jayfurr: (3-Day Ambassador)
It's all the rage these days to grimace mockingly at stores full of pink products every October... to roll one's eyes at pink ribbons hung on walls and mounted in car windows. People love to talk about "pinkwashing" and question how big of an impact a penny per yogurt lid will have in the fight against breast cancer. Your neighbor Bob asks "Why do we make such a big deal about it? It's a disease. Where's the love for people with lung cancer? What about people with heart disease? Why don't we wallpaper downtown with whatever color ribbon they use for ... I dunno, cirrhosis?"

In some ways, the movement fighting breast cancer has been a victim of its own success. People get jaded by constant reminders that breast cancer is an awful disease, blah blah blah blah blah, isn't it wonderful that these brave women and men are fighting it with such spirit and courage, blah blah blah. Everywhere they look there're pink-ribbon products for sale, people Racing and Walking and Bowling and God Only Knows What For A Cure®, and there comes a point where they just want to say "SHUT UP ALREADY, I GOT IT, YOU'RE SICK."

Imagine for a second that your co-worker knocking on the door is asking for donations for the fight against ... skinned knees. Or the common cold. You'd want to say "oh come ON, people! People get skinned knees. People get colds. CRY ME A RIVER."

Yeah, that's sort of the situation that we sometimes find ourselves in when we talk about breast cancer. We're up against "awareness overkill". People are sick of the whole subject.

What good has all this "awareness" accomplished? Why do people like me keep right on walking and fundraising and, yes, wearing pink, and yes, hanging big illuminated pink ribbons in our living room windows? Why do we keep on acting as though there's something special about breast cancer, something that sets it apart from other diseases, cancers and otherwise?

Go back in time 25 years. Imagine that you're a woman who's discovered a lump in her breast. Imagine that your doctor is poorly informed about breast cancer treatment options and is ready to order a radical mastectomy without even considering other treatment options. Imagine that your family acts ... embarrassed about your cancer. Imagine that none of your friends feel comfortable discussing it. Imagine that people take you aside and ask you to just refer to it as a "female cancer" and not specify further exactly what part of your body is afflicted. Imagine that your insurance won't cover your treatment. Imagine that your employer lets you go when they find out that you're sick. Imagine that you're treated by everyone around you as though you've done something shameful, as though you've got a big scarlet "C" on your forehead. Imagine that your husband is unable to cope with the situation and asks for a divorce because he "just can't deal with it."

That's what life was like for many, if not most, women diagnosed with breast cancer just a few years ago. And in some respects, that's how it still is.

Some women still find themselves out of a job because their employers are not willing to deal with them taking time off, unpaid or otherwise. Women still find themselves ostracized by "friends" and fellow employees and people at church because breast cancer's come a'knocking, as though it's either contagious, a horrible disgrace, or both. HMOs find reasons to terminate health coverage when a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer. Want cites? I can provide them.

Many women of my acquaintance have gone through absolute hell in their battles with breast cancer... and not all of it's caused by the cancer. Friends they thought they could count on were suddenly not around. Phone calls have gone unanswered. Husbands have packed up and moved out. It's hard enough to keep your spirits up when you're up against a potential death sentence. Imagine how much harder it must be when your entire social network and support structure decides it doesn't want to be reminded of its own mortality and vamooses.

And this is the year 2012, people. If, for some women, it's that hard, still, in this day and age, imagine what things were like 25 years ago, before the Pink Ribbon Revolution had begun raising awareness, and eyebrows?

I regard the women and men of my acquaintance who wrestle every day with cancer as heroes. Not because they chose to get sick, because they didn't. But because I'm impressed as hell by anyone who can endure chemo, and radiation, and disfiguring surgery, get declared all better, only to wake up one morning and guess what's baaaaaaack? And go through the whole thing again. AND do so despite the jaded, breast-cancer-was-so-yesterday detachment of American society at large.

These women and men are heroes. They deal with crap the likes of which I can only imagine. And that's why every year, several times a year, you'll find me standing in a big crowd of people, all of us wearing gobs and gobs of pink, holding shoes over our head as survivors of breast cancer march tearfully, or proudly, or both, in front of us.

Each time I go off to a Susan G. Komen 3-Day walk, I never really know what I'm going to encounter on my sixty-mile, three-day journey. It may rain, it may be bakingly hot, it may even snow. I may walk with others, I may walk alone. I may end the journey feeling strong and happy... or I may finish limping, feeling sad and injured. But no matter what crosses my path, I know how every 3-Day journey will end: with a parade of survivors of breast cancer marching together into the Closing Ceremonies while I, and thousands of other walkers and crewmembers around me, hold a sneaker or running shoe in the air to honor them... to say "I walked for you."



We veteran walkers don't exactly go out of our way to tell new walkers and crewmembers about it, coming as it does at the end of a weekend full of challenge and fatigue: "You're gonna walk sixty miles, you're going to go pee in a whole bunch of port-o-jons, you're going to drink so much sports drink that you're going to sweat purple, you're gonna sleep in a pink tent, you're gonna get blisters on your blisters ... oh, and at the end, you're gonna stick your shoe up in the air." It's not really the sort of thing that you get by just getting told about it. You have to experience it.

That's why the very first time I attended closing ceremonies, at the Washington DC 3-Day in 2008, I found myself holding a cheap plastic sandal in the air during the parade of survivors. No one had told me about the whole shoes-in-the-air ritual, so when I found myself with about 90 minutes to kill between finishing the route and the start of closing ceremonies, I grabbed my gear bag and changed out of the hiking boots I'd worn all weekend and slipped on ... day-glo yellow and black sandals. Yeah, I felt just a tiny bit silly when I looked around and everyone was holding up their stinky, smelly, sweaty, well-worn-in sneakers and there I was, like a dork, sticking a Flip-Flop up in the air.

But no one laughed and pointed. I think they could excuse me for being a bit footsore and for having changed into something more comfortable. I had just walked sixty miles in support of women and men everywhere fighting breast cancer. If I wanted to hold up a Flip-Flop, then more power to me.

Since that fall weekend in Washington I've held up my sneakers (or, in one case, a heavy steel-toed boot I'd worn while spending the weekend collecting 3-Day garbage as captain of the Route Cleanup crew) 10 more times. And it never gets old. I'm honored to do it every time.

Many 3-Day participants cite it as the most evocative, moving, emotional part of the entire weekend... and that's just the walkers and crew talking. If you're a cancer survivor, and you've born your cross in silence... going through radiation and chemo and surgery and endless trips to and from the doctor... and now, finally, people... THOUSANDS of people... are saluting you and your struggle and your courage and your bravery... it's little wonder that many survivors are openly sobbing as they parade through at the end of Closing Ceremonies.



The tradition dates back, apparently, to the early 2000s, in the early days of the 60-mile breast cancer walks. No one's quite sure, apparently, who held up the first shoe, but it's hard to imagine the 3-Day ending without it. And it's not necessarily the same in every city: when I walked in Minneapolis/St. Paul in the summer of 2010, I was surprised to find that every walker just knew to drop to one knee as they raised their shoes on high. (I didn't mind this, although I was wearing a kilt and had to be ... careful as I knelt down.) And I'm given to understand that each year at the Michigan 3-Day, the assembled walkers hurl the roses they're given as they finish the walk into the center ring. Roses raining down on the survivors from all sides! (The roses are generally the thornless variety.)

I've asked survivors their impression of the shoe salute and I've never found anyone yet who's said "Yeah, that gets old after a while."

We often say that life on the 3-Day is life as it ought to be: full of support and acceptance and without judgment and without negativity. I'm sorry that there are still those who regard breast cancer as something to be ashamed of, and I'm sorry that there are so many people who "can't handle cancer" and turn their backs on loved ones and friends in need. And I'm very very very grateful for those who go the extra mile to support their wives and mothers and daughters and friends and co-workers... their heroes who refuse to give up and give in.

So if you at times find yourself a bit awareness-weary and think it's time we shifted our focus to another disease, something less ... well, intimate... think twice. We've come a long way, baby -- but we've got such a very long way left to go.
jayfurr: (3-Day Ambassador)
"Wanted: a few dozen enthusiastic volunteers to spend a weekend staring off into space for long periods of time mixed with intense zaniness.  Ability to fend off attacks by Godzilla not required."

I'm referring, of course, to the women and men of the 3-Day Camp Services crew.   Anyone who's ever walked or crewed a 3-Day knows them well: they're the folks in outfits right out of a "Let's Make A Deal" episode who hand out towels at the showers, scan you in and out of camp at the beginning and end of the day, answer questions, run the lost-and-found, award legacy pins, and in general, run around in circles keeping the 3-Day Main Street tidy and organized.   They're there when walkers arrive at camp and they're there when the walkers leave camp.   While walkers are in camp, they're busy busy busy like happy little Harry Potter house elves...

But what do the Camp Services crew do when the walkers aren't around?  Ever thought about that?   If you're thinking about crewing for the first time, or you've crewed before and are considering crewing again but want to take on a new assignment, you've probably wondered exactly that.   Do they turn off and go into suspended animation like robots?  Do they sleep?   Engage in merry games of naked volleyball in the dining tent?

The answers to those questions are: "no", "if they want to", and "we recommend you bring plenty of sunscreen."

I've never been a member of the Camp Services crew.  I've been a crewmember at the Boston 3-Day three times and am signed up to crew again this year, but I've always preferred to be on one of the "road crews" -- the crews that are out on the route looking after the walkers at the pit stops.  I've been a member of the Pit 5 crew, the Pit 4 crew, and last year I was captain of the Route Cleanup crew (yeah, someone's got to pick up the trash at the pits and take away all the empty snack wrappers and discarded banana peels and empty water jugs).    It's pretty clear what the life of a road crewmember consists of: get ready for the walkers, work with the walkers, clean up and put things away, and plan to do it all again the next day.

But to speak with authority on what camp crew life is like, I had to bring in an outside expert: my wife, Carole Furr.  Carole was a member of the Boston Camp Services crew in 2010.  I sat down with her recently for a short interview about what Camp Services was really like.  (I brought cookies!)

Q.  What do you do on the morning of Day 1 when the walkers have just left the opening ceremonies and won't actually make it to camp for hours and hours?

A.  Well, as soon as the walkers have all left opening, the first thing we do is help break down the opening ceremonies site.  We go around and pick up all the barricades that made up the corral and we take down all the signage and we put away the tables from the check-in tent and so on and so on.  We don't have to move all the really heavy stuff like the pieces of the stage -- the 3-Day staff have forklifts and stuff to load all that stuff into the big tractor trailers.

Q.  And when everything's all picked up at opening...

A.  We get in a bus and we head over to camp and we sit.  When we get there it's only like 9:30 or 10:00 in the morning, I forget exactly, and there's almost nothing going on!  The Camp Logistics crew has already gotten camp mostly set up -- they've laid out the tent grid and they've got the tables out in the dining tent and so on, so we don't have to do any of that.  But our gear bags weren't there yet -- I don't know where the gear trucks were -- and so we just basically didn't have all that much to do.   They did put us to work putting plastic tablecloths on all the tables in the dining tent and they had us do things like sorting the mail for the walkers in the 3-Day Post Office and we made sure that everything on the 3-Day Main Street was all set up and ready to go ... but there was a lot of just sitting.   You could talk to people and make friends and stuff but the time I crewed it was really hot on Friday and people didn't feel really chatty, so ...

Q. ... so you sat around staring blankly off into space and hoped you didn't actually fall into a coma?

A.  Yeah.  Although a couple of people did fall into comas out of sheer boredom.  That worked out pretty well, though, because it gave the Medical crew setting up the Medical tent area someone to have fun with.

Q. ... have fun with?

A.  Yeah!  They drew on them with Sharpie markers.  You know, labeling where important organs were located and stuff like that.  Like dummies in medical school.

Q.  So it's ... important not to fall into a coma?

A. Yesireebob.

Q.  Were snacks and drinks available during the day while you were setting up and hanging out?

A.  Not exactly.  They did have lunches for us -- the same lunches the walkers and other crew got, and there was water there, but there were no snacks and there was no Gatorade.  And it was really hot that day and we weren't completely totally sitting on our butts the whole time -- we did actually have some work to do to get everything ready, and I actually felt a bit woozy at one point, but there was no Gatorade!   Someone eventually suggested that I go ask at Medical and turns out they had some.  I told Medical that there wasn't any Gatorade for the crewmembers working in the sun and they were real surprised ... and about fifteen minutes later all this Gatorade suddenly showed up.

Q.  But no snacks?

A.  No snacks on Friday.  I got HUNGRY before lunch arrived.  My number one piece of advice if you’re on this crew: bring snacks for the first day.  (After that, the food juggernaut that is the 3-Day arrives and you’re never hungry again… but Friday was rough.)

Q. So there's definitely a sponsorship opportunity here for Dunkin Donuts:  "Dunkin Donuts: Official Snacks And Coffee Vendor to the 3-Day Camp Services crew!"

A. Or Godiva Chocolates.

Q.  So you get the dining tent ready, you set up the 3-Day main street, and at some point the gear trucks show up and you set up your tents and sleeping bags and stuff.  And then what?

A.  Then we wait for the walkers to arrive.   Camp Operations starts at 1 pm -- that's when camp opens.  I was on Towel Service from 1 to 4 that afternoon.   And it was slow.  The only thing worth mentioning is, well, God.

Q.  God?

A.  I had a lot of random shower-related questions that I had to take to the foreman in charge of the shower trucks.  I must have run over and asked him things four or five times.  Eventually I said "You know, I never asked your name.  What should I call you?"  He replied, "God."  I went "God?"  He said "Yeah."   He smiled as he said it... but you never know.

Q.  Huh.

Carole and God

A.  Anyway, around 3 pm things got really, really exciting...

Q.  Exciting how?

A.  That would be "when the skies opened up and it suddenly started to rain like crazy."   There were three of us on towel duty and we weren't far from the gear trucks or the showers, and I looked over and saw our gear bags sitting out getting rained on -- for some reason, they hadn't gotten clear plastic tarps over them yet.  So I excused myself for a minute and ran over and dragged our gear bags under a shower truck.

Q.  Yeah, I remember that rain.  Rained like crazy.   When I finally got to camp after Pit 4 closed, camp was just a lake.  Thank God that we were camping on those soccer fields -- they had artificial turf and drained really well, but still, it was almost impossible not to get drenched.  Remember how I ran off to the camp store and bought a big Komen poncho?  The forecast hadn't called for rain at all and I'd only packed a little windbreaker.  That'll teach me to believe weather forecasts!

A.  I told you it might rain.  I told you.

Q.  Yeah.  I was worried about my gear bag going over 35 pounds and I left out some stuff I wish I'd packed.  Sigh.

3-Day Main Street on a rainy evening

A.  It stopped raining around 4 and we thought everything was okay -- and so when I got off towel service I figured we could relax and breathe easy.  I didn't go off and instantly set up our tent.   Since I didn't have any scheduled shift from 4 to 7 I figured I could poke around for a bit, get a snack, and so on.   With a lot of walkers in camp, I helped out a bit by answering questions when I saw people looking really lost.

People who've done the 3-Day before know that the key things to locate are the showers, the dining tent, their own tent, and the 3-Day Main Street, but people who were new didn't know what the Remembrance Tent was and wanted to know who slept over there, and didn't know what the stretching mats were for, and so forth.  So we kept three people in the Pink Information Tent to help with questions like that, but really, all of us on Camp Services helped out by answering questions when we could... people would look lost and you'd say "Can I help you find something?" and they'd say "Where can I plug in my hairdryer?" or "Is there a hot tub around here?" and even "Where's the camp convenience store? I forgot to bring shampoo."

Q.  What's the Pink Information Tent?  Did it give out... pink information?

A.  No, idjit.  That was that little round tent with a pink canopy at the end of Main Street.  We kept two or three people in there to answer questions, but a lot of people didn't realize that was its function.  We probably should have had a HUGE sign reading "INFORMATION" but we didn't.

Q.  Or one reading "PINK INFORMATION?"

A.  *smacks interviewer*  Anyway, just about the time I was starting to think "Yeah, the field's dried off a bit, I should set up our tent, maybe Jay'll get here soon and help me" the rain started again.  Came out of nowhere.  Just boom.  So there I was, frantically trying to set up our tent in the pouring rain.   It was raining harder than I've ever been out in before.  I was crying, I was so frustrated.  But I got it up and got our bags and threw them inside.

