Monday, October 4, 2010

Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure

October has begun. The one month of the year when the entire world seems to join me on the crusade to which I dedicate every waking moment all year round.

I love and loathe October all at the same time. I love all of the pink everywhere I turn. I get joy from seeing pink toilet paper, although I don't buy it because the Big Man has forbidden me from bringing any more pink into the house. When I came home with a pink laptop, he drew a line!


My friend and fellow fighter Courtney
She lost her battle at only 25 years old
 Some detractors complain that companies use the pink color to increase sales without actually making any real commitment to the fight against breast cancer. Others argue that selling pink items gives individuals the idea that fighting breast cancer is easily done. These arguments don't bother me too much because I recognize that the world is made up all kinds of people.

As they say, it takes a village.

Not everyone will want to walk, run, or advocate. Very few people will write a letter to a senator or congressman. Very few people will write a check. Even fewer people will actually volunteer their time. But everyone can buy pet food, razor blades, chocolate and jewelry. I don't fault the shoppers for their lack of commitment. Perhaps they are lucky enough to have never been touched by cancer. Or, consider perhaps that they have been touched, but are so emotionally exhausted by the trauma that all they can bear to commit is an anonymous purchase thrown in with all the other week's groceries.

That is OK.

You choose your level of commitment, I've chosen mine.

To the detractors who say that some companies don't donate the sales from pink items, I say: yes! That is an issue that needs to be policed,  but regardless of the tiny amount or even complete lack of a donation, the pink toilet paper does raise awareness. It does get people talking, it does make a consumer pause, and it does make people aware. It also might be the first step in a longer journey. Perhaps the exhausted survivor starts by throwing pink razor blades into her cart. The next year she throws razor blades and goes out of her way to fly with an airline that supports Susan G. Komen for the Cure. This year, she takes it a step further and buys Nancy Brinker's new book "Promise Me." Then she is inspired. Next year, she runs a race. The year after that, she registers for the 3-Day and raises thousands of dollars.  All it took was one pink razor blade and time.

And so, I love October with all of its pinkness and overwhelming, hectic pace. I relish this rare moment when everyone rallies behind me, this entire month when I see people in front and people behind me in line at the grocery store all with pink items in their cart.


 Just as the Christmas season overflows with songs, family, and good cheer, I feel like October is ripe with opportunities for support, education, and hope. No matter male or female, young or old; no matter race, creed, socioeconomic status, or connection to the cause, for four short weeks every year, everyone is behind me in my fight.

My major problem with October is October 31st, when everyone stops rallying behind me while breast cancer keeps killing.

That is where the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure comes in. That is where I get my fix of support and hope year round. Although the event is truly a sacred experience for me, and although Big Man and I have prepared all year for our journey, I have waited months to talk about my 3-Day for the Cure experience here because I worry that I will not do it justice. But today I will try.

2008 San Diego 3-Day Survivor Circle with Saralyn and Jennifer
I walk in the Komen 3-Day for the Cure every year. Even though I am a seasoned participant, and although some people dismiss it as just another fundraising event, I get deeply excited about the journey every year. I feel the kind of anticipation and nervousness that a small child feels on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa's arrival. My tummy does flip flops and feels like it jumped right up into my throat. My heart pounds fast enough to flutter my shirt-front. I have to abstain from coffee all week for fear of serious over-stimulation. I think about and dream about little else.

This one event has given me more hope than any scan result.

On the 3-Day for the Cure you are transported. Transported to a world where the cure is already a reality: a world without death, a world with only hope and love. You are transported from a place of helplessness to a place full of power. From a place of illness to a place of immense strength. From a place of disappointment, to a place of success. Surrounded by the sound of thousands of determined feet, you can't help but feel carried. When you cry, and you will cry, there are thousands of shoulders available for comfort.

Everyone has a story, one is sadder than the next, and you are no longer alone. I also think the sheer length of the walk, three days and 60 miles, makes every interaction more poignant. Like a summer love where two days can feel like two years, friendships formed along the 3-Day for the Cure feel like lifelong bonds after only a few minutes.

And the finish line!

Thousands of women and men line up shoulder to shoulder in their matching victory shirts and form a tunnel through which you are literally carried. When you cross the finish line, bandaged and broken. When you hobble across the finish and think, surely, I can not move another step. Instead of collapsing, you are greeted by thousands of high fives, deafening cheers, and are rained on by your fellow walker's tears of joy and sorrow. You are lifted up. Your limp is transformed into a confident stride. By being part of something bigger, you feel as though you could easily walk another 60.

