Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Every Mug Deserves a Lifetime

Yesterday was a pretty challenging day. A lot of stuff has happened all in one day.

It all started in the morning. One of my first thoughts of the day was a sense of super happy excitedness. Why? Because 3DayMug was scheduled to arrive at my office. For those of you not in this particular loop, I'll try to explain. 3DayMug is a mug. She is a very special mug. She was created and painted by 3Day Walker and fellow online ambassador, Kristen Cincotta. Through a series of entertaining Twitter-universe moments, Mug became a bit of a 3Day celebrity. Mug even has a facebook page and her own Twitter account. As part of her celebrity, Kristen has made arrangements to make it possible for Mug to participate in a large number of this season's 3Day events, escorted by walkers and crew from among the 3DayTweeps.

So, there I was, feeling particularly excited because Mug was making her way to my office so that she could come to Washington, DC with me and Matt to walk this weekend. My friend, Heather, even helped me out by making some really cute buttons for me to give to walkers who get their picture taken with Mug.

Okay, so when did my day change? I left my office for a little while. I came back and saw that a box had arrived for me. I got wicked excited. I carefully unwrapped Mug and introduced her around my office. I set her up for a little photo shoot so that I could announce on Twitter that she had made it safely to Massachusetts. I took a nice picture.

I picked up the box she was in and then something horrible went wrong. I don't even know how it happened, but suddenly there was a crash and Mug was on the floor. I shouted a word that one is not supposed to shout in one's office. Loudly. A few times. And then I cried a minute. And then I picked her up. Mug's handle had broken in three places.

I let Kristen know right away. I spent the afternoon depressed that I had harmed this Mug that has come to mean so much to so many walkers. That part has been really tough, and I am very good at beating myself up. I spent a bunch of hours focusing on all the people who kept Mug safe and what a lousy job I have done. It helps a lot that Kristen reminded me right away that it was an accident and it was bound to happen. I just really hate that it happened "on my watch". I feel like a careless lummox. But I set the self-loathing aside and focused on helping Mug. I spent the evening repairing Mug.

Her handle is now intact, although I am concerned as to how she will manage if she is held by said handle. And I really don't think she could hang from a beaner on someone's waist pack while they walk, as was planned. I have also inspected her and discovered a small crack on her body. She's been through a lot today, and she will require a lot of special care-taking to get her through the rest of the season.

I stood back and looked at Mug, all repaired and ready to continue her 3Day adventure in DC and I had a flash of clarity. It was as though I could see the whole thing through her eyes. Here's what I think the day felt like to Mug starting with when she fell to the floor:

OUCH! After sitting on the sidelines of this breast cancer event for a few months, I suddenly feel like I might understand what it means to be diagnosed with breast cancer. A minute ago I was fine, and then suddenly this Thing happened to me. I will never be the same. I lay there on the floor with my handle in pieces and I thought, "Why do bad Things happen to Good Mugs? Why me? Why not that old thermos on the desk? Why did this happen to a sweet pretty young Mug like me?"

I couldn't wallow in self pity though because I was suddenly involved in my own treatment. Before I knew what was happening, I was laying on a cold counter exposed to a bright light. I was being poked and prodded and examined and I didn’t feel like I had any real say in what was going to happen next. All I know is that I was thinking, “Please just do whatever you have to do to make me feel whole again.” And then, before I really even knew what was happening, I was being treated with a stinky chemical mess. The people kept poking at me and telling me to stay perfectly still. I was frightened and wondering what was going to happen, and still they kept coming at me with more chemicals. I’m starting to think that super glue and chemo have a lot in common. The people who were poking at me kept muttering platitudes like, “It’s going to be just fine. Don’t worry, we’re taking good care of you.” And yet at the same time, I could see in their eyes a look of deep concern that maybe things weren’t going as smoothly as they’d hoped.

I felt like time had no real meaning while I was lying there for treatment. I kept thinking about all the things I still want to do with my life. I thought about the walks I want to be carried on. I thought about the people I care about and want to see again – Mom, Aunt Julie, the girls from the ATL training walks. I thought about all the people I still haven’t met and all the places I still haven’t seen. I know I am just a Mug, but I want more time and I am scared that because of this Thing, I am not going to have it.

I came through the reconstructive surgery pretty well. I don’t look quite as young as I did before the Thing happened. And maybe one side of me isn’t even with the other anymore, but you would only notice if you stared at me. It’s time to move on to the next stage. I’m ready to walk in the DC 3Day now. I’m going to need a lot of support and folks are going to have to be extra careful with me. I’ve been through a lot, you know.

Thank goodness nobody tried to say "Don't worry, Mug. After this, you will be as good as new." Because I won't be as good as new. I will never be the same Mug as I was before this happened. My whole body has changed because of this; and so has who I am. But I am stronger because I have survived this Thing.

I AM A SURVIVOR NOW! I am ready to head to DC now. I am ready to cheer on the walkers and thank the crew. I am totally ready to stand proud and strong with all the other survivors. Look out for me - I’ll be the one in pink!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Tell Them I Said Yes to Life

For the past week, I’ve been heading to my friend’s house after dinner and giving him a shot. Yup, that’s what I said. And no, I don’t mean I would drive over there and pour him some whiskey. I mean an injection, pharmaceutical-type, legally prescribed by a surgeon.

My friend, Joe, recently had surgery and needed a daily injection of an anti-coagulant. His doctor suggested that this was something easily taken care of at home, if he could find someone comfortable doing it. Having given injections before, and being not at all queasy about needles, I volunteered. I might have more than volunteered. I might have said something about being honored if he would give me the chance to be his care-provider. And that is the truth about how it felt. Joe's been through a lot of health challenges in the past couple years, and I felt fortunate to be able to lighten his emotional load even just a little bit.

And so, each evening for a week, I gave Joe a shot in his leg and then sat on his couch and visited. Each night when I got up to leave, either he or his partner (or both) would thank me and ask, “are you sure it’s not too much?” I’d shake my head in disbelief and reassure him that it was, indeed, nowhere near too much. Bottom line is that I am grateful to have had the chance to help him in this small way. I am grateful to offer him support. That’s what friends are for. When friendship really works, that’s what friends do. They say yes.

There’s a hymn I know, written by Alicia S. Carpenter, which resonates for me. Here is the first stanza:

Just as long as I have breath, I must answer, 'Yes' to life;
though with pain I made my way, still with hope I meet each day.
If they ask what I did well, tell them I said, 'Yes', to life

It’s why I walk and crew in the 3Day for the Cure – because saying “yes to life” is the thing I want to do well. It’s why I work diligently year-round to keep raising money for the fight against breast cancer – because it is how I can meet each day with hope. It is why I believe that helping my friends and family can come before anything else – because saying yes builds connections, and connections are what keep us strong. I say yes because I feel a strong responsibility to do so. I keep saying yes because I can.

Twelve years ago, through a mutual friend, I met Mary Kay. We talked on the phone before we met in person, and right away I felt that I had found someone who was going to be a part of my life forever. When we met face to face, we hugged immediately. I remember the moment clearly. I walked down to meet the boat that she was arriving on. I saw her walking towards me, her arm around a boy who was smiling and laughing with my own son. She looked up and our glances caught one another. I smiled inquiringly towards her and she nodded emphatically and she yelled out loud, “YES! Yes, I am who you are looking for!” It sounds a bit like romantic comedy when I write it that way, but it was just simple heart-filled friendship from the very start. Mary Kay and I had three years as friends before I lost her to breast cancer. But that premonition that I had that she would be part of my life forever? THAT was so very true.

I say yes to life, because Mary Kay isn’t here to do it anymore. Mar said yes to my friendship. She said yes to being a fabulous parent. She even said yes to being a fabulous parent when she became a single parent suddenly when she lost her husband to pancreatic cancer. She said yes when they said she could try to fight her breast cancer. She said yes when the doctors finally said it was time to stop trying. She said yes to planning the lives her children would have to live without her by their sides. She said yes to everything in her life. And when she had to, she said yes to saying goodbye. She said yes, even to the things she didn’t want, but didn’t have a choice about.

Sure, sometimes the fact that I say yes means that I don’t have time to keep my house as clean as I’d like. And sometimes all the yeses I have said mean that I don’t have time to hide in the basement and make a basket. And sometimes all my yeses mean that I don’t get around to writing my blog. But while all those things aren’t happening, and aren’t getting done, something amazing IS getting done. I am saying yes to life. And so, the next time that I am feeling angry and frustrated about something I haven’t gotten done, I promise myself to stop and think about all the things I am getting done. Like giving a friend something he really needed and didn’t really want.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What We Leave Behind

It’s been almost a month since I held my sneakers aloft during the Chicago 3Day closing ceremony. During those weeks, I have spent 22 hours driving home and countless more hours than that getting caught up with laundry and at my job. We’ve been fundraising and training for The3Day in DC in October. My daughter and my husband have headed back to school. But in amongst all that, I just keep thinking about everything we left behind in Chicago. By “WE”, I mean the walkers and crew of the Chicago 3Day for the Cure.

We left behind a message of hope and dozens of yards of pink crepe paper and ribbons. We left behind 4.3 million dollars raised to make a difference in the fight to find a cure for breast cancer. We left behind smiling young people cheering along 60 miles of sidewalks. We left behind funding for underprivileged women in a city that really needed us. We left behind incredible memories and a powerful message that kindness really can make a difference in the world.