Q.  And five minutes later I showed up?

A.  And five minutes later you showed up.  *glares*

Q.  I remember -- it kept on raining like mad.  When we went to the dining tent for supper we had to put Saran wrap over our food trays just to get from the food line to the dining tent without them flooding.

A.  Yeah.

Q. So after dinner, what did you do?

A.  I didn't have another shift scheduled until 7, when all the Camp Services crew who weren't on duty got together to put together all the lunches for the road crews -- route safety, sweep, the bus crew, and the pit stop crews.  We packed them into individual bags and then bagged the individual bags up into big bags that we gave to the crew captains.   We had a list showing how many regular meals and how many vegetarian meals we had to make up for each crew... you were the only vegetarian on the Pit 4 crew so I wrote a note on your lunch bag saying "Hi!"

Q.  Yeah.  Unfortunately, another Pit 4 crew ate that lunch.  When I asked if there hadn't been any vegetarian lunches, someone said "Oh, so-and-so ate that, she was curious what the vegetarian lunches were like."

A.  Nice.

Q.  Well, I made do with snacks.  I was crewing Pit 4, after all.  We had a few snacks we could spare.

A.  Anyway, after the lunches we had a Camp Services crew meeting, went over the day, talked about Saturday, and then went to bed.

Q. So what was Saturday like?

A.  Saturday was the slowest day.  Other than a towel service crew shift in the morning -- which I wasn't scheduled on -- there wasn't much to do from breakfast time until camp opened at 12.   I'd told Karen, our crew captain, that I'm not a morning person, so she never put me on a morning shift.  Being up at 5 to hand out towels wouldn't'a been fun.

Carole: not a morning person

Q.  So after breakfast was over and the walkers all went out on the route and there wasn't really much of anything to do until camp opened again at noon?

A.  Coma.

My first shift was from shift from 12 to 3.  Unfortunately, it was the most boring job imaginable -- it was crewing the "Save your Spot" table, where people could come and register for the 2011 3-Day... in other words, for the next year's event. I'd scan their credential and they'd get an email later on to confirm their registration, but they also got a special legacy pin on the spot just for registering on-event.  My spot was right next to the legacy pin station where people could come and get the pins they'd earned for raising so much money and so forth, only I didn't get to help with that because a different member of our crew was on that.  So the two of us just sat there at the table and hoped people would want to register or get pins, but really, it was super-slow.  No one was lining up to register for 2011, at least not while I was sitting there.

Q.  And after your shift ended at 3?

A.  I wasn't actually scheduled to do anything the rest of the afternoon.    We had lunch assembly duty again at 7 pm and I could have gone and taken a nap or something, but instead I just roamed around and found ways to help out.

Q.  So how did the crew keep everything organized?

A.  Our crew team captain, Karen, had a notebook with everything in it.  She knew where everyone was supposed to be and was constantly circulating around seeing if everything was okay and how everyone was feeling.  A bunch of us had radios too -- that way we could  radio in if there was a problem or we needed something.   I had to pick up my radio at the start of each shift and get a fresh battery, and turn it in at the end of my shift so someone else could use it.  I was amazed how smoothly things ran.

Q.  So Saturday evening you just had lunches for the road crews to do again?

A.  Yeah, well, no.  We did have the lunches to do, but the real work came later.  The hardest work we did all day came at 9 pm... when the 3-Day Main Street closed and we had to break things down.  By 10:30, we had pretty much everything from Main Street put away except for the tents themselves... that way, the minute the walkers left camp in the morning the staff could start taking down the  tents and loading them back into the tractor trailers.  We worked really hard for about 90 minutes and then were done for the night.

Q.   And on Sunday?

A.  On Sunday there was a towel service crew slot, but I wasn't on it.  Once the walkers had all headed out we broke down camp.  Not just the part we'd had a hand setting up -- we broke down the whole thing.  Picked up and folded all the chairs in the dining tent, stacked the tables, picked up trash -- there was a lot of trash.  People bring all kinds of stuff to the 3-Day, use it, and then just throw it out.  Air mattresses, tent decorations, shoes, three or four hairdryers, a bunch of bras, a Gideon Bible (one of our crew kept that), a large inflatable rubber octopus... there was just no end to the crap that people just flung aside as they were trying to get packed up and headed out on the route.

Q.  So when were you done with all that?

A.  Around 11, I'd guess.  Once we finally had camp all cleaned up and the staff were loading the tractor trailers, we were bused to closing ceremonies at UMass Boston.  We got there around 11 and from that point on we were either cheering walkers in or just relaxing in the air conditioning in the gym.  It was niiiiiice to finally be back in the air conditioning.  It was hot that weekend.

We picked up our gray victory shirts, went to the all-crew meeting at 3:30 (indoors, thank heavens), and then marched in to closing together.   Closing ceremonies was great, but as hot as it'd been, we were glad to be finished.

Carole and the Camp Services crew at Closing

Q.  And then?

A.  And then we were done.  There were a lot of hugs and then we were done!

Q.  So did you have a good time, I mean, other than the rain and the heat and the long periods when you were bored out of your gourd because there wasn't anyone around at camp?

A.  Other than that?

Q.  Yeah.  Did you have a good time?

A.  Yesireebob!
jayfurr: (3-Day Ambassador)
Spotted a $20 bill lying on the sidewalk?   Whoop!

Arrived at the airport late for your flight only to find that the flight's delayed and you'll easily make it after all?  Yeeha!

Put your last dollar down on 7 playing roulette -- and had 7 come up?  Awesome!

But none of these feelings can top the incredible, wonderful, ray-of-sunshine-on-a-cloudy-day feeling of opening your email and seeing a message with the subject line "A donation was made on your behalf".

When you sign up to walk in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day, you commit to raise a minimum of $2,300.  If you don't raise $2,300, you don't get to walk in the event.

Some of you might be thinking "Okay, so...?"  No one who's walked a 3-Day would say that, but if you're new to the event, or if you're merely an interested supporter or family member or friend of a walker, you might well be thinking that it'd be a good thing to miss out on a 3-Day.  No walking sixty miles, no sleeping in a tent, no widdling in portable toilets for three days.  WOO-HOO!  Right?

Right?

Bzzt!

If you've spent all summer training for a 3-Day -- walking five or six miles most weeknights, then walking eight, ten, fourteen, eighteen miles every Saturday and almost as many on Sunday -- you'd be beside yourself if all that training went for nothing because you didn't manage to raise the $2300.

To say nothing of how disappointed you'd be if you stood outside a Wal-Mart shaking a can asking for spare change, ran bake sales at the mall or library, emailed and wrote and called everyone you've been friends or even acquaintances with since, well, ever... and still came up short.

I've seen walkers in tears because after doing everything they could to raise funds they'd only raised, oh, $375 with two weeks to go until the walk.   You know those dreams we all have where we're back in high school and it's a week before graduation and you suddenly realize you've skipped this one class all year and aren't going to be able to graduate?   That dream is almost as bad as the feeling of being really, really, really short of your $2,300 goal with the 3-Day right around the corner.

A caveat: if you're short of $2,300, there is a way you can still walk -- you simply provide your own personal credit card and the Komen folks hit you for the difference.  It used to be that you could give a credit card and then have up to a month after the walk to make your target, but as of 2012, if you haven't raised enough by the week of the walk, it's "pay up or don't walk."

That may sound harsh, but the deferred self-donation program was developed years ago when a lot of donations were mailed in via snail mail and took weeks to process.   Nowadays, with the vast majority of donations coming in via online donations and posting immediately, there's no real reason to say "go ahead and walk, and we'll see what's still floating around in the pipeline, and if you're still short in a month, then we'll hit you for the difference."

So yeah, I can understand those tears from walkers who've done everything they can to raise funds and are still short.  I'd be sick -- absolutely sick -- if I'd spent all summer training and passing the hat and, well, begging -- and still came up short.

But there's a bright side -- most walkers who sign up do manage to make the $2,300 minimum.  In fact, many raise much more.   There are lots of fundraising ideas available on  the 3-Day website and they've been developed with care by experienced walkers who know what works and what doesn't.  But the simple fact remains -- that $2,300 doesn't come easy.  It comes in $5 and $10 donations.  Now and then you get $35.  Sometimes you get $50.  Sometimes you get $100 ... and sometimes you get a dollar because that's what the person who saw you standing out in the hot sun all day, dressed from head to toe in pink and shaking a can labeled "DONATIONS FOR BREAST CANCER" happened to have in their pocket.

There've been times in my five years walking 3-Day walks that I thought I'd written the greatest fundraising letter ever: poignant, funny, heart-warming, etcetera, etcetera.  And then:

...crickets


Day after day I'd check my email hoping to see some donations rolling in -- and found none.  I've had to ask my wife "Re-read the letter I sent out.  Did I absent-mindedly say something really awful in my letter?  Did I forget to actually ask for a donation or include my fundraising link?"  And she's looked it over and said "No, no, it was fine.  Are people not donating?"


But then, sometimes, out of the blue, lightning strikes.  I opened my email one day last summer to find that I'd gotten a donation -- a pretty darn big one -- from a former co-worker who just happened to have seen a short post I'd absent-mindedly posted on LinkedIn.  I hardly ever talk about the 3-Day on LinkedIn -- it seems to be a site where people post resumes, add their current and former co-workers as connections, and then forget all about.  But there it was, in my inbox --"A donation was made on your behalf".


And I'd been having a pretty rotten day at that point.  Suddenly, though, the clouds parted and angels sang hosannas.  I had to look twice at my email to prove I wasn't dreaming.  But there it was:  "A donation was made on your behalf".   I didn't know if it was going to be for $5 or for $125.   You've got to open the email to find out.  But that didn't matter -- it was a donation.   I was some unknown distance closer to making my fundraising minimum.   And then, when I opened the email, and saw the amount and who it was from, my perplexity at having gotten a donation from an unexpected source was definitely outweighed by my pleasure at the size of the donation.   Nothing could get me down the rest of that day, that's for sure.


(It's important to note that donations don't go into our pockets -- they go directly to Susan G. Komen For The Cure.  We walkers and crew have no direct monetary stake in the event at all -- except, of course, in the sense that we may  have to donate a big lump sum out of our own pockets if we come up short.)


People often ask "Why do you have to raise so much?  Why not lower the minimum?"


The 3-Day is a huge event in each city where it's held, 14 cities in all, involving anywhere from one thousand to over five thousand walkers and crew and volunteers and staff.   And that's with the minimum at $2,300.  If the minimum was $500, the event might draw 15,000 walkers and there's no way, logistically, that a 3-Day event of that size would be manageable.    And with that said, a much larger event with a much smaller minimum might raise less money than a smaller event with a larger minimum.


Participants who don't feel able to raise that much money can always take part in the Race for the Cure, which takes place in dozens of cities all across the USA and which has no fundraising minimum.  The 3-Day is for the real loonies -- the diehards who don't quail at the idea of walking sixty miles in 3 days OR the idea of raising $2,300.


Call me a loony.  Lots of people do.  But I maintain -- even though I know the task of raising all that money is hard -- it will come in time and I have faith in the goodness and generosity of my friends and co-workers and fellow church members.  After all, breast cancer affects one in every eight women, on average -- and I have a lot of friends and acquaintances.   Do the math.

But even with my faith, there's still no feeling quite as good as opening my email and seeing those magic words:

 "A donation was made on your behalf".


Because every time that happens, I know I'm one step closer to my fundraising minimum, and furthermore, we might -- we just might -- be one step closer to funding the clinical trial or discovering the drug that makes all this worthwhile.  And if we don't find a drug with the money I raise, well, helping fund mammograms is a pretty damn good thing too.


And another thing... no, never mind.  Let me cut to the chase:


Even though my graduate school alma mater, Virginia Tech, is currently doing its best to lose the Sugar Bowl right this second, I'm feeling pretty good about life.


Take a look:


My inbox


Thanks, David, Ken, Joe, and Jill.   Thanks to you, today's been a good day.


jayfurr: (3-Day Ambassador)
Greetings from balmy Vermont, where tomorrow's weather forecast calls for a high of 14 degrees Fahrenheit and a low of minus five. As I peer out the window into the night, it appears to be snowing.

And yet, I spent a healthy chunk of today thinking about getting outdoors and walking, about fundraising, and about all manner of 3-Day For The Cure stuff. I had today off -- my last day off before resuming work tomorrow -- and the wonderful folks who staff the Susan G. Komen 3-Day e-services department somewhere in the faraway reaches of cyberspace decided today was the perfect time to start sending out emails about the 3-Day season. I got one email welcoming me formally to the event and encouraging me to set up my online fundraising page (which I did some time ago). I got another asking me if I wanted to be a training walk leader and inviting me to submit an application.

And tonight while I was waiting for my wife to be done with a physical therapy appointment at a local shopping center, I wandered into a local iParty store and found that they sell no end of pink fundraising stuff.  Pink feather boas, too.  Candy molds in the shape of pink ribbons. Pink tablecloths.  Pink ribbon deelybobbers    And I started having all sorts of thoughts about maybe doing an actual bake sale this year... provided I can drag my wife along to help run it.  I imagine that a single man, no matter how zany and motivated, will not be able to bring in quite the same level of donations at a bake sale that a woman would -- because men, as everyone knows, can't possibly have a stake in the breast cancer fight.

Don't get me wrong -- I like winter.   I like the winter scenery and the occasional snowshoeing trip and so forth... but all of a sudden I'm really looking forward to the first day there's no snow and ice on the road and I can get out and do a quick little 12-mile training walk.
jayfurr: (3-Day Ambassador)
For years now I've had a particular quote from French author Antoine de Saint-Exupery featured on my Facebook profile:

"What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step. It is always the same step, but you have to take it."

Faced with a challenge, faced with adversity, to overcome you must keep trying, keep on going, no matter what.

And I've tried to live my life that way.  I haven't always succeeded, but I've tried.

Another man, President Calvin Coolidge, said:

"Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race."

Winston Churchill expressed the same point in typical Churchillian fashion:

"Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, give up. Never give up. Never give up. Never give up."

None of these men, however, with all their wisdom and sagacity, could top my dad.

When I was a kid, my father was fond of predicting that I would quit and give up.  Gratutiously so.   I will never forget the time I signed up to walk in the Blacksburg, Virginia "Hunger Hike" charity walk.   I was 11 or 12.  Dad ridiculed the idea of me walking 11 miles and spent a merry few weeks offering various predictions on how far into the walk I'd be when I decided to quit.

When the day of the walk came, I did just fine and spent most of the walk well in front of the mass of walkers; I arrived at the finish line (a few hundred yards from the starting line -- we'd walked a big loop and returned)  just in time to see my parents' familiar green Chevrolet van pulling up.  Dad and Mom were inside, still arguing over how absolutely pointless it was to be there so early when (according to Dad) I was no doubt sitting on my butt somewhere or trailing along at the back of the pack.

When I opened the door of the van and said "Hi!" his congratulatory words were absolutely heart-warming, just the kind of thing a young boy craving respect and approval would want to hear:

"You've been here the whole time, haven't you?  You didn't even walk."

Yeah, Dad could be a little harsh with his criticism.  He's mellowed as he's gotten older, but when I was a kid, he was absolutely withering in his belief that I'd give up on everything, every time.

But I've taken his words, and the words of Saint-Exupery, Coolidge, and Churchill to heart. When you start something, you finish it.  You don't cut corners.  You do it right.   In fact, if there's a way to hilariously over-do something, then I'll do that.  I'm kind of legendary among some of my friends for being bullheaded, stubborn, and annoyingly inflexible on this subject.

And that brings me to the point of this article.

This past October, I took part in the Atlanta Susan G. Komen 3-Day For The Cure -- a 60-mile, 3-day walk to raise funds for the fight against breast cancer.  I walked as a member and co-captain of a group of 32 walkers and crew, "Team Twitter ATL".  We drew our members from all over the USA; the largest number, to be sure, were from the southeast, but we had two members from California, one from Illinois, two from Massachusetts, and so on, and so on -- and the two captains flew in from Connecticut and Vermont.  Every walker member had raised at least $2,300 (the event minimum) for the fight against breast cancer, and some had raised much more.   Collectively, we raised just over $50,000 -- and I salute the members of my team for their tireless efforts to spread the word and pass the hat.

As founder of the team, I had espoused a simple rule: we leave no walker to struggle in on their own while the rest of us race on ahead.  I have heard too many stories of walkers who are all but abandoned by their speed-walking teams and left to trail in to camp hours after the rest of the team has finished for the day, and I promised that sort of thing would not happen.   People could go on ahead, but I would stay behind with any slow-paced walker, no matter how slowly they went.   If they wound up having to hop on a sweep van, I'd then hurry forward to catch up to whomever was next slowest, and so on.   If this all makes it sound like I was pretty darn confident in my own walking abilities, then, well, I summed things up accurately.

