Friday, February 8, 2008

LauraK - Raising Funds for Breast Cancer

I met LauraK on Twitter. She is always full of humor and we have had many great conversations. When I heard about her efforts to raise funds for cancer I asked her for details. She was kind enough to send me an email. I keep reading the email over and over again and to do justice to the emotions that flow while reading the story I have to reproduce it as is here. Laura Has given me permission. If you wish you can donate to her Cancer walk

When Fluffy was born, my aunt Doreen was pregnant with her youngest (a surprise for her as the others were 10 and 13 then). My youngest cousin is therefore two months younger than my own daughter. When the girls were still toddlers, Doreen was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a partial mastectomy shortly thereafter. When the girls were 10, Doreen was diagnosed with cancer again, both in her breasts and in her spine. Surgery and treatment were unsuccessful, and the cancer spread to her brain. There were more surgeries, even gamma-knife treatment, but nothing worked.

I suppose anyone losing someone they love and knowing that they're losing someone they love wants to do something.

I'm not a doctor. I'm not a biochemist. I'm not going to find a cure for cancer, or even a better treatment. I'm not a millionaire, so I can't donate my millions to the doctors and the biochemists who can find a cure. I can't pull women off the street and into clinics and give them mammograms so that those who do have breast cancer have a better chance of beating it. So for a while, I really felt helpless.

I'd seen the ads for the Breast Cancer 3-Day. It's a 60-mile, three-day walk (I think there were 11 locations then) with proceeds benefiting Susan G. Komen For The Cure. (www.the3day.org has a lot more information on that.) In 2005, with Doreen still battling, I decided to sign up. The minimum fundraising contribution that year was $2100. I'd never done anything to raise money beyond selling girl scout cookies when I was a kid, but I managed it, with help from co-workers and friends and family and even a collection jar in my daughter's 7th-grade classroom. My SO, Shane, signed up to walk with me and raised funds at his office and through his contacts, too. We started taking 12-15 mile walks on the weekends instead of 5-mile walks, and I started thinking about all those steps meaning more research and more mammograms and more outreach so that someone else wouldn't lose someone they loved, too.

We were definitely losing Doreen. 5 days before my first 3-day in 2005, my cell phone rang while I was on the last mile of a 15-mile walk alone. I didn't answer it. I just kept walking.

Doreen didn't want a funeral or a memorial service, so the weekend after she died, I was walking 60 miles with more than a thousand other people. I cried a lot the first day, especially when people asked who I was walking for and I was no longer supporting a survivor of breast cancer, but mourning a victim.

At the end of every 3-day in every location, there's a closing ceremony. Survivors among the walkers and crew and volunteers are honored in the center of the crowd, and the walkers each raise one well-worn shoe as the survivors take the stage. Every year, I get three days to think about the woman we all lost and the women who are still here and the little girls who still need mothers and aunts and grandmothers and teachers. Every year, I cry, but every year, it's different.

It took me 3 weeks to sign up for 2006 after the 2005 walk. I signed up for 2007 while I was still walking 2006. Shane hurt his knee and has turned into the best personal cheering squad and first-aid tent ever, even though I know he'd rather be walking with me. Arizona created special breast cancer vanity license plates in 2007, and my license plate now has a pink ribbon and the letters "3DYWKR". I'm still shy about fundraising, but somehow, everyone chips in and we cleared $3300 in 2007.

Last year, Fluffy made me a bracelet of pink ribbon charms, each with the name of someone my supporters were missing or pulling for. It's heavy. It shouldn't be that heavy. It shouldn't have to be that heavy.

I can't find a cure for cancer. I can't fund a hospital wing. I can't start a whole foundation and run it by myself. But I can do this. I can walk 60 miles every year. That's it - 60 miles and some blisters and $3000 gets raised for breast cancer research and outreach and prevention. How easy is that? (Okay, maybe not so easy, but not so hard, either, when you have a reason and two good feet.) This year, I'm walking 120 miles. I'd already decided to walk in Phoenix in November and then they added a walk in Washington, D.C., where Susan Reynolds lives, and Steph said she'd walk if Gloria and I walked, and somehow I'm walking D.C. in October. I can't wait to to take the first step.

I said once that I'd walk the Breast Cancer 3-day three times, once for each of my aunt Doreen's three daughters. 2007 was my third, and I thought that maybe I'd stop there, but there are dozens of names on pink ribbons on a charm bracelet, and thousands more that should never make it to a pink ribbon, and I guess this is just what I do now. It's what I can do, so I can't not do it.

2008 Arizona Breast Cancer 3-Day on behalf of Laura Prakel-George.

3 comments:

Ann said...

Sigh...serious tears here after reading that post/letter. There are so many stories out there of people doing little things to make a difference.

Those little differences add up to a lot.

:o)

It says so much about the character of two people that I have come to know and respect on Twitter...ok, maybe respect is way out there. :o)

mousewords said...

Now I see why everyone is teary-eyed.

Every little bit does add up to a lot! And raising awareness for a need is almost as important as raising funds for it. This does both beautifully.

geekmommy said...

And I get the tears now too.

So many women lost, so many steps taken, and still no cure yet.

We must all put our hopes on tomorrow, and our hearts toward making it happen.