But in the weeks since the Chicago 3Day, I have been reflecting with sadness on something else we left behind. This was my 17th 3Day event, and every time, I am startled anew by what is left behind on Sunday morning. Piles of tarps and sleeping bags and air mattresses get left behind. Mountains of things that the people of the cities we have walked through could definitely use. Sometimes I find it painful to walk out of camp on that final morning because I have seen sneakers left abandoned – sneakers that I realize don’t have enough life in them for a 3Day walker, but that definitely have enough life for the man on the corner begging for spare change to buy some food. Every time that I pack up my stuff on that last day, I am startled by the numbers of tarps left behind by walkers and crew too tired or too dazed to squeeze them into their bags. There are enough tarps left behind in a 3Day camp to build a small tent-city for a homeless community. There are enough tarps and sleeping bags to cover all the children left homeless by last year’s earthquake in Haiti. Enough sleeping bags for all the low-income girl scouts in any city I have ever walked in. The possibilities seem endless. What so many people treat as trash can really be someone else’s live-saving treasure.

Each time that we walk or crew, Matt and I leave extra space in our luggage. On Day3, we load up with tarps that are piling up by the trashcans and we bring them home with us. We donate them to shelters in our home area. After the Chicago 3Day this year, we shipped 32 tarps in perfect condition to Haiti with a friend who was traveling there. Maybe we didn’t change the world, but at least those 32 tarps went to a good cause rather than to a landfill. In Boston this year, a local Eagle Scout made announcements at dinner about collecting leftover supplies on Day3. He made all the arrangements to pick up and then donate the goods to shelters in the area.

There are so many ways to make a difference. I’m hoping that by speaking up today, I can encourage those walkers and crew who are getting ready for the events in the coming three months to give serious thought to what is being left behind.
Here are some ways that you can make a difference:
1. Do not leave any of your own stuff behind;
2. Make plans to take a few extra items with you and donate them to a worthy cause in your own backyard (or just keep them and use them yourself, at least they won’t go to a landfill!);
3. Make plans with a local shelter for them to come to Camp on closing morning to pick up leftovers;
4. Inspire a local scout or community service organization to contact The3Day and make a big plan to make a big difference;
5. Get creative and think of some way to take all those worthwhile items and pay it forward.

It is true that we – the walkers and crew of The3Day – are definitely making a difference in the fight against breast cancer. But that doesn’t have to mean that we forget to make a difference in other fights in our world.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Great Day to be Alive

This morning, I had the privilege of being present at the memorial service for a woman I have known my whole life. Although I had known her since my childhood, I learned more about her at this memorial through the words and stories told by her daughters, who are my peers and friends. I heard the most incredible words in the stories that they told about their mom.

Both daughters remarked that they really couldn’t recall a day of their lives that their mom didn’t say these words:
“It’s a great day to be alive, isn’t it?”

Those words resonated for me. After all, isn’t that exactly why I walk and crew in the 3Day for the Cure? We each should always be grateful for and reminded that life is short, and life – every day of it – is a gift. Although I have been walking and crewing in the 3Day walks for 9 years now, I can sometimes lose touch with the very basic reason that we walk. We walk because we are the ones who can. We walk in memory of friends lost. We walk in honor of survivors fighting. We walk for the daughters we are glad to know are healthy. We walk in the hope that someday nobody will worry about losing their loved one to this disease. But really, that simple message sums it all up. We walk BECAUSE IT IS A GREAT DAY TO BE ALIVE.

So, there I was, heading into the afternoon with that thought bouncing around in my head. And off I went with my 16 year old daughter so she could practice highway driving. About half an hour into things, another car merged onto the highway without yielding and we were hit on the passenger side. I’ve never actually been in a moving car in an accident, and it was pretty frightening. I saw the accident coming and there was little I could do to stop it. My daughter, with only 4 months of driving experience, reacted exactly right, and she probably saved our lives. She didn’t swerve into the next lane where we would definitely have been collided into, spun badly around or worse. She didn’t slam on her brakes in a panic causing us to be rear-ended at highway speeds. She remained calm enough to slow us down into a gentle collision. Sure the merging car crashed into us. And yes, we were all shook up and both cars sustained damage. But it could have been so much worse.

And there it was, clear as the squashed up quarter-panel and the badly bent passenger doorframe. Clear as the light of day that we all walked away into.

It is a great day to be alive. Every. Single. Day.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

More Memories

After recording a video sharing my “Favorite 3-Day Moment” with John of 60Miles, I started reflecting on more favorite memories. Here’s another favorite memory, this one from crewing in 2005.

In 2005, Matt and I were crewing the Boston 3Day. The weather was icky: it was cool and rainy and windy. By the end of the day, our pants were stuck to our skin and our throats were hoarse from cheering and breathing in the raw New England air all day. Pouring water and Gatorade all day in the dreary grey day didn’t dampen the spirits in our Pit Stop and we were still laughing as we rode our van back into camp. Once back in camp, we were met by chaos as the announcement had been made that Tent City was being replaced with indoor housing. Our home for the night was an old army base, and walkers were being housed in one building and crew in another. The big dining tent and the shower trucks were set up near the walker’s building, across the compound from where crew were being housed. It took a while to get our bearings. Once we figured out where we needed to be, it was just another 3-Day adventure.

We found our gear and showered and explored the halls of our camp-for-the-night. Finally, we were settling down to our corner of the gymnasium before going to get dinner. It was about 7:30 and I was really starting to feel effects of being on the go for more than 14 hours. I stretched out on the sleeping bag for a moment and looked over to see another woman nearby. I smiled and said hello. She was hunkered down into her sleeping bag. She looked tiny and worn down. I asked her what crew she was on and she told us that she was actually a walker, but was staying in the crew building to be with her partner, but he was still working. She was cold and exhausted and said she needed to rest before she could even think about walking across the camp to get dinner. I looked over at Matt and knew we were sharing the same thought. I smiled broadly and told her to close her eyes and rest and that I was sure she’d feel better soon.

Matt and I walked across camp, collected everything we needed, and brought her a big tray of hot dinner that she could eat right there. She was so thankful for her dinner in bed that she kept calling us her angels. We didn’t know then that she was a survivor. We didn’t know then that she had just barely finished chemo treatment. We didn’t know then that she wasn’t going to see her partner for another 4 hours as his crew was called into overtime hours. We didn’t know then that she was probably close enough to dehydration that the walk to the dining tent would have knocked her out.

All we knew then was that she was more tired than we were and that we could give her what she needed. We sat with her while she ate and then said goodnight as we finally made our way to the tent for our own supper. My own dinner tasted especially good that night; and the sleep I had that night on the floor of that gym was particularly restful. People say that helping others is it’s own reward. Crewing the 3-Day is certainly a tribute to that concept. But bringing dinner to the walker that night went far beyond walker and crew; and it had deeper meaning than just how we treat one another during the 3-Day.

It all comes down to this: if you can do something for someone else, is there really ever any reason not to?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Countdown Time

I’ve been enjoying the tweets the past few days from folks getting ready to walk in the Boston 3-Day next month. The message winging about states something along the lines of: “in one month, I will be walking in the Boston 3-Day”. It is exciting stuff to be at the countdown to the big event. As I read those comments, I started to think about the next step. If you will be walking 4 weeks from now (or 6 weeks, or 8, or whatever your own countdown is), what will you be doing 4 weeks and THREE DAYS from now? I’m encouraging you to think ahead and plan for the moments after your 3-day. What will you be doing to keep your spirit of the 3-day alive?

Whether you walk or you crew, those three days are going to be swirling with physical challenges and teeming with emotional moments. For three days, you will be pushing yourself to be the best person within you. You will be cheering for everyone around you; and you will be cheered on for every step you take and every box you lift. It’s a wonderful world – the 3-Day.
You have probably started to plan for what you will do at the end of those three in terms of the logistics; such as who will you pick you up at closing and how you will get home. Next, I strongly urge you to think about what you will do to hold onto the sense of the 3-day. A community bonded together is something we all need to feel every day of our lives. The power of a group of people who spend all their hours dedicated to a single purpose contains the energy to change the world. If only we could bottle that energy, we will be poised to make a difference in every life we touch.

So, think about how you can bottle up that energy and carry it with you. Be prepared for a little sense of let-down when you leave the 3-day community and head back into your “real life”. But if you plan ahead for this big shift, hopefully you will be ready to carry the energy with you and keep going out into the world, ready to make a difference every day.

During the 3-day, I try to look around and notice all the different people who have banded together in this common goal. I focus on how many different ages there are, and different places we have all come from. By absorbing into my mind the wide range of people that are together during the 3-day, I find that when I get into the ‘real world’, I am able to trust and believe that those people, and that strength of community is still there. In knowing and trusting that those good people are still around me every day, I am poised to remember to do good things for other people every day.

When you get back into ‘the world’, carry the 3-Day community with you. Cheer for that coworker who offers to bring coffee to work. Embrace your friend who takes care of your pets when you go away. Hold the door open for a stranger. Praise your partner for emptying the dishwasher. Life is a challenge every day, and harnessing the power of the 3-day spirit will help you make it a better world for yourself and everyone around you.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Breast Sandwich Anyone?

Last week, I went for my annual mammogram. Some of you are too young, or are underinsured, or are too male, to know what this experience can be like. For you, I will try to elaborate.

Begin by imagining your breast on the most sensitive day of the month (guys, I invite you to substitute any other nerve-laden orb to which you are very closely physically attached). Now take this breast (or other orb) and settle it onto a large, thick, cold sheet of steel. Stand awkwardly as a smiling technician compresses a second steel shelf down onto your tender orb. Stay right there while those two pieces of steel squeeze toward one another until you want to scream and squirm because of the pain. But don’t move! The technician is sweetly explaining that she really needs you to stand very still as she screws those two sheets of steel just a little more snugly together. And so you do stand very still, because this is important. Imagine if you will, that the pain is intense, but just barely tolerable. Now stand perfectly still for about a minute while the image is taken. Finally, you can release the breath you didn’t even realize you were holding as the compression relaxes just a bit.

