. On my Cleveland walk I met George Nummer, who slowed down to walk with me because he saw I was struggling. He asked me if I had gotten a mammogram. I was only 37, young for a mammogram, but still promised him that I would get one, thinking it would be a good baseline for when I turned 40. I walked all 60 miles in Cleveland, went to Tampa and walked all 60 there as well.

“I made an appointment with my doctor after my insurance kicked in as I had just started a new job. I told her the story and she ordered the mammogram so I could keep my promise to George. I received the call later that night. After seeing my results, my doctor referred me to a specialist. I had a biopsy and the results showed I had DCIS.

Caught very early, it required only a lumpectomy and 36 rounds of radiation. In 2016 I walked my first 3-Day as a survivor with my guardian angel George. In 2018 I found out about George’s wife Christine being diagnosed with cancer and passing from it shortly after. I promised George I would meet him in San Diego for the final 3-Day of 2019 and I did.

“A journey for someone else’s life turned into a journey for my own. Aside from the blisters, memories and wonderful friends, the 3-Day days has given me a life I get to live and a living guardian angel that I got to meet face to face.”

Now, how did that deepwater rig challenge go?

“Between the two rigs, we walked 421 miles and raised $4,000 for Susan G. Komen. The Asgard won and our captain was drenched with pink water and silly string as a reward.

We had awesome sunrises and sunsets to walk to and cupcakes and cookies to ease the pain of walking on a steel deck.

The enthusiasm and support were amazing and there is even talk of hosting another while we are walking in Chicago next year.

Here is an email Michelle got from the Proteus:

Michelle, Amanda, & Capt. Rick, et al

Sorry for the delayed response, we had to take a TOFS [time out for safety] for Hurricane Sally. I really wanted to thank everyone for their show of support for the Walk. I think we all agree that this is a noble cause, and directly, or indirectly, it touches us all.

Since I have known Michelle, she has been a one person show in the fight. Last year I thought, instead of just money, I wanted to show solidarity, so we decided to walk alongside her in spirit. In the last year, she has found a colleague in Amanda, and it would seem, the entire crew of the Asgard, so well done!

What I propose next year, is not a Proteus and Asgard re-match, I want to include all the rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, or the fleet, who want to participate. And I will gladly accept the help of the Deepwater Dames to help organize, as they have proven to be quite the marketing strategist, what with the t-shirt and bake sales, raffles, etc.! The 2021 3-Day will be in Chicago 1-3 October. Michelle and Amanda plan to walk, and Team Proteus will walk as well! By including all the rigs, we can make an even greater impact!

Last year’s Proteus Helideck Walk for the Cure was not conceived as a competition, just a walk to show our support, raise awareness, and have a bit of fun. And I think going forward we should keep it to a unified show of force to help support the fight for a cure, not a competition among crews! That said, once Hurricane Sally had moved on, I had a chance to total all our miles. Team Proteus walked a total of 226.6 miles, so…we win! See you all in October!

Regards,  

Capt. E. Lee Crowe, III

It’s amazing how far the Pink Bubble expands – all the way into the ocean!

Meet Team Princess Warriors from the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day

African American women in the U.S. are often diagnosed younger and with more aggressive breast cancer than their white counterparts. They are also often diagnosed at later stages when treatments are limited, costly and the prognosis is poor. And they die from breast cancer nearly 40% more than Caucasian women. These facts are staggering, and Susan G. Komen is working daily to reduce disparities to achieve breast health equity.

We are not doing this work alone. We are supported by 3-Dayers like those on Team Princess Warriors from Dallas/ Fort Worth. Sylvia, Yolanda and Felecia have collectively walked in the 3-Day for more than twenty years combined, participating in 3-Days across the country. They are best known in Dallas/Fort Worth and will also be joining us in Chicago this year, but their dedication extends far beyond the bounds of the 3-Day weekend.

They are breast cancer health advocates all year long. They take any opportunity they can to “educate women, especially women of color, and make them aware of how this disease affects African American women.” We are honored to have them in our 3-Day family and are so proud to share their story. Read on for more of their expertise and inspirational stories.

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What keeps you coming back to the 3-Day again and again?

