Sunday, November 4, 2012

it was so difficult to do, and I miss it

In 2006 I got this completely impulsive and uneducated idea that I should do the 3 Day.  I say impulsive and uneducated because honestly I had no idea what I was signing up for and was already registered when the full magnitude of what I'd agreed to hit me.  It is a 60 mile walk y'all.  Seriously, how did I not GET that before I hit "sign me up?"

I am glad I didn't learn more, I might have let myself talk me out of it.  I wound up being a proud participant in this even from 2006 all the way through 2012.  I have walked with broken bones, bulging disks, and pregnant.  Because, well, I would take any of those over cancer.  

2010's (I think?) raffle prizes
After the first year of blindly stumbling I realized that the 60 miles is the easy part, the fundraising is the nightmare.  At that time you had to raise a minimum of $2,200, today it is $2,300 I believe.  My aunt was through the worst of her treatment and wanted to walk so I started a team with a catchy name and it was me, my mom, my sister, my aunt, and two close family friends.  We did it, we raised over $13,000 that year as a team we all walked nearly the whole thing with only a few exceptions.  

This replayed itself year after year.  We had others walk with us some years, some friends or family Crewed the event instead of walking but still had to raise funds.  With such a huge amount of family walking it meant our fundraising pool was limited, so I had to get creative.  We made t-shirts, had a website, and I spent easily 20 hours a week on fundraising, some weeks more.  Lots more.  Every year we had an event that we would raffle stuff off at and it took a huge amount of begging and hearing "no" before I could get it to happen each year.

And it was worth it.  

2006  rented trucks and tents
I wept crossing that finish line every year.  It is now and always has been something I am deeply proud of.  The work, the fundraising, and being part of something that really was more powerful than any words could ever describe.  The walking was hard, but it was three of the most fun days all year.  No joke.  

But the event had changed.  In 2006 the tents were blue and orange and the numerous trucks that hauled all the gear and equipment around were Budget and Ryder rentals.  By 2012 all of those trucks, trailers, and RVs where owned by Susan G Komen and had logos specific to the 3 Day emblazoned all over everything.  Our tents were hot pink and everything was Komen's.  In 2006 my registration wasn't terribly expensive, but I got a t-shirt, buttons, a water bottle, and all sorts of "free" materials to hand out or aid me in fundraising.  By 2012 I had none of that but the minimum had gone up as had the registration.

Then 2011 happened.

One of the trucks post-2008 walk
Now, I am not wanting to wade into a pro-life or pro-choice debate because for as worthwhile a discussion as I think it is IT IS NOT ABOUT CANCER.  I do not feel it is appropriate to talk about cancer and birth control or abortions in the same breath unless you are discussing something medical.  But no one was.  People were just polarized on a moral/political issue.  Again, while it was important I felt it was horribly inappropriate.  

The very first year I had walked I had a man come up to me at a solo fundraiser and yell at me that I was supporting the murder of babies by supporting Komen.  I had no idea what he was even talking about and so I researched it after the fact.  What he was apparently referencing was a grant in which Planned Parenthood received money to purchase mammography equipment in four different counties of my state.  This had happened all over the nation.  The requirements were incredibly rigorous, there is no way that Komen's money went to pay for any of the other numerous services Planned Parenthood provides.  But I guess the opposition is that if Planned Parenthood is NOT having to spend money on mammograms it opens up their money to spend on the other things people don't always like.  
2006 tents at camp
Home away from home.

As a person who spent 6 years in the trenches fundraising for Komen after learning this, you can gather at least that I felt the affiliation was one I could get behind.  But it came up regularly.  It was hard enough to fundraise, to ask people to part with their money for Breast Cancer in a pink-washed world where their toilet paper has pink ribbons on it and an economy is already tough.  To add the additional debate of "do you support Planned Parenthood" or more honestly "do you define yourself as pro-life or pro-choice" made it only more complicated.  But again, I kept going because I felt it was worth it.

Then Komen had a change in authority and some policies and Planned Parenthood was dropped.  Then people got mad, and Planned Parenthood was back.  
2009's sea of pink tents
Still, home away from home

What upset me more than the "drop" was the complete lack of conviction to make a financial decision for the betterment of your organization and stick with it.  Since you could change your mind so quickly, oh Komen, did that mean it wasn't a practical decision but rather one motivated by the politics of your new and very openly pro-life, politically oriented senior vice-president of public policy?  

It was around this time that all of us, my whole devoted team with more than  $50,000 donated from us and over 1,500 miles walked by us in prep and at the actual event started to hear a lot of negativity about how Komen's funds are handled.  How much actually makes it to the cause?  How much do staff members make?  How much is Nancy Brinker making annually in memory and honor of her beloved sister Suzie? 

Did I mention how much fun it was?
Lots of people deal with the pain of loss or surviving with
humor.  I love that.  
I am not wanting to add my voice to the clamor of people either in opposition or support of Komen and their policies. 

I just want to make it so cancer goes away.  

By 27 I had already had my own boobs cut into more than once because my risk is high and I had questionable spots.  My mother has a "scare" every year because something looks bad on her mammogram and needs further testing.  My aunt had a double mastectomy, another has had a lumpectomy.  My great aunt passed away from breast cancer.  Numerous other family members have had other cancers -- interesting fact, my grandmother received the exact same chemo cocktail for lymphoma that my aunt had for breast cancer.  

You can bitch about pink-wash all you want, I have my own very mixed feelings on it, but dammit if you cure one you can bring them ALL down.  

The Remembrance Tent.
We would write why we participated on these,
every city would have one.
I want to live in a world where "everyone deserves a lifetime," the 3 Day's official motto and catchphrase, because I believe it is true.  I believe it can happen. 

I need it to, we all do.

But it breaks my heart that something like this can turn into a political debate.  That I even have to wonder where the money my donors so generously gave went.
I will  always support the fight against cancer, but I will have to support it in a different way now.  To no longer have the experience of those three days and the powerful impact it always had on me ... well just as I know no words to describe how awesome it was, I know no words that can describe how totally heartbroken that makes me.  

At the Closing Ceremonies the Survivors all walk in last, together.
We would all take off one shoe to salute them as they entered.
This is why we walk, so that there are more Survivors.

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