PHEW, it’s over, or so you think. But now, you need to shift your body just a little and submit that same breast (or other orb – boys!) to more compression in a slightly altered position. Two more images on this side, and then you get to do it all over again with the other one! Each time that those shelves of metal come squeezing your flesh into a shape you didn’t imagine possible, you feel surges of pain radiate down into your fingertips. But finally, it is over. You have survived the experience of submitting your breast (or other orb) to be the filling in a sandwich wherein the bread is the thickest, toughest steel, and the greatest weight imaginable has made your body part into something thinner than a slice of bologna. Fun, huh?

And so, the other day, my annual mammogram behind me, I walked out to my car and sat behind the steering wheel. I breathed deeply for a moment. My chest was burning and my fingertips were still tingling with the sensation of radiated pain. I took a few moments to compose myself to prepare for the drive back to my office. Then I glanced at the clock. The entire ordeal had taken just seventeen minutes.

I started thinking about other women’s pain during their mammogram. And as I sat there, the focus on my own aching chest changed into a reflection on something more. I started to think about what happens when those seventeen minutes are the beginning of fear and hurt, rather than just a painful interruption in one’s day.

I couldn’t help but think about my friend Diane, a two-time survivor. She feels fear for several days after her mammogram, as she waits - holding her breath - for the “clean” report she hopes will come.

I remembered a woman I met on last year’s Walk, who described an odd look in the technician’s eyes, as she proceeded to “just take a few more images”. When we walked together in Philly, she was between chemo and radiation for the cancer that had been discovered through that mammogram.

I thought about the pain of a mammogram when it leads to difficult decisions about chemo, radiation and surgery. Seventeen minutes of compression seems a lot less painful than imagining making the choice to have part of one’s body cut away.
Seventeen minutes of discomfort seemed fairly insignificant as I thought of the family of a woman who was diagnosed too late because she didn’t have insurance for a mammogram. For that family, seventeen minutes that never even happened cost them a lifetime of loving memories.

My mind swirled through example after example, illustrating that my measly seventeen minutes were only worth considering for about seventeen minutes.

This reflection brought to mind the reasons that I keep walking and crewing in the 3Day Walks for Breast Cancer. The funds that I have helped to raise ensure that more women will have mammograms. My fundraising helps to pay for vital research so that mammograms that do lead to frightening diagnoses are more likely to have less frightening outcomes. My footsteps help to support community programs and education. My footsteps are matched by the footsteps, fundraising and hard work of all of the 3Day community. Together, we make an impact that will last way longer than seventeen minutes. Our work will last a lifetime. Our work provides lifetimes. And everyone deserves a lifetime.

If you are over forty, or have a family history of breast cancer, please schedule a mammogram right away. Not all breast cancer can be identified with a mammogram. However, mammograms – combined with regular self-exams – continue to be the most reliable diagnosis tool for catching breast cancer early. And early diagnosis means more survivors. Spending seventeen minutes as the filling in a breast sandwich seems a small price to pay for your health and well-being. Please! Run, don’t walk, to your nearest mammogram center. And then, once you’re finished, walk 60 miles with me in the fight against breast cancer.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Connections Really Count

Earlier this week, I responded to a friend request on www.DailyMile.com. In case you haven’t visited DailyMile, it is an awesome website that provides a fun format within which to track miles walked/run/swam, etc. At DailyMile you can also watch, motivate and inspire your friends in their own training. On the DailyMile site, people can search for you by name, exercise type, interests and group, and they request your friendship. The other day, I received a friend request from a walker named Pam. When I see a new friend request on my page, I like to look at the requester’s profile to determine our connection. Most of the requests I get are either from people I know in “real life”, or they are 3Day walkers. Pam was one of the latter.

I replied to Pam’s friend request, welcoming her to the 3Day community and acknowledging that I was looking forward to following her training. The message I sent to Pam was pretty much the same one that I have written to welcome other walkers on DailyMile. But something different happened this time. Pam responded right away and we started a dialogue. She mentioned that she was a first-timer and that she was hoping DailyMile would help her to be more motivated in her training. She lamented that she was having some trouble staying motivated; and that she is far away from the rest of her teammates. I encouraged her to follow @the3day and various 3-Day walkers on Twitter, to read the blogs of the online ambassadors, and to “like” the 3Day on facebook. Pam wrote that, up until this point, she had mostly been using facebook to connect to the event. She also told me that although she had a twitter username, she wasn’t using it. I asked her if she’d like me to inquire among my cyber friends whether there were other walkers in her city that she might hook up with. She thought that sounded great.

What happened next was a cyber-storm of activity. My plea for support for my new friend was met with a flurry of affirmative responses, including a few offers from walkers in her city asking for her contact information so that they could reach out to her. Before I could even tell Pam about this development, I realized that she was now following me on Twitter. So I tweeted her a big welcoming ‘shout out’. And the rest, as you sometimes hear, was history. Within a few hours, Pam was tweeting with more 3Day walkers than she could keep track of. I was shaking my head in amazement and joy when, just two hours after I had suggested she start ‘tweeting’, she was making plans with walkers in her area to meet for a training walk. Should I chalk it up to the wonders of cyber communication? Yes, but even moreso, I need to chalk it up to the wonders of the 3Day community!

The intense rapidness of connection that happened between Pam and her new community of local walker friends has a lot in common with how connections happen on the actual event. Imagine this: maybe I’m walking and I meet another walker. She tells me that she’s new to the 3Day and shares her story with me. I listen and I realize that she has a lot in common with someone I met in the dinner tent the night before. As we approach the next Rest Stop, I see the friend from dinner and I call out to her. I introduce my two new friends and they immediately start sharing stories. My dinner friend shouts out to her three teammates to join us, and now the six of us are walking out from the rest stop getting to know one another and making connections that will last miles into our future. Before we know it, our conversation has eaten away at ten more miles. The power of the3Day community has fueled our afternoon and kept us motivated and strong. This is what happens on The3Day, and it happens over and over again, all day long, for three beautiful days. To witness this same magical connectedness happen on my computer screen inspired me to believe that the power of the 3Day is alive every day.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Moments That Make Memories

John of www.60miles3days.com recently asked me if I would be videotaped talking about my “favorite 3Day moment”. I said yes, but with trepidation. My concern wasn’t about being videotaped – I’m not particularly shy and I love to tell a good story. The fear factor is at the idea of trying to come up a single favorite moment. After 9 years of walking and crewing in the 3Day Walks for Breast Cancer, I don’t feel like I can come up with just one favorite moment! However, I gave the question a lot of thought and am now excited to share one of my favorite moments with John on video. We're supposed to tape it tonight, and I hope it goes as well as I expect it will!

Meanwhile, I started to think about the question from a new angle – are they favorite moments or favorite memories? That might just seem like semantics, and it possibly is, but I have started to think about the two different sides of the question. There are favorite 3Day memories, and there are favorite 3Day moments. By my way of thinking, favorite memories are things that I remember from my own 3Day experiences. Everyone in the 3Day family has these memories, they pile up like old snapshots, but far more precious. Each 3Day memory is unique and personal, and belongs to the person with the memory, although s/he is always ready to share the memories with others.

Favorite 3Day moments, on the other hand, belong to everyone in the 3Day family. A 3Day Moment is a moment that is part of the event. It is a thread that carries us from one event to the next. These moments are common property and have a texture to them through which we connect to one another. From these moments, 3Day memories are built within each individual’s experience. For example, there is the moment in every 3Day – every year in every city - during Closing Ceremony, when all the participants take off their sneakers and raise them towards heaven in a salute to the survivors among us. This is a shared 3Day moment. But I – and probably every other walker and crew – have a different memory of this moment from each different event. There it is: a moment versus a memory.

All this musing has led me is to reflect on some of my favorite 3Day moments, and I present them here as just glimpses – sort of a slide show of moments. For the veterans among us, I encourage you to attach memories to each of these moments, enriching the slide show as it passes through you. And for the first-timers, I invite you to sit back and enjoy the show. Soon these moments will be yours.
Here goes:
- Arriving pre-dawn to a parking lot swirling with shades of pink and being greeted by smiling crew waiting to sweep my bag out of my arms,
- Listening to the words of opening ceremony and crying openly while holding hands with the stranger next to me,
- Weeping as the flags are carried into opening ceremony,
- Miles of stories shared along three days of walking,
- Coming around a final corner at the end of a long day to view a sea of pink tents,
- Walking through neighborhoods filled with welcoming and supportive signs and cheerleaders of all ages,
- Making new friends while waiting in line for a porta-potty,
- Spaghetti Friday night which is The. Best. Spaghetti. Ever.,
- Cheering for walkers as they come into camp,
- Weeping openly watching a ‘bald’ walker cross the end line,
- Cheering till my throat hurts for the crew,
- Cheering till my throat hurts for the walkers,
- Holding my sneakers high in the air,
- Hugging new friends goodbye,
- Wishing I could start the three days all over again.

These are the moments that make the memories that fill my heart with a passion for The3Day. I can't wait to make more memories.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Walking in the Rain Part Two

As I wrote about in yesterday’s post, Matt & I had scheduled a training walk for yesterday evening. In the morning, it seemed fairly definite that it was going to rain down on us. We decided that our training was important, and that we wouldn't melt if we walked in a little rain. I wrote yesterday about some of the ways that walking in the rain is pretty insignificant when measured against the importance of what we are walking for.