Sylvia’s mom was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer at 46 years old. Unfortunately, she passed away from the horrible disease at only 48 years old. Her paternal great grandmother, paternal grandmother, and three of her dad’s sisters have all been diagnosed with breast cancer as well. That’s not to mention that three of her husband’s aunts, two of his cousins and their sister-in-law are also breast cancer survivors.

Yolanda and Felecia both have friends who have been diagnosed and are currently fighting this disease as well as loved ones who have succumbed to breast cancer.

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

Our favorite memory was standing in line to take pictures after Day 1 during our second year. We were standing behind John and Lisa Shiner. I immediately recognized him because he was one of the inspirational speakers at camp during Sylvia’s first year walking. His wife and my mom who passed from breast cancer were both named Martha. We laughed and cried and hugged and cried some more. His wife Lisa is such a sweetheart.

After talking with them, they invited us to walk with them the next year in Twin Cities, so we did! We walked together all three days and they invited us over to their beautiful home for dinner. This was just the beginning of our friendship, and we have made so many more like it over the years. 

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What are your top training tips for first-time walkers?

  • Make sure you invest in good socks and shoes.
  • Make sure you wear all clothing before the event to see how everything works for you.
  • Remember, this is a walk not a race.
  • Take time to enjoy the scenery and the wonderful people around you each day on the 3-Day. Listen to their stories, learn more about them, and enjoy each and every minute with your new group of forever friends.
  • Train, train, and TRAIN before the 3-Day.
  • Hydrate and take advantage of the pit stops and lunch.

As a tight team unit, what is your advice to help pass the time on training walks?

We talk about times in the Army. It’s bittersweet reminiscing about friends who have gone on before us and we always talk about the effort to get rid of this disease that impacts so many across all walks of life.

We all love music in general. If we had to pick a favorite song, it would be “Roar” by Katy Perry. The lyrics are suited for any fight you may be going through. Those diagnosed and fighting breast cancer, along with their family and friends, truly get knocked down sometimes, but dust themselves off and keep fighting. It shows the strength and willpower of those going through this journey and those left carrying the torch for family and friends we’ve lost to this disease.

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What does the word “commitment” mean to you?

Commitment is something that we have lived our entire adult lives honoring. We all made commitments collectively, over a combined 78 years, supporting and defending the Constitution of the United States by serving actively in the US Army. It’s definitely something we do not take lightly. 

We have also made a commitment because of our drive and compassion for those who have been affected and are battling breast cancer. As a team, we dedicate our time and resources to a part of something so much greater than ourselves. Although we try to touch many with our cause, even if we only touch a few, it’s worth it.

Especially given how breast cancer impacts the African American community, why is the 3-Day so important?

Understanding that African American women die from breast cancer nearly 40% more than Caucasian women is alarming. Early detection is key. The 3-Day is SO important to us because it gives us another opportunity to educate women, especially women of color, and make them aware of how this disease affects African American women. Speaking from experience, it’s both unfortunate and also a kind of blessing that you’re made aware of this disease when someone you love has been diagnosed. But often it’s too late to fight it.

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We try to do our part and continue to make others aware that breast care is truly important to their health. We are often stopped during the walks and asked, “Why so much pink?” We love it. It gives us another chance to provide information to someone who may be uninformed.

How do you live the 3-Day spirit and spread the word all year long?

We are truly walking billboards for breast cancer awareness. We are not only sporting our pink gear during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but all throughout the year. We always reach out to those we encounter, making them aware of our 60-mile journey to save lives. Sylvia hosts events at her home throughout the year and works with the local school to ensure information is provided to the staff during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Walking 60 miles is an accomplishment; we try to use every opportunity to not only fundraise but educate those we meet daily.

What are you most excited about for 2020?

We are always excited about the opportunity to walk 60 miles in 3 days together. It gives our team another chance to spread breast cancer awareness and spend quality time together. We are excited about being in the city of Chicago this year as well! This is always a great opportunity to meet new people, be a part of their trials and triumphs, and provide words of encouragement to those who have gone through this ordeal or for loved ones currently going through it.

Join Team Princess Warriors at the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day by registering to join us in 2020 NOW! You can also find more information on how breast cancer affects the African American community, and what Susan G. Komen is doing to help, on our website.

