3 Days of Inspiration
A 60-mile walk to beat Breast Cancer
In the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer 3 Day, the walkers are the beneficiaries.
By Michelle Adinolfi
From November 14th-16th, I participated in an amazing event called the breast Cancer 3 Day. I walked 60 miles in three days with over 1600 women and men in the fight against breast cancer. Collectively, we raised over $3.9 million.
However, these numbers are not the reason that Iâ€™ve already registered for 2004. Iâ€™m returning next year because of the stories that the news reporter canâ€™t tell you. Somewhere around mile 34 you begin to realize: the inspiration isnâ€™t in the magic phrases said in Opening ceremonies to get us moving, or even the amount of money raised for such a noble cause. The inspiration of the 3-Day for me was in the small stories of huge heroes. These are the stories that have moved me.
The moving memories of the 3-Day began long before even Day Zeroâ€™s Orientation. When I began to train and fundraise for this event, I was met with total support from my family and friends. Most of my 40 some donors were my friends who, as college students themselves, do not have much money to support me financially. One friend said to me, â€œI am so sorry that I canâ€™t donate to your cause this year, but my Grandmother died of Breast Cancer. So thank you.â€ This stuck with me, and a check could not have replaced a statement like that.
My fundraising minimum of $2000 loomed over my head this summer, and I was worried about achieving my goal in time. I continued to send updates through the mail and email, announce the event to my classmates and teachers, and pretty much advertise at every possible opportunity. I was happy with my numerous donations of $20 or $40, and then one day I was sifting through the mail to find a letter from my aunt. It ended up being a donation of $500 between her and her friend. My first thought was that it put me over my goal. Then I realized that just by sending out letters and emails, my friends and family had put their hearts together and given over $2000 worth of donations because they believed in what I was doing. They also believed in me.
I knew that they took care of the details of fundraising, and it was my job to train well enough to take care of the walking. I have never been athletic before, and I began to simply walk the 2-mile loop around my development a few times with my Walkman. I registered on the website and found another walker who needed a training buddy. We began training together around the and of June, and by the middle of September we went on a walk one Saturday that sticks out in my mind.
We had been doing 10 miles every Saturday for a while and wanted to kick it up a notch. We walked what we believed to be a 15-mile loop. When we met again on Sunday to do our back-to-back training, we drove the route and realized that we had actually walked nearly 20 miles. On Sundayâ€™s walk, she said to me, â€œI really think that if we can walk 60 miles in 3 days, we can do anything.â€
Just Before the Event
A friend of mine sent me a care package that I received 2 days before the walk. In it was a card and a CD. The card said the following:
â€œI am so proud of you! I want to wish you the best of luck and strength in your 3-Day walk. May your energy be endless, your feet not hurt, and your will to help humanity continue always. Have an amazing time on your journey!
Ps- Even though I know you cannot listen to music when walking, I have included some inspiration in hopes of keeping your feet moving and your spirits high! I love you!â€
I ended up bringing my CD player, case, and a set of speakers with me on the WALK itself, inside my water backpack, and grooved to tunes at lunch and in my tent.
Iâ€™m sure that throughout the walk, despite the fact that I attempted to bring myself back to the cause, I was complaining at least to myself about the struggle. On the first day my walking buddy and I met up with a woman in a wheelchair named Janet. She was completing the 60 miles, much of which was uphill, by pulling herself in her wheelchair. She told some great jokes.
That night I attended Shabbat services (the Jewish observation of the Sabbath from sunset Friday evening until sunset Saturday evening. All in attendance were walkers, including the young woman who led the service. In the program guide (entitled â€œShabbat: A Well-deserved evening of rest) was the following story:
A handsome, middle aged- man walked quietly into the cafÃ© and sat down. He noticed a group of young men obviously making fun of his pink ribbon on the lapel of his suit.
â€œHey, sorry man, but we were just commenting on how pretty your little ribbon looks against your blue jacket!â€
â€œI wear this ribbon in my motherâ€™s honor.â€
â€œOh, sorry dude. She died of breast cancer?â€
â€œNo, she didnâ€™t. Sheâ€™s alive and well. But her breasts nourished me as an infant, and were a soft resting place for my head when I was scared or lonely as a little boy.