As a walker, I'm usually one of the most fit and most able 3-Day participants.  I walk a lot as I train for each event.  I walk home from work once or twice a week during the warm summer months ... and I live 18 miles from my office.  I've speed-walked two 3-Days; sometimes it just feels good to cut loose (but never when I was a member of a team).    The Atlanta 3-Day would be my eighth 3-Day walk and I was quite, quite sure that I'd be able to rise to any challenge on the route.  It turns out that I was wrong: what I had not counted on was the physical strain of going slow.

I'm a tall guy.  I stand 6'2" and I've got long legs.  When I walk home from work, I walk four miles an hour without even really working hard.  I rarely take breaks; I just keep on going and going and going like a big ungainly ugly bearded Energizer bunny.

When I walked with my team in Atlanta, wonderful lovely people each and every one of them, I was not walking at my normal pace. I was walking 2.5 miles an hour at times and when we came to a pit stop we took some pretty long breaks.   And I have no problem with that.  If 2.5 miles an hour is the best my teammates could do, que sera sera.  And if they needed a long break, then c'est la vie.   Philosophically, I was absolutely okay with taking all day long to do the 20 mile route --and in actual point of fact, that was pretty much what it took us.   Just as Andrew Marvell wrote, "But at my back I always hear Time's winged chariot hurrying near", we were acutely aware that not far behind our little gaggle of Team Twitter ATL walkers was a 3-Day staff member on a mountain bike, the "caboose" rider.  Fall behind the caboose, get swept.  It's that simple -- and none of us wanted to get swept.

We kept on going.   Some of our team had to take sweep vans during Day 1 just to get by.  Not everyone has the flexibility of schedule and/or time to get in all the training needed to really kick butt on a 3-Day route, and some of the team weren't in the best shape.  There's no shame in riding a sweep van if you're in pain, you're injured, or you're just flat out not able to make the distance and need a break.  By sweeping forward to the next pit stop, you can get some attention from the medical crew, take a break, get a drink and a snack, and get ready to go on.

That maxim, of course -- "no shame in taking a sweep van" -- applies to everyone but me.

We finished the Day 1 route almost at the end of the pack.   And I finished in a bit of pain. Shin splints.  I don't know what exactly caused it -- was it the speed?  The long breaks?  The extremely hilly route?  Or combinations of all three?  That night I took time to visit the Medical crew at camp and got my legs looked at.   With some ice and some rest, I figured, I'd be right as rain in the morning.

In the morning, I felt mostly okay, but as the day wore on, the pain returned, and got worse, and worse, and worse.  Our team spread out along the route but I continued to stay with the slowest walkers -- and to my immense surprise, this was becoming less of a choice than a necessity.   Our team would typically gather back together again at pit stops but then spread out again after we departed the pit.   I found that my continuing along the route required me to spend a lot of time doing the stretches the sports medicine professionals on the Medical team had shown me the previous night .. and even then, I found myself literally (and I mean that in the actual, correct sense) yelping in pain at random, unpredictable intervals.  It did not help that the route was extremely hilly.  When I walked on the infrequent level ground, my shins didn't hurt anywhere near as much as the did on the ascents and descents... but the route was far from level.

Periodically, my bemused teammates would ask me if I wanted to take a sweep van.  Stubbornly, I'd say "No, I'll continue on, I'll be fine."  In other words, precisely the kind of dogged claptrap that I've heard from other walkers during other 3-Day walks.  Only, when those walkers gritted their teeth and said "I'll be fine," it was often the case that they really wanted to take a sweep van and were looking for reinforcement and encouragement that they wouldn't be seen as quitters for doing so.   (How do I know this?  People in pain can sometimes be fairly candid when they feel that they're not going to be judged.)

Me?  When I said "I'll be fine" I meant it.  I'd take a sweep van, I thought, when pigs fly.  But it wasn't easy to stick to that vow.  I spent most of the afternoon of that Saturday, Day 2 of 3, mechanically muttering Saint-Exupery's words.  "What saves a man is to take a step.  Then another step.  It is always the same step, but you have to take it."   And I'd take another step.  And another.  I wasn't the same merry, carefree, devil-may-care Jay that some members of my team may have expected, but I was in pain.

When the pain got really bad, I'd just go "Jay never sweeps.  Jay never sweeps.  Jay never sweeps.  Jay never sweeps."  Under my breath.  I assume no one heard me because no one showed up from a local mental hospital to take me away for psychiatric evaluation.

We encountered some non-participating supporters of our team at a bus shelter along the route late on the afternoon of Day 2.    Among them was everyone's favorite doctoral candidate, Kristen, who wasn't walking this year in order to focus on completing her dissertation. Kristen had been following our progress on Twitter during the day and had some idea of what I was going through -- not that I was openly moaning about agonizing pain on Twitter, but apparently I'd been open enough that she knew I wasn't having a good time.  Kristen knows me pretty well and came up to me as our little pod of walkers was getting ready to continue on and asked me, sotto voce, if I was refusing to take a sweep van.  "Yeah," I muttered.  "Typical," she replied, and shooed us on down the route.

So yeah, I guess it was becoming pretty obvious to casual observers that I was not in good shape.  And it was becoming obvious to my teammates as well.  But they'd worked out that I wasn't going to take a sweep van unless Nancy Brinker, founder of Susan G. Komen For The Cure personally showed up and ordered me onto a van.  Or, of course, if a member of the Medical crew saw me gimping it into a pit and just flat-out red-carded me... so I tried to show a brave face whenever I saw the red shirts of Medical crew around.

I finished Day 2 without having swept and promptly got myself showered and fed and to the Medical tent for more ice and more stretching and kneading and massaging.  I actually found myself feeling halfway human by bedtime that evening and had great hopes for the future.  I was not the only member of Team Twitter ATL to be in pain -- other walkers had wound up sweeping to pit stops and a couple had wound up taking the so-called SAG bus from the pit back to camp.   Again, there's no shame there -- we had a pregnant member of the team, two cancer survivors, and several members who simply hadn't been able to fit in all the training they needed.  Every one of them had raised the $2,300 or more required to enter the walk, and that's the main thing -- the walking is symbolic and is meant to increase awareness and motivate donors to give generously.

I was back at the Medical tent the moment they opened on Day 3, having gotten up extra early to pack up my gear and my tent and have nothing between me and sweet, sweet ice.  I wasn't in a huge amount of pain but I wanted to keep things that way, and I knew ice would help.

When I got out on the route that Sunday morning, though, things took a turn for the worse.  I started hurting a lot about as soon as I began striding.  My left leg was especially bad; my right hurt, but not excruciatingly, while my left felt like someone was trying to chop it in two at the shinbone with a very dull cleaver.   I was unable to keep up with the bulk of my team -- only one walker, Kathleen, stayed with me for very long, and the rest kept going, having their own crosses and burdens to bear.  We had a couple of walkers who were in such pain that they'd been held at medical and were taking the SAG bus directly to the lunch stop, so Kathleen and I formed the Team Twitter ATL caboose that morning.

I'm very grateful to Kathleen for sticking with me -- I know she was doing well enough that she could have been much further down the route but she stuck with me, apparently having reasoned that if the team captain was unwilling to leave an injured walker trailing along by themselves, it would have been just as wrong for a walker to leave an injured team captain trailing along by himself.

I made it to Pit Stop 1 -- but only just.  I found myself popping ibuprofen even though I'd had four when I got up and two more when I stepped onto the route.  I insisted I was competent to leave Pit 1 and continue, but with my condition steadily deteriorating I could see the frustration on Kathleen's face.  I think it probably bears some similarity to the look on someone's face when they see a co-worker well in their cups insisting that they're okay to drive, even though they're having to cling to the door of their car to keep from falling down: just sheer "how can someone be this much of an idiot?"

And I think that's what did it.  I was limping along, a mile or two past Pit 1, sitting down every hundred feet to try to stretch and flex some life back into my shins, when I saw her looking down at me and went "I can't do this to her.  And I'm setting an appalling example for other walkers."

And I said, "Okay.  Flag down a sweep van."

We didn't have too terribly long a wait.  But as I sat there on the curb I felt lower than low; I was giving up.  I was quitting.   Part of me wanted to jump up and go "No!  Never mind!  I can keep going."   But the larger part of me said "Remember all those times you told people that there was no shame in taking a sweep van?  That by raising the $2300 they've already made a huge difference?   Was that all a lie?"

The hardest step I ever took was the step onto that sweep van that cold Sunday morning in Atlanta, Georgia in October of 2011.

 

Boarding the sweep van

The crew on the Sweep Van couldn't have been nicer; they passed us stickers to write our names on and had us stick them to the ceiling of the van, and they reminded us not to be sorry or ashamed, that we'd done great, that we could rest at the next pit stop and then keep going.    I kept my head down and said nothing at all to anyone and kept planning my next move.  Ice was clearly in my future, but then what?

As it happened, I had a long walk ahead of me to get to the ice -- the sweep van could not get into the public park where the pit stop was set up, so they let us out a quarter mile away and I had to hobble back, against the flow of walkers, just to get to the pit and get some ice.

I wound up, after some reflection, taking a SAG bus on from that pit stop to the lunch stop, trimming 5 or 6 miles off the route.

On the SAG bus

And then I sat at the lunch stop for an hour with bags of ice on both shins for the better part of an hour, chatting with Belinda and Lisa, our two walkers who'd been SAG'd from camp directly to lunch, before we decided we were tired of waiting for the rest of the team to catch up and started walking.  I hurt, but after an hour with ice on my shins, I didn't hurt so badly that I couldn't continue.  I knew that my immaculate record of walking every mile of every 3-Day I'd signed up for had been wrecked, but at least I could try to walk as much as I could.  So we walked from lunch to the next stop at Grab and Go A, then made it a mile and a quarter further to Pit 4, and then sat down to wait for the rest of the team to catch up.

The rest of the team was in no huge hurry -- remember, we'd finished well back at the end of the pack on Day 1 and 2... so we had a long wait. And that meant "more ice".

But finally Team Twitter ATL was all back together and we walked the last two miles together from Pit 4 to the finish line and holding area at Turner Field.

And even though half us were in pain and all of us were tired, we were still very proud of the effort each one of us had showed and were proud to walk in as a team:

Team Twitter ATL

 

In the end, what matters is not that we didn't all walk all 60 miles -- although I know that every one of us would have preferred to do so.   Did some of us "give up" along the route?

Yes.

But we did not give up for good -- we got back up off the ground when we'd been knocked down, and resumed walking.  We kept on fighting, and I know I speak for the rest of my team when I say that when it comes to the real fight -- the fight against breast cancer...

We will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, give up.
jayfurr: (3-Day Ambassador)
There are all kinds of ways to walk a three-day sixty mile charity walk.

You can walk the distance slowly and take in every sight and sound and smell along the way.

You can walk really slowly, limping every step of the way but gamely trying to stay off the sweep vans.

You can walk with a big team, trying to stay at their pace, taking pit stops and lunch breaks as a group, making sure that no one gets left behind.

You can walk with a partner, starting each day fast and getting slower and slower throughout the day as exhaustion and soreness and aches set in.

You can walk while suffering from a really, really bad cold and come in dead last.

I have tried all of these methods. Not always willingly, mind you. I've walked slow and I've walked sick and I've walked injured and I've walked with a team and I've walked solo.

But once in a while, when you're walking as a solo walker and the weather couldn't be nicer and you feel in tip-top condition and there're wonderful people waiting around every corner to cheer you on... you may just feel like going fast.

As anyone who's ever taken part in a 3-Day For The Cure can tell you, it's not about who finishes first.  It's not about who finishes last -- although, sure, we do make a very big deal out of the last walker.  It's about the journey and, when you get right down to it, it's about the fundraising.   Every walker raises a minimum of $2,300.  That's the real accomplishment.   Someone who goes balls-out fast isn't doing more to cure breast cancer than someone who rides a sweep van for 55 of the 60 miles, assuming they both raised the same amount of money... and for all one knows, that lady on the sweep van might have raised $20,000 to your $2,300. It's best not to base estimates of dedication on someone's walking speed.

So, okay, no, I don't claim any special prize for having been, er, the first walker to finish on Day 1 of the 2011 Philadelphia Susan G. Komen 3-Day For The Cure.  Nor do I want a prize for finishing tenth or so on Day 2.  Nor do I feel especially impressed by myself for slowing down just a bit and finishing in 100th place (out of 2,200 or so) on Day 3.

I'll come right out and say it: I basically speed-walked Philly.

I didn't run.  I just tend to walk fast when I'm on my own and when I'm not walking with a team or with my wife.  See, I do a lot of my training by walking home from work -- 20 miles.   Even if I sneak out the door early and get on the road by 4:30 pm, it's still going to take me quite some time to get home, and I'd rather not be there on the side of the road trudging along at 3:00 in the morning.  So I train by walking four miles an hour for five hours, and I get home around 9:30 or 10:00.    I've done it so many times that it's second nature to me; I don't even feel as though I'm hurrying.

Now, put me on the streets of a 3-Day city and tell me to walk slowly in the back of the pack, shuffling along behind others for miles and miles as we leave the Opening Ceremonies area, going maybe two miles an hour.  Uh huh.   Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.   There's nothing wrong with walking slowly -- again, the slow walkers did just as much to cure breast cancer as the fast walkers.  They each raised the $2,300 (or more) and they can walk whatever speed they like.

Anyone who has ever been stuck behind a slow driver on their daily commute knows how frustrating it can be to go much much much more slowly than what you're used to.  You may think of yourself as the most mild-mannered person alive on the planet, but after about a mile of going half the speed limit, you find yourself muttering unprintable oaths straight out of a bad dime novel.

I respect the slow walkers.  I've been a slow walker.  But when I'm completely healthy and walking as a solo walker and the weather is great and I'm feeling cheerful and full of get-up-and-go, it's awfully hard to hold myself back.  So once in a while, I don't.

My first experience speed-walking a 3-Day was in the Twin Cities 3-Day in August of 2010. I really cut loose on that 3-Day and was done with each day almost before I knew it. But that left me with plenty of time to think some fairly depressing thoughts about cancer and the toll it takes. I spent that walk walking completely by myself for miles -- literally with no one in sight for long stretches.

This time I tried to stay with other walkers. Other fast walkers, admittedly. And for the most part, that worked out fine. For the most part. But I'll save the details on that for later.

The Philly 3-Day took place the weekend of October 14-16, 2011. The weekend started out rainy (which did not make me terribly happy, given my memories of the torrential rains that plagued the 2009 Philly 3-Day), but all the bad weather miraculously went away about an hour before opening ceremonies got underway at the Willow Grove Park Mall. I showed up for the walk wearing my usual pink hard hat (which I've worn for every one of my 3-Day walks since 2009), a pink tie-dyed shirt (inexpertly created by yours truly), and a brown Utilikilt. Um, and a cute little pink Vermont Teddy Bear named "Hope".

At opening ceremonies for the 2011 Philadelphia 3-Day

Hope's been a mascot of sorts for my wife and me since we wound up with her after a raffle last year. We raffled off three pink Vermont Teddy Bears from their Breast Cancer Bear collection, but one of the winners didn't actually want the bear she'd won, so we wound up keeping her. Hope's come along on multiple walks -- she was with us in Boston in July (when we served as Route Cleanup crew) and she was with us in San Francisco in September when we did that walk. With my wife done with her 3-Day walks for 2011, it was just Hope and me walking together. Yeah, a few people thought I was kinda weird -- grown man, wearing a kilt, a pink hard hat, carrying a teddy bear. But those people seemed quite ready to give Hope a high-5 at the cheering stations, so it's all good.

There were many sights and sounds worth remembering from opening ceremonies. I ran into many acquaintances from the 2009 3-Day and we all prayerfully agreed that better weather this time around would be a fine thing, well worth having. I encountered the Youth Corps -- 2011 is the first year that 3-Day cities other than Boston had their own corps of youth volunteers assisting the crew. If the energy they showed at opening ceremonies was any guide, the Philly Youth Corps was at least as excited and ready for action as the Boston kids. I ran into Jim Hillman, a California walker attempting to take part in all 14 2011 3-Day walks (he succeeded); I'd originally met Jim a few weeks earlier while walking in the San Francisco Bay Area walk. And I ran into my tentmate, Ken Wells, and his teammates, Sandy Smith and Meg Muiuo, walking in memory of Ken's wife Cheryl, who passed away from breast cancer early last year. Ken and I were randomly assigned together by the tent assignment system and had never met in person -- it was good to have a face to put with the name and the sad CaringBridge journal entries.

