I have been touched by many people in my life, but no one more so than my aunt. We always shared a special connection – we shared the same name, the same mischievous sense of humor and the same love of friends and family. We had that once-in-a-lifetime connection of souls that is rare and special, and so important for a young person growing up.
When she passed away in June of 2002 after a two-year struggle with breast cancer, I experienced the most profound loss of my life. I wanted to do something to reflect her strength to others who have been affected by breast cancer, so I decided to participate in the Breast Cancer 3 Day.
The Breast Cancer 3 Day is a sixty mile walk over three days in which participants have to raise a minimum of $2200 towards breast cancer research and awareness education. The 3 Day turned out to be more than an event – it turned out to be an adventure of a lifetime.
The 3 Day began with a powerful opening ceremony in which a group of survivors, clad in pink, formed a circle with their arms to represent those who had been lost to breast cancer. As these individuals walked into open ceremonies, the power was palpable.
Iwalked with a team with whom I’d been training and fundraising since early in the “3 Day season.” Throughout those months, I formed friendships and heard numerous stories about those loved and lost to breast cancer.
As we walked, we walked down streets lined with supporters. They clapped, cheered, sprayed us with water, offered popsicles, gave out hugs, and came up with other creative ways for showing how much they appreciated the efforts of the participants in raising awareness and fighting to find a cure.
The power of the people fighting for this cause became clearer along the way, as we listened to both men and women talk about their battles with breast cancer, and their survival stories. It made us realize that our blisters from walking, and the challenge of walking 60 miles, could not compare with the challenges these men and women had endured during their fight with breast cancer.
Crossing the finish line, hand-in-hand and arms linked with my teammates, was one of the most profound moments of my life because it clearly illustrated the friendship and support that was formed throughout this experience and that this powerful bond we formed would never be broken. During closing ceremonies, at the end of the third day, thousands of walkers and crew took off one shoe and raised it in honor of both survivors and those who have lost their lives to breast cancer.
Throughout the walk, we often jokingly asked “are we there yet?” I started to think about this phrase and realized that no, we are not there yet, but we are getting there. Each step I take, whether a physical step during the walk, a financial step of receiving one more dollar towards my fundraising goal, or a bigger step of talking with someone about breast cancer and early detection measures, I am taking one more step in bringing us closer to our goal.
As a nurse, I often talk with people about prevention and early detection measures. As I participated in the 3 Day, I realized how much each one of us has done to bring awareness to the public.
We have to find a cure for breast cancer. “Are we there yet?” No, we are not, but with each step we take and each mile we walk we are coming closer towards realizing our goal. I am going to keep walking and keep taking those steps – and one day when we ask “Are we there yet?” we will be able to respond in a chorus of voices a resounding – yes!
Breast cancer is a strong disease, but the power of the human spirit is infinitely stronger.