After work, when we met to head out for our training walk, it wasn’t raining. In fact, the sun was shining and it was getting steamy. I decided to go with my lightweight windbreaker, rather than the heavy rain jacket and rain pants. About 2 miles into the walk, we were not only still dry, we were actually getting hot. I commented on the heat and we laughed at the irony of the post I had written that morning; and then the skies laughed back at us and let loose a torrent of rain and thunder that had my pants soaked through in mere minutes.

We walked another 5 miles in the rain. Not only did my pants soak through, so did my windbreaker. But we walked on and stayed upbeat. The focus of my blog post from the morning really helped. After all, it is easy to keep going when you have an end in sight. We both knew that all we had to do was walk in wet clothes for about an hour and then we would be home to take hot showers and relax over a warm supper. I can do anything for an hour when there is a happy ending in sight.

Our positive attitude was rewarded doubly about ½ mile from the end of the walk, when I glanced off to the east and saw a magnificent rainbow spanning the horizon above the trees. Yesterday’s training walk was a lot like my dedication to The 3Day. We really do need keep walking, and we need to keep crewing and we need to keep fundraising and we need to keep reminding people about this important cause. If we just keep going, the reward will come. Yesterday, our reward was a rainbow at the end of our training walk. Someday it will be a world without breast cancer.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Walking in the Rain

It’s raining out there! Waking up takes a little bit longer on mornings like this – the sky is glazed with grey and the sunlight that usually streams in my bedroom window is diffused and weak. Generally, I’m a fan of rain. In summertime, rainstorms remind me of childhood – when we would run outside into the rain seeking puddles to stomp through. Even now, as an adult, mid-summer thunderstorms are a joy that I share with my children and we laugh and dance around the yard until our clothing sticks to our skin.

But today, the rain is triggering a different thought, one as grey as the sky itself. That thought? “I’m going to walk in this pouring rain.” Today, after work, Matt and I have planned for an 8-mile walk. Training for a 3-day/60-mile walk takes a lot of time. It takes many hours every week. It takes scheduling finesse to fit all those hours around full-time jobs and parenting and taking care of our home. Our walk is still almost 4 months away, and yet we are “supposed” to walk about 20 miles this week to stay on track with our training. This is my 9th year walking in The 3-Day Walk for Breast Cancer, and I have learned over the years how incredibly important it is to train, train, train. And so, recognizing the importance of training, we schedule our walks carefully to fit everything we must do into our busy lives.

So, here’s the thing. Today it is raining. And today we are going to go for a walk that will take 2-3 hours. Because we are in training, and we have to make 20 miles fit into our week, we will be walking in the rain. It’s not just rainy, it is also colder than usual for June. But we’re walking anyway. We’ll dress warmly, and we’ll don our rain pants and rain jackets and we’ll suck it up. Cause here’s the thing about training for The 3Day Walk for Breast Cancer: it’s just a walk. After all, at the end of our 8 miles, when we are cold and wet, we will come home, drink hot tea and take hot showers. Even if we were “on event”, we would still do those things (and then sleep in a tent). But through all of it, it’ll still be just a walk. It won’t be cancer. I won’t be facing frightening treatment options. I won’t be watching my hair fall out. I won’t be waiting for a surgeon to decide whether I will keep my breast. I won’t be facing cancer. I’ll just be getting a little wet.

Get out there and walk, no matter what weather you are facing. It is just a walk. So, we’re gonna just keep going – rain or shine.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Sense of Purpose

Recently, I celebrated a very special anniversary. I call it a ‘walkaversary’. Nine years ago, I participated in my first 3Day Walk for Breast Cancer. On that first 3Day Walk, I met a particularly friendly walker who is now my husband. That’s probably reason enough to celebrate!

But I also celebrate that my life changed that weekend in more ways than I can recount (many are described in other blog posts you can read below). One major change is that walking became a constant part of my everyday life. On the last day of my first 3Day walk, I limped on a very swollen knee to the registration tent and signed up to do it again the following year. Since that day, I walk at least 4-6 hours every week, and each year as training kicks into gear, I walk up to 25-30 hours a week.

People ask how I stay motivated to walk so much. Matt and I are lucky because, since the walk has been part of our lives together from the very start, walking is a way that we celebrate our life together. Walking dates are a big part of what we like to do. That helps. But there are some other things that I recognize as being the ways that I stay inspired to keep walking year round. I hope that this list might help you keep focus in your training life.

1. Respecting Your Training = Respecting Yourself.
We all have jobs or classes and doctor’s appointments and committee meetings and more that we have to get to at specific times. And, generally, we make it to all those places when we are supposed to because we have scheduled it. You need to make walking as important as anything else in your life. Schedule time to walk and write that time directly onto your calendar as an event. Consider it a date with yourself. You wouldn’t break a date with a friend, would you? So don’t break dates with yourself!

2. Be Impressed With Yourself.
Training for The 3Day takes a lot of time and effort. Be impressed with what you are accomplishing. Tracking your training in a visible and accountable way will help you stay reminded that you should be proud of what you are doing when you take time to train. There are lots of ways that you can track all those miles. Create a chart and post it in your kitchen, make a special calendar for your office, or use an online tracking program, such as www.DailyMile.com. Whatever helps you to blow your own horn is worthwhile. What you are doing is special and incredible!

3. Be Inspired, Be Brave and Don’t Be Afraid to Cry a Little.
There are as many different experiences and meanings to the 3Day as there are walkers and crew. The stories of others will give you tremendous motivation to keep training. It is inspiring to read about why people are walking, what they are learning about themselves, how they are fundraising and more. Look for blogs on the subject, and follow the winding trail from the bloggers you like best to those that they are reading and recommending. I have listed a few of my most recent reads on my blog; other bloggers do the same. Reading the words of others can help you to think more about your own story, and this will definitely help you to keep those feet moving.

4. Embrace the Community
If you haven’t yet been on a 3Day event, you will soon discover that it is like a very big family, without the family drama. The 3Day is all about community. Walking or crewing a 3Day is a very intense experience and you can’t help but embrace the people who share it with you. Bringing that sense of community into your life year-round is a great motivator. I am grateful to the cyber world that has developed in the 9 years since my first walk. Rather than go home and lose that feeling of community during the months between events, I can visit with my 3Day family all the time. If you “like” The 3Day on facebook (http://www.facebook.com/3dayforthecure?ref=ts) you will get great pointers in your news feed, including links from online ambassadors. If you follow the 3Day on Twitter (http://twitter.com/the3day) you read fun comments all day long, and you will find yourself immersed in a community of wonderful 3Day friends. Soon you will be connecting with lots of people who will embrace you and the journey you are taking. It doesn’t matter what city each of us will be in when we have our 3Days, because we are all connected through our common passion.

5. Recognize Your Sense of Purpose
Staying motivated to train is easy when you stay connected to your own personal sense of purpose. You decided to take this journey for your own reasons. These reasons define your sense of purpose. Stay connected to that. Create a mantra that helps you focus on the meaning of your 3Day Walk. I focus on the mantra: “it’s just a walk”. With these words, I remind myself that even if my feet blister or my knees swell up, it is still just a walk. It isn’t chemo and it isn’t living in fear of leaving my daughter without a mom. I remind myself that I am walking for those who cannot take this journey. And for me, it’s just one foot in front of the other over and over again. It’s just a walk.

Think about your own reason for walking. Whatever it is, dedicate yourself and your training to that purpose. Commit yourself to training to honor that purpose. Your sense of who you are and why you are making this journey are worth naming and repeating. And doing that is certain to keep you going every time.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

It's the Little Things

Whenever Matt and I are walking, we’re on the lookout for critters: bunnies, squirrels, birds, chipmunks, groundhogs, or whatever we are lucky enough to spot. We have a similar way of looking at the world and can often pass several miles talking about the critters we’ve seen or telling stories from their viewpoint. It can get pretty amusing when we start imagining the conversations that the critters might be having about us. This way of seeing the world is something we have in common, and it is fortunate that we both love finding bits of nature to catch our eyes and motivate our walks. If just one of us was stopping to look at little things along the way, I imagine that the other one might become impatient. Instead, we are each able to inspire one another to keep a watchful eye on fields and woods.

A few weeks ago, we were on an 8-mile training walk and we stopped at about Mile 3 to check on a puddle-y pond that Matt has, for years, insisted is filled with frogs. We have repeatedly checked this little pond and he always insists that there are frogs there, but never had we spotted one. That changed for us last Saturday. I’m glad that he is so much more patient than I am when it comes to waiting for the critters. We stopped along the bike path and leaned hopefully onto the fence that overlooks this little puddle of water.

We watched the water for a few minutes and I was ready to give up, repeating - as I have on many occasions - that there are no frogs in this not-really-a-pond. But Matt grabbed my arm just as I was ready to walk away, and he pointed. It took several seconds for my eyes to adjust before I spotted the frog, but sure enough there he was. Within minutes, we were registering a tally and grinning like little kids. We found 8 frogs that afternoon and stayed watching them for about 20 minutes while folks whizzed by on their bikes and roller blades, oblivious to the froggy haven that we had discovered. Eventually we pulled ourselves away and walked the rest of our miles, engaged and renewed by the strength that watching those frogs had invested in us.