Ken, Sandy, and Meg

Opening Ceremonies are always a wonderful experience. I've been through (stops, counts on fingers) 11 of them (although one year we didn't really have Opening -- Philadelphia 2009 was shortened to a very abbreviated version of events due to weather) and they're always motivational and inspirational. Dr. Sheri Phillips, our new spokesperson and event master of ceremonies, has really done a nice job taking over from Jenne' Fromm and getting the walkers and crewmembers pumped up. It was nice to see Kristian and Kenneth Kauker, long-time members of the Route Safety crew, honoring their mother, Julie Kauker, who lost her fight this past year.

Kristian and Kenneth Kauker, honoring their mother, Julie Kauker

I had a front-row view of the stage during opening; you learn to be first in line to get into the holding area because those walkers get to be down front during opening and, as a result, first onto the route once the route opens. I learned the hard way how frustrating it is to be at the back of the pack during a 3-Day, going at the speed of the very slowest walkers but unable to pass because of narrow sidewalks and three thousand people in front of you.

I made good time over the first mile of the route, smiling amiably at my fellow walkers as I eased by them, picking my way carefully until I had open space in front of me and was able to start walking my normal 4 miles an hour walking pace. And then after that it was just a lovely day for a walk. A few walkers were still in front of me and I wasn't desperate to pass them; it's not a race, after all.

I was very pleased by the community support. We had whole schools' worth of kids out to cheer us on:

Kids out cheering

We had a whole street that had come out to cheer us, going so far as to put up sawhorses to keep everyone else out:

A whole street blocked off except for 3-Day walkers

Hope made lots of friends along the route (below, with Wendy Sklaroff, member of the Lunch crew):

Wendy Sklaroff with Hope Bear

Bit by bit, I passed every walker who was still ahead of me on the route. Well, almost every other walker. I spent the last six miles or so of the route walking with a pair of other walkers, both women, both really determined that I not get ahead of them. THEY wanted to be first. Since I pretend to be a gentleman now and then, I decided to oblige them. We arrived at the 'finish line' at Pit Stop 5, high atop Belmont Plateau, where we took buses down to the camp at the Philadelphia Convention Center. Just as we got on the buses, the skies opened up again and rained hard for a few minutes -- and I was really glad I'd hustled.

We made it to the Convention Center around 1:30 or so. I'd never been to a 3-Day where camp had been held indoors and it was definitely a different experience. We had to go up an escalator to get scanned in as offically finishing the route, around a corner and down a hall into a giant, cavernous room to collect our bags, and then into another cavernous room to set up our tents. Some of the crew, of course, were already there -- the Camp Logistics crew and Camp Services crew had been onsite setting everything up for us. But otherwise, it was really quiet, really empty, and there were NO LINES for the shower trucks (which were parked outside the convention center in the loading dock area). Imagine that!

Hope with the tent

I had no idea where my tentmate was and hadn't asked if he'd brought tent decorations, but I went ahead and stuck some balloons on top of the tent so it'd be easy to find when I came back from showering and exploring and found my tent surrounded by thousands of other tents. (Turns out that was a pretty good idea.)

After my shower, I explored the Convention Center, re-organized all my gear, cheered in other walkers, helped set up a few tents, and then had dinner:

Hope having some dessert

Hope and I made the most of the short lines for everything. I don't think I've had a chance to use the "massage chairs" on the "3-Day Main Street" in a long time -- the lines are usually super-long. But with everything out of the way and a whole relaxing evening in front of us, Hope and I took the time to slip on some sterile blue plastic booties and enjoy.

In the massage chair

Then we went over to the yoga mats and did some stretching:

Hope stretching

I even found time, through a complicated set of circumstances, to appear on the local news as a "supporter" of a breast cancer survivor who I'd found myself eating dinner with. Didn't get to talk, didn't get asked any questions, but got to stand there in the background grinning like an idiot holding Hope.

Eventually it was time for the evening entertainment in the "dining tent". We welcomed in the last walker:

Last walker arriving on Day 1

We heard from Dr. Sheri Phillips again, recognized the top fundraiser for the event (a first time walker who'd raised more in one year than I have in FOUR years walking), and heard all about how great we were.

Then before we knew it, it was time for bed... only that's when I realized there was a major, major drawback to this whole "sleeping indoors" thing ... first, walls and ceilings reflect and magnify noise. It was NOISY in the tenting area. Second, they didn't turn all the lights off -- only about half of them, so some poor people found their tents directly under floodlights... and others seemed to be operating under the assumption that if lights were on, it was okay to have loud cell phone conversations right there in their tents, never mind who might be trying to get to sleep next to them. I eventually had to go over and stand outside one particularly chatty walker's tent and say "it is TIME to HANG UP that CELL PHONE" in my sternest, High School Principal voice. (Quiet applause came from the tents around us.)

On Day 2, we walked from the convention center in a big loop up north and west, through places like Bala Cynwyd and Narberth. It was an absolutely super-spectacular day with no rain at all. The cheering stations were PACKED:

Cheering station, Day 2

I didn't walk quite as fast on Day 2. For one, I was far from the first walker on the route -- many hundreds of people were already lined up waiting to be scanned out when I joined the line, and as a result, I was still moseying along behind people for about half the day. The 3-Day has small flags that participants can carry along the route, small versions of the Futures and Honor and Survivors flags that are carried in opening and closing ceremonies. I was able to snag the "Hope" flag at Pit Stop 1 where another walker had dropped it off and kept it with me most of the day:

Walking with Hope

Hope quite liked the flag and I liked walking with Hope. After all, that's why we walk in the 3-Day in the first place, isn't it? Because we have hope that a cure will be found and that one day we will all live in a world without breast cancer.

I never did catch up to the leaders on Day 2. I wasn't trying hard to do so, either. Each time I got to a pit stop, the walkers I was with would always ask "Hey, what number are we?" and the crewmember with the little clicker gadget would glance down and say "You're 14, 15, and 16" and we'd go "Cool, thanks", and move on. Right up until a walker named Abby and I got to Pit 4 and got told "You're the first ones here!"

Abby and friend

We didn't find out for a few minutes how we'd suddenly jumped from being 14th to being first -- but eventually learned that route signs had been placed in inopportune places and, in at least one case, actually taken down by a road construction crew. Walkers had kept on going past a turn that would have taken them to Pit Stop 4 and instead found themselves far, far off the route before they finally realized that something was amiss. (When you're making good time, sometimes you just put your head down and keep moving, glancing up periodically to see if a sign's there to tell you to turn. If you don't see one, you assume that you're supposed to keep going straight.) They got redirected onto the route by staff members sent out to locate them, and as a result, when I got to Pit Stop 5, things were back to normal. I believe that when I got to the last stop of the day, Grab and Go B, I was in tenth position.

Walkers and crew at Grab and Go B

The last few miles of the long, 22-mile Day 2 route were along the river and back into downtown. Again, it was just a perfect day for walking: sunny and scenic. I can't tell you how many wonderful conversations I found myself in. Some of them were rather sad, when you get right down to it -- after all, many people I met were walking in honor of or in memory of a breast cancer victim, but the hope and enthusiasm for the cause was really inspiring.

I'll freely admit that I was just a little bit tired when I got back to the convention center and got scanned in, but not too tired to pose for a photo with the just ever so slightly bored members of the Camp Services crew waiting to scan walkers in off the route:

Jay with the scanning team

I got back to camp on Day 2 around 2:30 pm and after showering and changing, went "okay, now what do I do?" And that's how I came to spend a couple of hours outside the Convention Center cheering walkers in.

Kaylyn Ivy

Including the last walker of Day 2:

Last walker, Day 2

The high point of the evening was the testimony from the Youth Corps -- 20 kids, all between the ages of 10 and 18, all affected by breast cancer in their families. Each kid got to take the microphone and share their story with thousands of walkers and crew in the "dining tent".

Not a dry eye in the house, or on the stage, either:

Julie Kauker's granddaughter

Day 3 was another beautiful day. We broke down our tents, packed up our gear and handed our duffels over to the crew, then hit the road for a 14.5 mile route looping west across the Schuykill into the area around the University of Pennsylvania and the hospitals, then back across, through downtown again, and then south into South Philadelphia and on to the closing ceremonies at the Navy Pier.

I walked a good bit slower on Day 3 because I found myself walking for a ways with they hyper-competitive walkers I'd ended Day 1 with, and frankly, that got old after a while. I kept arriving at pit stops before they'd technically opened, and one of the obscure rules of the 3-Day is that you cannot leave a pit stop until it's formally opened -- thereby avoiding having walkers so far ahead on the route that the pit stops aren't even ready for them. Each time I arrived, I'd find a cadre of ten or so walkers standing eyeing their watches, walking in place, glaring at the crew captain who was trying to keep them from leaving. Walking fast is one thing. That sort of behavior is just silly.

So I started hanging around at stops talking to the crew and taking lots of photos... but still wound up at the lunch stop around position 100 out of 2200.

Sandy and friend

Jay and Valarie

With a short Day 3 route, we were at the Navy Yard, scene of Closing Ceremonies, before we knew it:

Jay and Hope at the Navy Yard

Hope and I crossed the finish line at 1 pm on the dot -- and closing ceremonies weren't until 4:30. So, yeah, I took lots and lots and lots of pictures and cheered other walkers in:

At the finish line

Meg and Ken and Sandy finished around 2:45:



My friend (and survivor) Anne Moss came in around 3:22:



But eventually it was time for closing. The survivors went off together to form up for their parade, the crew members went another to line up, and we walkers were formed into a long column, ten walkers wide for our procession. Somehow, through sheer dumb luck, I was in the right place at the right time and wound up dead front center again, right up next to the stage when we were done walking in. We cheered the crew in, and then all together, we took our shoes off and held them on high in honor of the survivors. It's a 3-Day thing. It's a way of saying "We walk for you."



Closing was as tearful and sentimental as always, and if you've never walked in the 3-Day ... well, you'll just have to come walk sometime to find out all you missed. But we celebrated and we honored and we cried.



And altogether we raised $5.9 million for the fight against breast cancer.

I'm glad to have been there and glad to have had a chance to walk in the streets of Philadelphia, all sixty miles. I'd never stopped regretting that the 2009 Philadelphia 3-Day turned into a one-day 14-mile walk, thanks to horrible, cold, rainy, miserable, windy weather. It was great to see the enthusiastic cheering stations, enjoy the scenic vistas of Fairmount Park and elsewhere, and get to know so many of my fellow walkers and members of the crew. But no matter how positive the experience may have been... I'm still sorry as hell that we have to hold such events.

Because as long as we keep adding pictures to the Remembrance Tent...

Remembrance Tent

... our work is still far, far from finished.

Julie Kauker

Depression

Nov. 14th, 2011 10:32 am
jayfurr: (Vortex)
I'm entering a time of the year that I don't particularly enjoy.

No, not the "it's getting dark at 4 pm" time of the year, although it's true, that can wear on me. And no, not the "three feet of snow on the driveway -- better get started with the snowthrower" time of the year either, although that's also not always fun. (We've decided to just pay the guy who does our road to do the driveway as well this year. We got so much snow last year that sometimes Carole would have to blow snow for two hours when she got home from work just to get the car up the driveway.)

The unpleasant time of the year I'm specifically thinking of is the "not having anything to look forward to" time of the year. Last year (2010) I had registered for the 2011 Boston, Atlanta, and San Francisco 3-Days by this time of the year. Each gave me something specific to look forward to. In the case of Boston, I hoped for a chance to be a crew captain for the first time -- always wanting to try new experiences, that's me! In the case of San Francisco, Carole and I were going to do that walk together and were going to combine it with a fun vacation to the West Coast before the walk. And in the case of Atlanta, I was working on forming a team of walkers and crew that, in the end, was 32 members strong. As captain, I had my hands full all year long motivating and encouraging and organizing and so on.

Now those walks are all in the past. I did get to be a crew captain in Boston, albeit of a two-member team made up of Carole and me... Route Clean-Up, represent! San Francisco didn't work out to be nearly as much fun as I'd hoped; the week's vacation before the walk evaporated when my mom died on September 1. We went to Florida, handled the funeral, helped organize my father's house, and just made it to San Francisco for the walk proper. (On a positive note, Carole did walk all 60 miles in San Francisco, her first complete no-sweeping 3-Day ever.) I added the Philadelphia walk at the last minute and walked that one as a solo walker, had a great time, and felt wonderful at the end of each day.

Then came Atlanta. I worked really hard to come in with the last walkers on our team, the ones who couldn't speedwalk 4.5 mph if their lives depended on it, on the principle that it's rotten for a team to power on in to camp while some of the team are still out on the route, hurting. We were almost the last to camp on Day 1, but no one was left to struggle. Unfortunately, for some reason -- either because I'd just walked Philadelphia a week earlier and wasn't recovered, or because I'd just about halved my walking speed in Atlanta, I got severe shin splints that made my Atlanta Day 2 hell and caused me, in the end, to ride a sweep van on Day 3, the first time I've ever cut short the distance in 8 3-Days as a walker.

And I still hurt, weeks after the Atlanta 3-Day finished. An X-ray I had on Friday seems to indicate that I'm not dealing with a stress fracture, although friends say that a traditional X-ray won't spot stress fractures anyway. All I know is that my leg aches and hurts and this has kept me from getting active and getting exercise and in any case, it's just plain not fun.

But to return to the central theme of depression -- I've got nothing exciting to look forward to. I'm signed up to crew Boston next July, but I'm having a hard time getting all excited about that. If I wind up as captain again, that'd be fun, but I'm not sure I want to do route clean-up again. Right now I'm signed up for the "Use me wherever I can be useful" crew slot, which means that I might literally not find out what I'm doing until a week before the event. I'm signed up to walk Seattle with the "Kindred Spirits" team, a team primarily made up of Washingtonians and West Coasters, some of whom I do know online, but unfortunately, won't have any opportunity to interact with in person until next September -- unless the work travel fairy at my employer randomly sends me in that direction for a class. And then I'm signed up to be Route Marking Crew with Carole in the 2012 San Diego 3-Day -- over a year away. Hard to get super-motivated about something so far in the future.

As for traditional vacation, Carole and I were signed up to do an Austria/Czech Republic bicycling tour next May, but Carole's underemployment (working temp accounting positions one after another) has left us wondering if blowing that much money for an overseas vacation would really be smart. We might switch and do Martha's Vineyard/Nantucket instead -- minimal expense for the travel, obviously, while still getting to explore a place we've never been.

But other than that, that's it. I hate having nothing exciting to look forward to. When something exciting is happening, I'm at my best. Ready for anything, ready to pitch in and help out and do what I can. But when tedium settles over the landscape... man. I feel like I'm trudging through molasses under a gray, moody sky. I'm sleepy each night at 8 pm and don't feel rested and perky in the morning.

If my left leg wasn't so achy I could at least go work out on a treadmill or go for a ten mile training walk in hopes of burning some of the crazy out, but right now, even that's not a realistic option. I don't want to aggravate whatever's wrong with my leg by overdoing it.

Sigh.

Depression

Nov. 14th, 2011 10:29 am
jayfurr: (Hiking inna dark)
I'm entering a time of the year that I don't particularly enjoy.

No, not the "it's getting dark at 4 pm" time of the year, although it's true, that can wear on me. And no, not the "three feet of snow on the driveway -- better get started with the snowthrower" time of the year either, although that's also not always fun. (We've decided to just pay the guy who does our road to do the driveway as well this year. We got so much snow last year that sometimes Carole would have to blow snow for two hours when she got home from work just to get the car up the driveway.)

The unpleasant time of the year I'm specifically thinking of is the "not having anything to look forward to" time of the year. Last year (2010) I had registered for the 2011 Boston, Atlanta, and San Francisco 3-Days by this time of the year. Each gave me something specific to look forward to. In the case of Boston, I hoped for a chance to be a crew captain for the first time -- always wanting to try new experiences, that's me! In the case of San Francisco, Carole and I were going to do that walk together and were going to combine it with a fun vacation to the West Coast before the walk. And in the case of Atlanta, I was working on forming a team of walkers and crew that, in the end, was 32 members strong. As captain, I had my hands full all year long motivating and encouraging and organizing and so on.