If so many people can feel so strongly, can unite and create something so beautiful, no matter how dark the diagnosis, we must win. We will win. Alone, we can do nothing, but together, we can do anything.

The Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure weekend is one of the only times I have ever cried during my journey. I clearly remember the times I have cried outside of the 3-Day. Given my personality, they have been few and far between. I am not overly optimistic or fighting to keep from crying, I simply put my head down and continue to live.

I think this cancer diagnosis is so scary and so overwhelming, that my mind goes numb. My mind only allows me to see one step ahead, one day ahead, one small goal ahead. My mind prevents me from comprehending the full enormity of my situation. But on the 3-Day for the Cure, my mind is confronted by "shock and awe" and for a few precious days I let down my guard. I stop fighting and allow myself to be carried.

Big Man, mom and I will be walking 60 miles this weekend. This is Big Man's first. I get emotional just thinking about him there. I got him a t-shirt: "I wear pink for my wife." I have bought myself some sparkly pink Big Girl pants. We are ready!

I know I sound crazy, but I am looking forward to Opening Ceremonies and walking onto that route hand-in-hand with Alex just as much as I looked forward to seeing him at the end of the aisle on our wedding day.

Many of you non-walkers or non-crew probably think I am insane, but let me try one last time to explain. When you face death, you take stock of your life. You say, "What have I accomplished?"

This is my accomplishment. The $2,500 I have raised this year, the $8,000 I have raised over the past several years, the thousands of miles I have walked are my "last words." On my 3-Day, I am standing up and saying, "I was here. Today, I made a difference. Because of today, I am leaving this world better than I found it." The 3-Day for the Cure is my legacy.

If you live in the VA, MD, or DC area, come out and cheer on the Big Man and me this weekend! Visit one of the Cheering Stations or Closing Ceremonies listed here. If you live far away, register for your own 3-Day for the Cure or make a donation to our team, the Million Dollar Babies!

At the very least, get out there and buy some pink toilet paper, pink razor blades, pink Payless slippers, or a pink plane ticket!

But please, while you may start there, don't you dare stop there.

I thank you.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Did my 9th event this year in the Twin Cities. Couldn't agree with you more about the cause and what October means to all of us embroiled in the fight. You inspire me, lady! I am grateful for your wisdom.
The 3 Day ROCKS! Have a wonderful weekend!
Patty Mathews
I walk because I can't walk away.

Cruikshank Family said...

Bridget,
Believe it or not, I speak your name multiple times a week. Whether it be a prayer for you, your story to inspire someone at a Komen fundraiser, or an insecure first time walker at a "Pack it Up" clinic at a local running store. You are such a huge part of my life and you don't even know it!
My mother in law is fighting for her life with Stage IV Endometrial Stomal Sarcoma and I forward your blogs to her every time I get an update. THANK YOU! Thank you for inspiring me and so many people around me.
Your friend in Texas,
Gayla Cruikshank

Anonymous said...

I'll be there crewing & cheering you & your family through your journey!

Patty Mellon said...

I have never seen the 3 day summed up quite like you were able to do. Yes, you are transported! I did my first event this year and will not stop until there is a cure.
Blessings to you!!

Anonymous said...

Every word I read is getting me more and more amped to do this. I am so excited to be joining my 1st 3-day. My mom was diagnosed right after my daughter was born I've been working towards this for 4 years! Bloom's Bosom Buddies Philly 2010!

you rock said...

Bridget, you are one of the most inspirational people i know. I know you will have a great time and enjoy every moment. Good luck to your mom and husband. Pete

Nancy Lumb said...

Bridget: not sure if you remember me but we have spoken a couple of times and I first met you in 2008 at the DC closing ceremonies survival circle. I am thrilled to hear that you, your hubby and mom will be walking in DC again this year. I'll be there - kicking off the first of three walks - DC, Philly and San Diego. I hope we get a chance to meet up again. You are such an inspiration! I am a regular follower of your blog. Good stuff!!!

Anonymous said...

Bridget,

You are so totally amazing I am not a crier either by nature however the 3day and especially you have changed that. I was hoping to take part in my first 3day this year but was pulled due to ankle surgery but I will be the loudest cheering station the DFW event has to offer.