Not everyone is motivated by frog-power, but here is where I am going to suggest that maybe you should be. Inspired by the beauty of nature, I am motivated to be my best self. But there was something more happening for me as I watched those frogs do almost nothing as they floated in their puddle. The following Saturday, when we discovered 7 tiny salamanders alongside the path, I felt that same inspiration building in me again. A well of emotion and motivation invigorates me when we spot critters. That day, I decided it was time to think about what the inspiration is that I am finding from these small living things.
Every time that I stop and appreciate a simple critter living its life, I am rejoicing in all of life. That’s why it has become an important aspect of my training walks. Every 3Day event in which I participate – as a walker or as crew – is an opportunity for me to focus on life and living. My commitment to the 3Day is a dedication to the value of life, and to the hope that someday no more lives will be lost to breast cancer.

Collecting an inventory of critters while I train helps remind me of the reasons that I walk in a way that feels very tangible for me. I am watching for frogs to honor the memory of being at the lake with my friend, Mary Kay, who lost her fight with breast cancer almost 8 years ago. I am counting the salamanders for the woman who is lying on her couch counting ceiling tiles while she recovers from this week’s chemo. I am laughing at the antics of the squirrels for the little boy who wishes his mom were there to laugh at the Saturday morning cartoons with him. I am grinning at the chipmunks dancing along the bike path to remember the man who is driving his daughter home from her first dance alone. When I am standing mesmerized by a bird I have never seen before, I honor the bride whose mother isn’t there to see her wedding finery. When I rejoice in seeing the first bunnies of spring, I am celebrating my friend, Diane, a two-time survivor and the spirit that gets all creatures through the winters of their lives.

The suggestion that one should ‘stop and smell the flowers’ is valid and valuable advice. However, I caution you against thinking that is the only way to engage with the natural world. Simply smelling the flowers is not enough. You need to look at them and hold them and think about what the flowers really mean. And so, I offer this new twist on the old adage, “Stop and look for frogs.” Maybe it won’t be frogs that you find for your inspiration. But find something that helps you to be reminded that we are in this for very big reasons, even if you are reminded by something small.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Do Something Amazing

This past Sunday, we volunteered at The Preview Expo for the Boston 3Day. Here it is, my tenth year of walking and crewing and I have finally attended my first Expo. I had no idea what I’d been missing. As we drove east early Sunday morning, I reflected aloud that I felt happy that we were driving towards “3Day-land”. I was feeling glad that we had volunteered to spend our day at the Expo. I felt happy knowing that we were doing what we could to help with an event that means so much to us. I could feel the joyful expectation rise within me that we were heading into 3Day-land, and therefore something amazing was going to happen.

Back in 2001, in preparation for my first walk, I read every inch of the information packet and felt well prepared for my first 3Day experience. I don’t even know if there were Expos back then; but if there was, I missed it. And in the years since then, I figured that I already knew what to expect and therefore didn’t “need” the Expo. I assumed that the Expo was just for first-timers seeking a little extra something. On Sunday, I discovered that there are all sorts of reasons to go to an Expo.

The Expo is indeed a great resource for new walkers and crew hoping to learn more about the event. At the Expo, attendees circulated between a number of small rooms and all around one large room, stopping to look at various exhibits about aspects of the 3Day. Participants could practice setting up and taking down pink tents. They could look at the tents and imagine crawling into them at the end of a long but glorious day of walking or crewing. There were workshops on blister care and fundraising and packing. There were tables filled with photo albums of past events. There were slide shows and sign-making materials. You could even write yourself a letter and the Komen folks will keep it safe and deliver it to you in camp during your 3Day.

At Sunday’s Expo, my role as a volunteer was “manning” the crew table. The table is intended to be a location for new crew (there to attend Crew 101) to stop by and ask questions. I’m not sure if it was because I have a carnival barker attitude or because I got to stand near some of the coolest graphics and signs, but I had a lot of walkers stopping to visit.

One of the signs at “my” table was a graphic presentation of “camp”. It’s a poster that the 3Day folks can use at every Expo. It represents a general sense of what is included in every camp --- like the trucks and the showers and the dining tent and the porta-potties and the rows and rows of pink tents. Apparently, if you are new to the 3Day world, it is a very intriguing poster. Alongside this map was a flow chart of the three days, starting with Opening Ceremony and moving through the pit stops and Camp through all three days and on to Closing Ceremony.

Lots of people stopped to look at the posters and then stayed to ask questions about what they should expect on the event and in camp. I loved all the chances I had to talk and to answer questions. I do love talking about The 3Day and I appreciated the opportunity to meet so many excited walkers and crew. Over and over again, I felt the connection and the joy that is, for me, a part of each 3Day. I had fun answering questions. And I left fortunate to be given the opening to really listen to people’s fears and expectations. And just as I have experienced on the actual 3Day, I met some people who will probably be in my heart forever. Let me tell you about one of them.

I hope that I will get to see Pat again. She stopped by my table about an hour into the Expo. Pat is an older woman, around 65 and a bit overweight. When I first spotted her, she hesitantly stood looking at the posters. Her husband stood beside her, hovering protectively, although he seemed older and perhaps more frail than she. I smiled and launched into my best “what can I help you with today”. She shrugged and smiled. I tried again, “First time?” She nodded. I introduced myself and she quietly returned the introduction but still just numbly stared at the map and flow chart. I tried another foray, “Are you going to be walking here in Boston?” That was the opening she needed and she began to explain that she was registered to walk, but was starting to fear whether she would physically be able to do it. She said she had some medical concerns and just didn’t know if it was more than she could do.

After finally handing me her fears, she looked at me expectantly and waited. It was a poignant moment. I wanted so much to be able to give her just the right answer. Having walked and crewed so many times, I felt well prepared to consider her question. I asked her what her physician thought. She said that he thought she should give it her best try. I smiled broadly and said that was my exact advise as well. I spent several minutes talking about the details of the event itself, using my handy flow chart poster as a reference. I explained that as a walker she would have many opportunities to rest, or to take a ride from a sweep van and walk only as much as she felt she really could. I explained that there would be lots of people on the event working extra hard to support her. I emphasized that she could train with a modified event in mind. Using the flow chart, I demonstrated that each 20-mile day is actually a bunch of 3 or 4-mile walks, with a pit stop at the end of each “short walk”.

I rested my hand on Pat’s arm and said, “You might not walk all 60 miles, but at the end of every day, you will know that you walked as far as you could. And you will know that you walked a whole lot farther than if you had just said ‘This is more than I can do’. At the end of the weekend,” I assured her, “You will know that you did something amazing.” I stopped talking and looked into her eyes and saw that they were welling up. I tried to glance away to avoid breaking down myself, but when my eyes moved past hers, I connected with her husband. He had been quietly standing just outside the circle of confidence that Pat and I were sharing. I looked at him now to see tears rolling down his face. The three of us stood there for a moment, connected by something deeper than my writing can embrace.

After a few moments, Pat smiled and thanked me. She asked if I was walking, and I explained that I would be volunteering on the third day of her Boston walk before going on to crew in Chicago. I will be walking as well, but not until October in DC. She smiled, with her eyes still glistening and threatening to tear up again, she said, “I sure hope I see you on that third day. I will want to thank you for helping me to walk.”

What I shared with Pat at the Expo is an important message for all of us. No matter how far we go, we should be able to say at the end of the day, “I have done as much as I could. I have done something amazing.”

Go to an Expo --- learn what you can, share what you can, talk to everyone you meet. Then go do something amazing.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Self-made Promises

The other morning, I visited my local drive-up coffee hut. It’s a tiny little one-room shack, reminding me - and those of us old enough to recall them - of a Fotomat booth. There’s just enough space inside for an espresso machine, a fridge and the nice man, Scott, who appears at the window with a bright smile each time I arrive. This morning, he came to the window, already tamping the espresso for my latte. He smiled and said, “skim latte, right?” I smiled my agreement and he went about preparing my coffee. I sat back in my car and reveled in the warm feeling of being recognized.

When someone greets us with a smile, and a “Your usual?” it makes us feel important, right? That acknowledgement and recognition makes us feel special. The reality is that all it means is that I drink the same thing all the time, I go to the same place often enough, and the guy that works there is good at his job. But there is another reality. I revel in the feeling of being known. Of course, the fact that Scott knows how I like my coffee doesn’t really mean that he knows me, but it does trigger that feeling. And I have come to learn that, for me, being known is deeply valued thing. I think it is for all of us.
I first came to a place of feeling known during my first 3Day Walk in Boston in 2001.

During the year leading up to my first 3Day Walk, I was facing some big questions about who I was and how I was living in the world. One of the things I was realizing was that I didn’t like the way I felt about myself. I had begun to come to a recognition that I often felt as though I was more separate from others than I wished. I had started to notice that there were many times that I would feel that all around me were people connecting with one another while I stood outside the circle, wishing I was inside the circle, but equally sure that those people inside the circle didn’t even know I was there. I knew I didn’t want my life to keep feeling that way, and I became determined to change it.

During the months of training for my first 3Day, I began to think about ways that I could make even more meaning of the event for myself. And so, I made myself a promise to be outgoing and have confidence that the people I was meeting were going to be interested in knowing me. It was an important self-promise, the words in my head were “whoever you meet will be as interested in meeting you as you are in meeting them.” This wasn’t really how I saw myself in the world, but it was how I wanted to be. It scared me a bit to try and be this person. But I also knew that I really did believe that I was interesting. I really believed that I had interesting things to say. But at the same time, I wasn’t very good at trusting that anyone would really be all that interested in listening to me. But that was who I wanted to be. And so I made myself that promise. I figured that it was just three days, and I could do anything for 3Days. It’s funny, I was more frightened about living up to that promise than I was about walking 60 miles.