Now those walks are all in the past. I did get to be a crew captain in Boston, albeit of a two-member team made up of Carole and me... Route Clean-Up, represent! San Francisco didn't work out to be nearly as much fun as I'd hoped; the week's vacation before the walk evaporated when my mom died on September 1. We went to Florida, handled the funeral, helped organize my father's house, and just made it to San Francisco for the walk proper. (On a positive note, Carole did walk all 60 miles in San Francisco, her first complete no-sweeping 3-Day ever.) I added the Philadelphia walk at the last minute and walked that one as a solo walker, had a great time, and felt wonderful at the end of each day.

Then came Atlanta. I worked really hard to come in with the last walkers on our team, the ones who couldn't speedwalk 4.5 mph if their lives depended on it, on the principle that it's rotten for a team to power on in to camp while some of the team are still out on the route, hurting. We were almost the last to camp on Day 1, but no one was left to struggle. Unfortunately, for some reason -- either because I'd just walked Philadelphia a week earlier and wasn't recovered, or because I'd just about halved my walking speed in Atlanta, I got severe shin splints that made my Atlanta Day 2 hell and caused me, in the end, to ride a sweep van on Day 3, the first time I've ever cut short the distance in 8 3-Days as a walker.

And I still hurt, weeks after the Atlanta 3-Day finished. An X-ray I had on Friday seems to indicate that I'm not dealing with a stress fracture, although friends say that a traditional X-ray won't spot stress fractures anyway. All I know is that my leg aches and hurts and this has kept me from getting active and getting exercise and in any case, it's just plain not fun.

But to return to the central theme of depression -- I've got nothing exciting to look forward to. I'm signed up to crew Boston next July, but I'm having a hard time getting all excited about that. If I wind up as captain again, that'd be fun, but I'm not sure I want to do route clean-up again. Right now I'm signed up for the "Use me wherever I can be useful" crew slot, which means that I might literally not find out what I'm doing until a week before the event. I'm signed up to walk Seattle with the "Kindred Spirits" team, a team primarily made up of Washingtonians and West Coasters, some of whom I do know online, but unfortunately, won't have any opportunity to interact with in person until next September -- unless the work travel fairy at my employer randomly sends me in that direction for a class. And then I'm signed up to be Route Marking Crew with Carole in the 2012 San Diego 3-Day -- over a year away. Hard to get super-motivated about something so far in the future.

As for traditional vacation, Carole and I were signed up to do an Austria/Czech Republic bicycling tour next May, but Carole's underemployment (working temp accounting positions one after another) has left us wondering if blowing that much money for an overseas vacation would really be smart. We might switch and do Martha's Vineyard/Nantucket instead -- minimal expense for the travel, obviously, while still getting to explore a place we've never been.

But other than that, that's it. I hate having nothing exciting to look forward to. When something exciting is happening, I'm at my best. Ready for anything, ready to pitch in and help out and do what I can. But when tedium settles over the landscape... man. I feel like I'm trudging through molasses under a gray, moody sky. I'm sleepy each night at 8 pm and don't feel rested and perky in the morning.

If my left leg wasn't so achy I could at least go work out on a treadmill or go for a ten mile training walk in hopes of burning some of the crazy out, but right now, even that's not a realistic option. I don't want to aggravate whatever's wrong with my leg by overdoing it.

Sigh.
jayfurr: (3-Day Ambassador)
Carole and I took part in the San Francisco 3-Day For The Cure almost six weeks ago and it occurred to me last night that I never actually sat down and wrote up a recap of what the event was like and whether we enjoyed it or not. I did post many, many photos from the event at http://picasaweb.google.com/jayfurr, for what it's worth, but no actual recap.

The San Francisco Bay Area 3-Day was unlike any other 3-Day For The Cure that I've taken part in, and I've walked in six, crewed three, and have two more coming up this year alone. My mother passed away nine days before the event, not of breast cancer but of complications from congestive heart failure, infection, and pneumonia. Instead of flying to San Francisco for a week's vacation prior to the walk, I headed abruptly to Florida in hopes of seeing my mother one last time before she passed. I wasn't in time. We helped arrange her memorial service, then stayed around my father's house helping with the aftermath for several days. Our tickets called for us to continue on to San Francisco for the 3-Day, but it wasn't until a couple days out that I finally said "You know what? We might as well go." Even though we both knew my head wouldn't really be in it.

We got to San Francisco on Thursday, September 8. The weather was sunny, cool, and very very windy. So windy, in fact, that it felt about twenty degrees cooler than the actual temperature on the thermometer. We took part in opening ceremonies rehearsal at the Cow Palace coliseum in Daly City, south of San Francisco, since both Carole and I had been invited to be flagbearers in opening and closing ceremonies. We didn't actually get to practice with the flags because it was so windy they'd probably have turned into airborne projectiles, snatched out of our hands. Then we raced off to the REI store in south San Francisco to purchase additional cold-weather gear: gloves and long-sleeved technical shirts that we hadn't thought to pack. Silly us. Then we got back to our hotel, decided what would be going with us on the walk and what would be packed in our gear bags that we'd drop off at opening ceremonies, and what would be staying in the car. Fun times!

Day 1 began misty, cool, but not as windy as the day before. Carole and I did our flagbearer thing, coming out from behind the stage at the appropriate time, Carole carrying the "My Aunt" flag and me carrying the "My Neighbor" flag, honoring the people we're walking on behalf of. Carole's Aunt Debbie is a ten-year survivor and quite a few people at my office and church are survivors. A nice side benefit of being flagbearers in opening ceremonies is that we're the first ones on the route. Carole and I are accustomed to setting a fast pace when we walk, but if we'd been at the back of the pack and among the last scanned out, it would have been impossible to walk at the speed we prefer. Or really, at any speed at all. You can only go so fast on sidewalks in bunches of humanity numbering in the hundreds, and it drives Carole nuts when she's having to shuffle along, barely able to move left or right because of all the walkers. We didn't stay at the very front all day long but we were generally well ahead of the main pack.

We were fairly noticeable as we walked. I had on my usual pink hard hat and we were wearing vivid purple technical t-shirts with a giant pink map of Vermont on the front and the words "TEAM OTTER & LEMUR" emblazoned across the chest. (Carole likes purple.) And we were carrying a pink teddy bear with us, one of the Vermont Teddy Bear Company's breast cancer bear collection. Our little bear was named "Hope" and had a pink ribbon "birthmark" on the bottom of one foot; she was a big hit with spectators and other walkers, many of whom posed for photos with her.

The first part of Day 1 was gray and overcast and a bit drizzly and it wasn't anything to get super-excited about. We were walking through neighborhoods in Daly City and the southern outskirts of San Francisco, then by Lake Merced, a large reservoir. I perked up considerably when our path from the Cow Palace, which had been trending generally west by northwest, finally took us over to the Pacific coast and the long stretch of coastal road called the Great Highway. Gray it may have been, and overcast it may have been, but I've always liked walking next to the ocean. We walked north along the western side of the peninsula, up to Ocean Beach, where we had our first cheering station of the day. It was lightly attended, but Friday morning cheering stations aren't usually crowded. :) We rounded the turn at Cliff House and had our lunch stop at the parking lot for the Coastal Train through Lands End. If you've never walked through Lands' End, the rugged coastal woods and cliffs area at the northwest corner of San Francisco, and looked out on the Golden Gate and north to the Marin Headlands, you're definitely missing one of the great city walks anywhere. I've done the Lands End trail many times before, but it was especially special to be doing it as part of a 3-Day.

Carole began feeling some pain in her hip around lunchtime as we worked our way through some especially hilly sections of San Francisco such as Presidio Heights and Pacific Heights. But on a more positive note, the sun finally managed to burn away the fog and let daylight in, and from that point on the weather was warm and the mood cheerful. Our second cheering station of the day was at Alta Park on Jackson Street, best known as the park where Barbra Streisand and Ryan O'Neal drove a VW Bug down the steps in the zany, madcap movie "What's Up, Doc?" It was also lightly attended, but again, it's not easy to leave work early and fight your way into a crowded city on a working day. We were grateful for the people who did come out.

I felt gloomy at times along the route. Partly because it'd been such a gray gloomy day until the sun finally came out sometime after noon, but partly because, well, less than a week earlier I'd given the eulogy at my mother's memorial service. I tried not to spend the whole time thinking about it, but unfortunately, enough 3-Day crew and walkers had heard about my loss from Facebook or Twitter and would see me along the route and feel compelled to give condolences. I appreciated the spirit of what they were trying to accomplish, but it tended to drag me back down into the dumps.

At some point along the route we'd encountered some crew who were former residents of the same little Vermont town, Richmond, that we now live in. As far as I can recall, we didn't overlap with them at all -- they moved away before we moved there. But while you can take a Vermonter out of Vermont, you can't take the Vermont out of a Vermonter. When they saw our Vermont maps on our shirts, the couldn't help asking where we were from, and when we told them, they went "Small world." Then, for the rest of the weekend, whenever we saw them, we got big cheers and hollers from the former Vermonters for all we were doing to uphold the honor of Richmond, Vermont. I told them my mom had passed away less than a week earlier, and unfortunately, that got brought up a lot as well.

After the cheering station at Alta Park we worked our way north and east along the marina area and into Fisherman's Wharf. Because we were relatively far out in front of the main pack, we didn't get to enjoy the experience of large gangs of 3-Day walkers plowing through aimlessly milling mobs of tourists -- mostly, it was just a few of us, fighting our way through oblivious crowds stopping to take photos of one another in front of anything that wasn't actively moving around. Once we made it to Fisherman's Wharf we had an experience unlike any other we've had on a 3-Day walk: we had to wait a half hour or so to catch a ferry to camp. The 3-Day organizers had, somehow, gotten permission to put camp on Treasure Island, an artificial island and former Navy base, halfway across San Francisco Bay. And they'd persuaded the Red and White Fleet ferry company to shuttle walkers and crew to and from camp at the end and beginning of each day. It was a very scenic way of getting to camp... although strictly speaking we didn't go directly to camp. We were dropped at the end of the island and had to walk another mile and a half or so to the actual campsite.

The campsite, in a nutshell, was windy. I didn't get an actual Beaufort scale reading, but the wind was blowing hard enough that even with our sleeping bags and sleeping pads and pillows and clothing and other gear inside, the tent practically blew away. It got better once more walkers got to camp and set their tents up too and served as kind of a windscreen for our tent, but yes, before you ask, we did see a few tents literally blowing away when walkers carelessly didn't put their gear inside the minute the tents were up. And we had to reassemble our neighbor's tent when we got to camp at the end of Day 2 because it had, well, collapsed under the force of the wind and wound up half on top of OUR tent.

It was a scenic place for a camp, but not exactly the best camp we've ever had. The wind was one factor -- it was so chilly and windy out there that I actually went to the 3-Day gear store and bought a pair of fleece pants because I, naively, hadn't packed any. And the showers -- well, I have no problem showering in a stall in a tractor trailer. I've done it many times before. But the whole social concept of people waiting patiently for a shower breaks down a bit when one of the shower trucks, er, breaks down. They couldn't get the heater to work and that took 20% of our shower capacity out in one fell swoop. I'm not sure that we couldn't have used more shower trucks, period -- the lines were unreal and I don't know if having one more truck would have made that big a difference.

On the evening of Day 2 they decided that since so few men were participating in the walk -- and I'll be honest, percentage-wise I think I've never seen such an overwhelming women-to-men ratio at any of the other events I've done -- they'd have the men take turns using the "ADA shower" -- a single, wheelchair-accessible shower that was built out of the same plastic shell as a large porto-jon. It had no lighting inside and only a shower curtain stretched diagonally across the interior to separate a chair to pile your clothing up in from the handheld shower nozzle. There was no drainage, either, other than right out the door, and with three inches of water swimming around beneath your feet, you prayed that none of your clothing would slide off the chair while you were precariously balancing, getting undressed and getting dressed again. And, as I said, we had to take turns. I hope I never again have to wait for two hours in a stiff wind to take a shower in conditions like that. :) If that's the worst thing that ever happens to me, I'm golden -- in any case, it beats the heck out of chemotherapy, right?

Friday evening we had to take Carole to sports medicine in the Medical tent and get her worked on by a chiropractor, iced, and, if memory serves, taped up. And we were advised to get more ice and more tape on the following morning, but the lines for medical (blister care, taping, etcetera) were LONG when we got over there early on Saturday. As a result, we decided to get Carole taped up and iced at the first pit stop along the route.

Day 2 started with a ferry ride across to the Berkeley Marina. It was, once again, gray and cloudy in the morning. Our walk wended its way steadily uphill through Berkeley to the University of California campus. The constant climbs and descents took a real toll on Carole. We'd trained in Vermont on hilly routes, doing 4 miles an hour for 20 miles, several times during the summer... but for some reason Carole wasn't feeling as strong as we thought she would have been. Perhaps it was the walking in crowds (which we did for much of Day 2) altering her stride, and perhaps it was just the sheer AMOUNT of climbing. Carole says we should have trained by doing nothing BUT hills in Vermont. Perhaps she's right. In any case, we slowed down a LOT on Day 2, trying by hook or by crook to walk all the miles and not wind up having to catch a sweep van.

The high point of Day 2 was the huge cheering station at the California campus. A LOT of people were there, including one group of women we learned to expect every few miles, women who took pains to appreciatively smack me on the butt every time we went by. We had Hope (our teddy bear) out and the people there to cheer went crazy giving her high 5s and giving her pink plastic bracelets to wear and posing for photos. A camera crew filming the cheering station went backpedaling along getting as much footage of Hope, 3-Day Superstar, as they could.

After the cheering station, we began working our way back down, with occasional climbs, toward the coast again. Lunch was at Lake Merritt, a big lake in the middle of downtown Oakland, and Carole's mood began to improve after lunch. The route wasn't super-scenic for most of the afternoon -- just neighborhoods in Oakland. Periodically employees of the Safeway supermarket chain came out to give us eclair bites at unofficial cheering stations they set up along the route. Those, we liked. But they also handed out bags of dry granola -- and no one really much wanted to walk the route eating dried granola out of bags. When we got to the next pit stop we found a giant mound of granola packets on a table where walkers had gone "ah, so I'm not the only one who wanted this." Verdict: more eclair bites, less granola. We were grateful for the Safeway employees' support, though, and their enthusiasm.

We were also most grateful for the members of the San Jose Police Department who served as route safety; we had actual Route Safety crew members working the route and managing traffic at intersections, but the SJPD also had a sizeable contingent out, all on police patrol bicycles. They weren't getting paid to help; they'd all taken time off to go to the opposite end of San Francisco Bay and help out in San Francisco and Berkeley and Oakland and, on Day 3, across the Golden Gate in Marin County.

The afternoon of Day 2 was also noteworthy because we met a number of really interesting people, some of whom had not-so-happy stories to share. We walked for a while with one walker who had been diagnosed with breast cancer, had radiation, had chemo, had gotten tentative good news, then had gotten the full how-ya-doin' series of tests, then had gotten some pretty bad news -- the day before the walk. She was BRCA positive -- she has the gene for breast cancer -- and the odds are high that her daughters will have it as well -- but they can't get checked for it because as soon as it's shown that they carry it, their insurance will drop them due to a "pre-existing condition".

Yeah.

We also wound up walking for a ways with Jim Hillman, this year's guy-who's-doing-all-the-walks. Jim managed to raise enough money, $2,300 times 14 events, to enter each 3-Day this year, and was able to take the time off from work and cover the travels costs and so on, to come to every event. You may remember this post where I talked about a particularly poignant photo of a sad little girl, taken along the 3-Day route in Boston this year. Jim was the guy who took the photo. Jim told us the amazing news that while walking in San Francisco some walkers behind him had recognized the girl in the photo and wound up telling Jim her name and some fairly sad, depressing facts about her situation. Jim hopes to reach out to the family and see if collectively, we can help.

Day 2 finished at Jack London Square in Oakland, just after a medium-sized cheering station. The weather was sunny and warm and people were cheerfully enjoying refreshments at waterside restaurants before taking the ferry back to camp... in fact, some of them enjoyed themselves SO much that they wouldn't leave until the staff of the 3-Day said "this is the last ferry. it's leaving WITH or WITHOUT you." We weren't on the last ferry, but heard several stories about the excitement later on. We were on a very crowded ferry, probably about halfway back in the pack. Lots of walkers were already in camp when we arrived, but we got Carole some ibuprofen and some ice and she seemed better once she wasn't having to put her weight on her left hip.