Happy Halloween from the 3-Day Awarewolves

What’s that? Do you hear that howling? Is it Halloween? Or is it…The Awarewolves?!

This amazing team is a staple on the 3-Day, and their costumes keep them Halloween-ready all year long! They walked with us in New England in September, but their 3-Day journey began long before that. It began when Linda Lafragiola was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, when she and her sister Kathi Elliot decided that breast cancer would not beat them.

Linda explains, “Since being diagnosed, I decided to raise awareness about early detection and how important it is. Participating in the 3-Day allows me to share my story and experiences with any and everybody, year-round.”

What began as a promise, and a walk, between two sisters, has now grown to a whole team! That team includes their very own Awarewolf, Kathi’s beautiful Siberian Husky, Nika. Nika joined many of Linda and Kathi’s early training walks and quickly became their mascot.

After one of those such walks, the sisters started sharing possible team names with Kathi’s husband, David and her daughter Paige. They were talking about how everyone on the walks jokingly asks if Nika is a wolf, and right on cue, David began singing “Werewolves of London.” Suddenly, the group was singing “Werewolves in San Diego” instead, in honor of their upcoming walk in California.

From there, they all talked about how their team mission was about awareness and early detection, in honor of Linda’s own early diagnosis. So, David came up with AwareWolves. Paige created the team logo. Kathi coined the tagline, “Don’t be afraid — Early detection saves lives”. Linda found the amazing hot pink wolf ears. But they each came up with their own signature howls! And from there, a team was born.

More of how their story and team began, in Kathi’s own words…

“Linda learned that she had breast cancer in 2011. Fortunately, it was an early diagnosis and the cancer was limited to a small tumor. She underwent surgery that summer, followed by six weeks of radiation.

Mid-way through her treatment a friend asked Linda to join her at the Susan G. Komen 3-Day in San Francisco in June 2012. She thought, ‘60 miles in 3 days…if I can survive breast cancer then I can do that!’

As a sister of someone who is going through something like breast cancer, you try to find ways to be helpful. Driving Linda to radiation appointments was something I could do. When Linda said she was walking, I said, ‘Why not me too?!’ From then on, the drives to radiation became a time to plan fundraisers and future training walks.

Linda’s last radiation appointment was on November 1, 2011 and the next morning, we laced up our sneakers and started training. Several months later, we had logged more than 1,000 miles and raised over $5,000 dollars each – enough for two 3-Day walks. So, we decided to register for the San Diego 3-Day in November 2012, as well.

Clearly walking 60 miles is no small feat, especially factoring in inclement weather and hilly terrain, but any 3-Day participant will tell you that the aches, pains and blisters are worth it.

Linda says her first 3-Day in San Francisco was emotional, inspiring and eye opening. It really hit home.

She told me, ‘I met so many women and men whose lives had been touched by breast cancer. It was mind boggling! It helped me to go from feeling like a victim — saying why did this happen to me? — to actually doing something about it.’

Not long after completing our second 3-Day in San Francisco, Linda and I officially started our team, cleverly named…The AwareWolves.”

But that was only the beginning of so many amazing memories for their team and their sisterhood!

Since then, they have walked in nearly ten 3-Days in different cities, and their team has only grown in number and recognition!

“The AwareWolves pack has grown, just by the people we have met along our journey,” explains Linda. “Some of them are veteran 3-Day walkers and crew members. Some are first-time walkers who have joined us to see what it’s all about. Everyone loves our signature ears and I swear some people have joined just to rock the ears and howl with the pack! 😄 And, we’re ok with that! Our team is made up of people from all over the US and although we walk at different speeds, we know we are there for each other. 💕 We are known for taking our time, enjoying the event and everything that comes with being in the pink bubble.”

Though in the past the Awarewolves have been in that pink bubble for a few Halloween weekend walks, this year Linda will be part of a group costume, which is a Pac-Man theme, instead!

She and Kathi are gearing up to walk in San Diego in November, and even though Halloween might be in the rearview mirror at that point, you can expect some AwareWolves on the San Diego 3-Day trails. Just keep a pink ear perked up for their howl!