And so, for 3 days, I met people – and really the world – believing in myself and believing that people wanted to know me. I listened intently to each person that I met. I responded to those people with intention. I spoke up, I shared stories about myself and about my life, and I rejoiced in becoming known. Those 3 days were the start of a gigantic journey. I journeyed 60 miles on foot and a lifetime in my heart. What I discovered was that I can be known. I can be the person I wanted to be. I don’t have to be outside of any circles.

And here’s the big lesson in all this. Maybe you are preparing right now for your first 3Day Walk. Maybe you are preparing for your tenth. Maybe you are a dedicated 3Day Crew member. Maybe you are a 3Day supporter, or maybe you are just curious. It doesn’t matter, really. What matters is this: in life, you must consider who you are and who you hope to be. And then go out and become that person. The 3Day is the ideal community within which to do this, because the people on the event are all committed to a brighter world. But really, the opportunities to reach your own goals exist everywhere in our lives. Whether it is The 3day, or simply the next three days of your life – whichever it is, you can make yourself any promise you need to. You deserve to be the person you dream of being. We all do.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Every Minute Counts

Last night, I decided it was time to write a new fundraising letter. Each year, I write a few different letters, depending on how I’m approaching our fundraising. It’s important to change it up, and after 10 years, that sometimes gets difficult. After all, how many different ways are there to say, “Please help”?

For inspiration for my new letter, I decided to review the facts sheet that the Komen folks sent to me when I agreed to be an “online ambassador”. One fact I hadn’t seen before reached out and hit me in the face.

>> A person dies from breast cancer every 68 seconds. <<

68 seconds?! Every minute another person dies from breast cancer.

In the ten minutes that it took to brew my coffee this morning, someone’s daughter died. A young man lost his only sister. A husband held his dying partner’s hand. An older woman had to tell her granddaughter that mommy wasn’t coming home. A woman said goodbye to her brother forever. A man died quietly, ashamed of his body. A single mother died wondering who would care for her children. A woman with no family died alone in a sterile hospital room. A family gathered around their matriarch to say goodbye. Somebody’s best friend died. All that loss while I waited for my coffee.
This litany of loss could be devastatingly depressing. But it doesn’t have to be. Instead, I choose to use it to inspire me to be stronger in my training and more intentional in my fundraising. Every minute that I am walking in The 3Day Walk, I am saving lives and supporting people who are living with breast cancer. By raising money with my footsteps, my minutes are counting in this battle. I am waging war by using my feet, and engaging the hearts – and wallets – of my family and friends.

Walking at full speed, it would take me about 950 minutes to walk 60 miles. The 60 miles of The 3Day will actually take a lot longer than that because I need to stop and stretch and eat snacks and visit those beautiful porta-potties. So, it will take me around 1500 minutes of walking. And in those 1500 minutes, all across the world, 1500 more people will die from breast cancer. But in those same 1500 minutes, the money that my feet helped to raise will help to change the face of the disease.

I have raised at least $3000 each of the years that I have walked, so each minute that I walk is worth two more dollars towards the cause. Two dollars might not sound like much but those dollars really do add up. Each minute that I walk, I will be walking with thousands of other people, so my dollars are matched by all those other dollars.

Just last year alone, our minutes were part of $93 million in grants offered to 1900 community organizations. In 2009, our minutes helped 3.9 million people to receive breast cancer education materials. Our minutes helped more than 260,000 women to receive a potentially life-saving mammogram. Our minutes helped approximately 5,000 people to be diagnosed with breast cancer who otherwise may not have been diagnosed, and our minutes helped more than 100,000 women to benefit from treatment assistance.

My minutes, multiplied by the thousands of 3Day Walkers and Crew in fifteen cities this year, will lead the fight to change the statistics and transform the litany of loss to a celebration of hope.

Another person dies from breast cancer every minute? That may be true, but it is also true that every minute, there are also thousands of us all across the world, walking towards a different future. We all get to decide which minutes of our lives to make count. Make your minutes count.

Friday, April 9, 2010

It's Just a Walk

What keeps you going when life throws a challenge in your path? Some days, the challenge is small, like an alarm clock that didn’t sound or a lunchbox strap that breaks just as you walk out the door. Other days, the challenge is daunting, like the phone call from your best friend telling you that her marriage is ending, or learning that your friend has just found out that breast cancer has returned after 10 years. No matter what it is you face, it’s important to have a way to manage in challenging times.

A mantra gleaned from my first 3Day keeps me going when life’s challenges get tough.

My first 3Day Walk was in Boston in 2001. I was walking to honor a brave friend. Mary Kaye was enduring chemo, surgery and radiation - all within one short year after she had lost her husband to pancreatic cancer. Every few weeks, I was driving the four hours to south Jersey to hold Mary Kaye’s hands and help care for her kids during and following her treatments. I helped by sweeping her floors and holding what was left of her hair away from her face while she vomited. I offered rides to her kids and worked to distract them from their fears and confusion. I sat with Mar and watched movies and read books aloud. Generally speaking, I did whatever I could to be a friend.

Meanwhile, I was training my body and raising money. I was feeling well prepared for my first event. I had trained to the specific parameters of the training guidelines. I had walked at least twenty or thirty miles every week. I had walked the requisite back-to-back training walk a few weeks before the event. I was physically ready for this walk.

So there I was on the first day of my first event, and over the course of that first 20-mile day, my left knee - despite miles and miles of training - became inflamed. By the end of the day, I wondered whether I would be able to finish all three days. I spent the evening nursing my knee and visiting the Medical Tent. With the help of a gifted Physical Therapist, and plenty of pain medication, I was able to get up and walk the next day.

Not long into that second day, the swelling in my knee returned, and along with the inflammation came a jarring pain with each step that I took. I really felt like giving in and giving up. And then I turned to the woman I was walking with and said, “It’s not really that bad. It’s just putting one foot in front of the other, over and over again. It’s just a walk.”

That day on the Walk, I was ready to give up. Then I thought of Mar (and all those other fighters and survivors) who didn't have the choice to just give in. Those words came into my head and became a mantra that kept me walking to complete all sixty miles. Those words and that memory have nurtured me since in all my tough times.

"It’s just a walk."

It isn’t chemo. It isn’t losing your hair or losing parts of your body. It isn’t looking at the fear of loss in your childrens' eyes.

It’s just a walk.

It isn’t sleepless nights wondering whether to try chemo or radiation or surgery. It isn’t spending day after day thankful just to be able to get out of bed. It isn’t worrying about who will care for your kids if you don’t make it.

It’s just a walk.

Those words, “it’s just a walk,” have carried me through some of the biggest and most frightening challenges in life. I am reminded that we each carry within us the strength to do more than we think we can. And I am reminded that whatever we are challenged to do, we can definitely do it. Whatever it is isn’t really as scary or as difficult as we think it is. In so many ways, it’s just walk.

So whatever it is - get up, get out there and face it. Just start with the first step. Once you get started, it’s really just a walk.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Lessons from Driving School

My daughter is almost 16 and has started taking classes at driving school. In our home state of Massachusetts, that means that she is attending 30 hours of classroom instruction, and that I, as her parent, was required to attend a parents’ driving class.
The instructor taught us something this week that was a revelation to me as a driver as well as offering me an insight into my life.

“When you are approaching a stop sign,” she asked, “where are you looking?”

Along with most of the other parents in the room, I thought about it and my answer was that I would be looking at the stop sign. The instructor smiled knowingly and demonstrated her thoughts on the subject. Standing at the front of the class, with her hands extended in front of her as though driving an invisible car, she processed across the front of the room, and as she approached her imaginary stop sign, she swung her head carefully to both the right and left. Of course! I thought, as I approach the stop sign, I am looking at the traffic to the right and left that may be approaching the same intersection. Light bulbs started popping all over the room as we all recognized this shared habit.

Immediately, I acknowledged what she was doing as something that I do myself. And I’m willing to bet that you are recognizing it in yourself as well. So far, every experienced driver that I have asked to think about it has recognized that s/he does this same thing. And I have noticed this week that even when I come to a complete stop, I still have approached the intersection by looking ahead to the left and right.

So here’s the question: if you are planning to stop at that sign, why do you need to know what is happening in the crossroad? Why does it matter? After all, you are going to stop and then look to the right and left before actually proceeding, aren’t you?

That answer is pretty clear. We are not actually going to stop unless we “have to”. The plan, at a subconscious level, is to roll through that stop sign if it looks safe to do so. The plan is to keep moving and get on to the next part of the drive as quickly as possible.

That’s where the revelation kicked in for me. The light bulb in the classroom recognizing this unsafe and unnecessary driving habit was definitely bright. But the big burst came to me when we were out for our walk this evening and I was telling Matt about my driving class revelation. We were discussing it and I said those words, “The plan is to keep moving and get onto the next part…” As I said that, I stopped walking for a second as the realization hit me as to how often in life we are doing exactly that. So many times, we are so busy looking ahead to the next crossroad of our day or our life that we don’t even see the intersection where we are.

Walking in, and crewing for, The 3Day Walks has helped me to move away from this unhealthy way of living my life. 60 miles is a lot of miles. And the only way to get through all of those miles is one step at a time. I have learned a lot about slowing down and living life one step at a time. On the 3Days of the event itself, I really do manage to be living that way. And I try very hard to live the other days of my life this way as well.

I take my time with the walk. It’s important to me to talk to lots of different people along the way, and I have met some truly inspiring people by stopping and paying attention to exactly where I am. Along the way on the 3Days, I've met people who have stayed in my life for years, including the man to whom I am now married. I've met people walking for themselves and people walking for their mother or sister. I have met a male breast cancer survivor who taught me so much about strength and passion that I had to take deep breaths to absorb the joy he felt for life. I've met people too shy to tell me their story but whose presence next to me has provided me with strength and motivation. I have met people who make me laugh and people who make me cry. If I had been walking too quickly through my 3 Days, I might have missed all those people.

Walking and crewing is an incredible opportunity to see and enjoy some of the most interesting sites. I have seen the 'Love Fountain' died bright pink and I have seen a family of immigrants weeping by the gates of a cemetery. I have seen boats in as many colors as flowers and flowers in as many colors as the rainbow. I have learned to look up and see the corner where I am standing before I take the next step. If I move too quickly, I have no idea what I might miss seeing, so I'd best slow down.

I try to remember to always look around at exactly where I am. After all, if I am worrying about what is coming next, I might miss three sweet little girls standing on the corner dressed head-to-toe in pink. By glancing ahead to the next turn in the road, I could so easily miss the sign those girls are holding up: “Our mom is our hero”. I’d hate to miss that.

Life really does move too fast. Before we know it, the baby who was just learning to walk is getting into her own car. If I don’t treat every day and every mile as if it is one of my precious 3 days, life will slip me by. I don’t need to look past the stop sign to see what is next. I really can pay attention to the moment I am in.

The next time that you are driving, pay attention to how you approach an intersection. And more importantly, once you get out of that car and walk into your day, pay attention to how you approach the intersections of your life. Remember, it is okay to stop and see exactly where you are before you need to look ahead to what is next. If we can do it on the walk, we can do it every day of our lives.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What Are We Training For?

This afternoon, I walked with a friend who doesn’t walk as often as I do. As we walked, she commented on how much faster my pace was than hers and encouraged me to walk ahead of her. She suggested that I wasn’t “getting anything out of my walk,” and therefore shouldn’t be held back at her pace. I explained to her that I don’t need to walk fast or hard, I simply need to walk. In my thinking, any walk is a good walk, and any walk is training.

I walk all the time. And every time I walk, I think of it as a training walk. If it is just a mile or two, and the event is 10 months away, it is a training walk. If it is 15 miles, and the event is 3 weeks away, it’s a training walk. If I am wearing jeans and sneakers, it’s a training walk. If I am wearing all my walk gear, including a water bottle and a fanny pack, it is a training walk. You get the point, right? Every time I get my sneakers on and hit the pavement, I am training. Right now, I am training for my 12th walk (my 17th event, but crewing takes a different sort of training!). “My” 3Day is still almost 7 months away. And yet, I am training. Matt and I started training for the 2010 3Day as soon as we got home from the 2009 3Day.

Preparing for a 3Day walk takes lots and lots and lots of training. It’s not just about getting into good physical shape; it’s so much more. I think of it this way: to be ready for the 3Day, I must train my body, my head and my heart.

Train my body.
My feet and legs are going to do a lot of work in those three days. They deserve to build up to it. I have learned that my body really needs to be trained fresh year after year. Training gives my feet a chance to develop new calluses, and my leg muscles the time they need to gain the strength and endurance to go the distance. Training to walk also prepares parts of my body that can’t be trained any way other than with lots and lots of walking. For example, joints need lots of training. Given an average stride, my hip and knee joints will bend about 200,000 times each in those three days. Training for miles and miles beforehand gives them a chance to make all those bends without giving in or giving up.

Train my head.
The 3Day walk is a brainy event. I am thinking all the time out there. I’m meeting new people, hearing stories, seeing new places, and trying to focus on all of it. During my training walks, I am training my head at balancing all the opportunities that will come my way during the 3Day. When I am out on a training walk, I love to talk about past 3Day events or spend miles planning our current fundraising projects. We also try to watch the scenery around us, drawing one another’s attention to a bird or critter, or to try and find a bird based on its birdsong. Hours into a walk, my head can get tired and distracted, so I need to train myself to be focused and keep me, and those around me, safer on the actual event. Training walks prepare me for the many ways that my head will be engaged during the 3Day walk.

Train my heart.
This is probably the most important training for me, and possibly the hardest. My training walks are a chance to reflect on walks of the past, think about my reasons for walking, and prepare my heart for the work it will face during the 3Day.
I’m not talking about cardio-training, but rather about training my heart to handle the pressure that will grow inside my chest as I move through those three days. My emotions will ebb and flow from joy and elation to fear and sadness in an unpredictable unending circle. Each training walk is an opportunity to think about all the reasons I have for being a part of the 3Day, and to train my heart for the emotions of the event.

Here’s what I am training my heart to be ready for:

First thing in the morning, my heart will work hard as I see the smiling faces of total strangers waiting at the starting gate to cheer for the walkers. They’ll be yelling and handing out high-fives. All I’ll be doing is walking, and yet these people will make me feel like I am a true hero.

The day will move forward and before I know it, the young woman walking alongside me will call my heart into action. She’ll be telling me her story. She’s 20 years my junior and yet she has already lost her sister, her mom, and last spring, her breasts. And here she is walking in this event. My heart will be in full swing as she will stop, take my hand, and thank me (who she has just met) for my commitment. She will be thanking me?! Okay, heart – keep me moving.

After lunch, my heart will be taking a rest as I walk alone for a few miles. I’ll be dog-tired, my dogs will be barking and I’ll be looking dog-eared. The heat and exhaustion will be sinking through me, threatening to drag me to a stop. I’ll turn the corner and see a fire truck ahead. It’ll be a big, red hook and ladder, the kind that causes young kids to dream of being firefighters. This truck’s ladder will be fully extended and I’ll see a swarm of firefighters, spending their day off dressed in pink. They’ll have made a bursting fountain of cold water to soothe the tired walkers. As groups of icy walkers laugh and dance our way through this torrent of man-made rain, I’ll hear the firefighters chanting, “3Day Walkers save lives!” Totally refreshed, my heart will gladly carry me through the next several miles. Thank you, heart – keep me going.

At the end of a long day, my body and my head will have carried me about 20 miles, but it’s my heart that will soar as I see those pink gates welcoming me into the most beautiful city I have ever seen. It looks like miles of pink tents when you see camp at the end of the day, and that sight stirs my heart with far more emotion than one expects from tents. As I approach camp, I’ll feel aware of, and connected to, every story of every walker and every crew member waiting to be a part of my community for the night. Everyone I walk past has his or her own reason for being there. Maybe they’ve lost someone or maybe they’re celebrating that nobody close to them has been struck by this disease. Maybe they’re on this journey to test their fortitude, or maybe to rejoice that they have finished chemo. I wish I had time to hear every story. But at night, as I rest my tired body in the cocoon of my pink tent, I hear the murmurs of all the walkers around me, and my heart knows that their stories have become a part of who I am. My heart rests with this knowledge and sends me off to sleep to walk again another day. This is what I have trained for.

Monday, March 8, 2010

What's In a Tattoo?

Last Thursday, I went with my 20-year old son, Zak, and a friend of ours and we all got tattoos. This was my third ink, and they have each been special, but this is the first time that I have branded myself with a declaration of commitment and personal passion. This tattoo is not a declaration of just one person; it is a declaration of my passion for thousands of people, and thousands of miles. My new tattoo declares forever my passion for The3Day walks. Adorning my leg is a blue 3 entwined with a pink ribbon. It feels great to have it there, like it has been waiting to be born.

The decision to get my tattoo at the same time that Zak was getting his first started out just as a mom being there for and with her son. I’d been thinking for a few years of getting this design in ink and when he started talking about getting a tattoo, it seemed like good timing. Funny thing is, I didn’t realize until we were there how perfect it was to have him along for this particular declaration. As we shared the tattoo party, I reflected on my son’s connection to my 3Day experiences.

Zak was part of my journey to The3Day from the very start. My first walk was dedicated to my friend Mary Kaye, who was battling breast cancer in the wake of having lost her husband to pancreatic cancer just a year before her own diagnosis. My friendship with Mary Kaye was really borne of our boys’ friendship with one another. If not for the persistence of my son and hers in their need to stay connected it’s possible that Mary Kaye and I might have missed the chance to be in one another’s lives in a deep and meaningful way. If not for Zak and R’s friendship, it’s probable that Mar and I would have only been once-in-awhile friends. So because of his role in the start of that friendship, Zak was a part of my 3Day journey from before it even began.

When I started training for my first walk, I was unprepared for the amount of hours that one must dedicate to walking. My son quickly turned the training from a chore into a pleasure by joining me on our local bike path. He’d ride his bike for miles up and down the path cycling past me, then riding alongside me then falling behind me. And then he would start all over again. He could have been out with his friends; he could have been home playing games. But instead, my 11-year old boy was keeping me company and cheering me on so I could train. When I hit the streets on my first 3Day event and saw the bike safety crew patrolling our route in the same looping manner, I would smile each time thinking of my own safety crew back home.

Above all, Zak holds a vital role in my 3Day memories. He made it possible for me to complete all 60 miles of the most physically demanding 3Day I have walked yet. Each event has had it’s own challenges and demands; but the most intense for me was the Boston 3Day of 2002. As any New Englander will tell you about our spring weather: anything goes – and that weekend it sure did.

Day One was a perfect, sunny, clear day around 70 degrees with a slight breeze. I walked most of that day with Matt, celebrating our “walkaversary”. It had been one year since we had met on the 3Day. A lot had happened in that year and I was so grateful to have him along as my walking partner, and rapidly moving towards being the life partner that he is today.

We had a perfect day for walking, and at the end of our day relaxed on the lawn outside the dinner tent playing cards with some other walkers. At dinner that night the announcements included a weather forecast that sounded a bit threatening. Rain was coming in and was expected for all of Saturday. They advised covering our tents with extra layers of plastic and to be prepared for a wet walk.

I made a phone call to my ex-husband, Mike. Our hometown is about 2 hours west of the route planned for Day Two and he had offered to bring our kids eastward to cheer along the walk route. I was really looking forward to seeing them among the cheerleaders. I called to see if the forecast might be impacting his/their plans. He laughed and told me that since they could sit in a dry car and we’d be the ones walking in the rain all day, he didn’t see any reason for their plans to change. I was happy to hear it and reflected on how fortunate our kids are that we have been able to be friends in the wake of the end of our marriage.

The rains whipped in during the night and by morning, it was pouring in earnest. Back in those days, walkers packed every thing up each day to have our tents and personal belongings moved to the next ‘tent city’ site. We dressed in everything we could, packed up our stuff and our tent and headed out for the day. Less than an hour into the walk, Matt’s wimpy windbreaker was failing and the temperatures were dropping. I called Mike again to check in about his plans with the kids. He confirmed that their plans were the same and that they were on the way. I asked him to bring a raincoat for Matt to borrow and he agreed. We kept on walking. It continued to rain and the temperature continued to drop.

It was getting cold for May, but as long as we were moving, it seemed okay. There were a lot of walkers dropping out from the cold. I called Mike again. He said, “You’re still walking? It’s snowing here on our drive!” I was shocked at the thought of snow in May, glad that it was just cold rain for us. And then just minutes later the sleet started. I could continue to share all the details of that morning’s walk, but you get the point. My brand new gore-tex raincoat was soaked through, stuck to my icy skin. When we stopped for a lunch break, I changed from old wet socks to fresh wet socks, huddled in the shelter of a high school’s doorway overhang. The 3Day offered warm buses and options to get dry and head back to camp. But we were stubborn and determined to keep walking. Looking back, Matt and I have reflected that it was unwise for us to keep walking. We were cold and wet and not making the clearest decisions. But we also determined to finish what we had come to start. At the most difficult points in that day, I couldn’t help but think of Mary Kaye, and think of all the times that she didn’t have a choice about when to give up. If she could keep fighting to survive, surely I could walk through one cold wet day.

Just at the point when I was so cold each step hurt, Mike called to say that he thought they were close. I could hear my son exclaim, “Look at all those porta-potties!” We conferred on directions and they were pulling up alongside us minutes later. I don’t usually use my cell phone on the route, but that one time I was certainly grateful to have it along. We ran up to the car and opened the door to greet them, and to get the raincoat that I’d asked Mike to bring for Matt. What a surprise we had! Mike is an outdoorsman, and had brought piles of gear for us to change. We jumped into the back of his small wagon into what looked like most of the inventory from a closeout sale at Outdoor Adventureland. There were dry sweatpants for Matt and big yellow, fisherman style pants and jackets for each of us. The kids cheered us on as we struggled to change in the back of the car. I had to stay in the wet pants I’d been walking in, but everything else for both of us was changed into dry stuff. Hugs were exchanged all around and we asked Mike to drive onto the next rest stop to check in on us before he and the kids turned back towards home.

So on we walked. It felt better, but I was still shivering. The pants I was wearing were drenched to my skin under the yellow rain pants. I was icy cold. I was disheartened that we had made it this far and that we might still have to give in to the elements. Mary Kaye wouldn’t give up, I thought. We approached the rest stop, and I ran over to the car. I looked at my son, the only person close to my size…”Please?” I asked him, “Please can I have your pants?”

I’d love to tell you that it was a Lifetime Movie Special Moment. I’d love to say that his eyes lit up and he rejoiced in his chance to help me. More like, he reluctantly relented. But he handed over the prize of his dry pants and I was able to change out of that icy layer. Dry and warmer now, I hugged my boy and thanked him. I told him that he had given me the one thing I needed most to be able to complete my day. Embarrassed by his pantlessness, he smiled with a new understanding. “You’re welcome Mom. I’m glad to do what I can.”

Warm and dry, we continued to walk. The whole mood of the day changed for us from that moment. We were strong again, and could laugh and share our story with the other walkers who had survived into this second half of a very long day. The sun even came out in the afternoon and we walked into camp (indoors that night) feeling victorious. We talk about that day often over the years. If not for the support of my family, I never would have finished walking that day. I might even have succumbed to the hypothermia that threatened me at lunchtime. If not for my son’s supportive gesture, I would have a different story to tell about my own survivor-day.

There was a moment of connection for my son and I that day. It might not seem like a big deal, but for a 12-year old about to sit pants-less for two hours in a car with his dad and his little sister, loaning me his pants was a very big deal. Zak gave up something he really didn’t want to because he knew I needed it more than he did. And in the years between then and now, I have known that I can count on him for that level of support. I can ask him for anything and he will give me what I need. He is just that kind of person. He gives of himself freely and often no questions asked. People can count on him. I don’t think he’s ever had to hand anyone his pants since then, but I know he would if he needed to.

I trust that every time I look at my beautiful new tattoo that years of 3Day memories will scroll through my thoughts. At the top of that scroll will be the look in my son’s eyes when I thanked him for helping me survive my walk. May we all have that kind of opportunity to recognize it when we have helped another person.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Humankind. Be both.

Recently a co-worker approached me because she has been thinking about doing her first 3Day this summer. She'd heard from another co-worker that I had “been involved in a few events” and she hoped that I would tell her more about it. I warned her that once I start talking about the 3Day, it might be hard to get me to stop. There are so many stories to tell and so much to say about what the event has meant to me.

She started in, as so many people do, asking about technical details:
- Do you set up your own tent?
- How do you raise all that money?
- Where does your stuff go while you walk?
- How many pairs of sneakers will I need?

I stopped her after just a few questions to explain that she can get all those answers and many more from the very detailed and very well thought-out 3Day website. I assured her that she would have more support than she could imagine from the 3Day itself as well as from other walkers, and on event from the Crew. I didn’t mind answering those questions, but I really felt that I had something more that I could give her.
I proceeded to tell her about my first walk. I wanted her to hear about that walk because it changed my life. In reality, each of the fourteen 3Day walks that I have done has affected me. They have shaped me and helped me to grow in a myriad of ways. But my first walk, in Boston in 2001, changed my vision of the world and my own role in it.

I decided to take that first 60-mile walk to honor my friend Mary Kay as she was wrapping up what we prayed would be her last treatment phase. I was driving to the Jersey shore every few weeks to be with her during chemo to help with her kids and just to be with her. I was focusing on her needs, but had begun ignoring my own. When I became committed to Mar’s care cycle, I dropped my own exercise routine. I was lamenting about that loss of balance to a friend one day as we walked into a store together. There, as we walked in the door, was a life-size cutout of two women, powerfully striding across an unseen finish line. The caption read:

“The 3Day Walk for Breast Cancer. Do something bigger than yourself.”

I am not generally a believer in signs. But hey, that was definitely a sign. I registered the next day and immediately started training and fundraising. Three months later, on May 17, 2001, I headed east to Leominster, MA. These days, walkers and crew take care of all the technical stuff in cyber land. We register online, fundraise online, get our tent assignments online, and watch safety videos online as well. But in 2001, the internets were still pretty young. Back then, all that stuff happened at a big in-person gathering of walkers that was referred to as “Day Zero”. A lot of stuff happened at the carnival of Day Zero. Everyone waited in lots of lines and began building a community. I met a man that day – another walker – with whom I have now walked and crewed for 9 years. I actually married that walker 4 years ago. I suppose you might think that’s what made my first walk so life-changing. It certainly is one way that my life changed because of that first walk. But the walk itself changed who I was and what I believed in.

That change began at Day Zero when I watched the required “safety video”. They called it a safety video because it contained all the important rules of the walking road, but it was about way more than just our safety. It was also an inspirational video. The intent of that video was to remind of us the ways that we each could build a spirit of community. Those twenty minutes were filled with examples of the ways that we could take care of one another on the event. Helping another walker set up their tent at the end of a long day was an opportunity for kindness. We could take an extra minute to hold a door open. We could show kindness by simply picking something up for someone too tired to do so him/herself. We could always find someone who needed us. The message was powerful that we had a unique opportunity in these three days to build a community of kindness and caring.

That 20-minute video shaped my weekend. I embraced the vision of kindness and I was embraced by it. For those three days, I helped to build a community of kindness. For those three days, every person really felt that s/he could make a difference in the world. We touched one another by setting up tents or by walking across a field to bring water to someone whose blister was just ‘too much’. We created a world of hope and strength simply by being kind.

Before my three days started, I was confident that I was making a difference in the fight against breast cancer with the money I had helped to raise. And I knew that I would be making a difference with the awareness that our army of walkers would raise as we walked through the communities of Massachusetts. But by the end of those three days, I had learned a lesson about making a difference that has become part of who I am. I learned that being kind is what it takes to create a community. I recharge that personal vision every time I return to the community of a 3Day event. Those events are an amazing experience in being engulfed in a community of people who have learned that kindness and giving really can make a difference. We, the walkers and crew of The3Day, have learned that finding ways to give to other people is the best way to live. When you see how simple it is to make a difference in another person’s day, you begin to realize that you really can make a difference in the world.

It isn’t always easy to translate the kindness of The3Day into the “real world” but do I try every day. Being kind can change the world. I can change the world.

I really can do something bigger than myself. And so can you.