Unfortunately, the evening of Day 2 was the day the shower situation just went to heck and I wound up sitting in line for a couple of hours just to shower in, basically, a porto-jon. And I thought I had it bad -- when I got back to the tent Carole was there, frustrated and sad, unshowered... she'd given up waiting because the lines for the women were hours long as well. I told her that by the time I'd left the area by the showers the lines were very short and she needed to come with me and get cleaned up so she'd be able to sleep well.

On Day 3 we had to pack up everything, hand our gear bags back over to the Gear and Tent crew, take down our tent, hand IT in, and then catch a ferry to Tiburon, north of San Francisco in Marin County. We moved slow on Day 3. I chafed a bit at the pace because I hate walking in a slow-moving mob just as much as Carole does, but on the other hand, I knew how important it was to both of us that Carole not have to ride a sweep van, so I said I'd walk just as slowly as she wanted me to if it meant she wasn't in pain, felt happy, and felt able to keep going. This was Carole's fourth 3-Day walk, after Philadelphia '09, Dallas '09, and Tampa Bay of '10. She'd never gotten to walk all sixty miles... once because the event was shortened due to weather, once because she just went so slowly that she got swept, once because she felt so sick that she wasn't physically able to walk all the miles... so this time, we both really wanted her to be able to look back at the end and say "I did all sixty miles!" Her left hip ached severely at times and tape and ice only did so much to help. We probably fed her more ibuprofen than was really good for her, too, and somehow she managed to summon up the will to keep going.

Day 3 was VERY hilly. Especially as we were nearing the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge, walking through Sausalito and Fort Baker. We had some very well attended cheering stations, which perked us up, but we also had some climbs that seemed just about inhuman. Still, we knew that once we were actually on the Golden Gate Bridge proper, we only had a short distance left to go... and that kept us going. Hope continued to be a huge hit with walkers and spectators and wound up with about as much pink swag (beads, bracelets, buttons) as one little bear could possibly fit on her body.

We had lunch at Fort Baker, just before the Golden Gate Bridge. The coordinator for the group of teen crewmembers known as the Youth Corps had lined her charges up cheering the walkers into lunch. As we came into the lunch stop, she came up to me and said "Hi, Jay. Can I tell them about you?" I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about, so I said, "Um, sure!" She said "This is Jay Furr. His mother passed away less than a week ago and he's walking ANYWAY!" Big cheers from the kids. Me, I felt sort of gut-punched, but I know that wasn't her intent. I felt bad about going off to do something fun like the 3-Day before she'd even been dead a week. My brain was just negatively-inclined enough to turn what she said into a reproach, even though I absolutely KNOW it wasn't intended that way.

Walking across the Golden Gate Bridge was scenic as all-get-out, thanks to the sunny, warm weather and the incredible vistas that a fog-free day afternoon presented. On the other hand, the bridge was crowded as all-get-out... zillions of tourists on foot and on bicycles, all walking without a sense in the world that there might be anyone in their path going the other direction. The Bridge has a dedicated, protected bike lane on the western side of the bridge, but lots of tourists couldn't be bothered to ride in the bikes-only lane and instead insisted on pushing their way through on the pedestrian side. Annoying, to say the least. It wasn't as splendid a "We'll turn the Golden Gate Bridge PINK" experience as I'd dreamed of. But we made it. Carole had to stop several times along the way to stretch -- getting her some hard looks from bridge pedestrians who didn't want to have to walk around anyone for any reason, and I got to practice my hard-stare bad-ass persona right back at them. :)

Once we crossed the Bridge, we had only two and a half miles left to go to get to the finish line just south of Marina Green. I think it was when we were walking along the waterfront in San Francisco, looking at people playing frisbee on the green, that it finally hit us -- Carole was going to make it. She might not be walking four miles an hour with a spring in her step, but she was going to make it. I didn't even ask her to take a picture of me as we got to the final five hundred yards -- I've done these before, I've never had the slightest urge to catch a sweep van. It wasn't about me. It was about her proving to herself that she could do this. At times, she sourly said she was continuing just to make me happy, but the fact is, she acknowledged that this was an important goal of hers and that she was grateful for being firm about sticking with it so long as she was physically able. And despite the achiness, she did make it. I took photo after photo as she neared, reached, and went through the big inflatable cubes that represent the finish line. Hope and I were both very proud of her.

As it happened, we were pretty far toward the back of the pack when we finished, and we still had flagbearer duty at closing ceremonies to take care of. Closing ceremonies were actually a few blocks north of the finish line, and we weren't to wait to march over at 5 pm with all the other walkers... WE had to be backstage and accounted for at 4:30 pm. So we sighed and picked our backpacks up and got over there ... and THEN we rested.

We didn't get to see all of closing, as we were backstage hunkered down on equipment, resting, while the walkers and the crew marched in to the holding "corrals". But when the Survivors marched in, and we saw all the walkers and crew doing what walkers and crew always do -- taking off one sneaker and holding it in the air to say "We walk for YOU, survivors!" we flagbearers looked at each other and wondered if we should. I mean, we were backstage; no one in the crowd could see us. I settled the matter by whipping a shoe off and holding it up ANYWAY, whether we could be seen or not. Most everyone in the flagbearer contingent promptly followed suit. What difference does it make if we could be seen? We'd all walked to honor those who've battled breast cancer ... whether they knew we were honoring them, or not.

We'd both been involved in opening ceremonies, as I said above, but closing is much more ceremonial, especially for the survivor flagbearers and the "honor" flagbearers. At opening, we'd just come up onstage, crossed, and gone down to stand with our flags on either side of the audience. But at closing, we came up onstage and stayed there ... and several of the flagbearers had the person or people they were honoring there with them. It never fails to bring a few tears out when someone carrying the "My Wife" flag is joined onstage by his wife... or by their kids if he was walking in memory of his wife. Carole's Aunt Debby was not with her, and none of my co-workers from church or work were with me, so we stayed at the back of the stage with our flags while those whose honorees were present took the stage.

After that, and after the final flag of the event, the "One Day Closer To A World Without Breast Cancer" flag was raised, well, I'd like to say we quickly got back to our hotel, got cleaned up, had a good night's sleep, and flew home the next day. But I can't. We had shuttle passes to shuttle all the way back to the hotel we'd stayed in the night before Day 1 and it took us at least a half hour for that blasted bus to even get OUT of the Marina Green Parking lot ... and about 75 minutes more to get through traffic to our hotel. But make it we did -- and THEN we got cleaned up, repacked, and got a good night's sleep. Next day we flew home... and somewhere along the way it came crashing down on me that I couldn't lose myself in my 3-Day world any longer. My mother was gone and not coming back... and that was not a happy way to spend eight hours on planes and in airports.

Mortality's a frustrating thing. We're all going to go sometime, and my mother had a long, full life, but I just wasn't ready to say goodbye. I'd fully expected to see her alive and cranky as ever in October when I flew down after walking the Philadelphia 3-Day. Unfortunately, that was not to be. But in the end, I am going to get over the blue feelings... and emerge, I hope, even more strongly motivated to do what I can to make sure that everyone else's mom, sister, aunt, grandma, wife... brother, husband, co-worker, neighbor, and friend as well... has just as much chance for a full, happy lifetime as my mom did.
jayfurr: (3-Day Ambassador)
My Neighbor flag

You're probably familiar with the parable of the Good Samaritan, regardless of your religious affiliation or lack thereof. Let me paraphrase it for you, though, in case you don't remember the specifics.

An "expert in the law" -- we'll call him Bob -- decided to test Jesus. Bob asked what he had to do in order to gain eternal life.

Jesus said, "Well, Bob, what does the law say?"

Bob replied, in essence, "Well, Jesus, the law says to love the heck out of God, and also, look out for your neighbor in the same way you look out for yourself."

Jesus said "Right. Do that."

Bob decided to take it a step further and asked "Okay, so, who is my neighbor? What exactly do you mean by that? Do you mean Bill and Wendy next door, or in a more general sense?"

Jesus offered up a parable to explain the concept.

"There was this guy, going from Jerusalem to Jericho. He got robbed and beaten up along the way. Muggers left him half-dead in a ditch."

"So, a priest of his faith happened by, and seeing the guy in the ditch, decided 'hmm, best not get involved' and crossed to the other side of the road."

"A Levite -- a respected member of the community -- came by, saw the guy in the ditch, and he crossed to the other side."

"Probably they both thought 'Hey, if this guy got mugged and I go over and help, what's going to happen to me? The muggers might still be around.'"

"Then a guy from the wrong side of the tracks happened by -- a guy who had no connection to the guy in the ditch and who, in fact, probably had familial bad blood with him going back generations. But he looked at the guy in the ditch and rather than thinking 'What's going to happen to me if I try and help him?', thought 'What's going to happen to him if I don't?'"

"So he stopped, and helped the guy up, and put him on his donkey, and took him to an inn, and paid for his lodging, and came back by in a couple of days to see if he was all right."

"Now: which of these men was his neighbor?"

Bob thought, and replied, "The one who showed him mercy."

Jesus agreed. "Right. Now go and do likewise."

Your neighbor isn't necessarily Bob and Wendy next door. Your neighbor is your fellow man in need of your help. God instructs us to love our neighbor as ourselves if we want to gain the kingdom of Heaven.

And if you're not religious, okay, can you grant me that it's worthwhile to remember that the world's a lot better place if we look out for each other? You never know when you might be the one in need. Pay it forward when someone helps you out. A little kindness helps the world go 'round.

I recently got to take part in a symbolic revisiting of this creed at the San Francisco Bay Area Susan G. Komen 3-Day For The Cure -- a sixty mile fundraising walk lasting three days.

Each year the 3-Day starts with elaborate opening ceremonies ... and ends with an veritable panoply of hoopla that leaves the pomp and circumstance of opening ceremonies to shame. One element that's been included in both opening and closing, going back years and years, is the flags -- walkers and crewmembers carrying ceremonial banners reminding us all what we walk for.

There are flags to remind us what a full, happy lifetime should consist of: birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, you name it. Other flagbearers carry banners in memory or in honor of loved ones who've fought breast cancer: my sister, my mother, my husband, my daughter, my friend, my partner -- the list goes on and on. Survivors carry flags reading "Courage" and "Hope" and "Patience" and "Commitment" and so on. All in all, the processions of flags take up maybe ten minutes of the ceremonies at opening and somewhat longer at closing, but the emotional impact is all out of proportion to the time spent. The crowd reaction to the triumphant entrance of the survivors has to be seen to be believed.

Due to just sheer dumb luck and gormless enthusiasm, I've been a flagbearer four times in four years. I carried the "Anniversaries" flag in 2008 in my first-ever 3-Day walk in Washington, DC. I carried the "My Wife" flag in 2009 in the abbreviated-due-to-act-of-God Philadelphia 3-Day. I carried the "Irreplaceable" flag in Boston's opening ceremonies in 2010 and then put my flag down and scurried off to spend the weekend working as crew at Pit Stop 4. Each time I'd been nominated for the honor by someone else or asked directly.

This year I really hadn't thought about carrying a flag -- until I saw the field coordinator for the San Francisco walk asking her training walk leaders (I'm one) for flagbearer nominations since she still had lots of slots to fill. If I'd known anyone else who was walking in San Francisco, I'd have nominated them, but San Francisco was pretty far afield for us; we live in New England. So I wrote and said "Well, not that we're desperate to or anything, but if you're actually short, my wife and I would be happy to help."

Famous last words. Next thing you know my wife was tapped to carry the "My Aunt" flag in honor of her Aunt Debbie, a breast cancer survivor of many years, and I'd been asked to carry ...

... the "My Neighbor" flag.

To the best of my knowledge, none of my neighbors on our little seven-house Vermont dirt road have been afflicted by breast cancer. None of them have volunteered the information, anyway. I could call and ask ... no, that'd be strange.

But I've got several co-workers who're survivors -- and I've spent most of the last three years walking around the office bald as an egg in honor of their battles against cancer and their bouts of chemotherapy. One such survivor occupies the office twenty feet to the left of my doorway. My office neighbor, in other words.

But after being offered the My Neighbor flag, I decided to look at the honor not as a literal acknowledgment of people who live or work near me and their fight against cancer, but in a larger sense... in honor of all the women and men out there who I've crossed paths with, some who are still winning their fight and others who lost.

No one in my immediate family has ever had breast cancer. Even my wife's Aunt Debbie is an aunt by marriage; both our bloodlines have been especially lucky (so far). I have no direct, personal connection to breast cancer. I'm involved in this cause because I want to make my life count for something. So I fundraise and I walk and I try to build awareness. And I thank all of you who do likewise or who have contributed on my behalf.

Why do I try so hard to make a difference?

Because it's the right thing to do. And because, at the end of the day, I didn't want it to be said, "Jay crossed to the other side."
jayfurr: (3-Day Ambassador)
My Neighbor flag

You're probably familiar with the parable of the Good Samaritan, regardless of your religious affiliation or lack thereof. Let me paraphrase it for you, though, in case you don't remember the specifics.

An "expert in the law" -- we'll call him Bob -- decided to test Jesus. Bob asked what he had to do in order to gain eternal life.

Jesus said, "Well, Bob, what does the law say?"

Bob replied, in essence, "Well, Jesus, the law says to love the heck out of God, and also, look out for your neighbor in the same way you look out for yourself."

Jesus said "Right. Do that."

Bob decided to take it a step further and asked "Okay, so, who is my neighbor? What exactly do you mean by that? Do you mean Bill and Wendy next door, or in a more general sense?"

Jesus offered up a parable to explain the concept.

"There was this guy, going from Jerusalem to Jericho. He got robbed and beaten up along the way. Muggers left him half-dead in a ditch."

"So, a priest of his faith happened by, and seeing the guy in the ditch, decided 'hmm, best not get involved' and crossed to the other side of the road."

"A Levite -- a respected member of the community -- came by, saw the guy in the ditch, and he crossed to the other side."

"Probably they both thought 'Hey, if this guy got mugged and I go over and help, what's going to happen to me? The muggers might still be around.'"

"Then a guy from the wrong side of the tracks happened by -- a guy who had no connection to the guy in the ditch and who, in fact, probably had familial bad blood with him going back generations. But he looked at the guy in the ditch and rather than thinking 'What's going to happen to me if I try and help him?', thought 'What's going to happen to him if I don't?'"

"So he stopped, and helped the guy up, and put him on his donkey, and took him to an inn, and paid for his lodging, and came back by in a couple of days to see if he was all right."

"Now: which of these men was his neighbor?"

Bob thought, and replied, "The one who showed him mercy."

Jesus agreed. "Right. Now go and do likewise."

Your neighbor isn't necessarily Bob and Wendy next door. Your neighbor is your fellow man in need of your help. God instructs us to love our neighbor as ourselves if we want to gain the kingdom of Heaven.

And if you're not religious, okay, can you grant me that it's worthwhile to remember that the world's a lot better place if we look out for each other? You never know when you might be the one in need. Pay it forward when someone helps you out. A little kindness helps the world go 'round.

I recently got to take part in a symbolic revisiting of this creed at the San Francisco Bay Area Susan G. Komen 3-Day For The Cure -- a sixty mile fundraising walk lasting three days.

Each year the 3-Day starts with elaborate opening ceremonies ... and ends with an veritable panoply of hoopla that leaves the pomp and circumstance of opening ceremonies to shame. One element that's been included in both opening and closing, going back years and years, is the flags -- walkers and crewmembers carrying ceremonial banners reminding us all what we walk for.

There are flags to remind us what a full, happy lifetime should consist of: birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, you name it. Other flagbearers carry banners in memory or in honor of loved ones who've fought breast cancer: my sister, my mother, my husband, my daughter, my friend, my partner -- the list goes on and on. Survivors carry flags reading "Courage" and "Hope" and "Patience" and "Commitment" and so on. All in all, the processions of flags take up maybe ten minutes of the ceremonies at opening and somewhat longer at closing, but the emotional impact is all out of proportion to the time spent. The crowd reaction to the triumphant entrance of the survivors has to be seen to be believed.

Due to just sheer dumb luck and gormless enthusiasm, I've been a flagbearer four times in four years. I carried the "Anniversaries" flag in 2008 in my first-ever 3-Day walk in Washington, DC. I carried the "My Wife" flag in 2009 in the abbreviated-due-to-act-of-God Philadelphia 3-Day. I carried the "Irreplaceable" flag in Boston's opening ceremonies in 2010 and then put my flag down and scurried off to spend the weekend working as crew at Pit Stop 4. Each time I'd been nominated for the honor by someone else or asked directly.

