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 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 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 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 ( you will get great pointers in your news feed, including links from online ambassadors. If you follow the 3Day on Twitter ( 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.