â€œAnd I wear this ribbon to honor my wife. Her breasts have been a great source of loving pleasure for both of us, and with them she nurtured and nourished our beautiful daughter 23 years ago.â€
â€œAnd you daughter?â€
â€œItâ€™s too late to honor my daughter by wearing it now. My daughter died of breast cancer one month ago. She thought she was too young to have breast cancer, so when she accidentally noticed a small lump, she ignored it. So in her memory, I wear this ribbon.â€
The man reached in his pocket and handed the other man a little pink ribbonâ€¦
There was a sea of blue tents at the camp each night, so it was recommended to us to bring something to identify our tent from others. The tent across from ours had a string of little flags with names on them. â€œWeâ€™re walking in honor and in memory of these women. It is humbling to know that we have enough friends who were affected by breast cancer to make a string of flags this long.â€
In Tibetan culture, they have a string of square, colored flags with writings and pictures displayed on them. They are hung outside, and as it was explained to me when I studied at the Shambhala Mountain Center in Colorado, â€œevery time the wind blows, a prayer is sent up into the heavens.â€ How appropriate.
Walkers For Knockers
On Sunday, the entire crowd was energized to get to the end but could definitely use a little push to get through the blisters and aches. After 4 years of being in marching band, Iâ€™ve learned the skill of creating military cheers. Since I had already had about 40 miles and two days to think about them, I created the following cheers:
â€œI donâ€™t know, but Iâ€™ve been told
Yesterday was kind of cold
Trash bags into ponchos
Weâ€™re just glad it wasnâ€™t snow!
I donâ€™t know, but itâ€™s been said
All our feet are getting red
Pink as far as you can see
Weâ€™re walking for Susan G!
I just heard the news my friend
We are getting near the end
No more cancer in the breast
3-Day walkers are the best!
Sound off! (1,2) Sound off! (3,4)â€¦â€
I heard this group behind us around mile 2 of Sunday singing their cheer:
â€œHow funky is your chicken?
How loose is your goose?
Come on, Walkers for Knockers!
Shake your Caboose!â€
I knew they were for me. I sang my cheer and they responded with excitement. When my walking buddy and I had gotten to the next red light, here comes this bubble group of women, three of which are holding a sign with their group name, â€œThe Walkers For Knockersâ€, hauling up the sidewalk calling out, â€œHey! Whatâ€™s your name?â€ We ended up walking the rest of the 18-or-so miles singing these cheers, oldies, show tunes; they sure made my feet hurt less!
My Dad, who has run a number of marathons, came to pick me up at Closing Ceremonies. He had said that he equated this event for me to his first marathon, and that he was sure Iâ€™d trained very well and would have no problem. When he came to pick me up, he had a beautiful bouquet of pink roses, a huge hug, and (although he probably wouldnâ€™t volunteer it himself) tears in his eyes. â€œI expected you to be pretty sore, maybe even limping over the finish line. Then there you came, bouncing over with a big grin on your face. Iâ€™m so proud of you, sweetheart!â€
I could not help but think of our Be The Cause volunteer-run â€˜familyâ€™ in the course of these moving three days. The all-volunteer crew on the 3-Day had that same sort of selfless service, bottomless energy and a boundless sense of urgency to help the world become a better place as soon as possible. I heard few complaints from the walkers, but rather gratitude for the opportunity to have this experience. Personally, although I would be the first to tell you how many grueling miles I trained or fundraising letters I wrote, I feel that I gained ten times what I put into this experience. I am so privileged to have had the opportunity to meet these individuals, to grow as an individual and as a united team in this powerful event. I cannot wait to have this experience again next year. The struggle to beat Breast Cancer is not finished, so neither am I.
This collective desire to better humanity was expressed most succinctly to me in the story of a walker last year. She said that they were each given a pink balloon on the walk. She and her small walking group released their balloons into the air in memory of their friend for whom they were walking. The idea caught on, and within a matter of minutes, the sky was dotted with close to a thousand pink balloons. â€œLooking up in the sky,â€ she said, â€œI was brought to tears; this visual expression of love said more than words.â€
— Michelle Adinolfi