This year I really hadn't thought about carrying a flag -- until I saw the field coordinator for the San Francisco walk asking her training walk leaders (I'm one) for flagbearer nominations since she still had lots of slots to fill. If I'd known anyone else who was walking in San Francisco, I'd have nominated them, but San Francisco was pretty far afield for us; we live in New England. So I wrote and said "Well, not that we're desperate to or anything, but if you're actually short, my wife and I would be happy to help."

Famous last words. Next thing you know my wife was tapped to carry the "My Aunt" flag in honor of her Aunt Debbie, a breast cancer survivor of many years, and I'd been asked to carry ...

... the "My Neighbor" flag.

To the best of my knowledge, none of my neighbors on our little seven-house Vermont dirt road have been afflicted by breast cancer. None of them have volunteered the information, anyway. I could call and ask ... no, that'd be strange.

But I've got several co-workers who're survivors -- and I've spent most of the last three years walking around the office bald as an egg in honor of their battles against cancer and their bouts of chemotherapy. One such survivor occupies the office twenty feet to the left of my doorway. My office neighbor, in other words.

But after being offered the My Neighbor flag, I decided to look at the honor not as a literal acknowledgment of people who live or work near me and their fight against cancer, but in a larger sense... in honor of all the women and men out there who I've crossed paths with, some who are still winning their fight and others who lost.

No one in my immediate family has ever had breast cancer. Even my wife's Aunt Debbie is an aunt by marriage; both our bloodlines have been especially lucky (so far). I have no direct, personal connection to breast cancer. I'm involved in this cause because I want to make my life count for something. So I fundraise and I walk and I try to build awareness. And I thank all of you who do likewise or who have contributed on my behalf.

Why do I try so hard to make a difference?

Because it's the right thing to do. And because, at the end of the day, I didn't want it to be said, "Jay crossed to the other side."
jayfurr: (2010 3-Day Walker)
My 44th birthday is on September 20 -- six days away. This is not news: as the "Upcoming Events" area of your Facebook homepage indicates, lots of people are out there having birthdays ALL THE TIME.

But when you ask me what I'd like for my birthday (not that you, personally, would be likely to do so), it'd simply be for there to be more birthdays for those suffering from cancer, especially for my friends facing an uncertain future as a result of breast cancer. I met more than a few women during my recent walk in San Francisco who literally have no idea if they're going to be around for their next birthday... or whether they'll be around when their daughters and sons celebrate theirs.

Will you help me help them? I'm just under $200 away from the amount I need to raise if I'm to be able to walk both the upcoming walk in Philadelphia (60 miles) and the walk in Atlanta a week later (60 more miles). Yes, I'm signed up to walk two consecutive 3-Day walks, 120 miles in 9 days (plus a trip to Florida in between to see if my father's doing okay after the death of his wife, my mom). I wouldn't spend pretty much all of my annual vacation time walking to raise funds for the fight against breast cancer if I didn't think it was a pretty damn important cause.

But remember: my walking is not what will one day find the cure. Your donations are the ammunition in this war. And clinical trials and research and treatment and mammograms all cost money. The best birthday gift I could get, other than the news that a cure's been found, would be to make my fundraising goal.

My donation URL is http://www.the3day.org/goto/jayfurr -- and thanks in advance for any help you can give.
jayfurr: (2010 3-Day Walker)
My 44th birthday is on September 20 -- six days away. This is not news: as the "Upcoming Events" area of your Facebook homepage indicates, lots of people are out there having birthdays ALL THE TIME.

But when you ask me what I'd like for my birthday (not that you, personally, would be likely to do so), it'd simply be for there to be more birthdays for those suffering from cancer, especially for my friends facing an uncertain future as a result of breast cancer. I met more than a few women during my recent walk in San Francisco who literally have no idea if they're going to be around for their next birthday... or whether they'll be around when their daughters and sons celebrate theirs.

Will you help me help them? I'm just under $200 away from the amount I need to raise if I'm to be able to walk both the upcoming walk in Philadelphia (60 miles) and the walk in Atlanta a week later (60 more miles). Yes, I'm signed up to walk two consecutive 3-Day walks, 120 miles in 9 days (plus a trip to Florida in between to see if my father's doing okay after the death of his wife, my mom). I wouldn't spend pretty much all of my annual vacation time walking to raise funds for the fight against breast cancer if I didn't think it was a pretty damn important cause.

But remember: my walking is not what will one day find the cure. Your donations are the ammunition in this war. And clinical trials and research and treatment and mammograms all cost money. The best birthday gift I could get, other than the news that a cure's been found, would be to make my fundraising goal.

My donation URL is http://www.the3day.org/goto/jayfurr -- and thanks in advance for any help you can give.
jayfurr: (3-Day Ambassador)
Tomorrow morning my wife Carole and I will begin walking the 2011 San Francisco Bay Area Susan G. Komen 3-Day For The Cure. It's a sixty mile walk with a simple goal: raise funds for the fight against breast cancer. It will raise awareness as well, and will embolden and hearten those currently fighting the disease... seriously. I know for a fact that quite a few breast cancer patients cite making it to the next year's 3-Day as one of the most important things that keeps them going and fighting week after week, month after month. But in the end, it's really about raising the huge sums of money needed to pay for research, treatment, mammograms, and more.

This will be my ninth 3-Day. I've crewed the Boston walk three years running and I've walked DC twice, Philadelphia once, Twin Cities once, and Tampa Bay once. This is my first time ever walking in the San Francisco 3-Day... same for Carole. It's a hilly route with incredible scenery and we've both been looking forward to it for months.

Even as I type, we're finishing our preparations for the walk. We've both loaded big duffel bags with our sleeping bags and bedrolls and extra clothing and cold-weather gear for wearing around camp at night. Camp will be on an island smack in the middle of San Francisco Bay and it's going to be windy and in the high 50s at night. We'll drop these off at opening ceremonies tomorrow morning before starting the Day 1 route and they'll be waiting for us at camp tomorrow night.

This 3-Day will be unlike any of the others I've done before. While each walk I've participated in as a walker or crewmember has been special and interesting in its own way, this weekend's walk is so beclouded by the recent death of my mother that I'm afraid that my head won't really be in the game. Mom passed away just over a week ago from congestive heart failure and related symptoms. Not, I must stress, from breast cancer. She died four days shy of her 82nd birthday. She led a full life, but her death came suddenly and as a surprise. My siblings and I hadn't realized the situation was so dire until we got the "get here NOW" message. And unfortunately, none of us made it before it was too late.

You can read the blow-by-blow of Mom's passing here and here.

I'm here tonight, when I should be getting to bed and getting a good night's sleep before rising early to hit the street, to tell you the rest of the story.

Many people have cheered my decision to go ahead and walk San Francisco less than week after my mom's funeral and assumed that I'm walking to honor my mother.

You want the truth?

I'm not. Mom was never over-enthralled by my fervor for the fight against breast cancer. By the time I started walking in 2008, she was tired and mostly focused on hearing news about her grandkids -- my nieces and nephew. I'm quite sure that the empowered, feminist, boldly-speaking woman that she was when she was a bit younger would have been very cheered by my being so interested in women's health issues, but at the end of her life, my mother thought my work was okay and all that, but didn't really perk up each time I called to say that I'd finished another 3-Day walk. On a scale of Deep Importance, my walks and my training and my fundraising were on the level of, say, my new hot water heater or our plans to plant a patch of mint at the bottom of our driveway.

And that's unfortunate. I wanted, among other things, to make Mom proud by doing something for other people, something that didn't really benefit myself in any way. I just waited too late in life to start.

I loved my mother very much. I don't hold against her that my sudden zeal to change the world started when I turned 40 and she'd turned 78. I know that the woman she was when she was in the prime of life would have been proud to have a son who was less interested in what was on TV that night than in persuading people to donate to a good cause.

So if I'm not walking in honor of my mother, why am I walking? Who am I walking for?

Why, your mother. And your sister. And your aunt. And your daughter. And your neighbor. And for you. I'm walking for my friends at church, Penny and Paula. I'm walking for my co-workers, Robin and Diana. I'm walking for my wife's aunt Debbie. I'm walking for Bridget Spence, diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer in her early 20s and still fighting as her 30th birthday approaches. And I'm walking in honor of incredible people like Julie Kauker, 3-Day crewmember and mother of my 3-Day friends Kristian and Kenneth. Kristian and Kenneth know all too well what it's like to lose their mom; Julie passed this year after a multi-year fight against breast cancer.

Losing my mom was one of the worst things that ever happened to me. One day she was there, sarcastically witty as always. I assumed she'd be around for years and years to come.

Then, suddenly, she wasn't.

I walk because it's awful losing someone you love. I don't want anyone to have to experience what I experienced a day sooner than absolutely necessary. When you love someone, you'd really rather Death not steal them away like a thief in the night.
jayfurr: (3-Day Ambassador)
Tomorrow morning my wife Carole and I will begin walking the 2011 San Francisco Bay Area Susan G. Komen 3-Day For The Cure. It's a sixty mile walk with a simple goal: raise funds for the fight against breast cancer. It will raise awareness as well, and will embolden and hearten those currently fighting the disease... seriously. I know for a fact that quite a few breast cancer patients cite making it to the next year's 3-Day as one of the most important things that keeps them going and fighting week after week, month after month. But in the end, it's really about raising the huge sums of money needed to pay for research, treatment, mammograms, and more.

This will be my ninth 3-Day. I've crewed the Boston walk three years running and I've walked DC twice, Philadelphia once, Twin Cities once, and Tampa Bay once. This is my first time ever walking in the San Francisco 3-Day... same for Carole. It's a hilly route with incredible scenery and we've both been looking forward to it for months.

Even as I type, we're finishing our preparations for the walk. We've both loaded big duffel bags with our sleeping bags and bedrolls and extra clothing and cold-weather gear for wearing around camp at night. Camp will be on an island smack in the middle of San Francisco Bay and it's going to be windy and in the high 50s at night. We'll drop these off at opening ceremonies tomorrow morning before starting the Day 1 route and they'll be waiting for us at camp tomorrow night.

This 3-Day will be unlike any of the others I've done before. While each walk I've participated in as a walker or crewmember has been special and interesting in its own way, this weekend's walk is so beclouded by the recent death of my mother that I'm afraid that my head won't really be in the game. Mom passed away just over a week ago from congestive heart failure and related symptoms. Not, I must stress, from breast cancer. She died four days shy of her 82nd birthday. She led a full life, but her death came suddenly and as a surprise. My siblings and I hadn't realized the situation was so dire until we got the "get here NOW" message. And unfortunately, none of us made it before it was too late.

You can read the blow-by-blow of Mom's passing here and here.

I'm here tonight, when I should be getting to bed and getting a good night's sleep before rising early to hit the street, to tell you the rest of the story.

Many people have cheered my decision to go ahead and walk San Francisco less than week after my mom's funeral and assumed that I'm walking to honor my mother.

You want the truth?

I'm not. Mom was never over-enthralled by my fervor for the fight against breast cancer. By the time I started walking in 2008, she was tired and mostly focused on hearing news about her grandkids -- my nieces and nephew. I'm quite sure that the empowered, feminist, boldly-speaking woman that she was when she was a bit younger would have been very cheered by my being so interested in women's health issues, but at the end of her life, my mother thought my work was okay and all that, but didn't really perk up each time I called to say that I'd finished another 3-Day walk. On a scale of Deep Importance, my walks and my training and my fundraising were on the level of, say, my new hot water heater or our plans to plant a patch of mint at the bottom of our driveway.

And that's unfortunate. I wanted, among other things, to make Mom proud by doing something for other people, something that didn't really benefit myself in any way. I just waited too late in life to start.

I loved my mother very much. I don't hold against her that my sudden zeal to change the world started when I turned 40 and she'd turned 78. I know that the woman she was when she was in the prime of life would have been proud to have a son who was less interested in what was on TV that night than in persuading people to donate to a good cause.

So if I'm not walking in honor of my mother, why am I walking? Who am I walking for?

Why, your mother. And your sister. And your aunt. And your daughter. And your neighbor. And for you. I'm walking for my friends at church, Penny and Paula. I'm walking for my co-workers, Robin and Diana. I'm walking for my wife's aunt Debbie. I'm walking for Bridget Spence, diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer in her early 20s and still fighting as her 30th birthday approaches. And I'm walking in honor of incredible people like Julie Kauker, 3-Day crewmember and mother of my 3-Day friends Kristian and Kenneth. Kristian and Kenneth know all too well what it's like to lose their mom; Julie passed this year after a multi-year fight against breast cancer.

Losing my mom was one of the worst things that ever happened to me. One day she was there, sarcastically witty as always. I assumed she'd be around for years and years to come.

Then, suddenly, she wasn't.

I walk because it's awful losing someone you love. I don't want anyone to have to experience what I experienced a day sooner than absolutely necessary. When you love someone, you'd really rather Death not steal them away like a thief in the night.
jayfurr: (3-Day Ambassador)
Golden Gate Bridge

The streets of San Francisco are calling me.

But so are the streets of Berkeley and Oakland and Mill Valley and Tiburon and Daly City.

I'm referring, of course, to the upcoming San Francisco Bay Area 3-Day For The Cure. The big 60-mile, 3-day walk to raise funds for the fight against breast cancer. Most everyone calls it the San Francisco 3-Day, but it's not, not really. It's the Bay Area 3-Day, as its full name, above, states. San Francisco traffic can be bad enough without Susan G. Komen For The Cure trying to snarl things for an entire weekend with several thousand women and men in pink bras and tutus strolling down Market Street and through the Tenderloin and the Castro. Thus the "Let's snarl things in Oakland, TOO!" aspect of the event.

The walk starts on Friday, September 9 at the "Cow Palace" arena in Daly City, just south of San Francisco. We'll go through opening ceremonies (a spectacle for the ages involving huge bonfires, leaping fountains, and a flyover by the Blue Angels, repainted pink for the occasion) and then head discreetly in the direction of the Pacific, passing Lake Merced and skirting along the western edge of San Francisco proper. We'll walk along Ocean Beach and then up through Lands End, looking out over the legendary Golden Gate and heading east through Pacific Heights toward the unsuspecting tourists at Fisherman's Wharf. I can't wait for that. I've been to Fisherman's Wharf on several occasions. The camera-toting Japanese tourists are going to LOVE us.

And then we're all going to get on ferries and go camp on an isolated island in the middle of San Francisco Bay.

Yes, really.

Our camp is usually in a big public park somewhere. It's not unusual to get to the end of the route on Day 1 and find a bus waiting for you... because said "big public park" may be inconveniently located off the route. We bus to the park, camp, and sometimes bus back from the park to the start of the Day 2 route. Or we walk in a big loop to and from the park on Day 2 and bus to the start of the route on Day 3. It's an exciting adventure in logistics and transportation planning and I wouldn't take on the challenge of organizing it all for love or money.

But this year, we're not going to be on buses. Well, most of us won't. There will still be "SAG" buses along the route for walkers who can't continue because they stepped off a curb badly and sprained an ankle, or whose blisters made strong and hearty medical crewmembers recoil in fear. But the "bus" this year will be a Red and White Fleet ferry and the "big public park" will be Treasure Island, an artificial island halfway across the Bay to Oakland. You can't walk to Treasure Island; it's only accessible via an exit off I-80 on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Or, obviously, via water. Rather than have us complete the route by swimming from Fisherman's Wharf to camp, they decided to use ferries.

Red and White Fleet ferry

On Day 2, Saturday, we're going to take a ferry from camp to the east side of the Bay and walk through Berkeley and Oakland, having lunch at Lake Merritt before ending our day at Jack London Square. Then it's back on another ferry to camp.

And on Day 3 -- the day I'm really looking forward to, we're going to take one final ferry north to Marin County and the city of Tiburon. And then we're going to walk south through Tiburon and Mill Valley and Sausalito. And then we're going to turn the Golden Gate Bridge PINK. Several thousand walkers, streaming south across the world's most iconic bridge, is going to make quite a sight. I just wish we got to walk across it twice. After that experience, the final few miles to closing ceremonies at Marina Green on the north shore of San Francisco will just fly by.

Closing ceremonies will, if anything, be much more impressive than opening. Opening ceremonies are kept somewhat short, with a few speakers and a procession of flagbearers and a good bit of rah-rah, but the closing ceremonies are guaranteed to make the tears flow. I hope spectators in the area of Marina Green come over that Sunday afternoon and take a look. If you're in the area and want to come watch, we'd love to have you. I'd arrive around 4 pm; the 3-Day website says closing ceremonies start at 5, but I don't think that's right. They're usually earlier and wrap up by 5. If you can't make closing but would like to come out and cheer us along the route, the 3-Day staff have organized official 'cheering stations' along the route. You can get all the details here.