May you be safe and blister free this week.
Tanya

Bridget said...

Gayla, the feeling is SO mutual. I'm sorry I won't be in DFW, but we are together in spirit.

Nancy, of course I remember you! I can't wait to see you again, although I might not recognize you because in '08 you were sporting the most adorable short post-chemo hairdo. I'll be raising the survivor flag again, so come say hello and meet the hubby!

Tanya, I'm sorry to hear about your injury, but you will still be an incredible part of the event as a "walker stalker." Welcome to the 3-Day family!

Shop Without Money Sisters said...

Bridget,
You continue to amaze me every time I read your blog. I can't believe you are walking this weekend...yet, of course I can believe you are walking this weekend. You are such an inspiration, a role model...I don't know...I want to say something that is not cliched but I can't think of anything. My brain is zooming & whirling, too, as I get ready for the DC walk this weekend, my first walk ever! I hope that we get to meet. It would be an honor!
Heather

pinkim said...

Well said! I so totally agree!

pinkim said...

I am speaking at the event Friday night! I can't wait!!

pinkim said...

Hi Bridget,
It was great to meet you Friday. I sent Robin an email and said Hi for you and also explained that I had the privilege to meet you. You are amazing and I am so glad I managed to meet you. I knew of Emily's friend, of course, but never equated her with this blog...Hope the rest of the 3 day went well...I wrote about my experience in my blog...trulysimplypink.blogspot.com

Kim

Mel said...

Just finished the DC 3-Day for the second time. I missed Friday night but my team mates heard your story and told me about it. I hope you don't mind if I tell it in my thank you note to my donors. I struggle with getting the point across as to why I walk and you summed it up beautifully. I didn't realize it was you raising the flag. I had 2 team mates in the survivors circle and my sister. Your story is inspirational. Hope your feet held up!! And it's so true, I feel like I could do another 60 miles just coming off the experience!!!

ReneƩ said...

Bridget,

I met you for a few brief moments on Day One of the DC walk at the pit stop before lunch. I loved your t-shirt! I was really touched by your story you told at camp that night. I just want you to know that I am very inspired by your bravery and upbeat attitude, I know it has gotten you to where you are today. Best of luck to you!

Liliana Holtzman said...

You are a very wise young woman! And compassionate, open-minded and tolerant.

I hope you are doing well and wish you all the best this world has to offer.
Hugs from Liliana

Dennis Pyritz, RN said...

Great Blog! You are a credit to the cancer blogging community. I have added you to my blogroll, “Cancer Blogs” with over 1000 other personal cancer blogs at www.beingcancer.net, a cancer networking site featuring a cancer book club, guest blogs, cancer resources, reviews and more.
If you have not visited, please stop by. If you agree that the site is a worthwhile resource for those affected by cancer, please consider adding Being Cancer to your own blogroll. And like bloggers everywhere, I love receiving your comments and ideas.
Take care, Dennis (beingcancer@att.net)

Emily said...

Happy Tuesday Bridget,

I hope your little feet are feeling better after hittin' the pavement all weekend in the Komen 3-Day. After hearing your story this past weekend, and frankly turning my world upside down - this blog was a treasure to find. You're an inspiration to the world and you give me ultimate strength with your words. You are in my thoughts and prayers. Thank you for being you.

I'm already signed up and ready to rock for 2011 Komen 3-Day. All thanks to you!

Your friend in Arlington,
Emily

Jennie said...

Bridget!!! I am SO BUMMED that I did not get to meet you this weekend!!! You are a total rock star...I walked 60 miles with you, and I WILL track you down! Thanks so much for the inspiration, and for walking for my mom and my mother-in-law...and therefore walking for myself and my daughters!!! LOTS OF LOVE TO YOU!!! Love, Jennie

kjl said...

Bridget, I found your blog after seeing you speak over the weekend at the 3-Day. Your story was so moving and your strength so inspiring! I could have kicked myself that I didn't have my camera to record your talk so that I could share it with others. I've been scouring the internet the last couple of days hoping that someone who was there would post it!

I walked in my 5th 3-Day this year, and each year I send out a plea to have other friends join me, and only in one year did I have anyone take me up on it. This year my 70 year old father walked with me (yea dad!), but it frustrates me that my friends won't commit to something so important that WILL affect someone they love eventually. I know most of them don't have the immediate connections to breast cancer that I do (mom, aunt, great aunt, grandmother), but I just don't understand why people feel the need to WAIT until someone in their circle of sisters/mothers/aunts/grandmothers/friends is diagnosed! My point is, I really feel like if my friends were able to see your speech from the other night, they would be moved and motivated to actually join me in the walk next year! You are so inspiring and are making such a difference in this world!! I'll be praying for you and look forward to reading more updates on your blog! :)

Rachel said...

Hi Bridget. I met you when the survivors gathered and we were getting ready to make our way to the grounds of the Washington Monument last weekend. I have an amazing picture of you that I took when you stepped up into the survivor's circle. I'd love to send it to you. Please let me know if you'd like to see it and we can figure out how to best get it to you.

I will be forever grateful that I had the chance to meet you at the walk. Thank you for so generously sharing yourself with all of us who were lucky enough to hear your speech at camp!

Rachel (3 year survivor)

Jenny Frost said...

My daughter and I walked DC this year. Maybe we saw each other. It was a tremendous experience for both of us. We trained hard and raised money and the memory of those three days will stay with us forever. We were there for you, for every other woman who has faced breast cancer and for every woman who should never have to in the future.

Bridget said...

Wow, people!

I take a week long break from breast cancer to recuperate and I get back to this joyful explosion of love and inspiration on my little 'ol blog! Thank you, thank you, thank you! All of you are so beautiful. These comments are overflowing with inspiration. Please keep them coming.

I have video. I have pictures. I can't wait to share!

Rachel, please email the 3-Day for the Cure coaches with your picture. coaches@The3Day.org. They will make sure that picture gets into my hands.

I am sending love, hugs, and thanks to all of you.
Bridget

Coral Levang said...

Bridget,

You have become my new hero! ;-)

I'm 55-yo and also a survivor. I'm one of those "early stagers" of which you spoke. I was diagnosed on June 29, 2007. And the funny thing? I was diagnosed after I'd gotten involved in the 3-Day in 2006, walking 2 walks, and coaching (on staff) for 1 other. I was SO much better prepared than I would have been to go through what I did in 2007!

Anyway, I walked in 2007, 2008, and am walking two walks this year (Seattle and San Diego) because I lost a dear friend this year.

I, too, cannot keep my mouth shut about this and I write. I recently was picked up for an article on Yahoo! Shine if you care to read it (http://shine.yahoo.com/channel/health/all-i-ever-needed-to-know-about-life-i-learned-from-breast-cancer-2391662/ ). As well, I've written many many other essays, poetry about breast cancer (in the midst of other things)at http://associatedcontent.com/corallevang ...
You have reminded me of why I walk...about feeling like what I do DOES make a difference on the 3Day, and with others who understand in a world where so many have become complacent. Thank you for that reminder (on the video of Wash DC talk) and here on your blog.
You are a champion, and this 55-yo (then 56) will champion right along side of you next year in WA DC, if you'll let her. It's time I take the journey from west coast to east where it's flat! ;-)

Please get in touch!

Coral Levang
Team WOBO (Walking Our Butts Off)
Seattle 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010
San Diego 2006, 2010
Coach DFW 2006

Coral Levang said...

P.S. If you would like to see the person for whom I walk, please go to http://the3day.org/goto/coralSD

Her name is Kim, and she fought for 4 1/2 years. You may have seen her picture in the tent this year.

Rachel said...

Hi Bridget. I too took a break after the walk and just now saw your note about sending the pictures to the coaches. I just did that so you should get them soon.

I'm thinking of you as October winds down. Just know that my thoughts will continue to be with you way after the month of pink ends.

Hugs to you,
Rachel

carscampbell said...

Bridget
I heard you speak at this year DC 3 day. Boy, do you fight like a girl! While I haven't had breast cancer (yet) I have lost too many dear friends to this disease to sit still. This was my 7th walk and I hope the $20K+ I have raised over the years cures you first.

You are not only an inspiration to survivors, but to everyone on how to live your best life.

7 years ago I made a promise to my friend Kim, to keep walking till there is a cure. She died 3 days later and I am still walking. I will make the same promise to you. I will keep walking until there is a cure. NO ONE should ever have to go thru this again.

God bless you and your family.

With much admiration,
cc