Why will the tears flow? The 3-Day For The Cure is a celebration of life and a celebration of determination to overcome. It's also an opportunity for us to remember those who lost the fight against breast cancer and to pay tribute to those still fighting. We honor those who walked, those who served as support crew, and most importantly, the survivors, whose entry into closing ceremonies is the moment of moments. If you've never seen several thousand women and men in pink holding their sneakers on high in tribute to the survivors that we all walk for, come have a look. It's something to behold.

Carole and I will have an interesting part to play in and among everything. While a lot of walkers take part as solo walkers and form up into little groups with other walkers they meet along the way, and others form great big teams of twenty or thirty or forty members, Carole and I will sort of split the difference: we're Team Otter and Lemur, a team of two. We even got t-shirts made up, purple wicking t-shirts with a team "logo" on the front in pink. Said logo depicts the state of Vermont with a pink ribbon superimposed in front.

Team Otter & Lemur T-shirt Logo

I can't honestly say that we're going to have the fundraising impact of the bigger teams, or that we actually needed the team t-shirts to be able to find one another in a crowd or along the route, but still, small or not, a team is a team, right?

I can't remember looking forward to a 3-Day walk as much as this one. I've done eight so far, three as crew for the Boston 3-Day and five as a walker (DC twice, Philly once, Twin Cities once, and Tampa Bay once) and I've got three to go this year (San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Atlanta). I'm also really looking forward to Atlanta, but for a different reason: I'm co-captain of a team of 30 walkers and crew ("Team Twitter ATL") for that event, and that's gonna be a blast... but in terms of sheer scenic beauty and neat-o cool moments, I think it's going to be hard to top walking in the Bay Area.

That being said, I'm sorry that we have to hold these walks in the first place. The money thrown away on some of our more irresponsible government expenditures would have made a huge impact in the fight against cancer, but that ship has sailed. Until such time as we get our national priorities in line with reality, I'm happy to do what I can for the cause of bringing an end to breast cancer. Yeah, it's going to be a lot of work walking sixty miles in some of the hilliest terrain in the country, but I'm going to do it with a smile, tired or not, blistered or not.

After all, it beats the hell out of chemo.


jayfurr: (3-Day Ambassador)
Golden Gate Bridge

The streets of San Francisco are calling me.

But so are the streets of Berkeley and Oakland and Mill Valley and Tiburon and Daly City.

I'm referring, of course, to the upcoming San Francisco Bay Area 3-Day For The Cure. The big 60-mile, 3-day walk to raise funds for the fight against breast cancer. Most everyone calls it the San Francisco 3-Day, but it's not, not really. It's the Bay Area 3-Day, as its full name, above, states. San Francisco traffic can be bad enough without Susan G. Komen For The Cure trying to snarl things for an entire weekend with several thousand women and men in pink bras and tutus strolling down Market Street and through the Tenderloin and the Castro. Thus the "Let's snarl things in Oakland, TOO!" aspect of the event.

The walk starts on Friday, September 9 at the "Cow Palace" arena in Daly City, just south of San Francisco. We'll go through opening ceremonies (a spectacle for the ages involving huge bonfires, leaping fountains, and a flyover by the Blue Angels, repainted pink for the occasion) and then head discreetly in the direction of the Pacific, passing Lake Merced and skirting along the western edge of San Francisco proper. We'll walk along Ocean Beach and then up through Lands End, looking out over the legendary Golden Gate and heading east through Pacific Heights toward the unsuspecting tourists at Fisherman's Wharf. I can't wait for that. I've been to Fisherman's Wharf on several occasions. The camera-toting Japanese tourists are going to LOVE us.

And then we're all going to get on ferries and go camp on an isolated island in the middle of San Francisco Bay.

Yes, really.

Our camp is usually in a big public park somewhere. It's not unusual to get to the end of the route on Day 1 and find a bus waiting for you... because said "big public park" may be inconveniently located off the route. We bus to the park, camp, and sometimes bus back from the park to the start of the Day 2 route. Or we walk in a big loop to and from the park on Day 2 and bus to the start of the route on Day 3. It's an exciting adventure in logistics and transportation planning and I wouldn't take on the challenge of organizing it all for love or money.

But this year, we're not going to be on buses. Well, most of us won't. There will still be "SAG" buses along the route for walkers who can't continue because they stepped off a curb badly and sprained an ankle, or whose blisters made strong and hearty medical crewmembers recoil in fear. But the "bus" this year will be a Red and White Fleet ferry and the "big public park" will be Treasure Island, an artificial island halfway across the Bay to Oakland. You can't walk to Treasure Island; it's only accessible via an exit off I-80 on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Or, obviously, via water. Rather than have us complete the route by swimming from Fisherman's Wharf to camp, they decided to use ferries.

Red and White Fleet ferry

On Day 2, Saturday, we're going to take a ferry from camp to the east side of the Bay and walk through Berkeley and Oakland, having lunch at Lake Merritt before ending our day at Jack London Square. Then it's back on another ferry to camp.

And on Day 3 -- the day I'm really looking forward to, we're going to take one final ferry north to Marin County and the city of Tiburon. And then we're going to walk south through Tiburon and Mill Valley and Sausalito. And then we're going to turn the Golden Gate Bridge PINK. Several thousand walkers, streaming south across the world's most iconic bridge, is going to make quite a sight. I just wish we got to walk across it twice. After that experience, the final few miles to closing ceremonies at Marina Green on the north shore of San Francisco will just fly by.

Closing ceremonies will, if anything, be much more impressive than opening. Opening ceremonies are kept somewhat short, with a few speakers and a procession of flagbearers and a good bit of rah-rah, but the closing ceremonies are guaranteed to make the tears flow. I hope spectators in the area of Marina Green come over that Sunday afternoon and take a look. If you're in the area and want to come watch, we'd love to have you. I'd arrive around 4 pm; the 3-Day website says closing ceremonies start at 5, but I don't think that's right. They're usually earlier and wrap up by 5. If you can't make closing but would like to come out and cheer us along the route, the 3-Day staff have organized official 'cheering stations' along the route. You can get all the details here.

Why will the tears flow? The 3-Day For The Cure is a celebration of life and a celebration of determination to overcome. It's also an opportunity for us to remember those who lost the fight against breast cancer and to pay tribute to those still fighting. We honor those who walked, those who served as support crew, and most importantly, the survivors, whose entry into closing ceremonies is the moment of moments. If you've never seen several thousand women and men in pink holding their sneakers on high in tribute to the survivors that we all walk for, come have a look. It's something to behold.

Carole and I will have an interesting part to play in and among everything. While a lot of walkers take part as solo walkers and form up into little groups with other walkers they meet along the way, and others form great big teams of twenty or thirty or forty members, Carole and I will sort of split the difference: we're Team Otter and Lemur, a team of two. We even got t-shirts made up, purple wicking t-shirts with a team "logo" on the front in pink. Said logo depicts the state of Vermont with a pink ribbon superimposed in front.

Team Otter & Lemur T-shirt Logo

I can't honestly say that we're going to have the fundraising impact of the bigger teams, or that we actually needed the team t-shirts to be able to find one another in a crowd or along the route, but still, small or not, a team is a team, right?

I can't remember looking forward to a 3-Day walk as much as this one. I've done eight so far, three as crew for the Boston 3-Day and five as a walker (DC twice, Philly once, Twin Cities once, and Tampa Bay once) and I've got three to go this year (San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Atlanta). I'm also really looking forward to Atlanta, but for a different reason: I'm co-captain of a team of 30 walkers and crew ("Team Twitter ATL") for that event, and that's gonna be a blast... but in terms of sheer scenic beauty and neat-o cool moments, I think it's going to be hard to top walking in the Bay Area.

That being said, I'm sorry that we have to hold these walks in the first place. The money thrown away on some of our more irresponsible government expenditures would have made a huge impact in the fight against cancer, but that ship has sailed. Until such time as we get our national priorities in line with reality, I'm happy to do what I can for the cause of bringing an end to breast cancer. Yeah, it's going to be a lot of work walking sixty miles in some of the hilliest terrain in the country, but I'm going to do it with a smile, tired or not, blistered or not.

After all, it beats the hell out of chemo.


jayfurr: (2010 3-Day Walker)
Anyone have $360 to spare for a really, really good cause? Or some fraction thereof? $20? $30?

Some time back I made the decision to go to the Philadelphia 3-Day the week before the Atlanta 3-Day. I had vague notions of spending the weekend volunteering or walker-stalking (basically roaming along the route cheering for the walkers). I really wanted to be a last-minute addition to the crew, but the organizers have all the crew they need. So, after some thought, I said "How can I actually do the MOST good?" and the answer was not long in coming: I should keep fundraising and attempt to add a third city -- Philadelphia, obviously -- to the two 3-Day walks I'm already going to be walking this year (San Francisco and Atlanta).

Monday morning update: I am $1080 shy of my $6900 fundraising goal for the Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Atlanta 3-Day For The Cure walks. If you would be gracious enough to help with a donation, it would be most appreciated. I will match any donation made on my behalf and my employer will match me, so the fact is, all I "really" need at this point is $360 in donations and I'd be at goal. You can donate at http://www.the3day.org/goto/jayfurr -- and many thanks to all who help and who have already helped!



jayfurr: (2010 3-Day Walker)
Anyone have $360 to spare for a really, really good cause? Or some fraction thereof? $20? $30?

Some time back I made the decision to go to the Philadelphia 3-Day the week before the Atlanta 3-Day. I had vague notions of spending the weekend volunteering or walker-stalking (basically roaming along the route cheering for the walkers). I really wanted to be a last-minute addition to the crew, but the organizers have all the crew they need. So, after some thought, I said "How can I actually do the MOST good?" and the answer was not long in coming: I should keep fundraising and attempt to add a third city -- Philadelphia, obviously -- to the two 3-Day walks I'm already going to be walking this year (San Francisco and Atlanta).

Monday morning update: I am $1080 shy of my $6900 fundraising goal for the Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Atlanta 3-Day For The Cure walks. If you would be gracious enough to help with a donation, it would be most appreciated. I will match any donation made on my behalf and my employer will match me, so the fact is, all I "really" need at this point is $360 in donations and I'd be at goal. You can donate at http://www.the3day.org/goto/jayfurr -- and many thanks to all who help and who have already helped!



jayfurr: (3-Day Ambassador)
I sent the following email just now to everyone who has sponsored me in the 3-Day For The Cure since I began walking in 2008. It is both a message of thanks and a reminder that the war against breast cancer is NOT over. I share it here to say thanks to EVERYONE who cares, donates, and takes part.




Thank you.

You are receiving this email because you sponsored me for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day For The Cure sometime in the last four years... and because I want to ask one further favor of you. But before the favor, I wanted to repeat: Thank you.

Some of you donated on my behalf in 2008 when I walked 60 miles in my first 3-Day walk in Washington DC.

Some donated in 2009 when I wound up walking only 15 miles in Philadelphia because two days of the event were cancelled due to torrential rain, high wind, and temperatures in the low 40s.

Some of you donated in 2010 when I walked 180 miles total in the Twin Cities, Washington DC, and Tampa Bay 3-Day walks.

Some of you have sponsored me THIS year for my upcoming walks in San Francisco and Atlanta.

Thank you.

In the last four years I've raised almost $20,000 for the fight against breast cancer... from you, and people like you. Some of you donated because you've had breast cancer. Others donated because you lost your mom, your sister, your mother-in-law, your friend... or because a friend or a member of your family is still fighting the disease. And some of you donated because you're just good people who care about the wellbeing of others... and in hopes that the next generation -- our daughters and sons -- don't HAVE to fear breast cancer. Or walk to fight it.

Thank you.

The money you donated helped, and will continue to help, in so many ways. The $35 some of you donated could have been used to pay for transportation to a treatment session. The $120 others donated may have paid for a mammogram for someone who can't afford one on her own. The $50 might have helped pay for the costs of a clinical trial to test a new anti-cancer drug. Your donations don't just pay for research, although a full listing of the research advances made possible by your donations would be one long, long list. Your dollars are active on every front in the war against cancer. Education. Treatment. Early detection. And yes, research.

There are women and men alive today who would not have made it if it weren't for the generosity of you and people like you.

Thank you.

In the last week I've gotten some good news and some very bad news. And I wanted to share it with you to remind you how valuable your contributions really are.

First the good news. In a couple of months I'm going to be walking in the Atlanta 3-Day. I'm captain of a team of 29 walkers and crewmembers, "Team Twitter ATL". Our team is made up of 26 women and 3 men... and two breast cancer survivors. One of our survivors, Allie, did a routine self-exam a couple of weeks ago and found, to her horror, that she felt lumps in the same armpit where she'd had her lymph nodes removed. She spent a week reliving the fear and worry of her initial episode of breast cancer. All of us on the team prayed for her and worried with her. Then a PET scan revealed a solid negative: no cancer detected. Allie is overjoyed -- and so are we all... but nonetheless, she was right to check. The odds of her cancer recurring are NOT zero and early detection IS key.

Good news.

Now the bad news. Many of us who take part in the 3-Day are familiar with a young lady, a breast cancer survivor named Bridget who was diagnosed with stage IV cancer... at the age of 21. She was given a 16% chance of surviving until her 30th birthday. She's fought cancer since 2005: aggressive cancer that has metastasized to her liver and other organs. She's been on every drug that's out there and on clinical trial after clinical trial. Clinical trials paid for by Komen research funding... which comes from people like you. (Thank you!) On Friday, she announced on her blog (http://mybiggirlpants.blogspot.com/)that her most recent drug has failed. Her cancer has grown and her 'tumor markers' have increased dramatically. Again. There is another drug they can try her on... a drug that's administered every week, via IV, in treatment sessions that last multiple hours. And the side effects are not inconsequential. Little wonder that she titled her blog entry "A Huge Blow".

No one could blame Bridget for being upset. Sad. Devastated. Angry. But ultimately, Bridget's a fighter and she's not giving up and "getting her affairs in order." Her 30th birthday is in two years and we're all looking forward on celebrating it with her.

Bridget ended her blog post by reminding us that prayers are welcomed, but that research dollars, passion, and activism count for much more. And that's why I wanted to let you know what MY next steps are.

I have raised the $2,300 necessary to walk in the San Francisco Bay Area 3-Day the second weekend in September. I've raised the $2,300 necessary to walk in the Atlanta 3-Day in mid-October. I've actually gone a bit beyond the minimum. Thank you!

But I hereby vow that if I can raise an additional $1678 in my San Francisco 3-Day fundraising account, I will go and walk a third 3-Day city (Philadelphia) the weekend before Atlanta. In order to walk Philadelphia, my total across all cities will have to equal $6900 (or more) and right now my aggregate all-cities total is $5,222. I have set my San Francisco goal to $4,355 – when I reach that amount I will have raised enough across all cities to be able to walk a third.

I know perfectly well that my walking 60 miles in 3 days does not cure breast cancer. But the funds you've donated, and funds you may yet donate in the future, DO. And even though I could spend the weekend of the Philadelphia 3-Day relaxing at home and simply say "$5,222 is enough,"

I could.

But I doubt I'd sleep well at night having made that decision. I want Bridget to make her 30th birthday and I want countless thousands more to never even have to fight the demons she has to fight every day. And the only real, tangible way I can do that is by fundraising and speaking up.

I said at the start of this letter that I wanted to ask a further favor of you. Here's the favor:

Will you help spread the word? If you can post a link to my fundraising page (http://www.the3day.org/goto/jayfurr)on your own blog or Twitter feed or Facebook page -- or email it to your friends, I would be deeply grateful.

If you can afford a further donation, I would be grateful for that as well... but I do not mean to imply that I’m not grateful for what you’ve already given. I know your wallets are not bottomless. I know you care about other causes too. I know other diseases take a huge toll as well. So if you can’t donate again, or don’t wish to, I understand… and I remain grateful for all you have done in the past. And if you can donate again, thank you for that too! My donation page is, as above, http://www.the3day.org/goto/jayfurr

Thank you for contributing in the fight against breast cancer. Each step I walk in San Francisco and Atlanta (… and hopefully in Philadelphia as well) will be in honor of those you care about. In honor of those on whose behalf you donated in the first place. Your friends, your relatives, yourselves.

Profile

jayfurr: (Default)
Jay Furr's Journal

May 2017

S M T W T F S
  123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031   

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Aug. 17th, 2017 01:31 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios