Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Talk To Me Tuesday (Kathy Giller)

Well, I'm getting closer on writing this on the right day! (One day off instead of two this time.) Does this make me the most horrible blogger ever? I hope my content and the stories of these wonderful women and men make up for it!

Before we begin, I'm sending my big Congrats to all of you Boston participants! You made it!

Now, today I have an interview from Kathy Giller, part of the awesome Breast Man Walking team. Kathy is married to Lee Giller, a male breast cancer survivor. If you walked in DC last year (or Phoenix or Clevland) then you saw Lee. In DC I was feet away from him as he stood in the survivors circle, carrying one of those giant pink banners. And that is when my eyes were opened to the fact that men DO get breast cancer.

Kathy and Lee in the 2008 DC 3-Day

Question 1: What is your connection to breast cancer?
Kathy says:

My husband, Lee, was diagnosed with Stage ll breast cancer at the age of 48, just four years ago. As with women of a similar diagnosis, he underwent a mastectomy, 4 months of chemo, and 8 weeks of radiation. He was on Arimidex for about a year and then switched to Tamoxifen because there are fewer reported side effects. He will continue to take the medication for a total of 5 years. He goes every 4 months for clinical breast exams, has yearly mammograms, and MRI's.

Since his initial diagnosis, we learned that Lee carries the BRCA 1 gene mutation. This is more common in people of Jewish heritage and puts our children at a 50% chance of inheriting the same mutation. So far, only one of our children has opted be genetically tested and does in fact carry the same gene. This means that her risk of developing breast cancer is increased by 87% and her risk of ovarian cancer by as much as 65%. After learning this, she at the very young age of 25 now has annual mammograms, MRIs, and clinical breast exams every 6 months.

Kathy, Lee, and their daughter and son, walking the walk!

Question 2: Can you tell us a little about your 3-Day experience? (Kathy, and Lee, qualify as 3-Day experts with 2 walks in Boston, 2 in San Diego, 2 in Cleveland, 1 in DC, and 1 in Phoenix all under their belts. And they are adding 3 more this year!)
Kathy says:
I would liken the 3-Day to having a baby. The training is like the pregnancy. You are filled with anticipation, enthusiasm, and some anxiety. You feel good some days, not so great others but you know the big moment is coming regardless. The actual Walk is like being in labor. All of your training (LaMaze classes) has paid off but it definitely gets harder the longer you walk. You might feel tired and sore but you keep going. And then the baby arrives! Such a blessing and intense love! This is how being part of Closing Ceremonies felt. You are exhausted from the experience but are enveloped with such a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction knowing the journey was worth every step. And then when it's all over, you forget the pain and sign up to do it again - and again! Such is the 3-Day Family!

Question 3: What has been your best contribution to the cause?
Kathy says:

Certainly, we are very proud of the money we have raised so far. In fact, this year, I have the honor of being the top fundraiser for the Cleveland event. But as important as the dollars is the awareness. We have met so many people who do not know that men can get breast cancer. Several gentlemen have told us that after hearing about Lee's experience, they went to doctors because they felt lumps in their breasts. We truly believe we may have potentially spared lives.

This is actually a photo I took of Lee at the DC walk in 08 before I knew who the Giller's were!

Question 4: What have you learned from this incredible experience?
Kathy says:

I have learned that there are extraordinary people who fight with everything they have against a very tough adversary. I have learned that some are victorious in the war and some are not. But most give their all in the battle. I have learned to remind myself that there are much bigger things getting upset about than the usual stuff that affects us in the course of our days. I have learned to be grateful for every minute with my husband and tell him how much I love him - every day. I have learned that I am stronger than I realized, but I never want my strength tested.

This interview shows you just a piece of what the Giller's are. They are truly dedicated to this cause, and really go the extra mile (pun really really intended) to raise awareness and compassion. While I am walking in DC this year, it will be my honor to share the sidewalk with Kathy and Lee, and I will thank them for opening my eyes to male breast cancer.

One last thing - It's on you Cleveland! Kathy and Lee will be walking with you, so I expect you to make them proud! :D You can do it!!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Talk To Me Tuesday (Anna Matlock)

I have another interview, this time from Anna Matlock, a new walker, doing her first walk in Tampa in October! Anna, unfortunately, is all too familiar with cancer, as she has lost 3 people to it. Her
uncle died of leukemia, her father of lung cancer, and most recently, she is battling with the loss of her sweet 32 year old sister who passed away from sarcoma this past December.

Here is Anna with Tampa's Dusty Showers
(Don't worry, he's on my list!)

Q1: Why did you decide to join the 3 day?

Anna says:
In short, I joined the 3 day because I found out the last day of the Tampa event was the same as my sister's wedding anniversary, and I needed something in my life to help me move forward.

And from Anna's blog, Little Mavericks...
I do not remember how I found out the actual date of the event in 2009. But there it was, the last day, November 1. Screaming at me. The last day of the walk in 2009 was my sister’s wedding anniversary. But, not only was the walk on her anniversary, she lived in Tampa for many years.

So there I stood, at a fork in the road, waiting, in limbo. When suddenly, fate dropped this gem in my lap. I knew it was a sign. Some higher power was at work, telling me that the path forward was right there staring me in the face. I could not walk away this time.

Many people do not understand my motive. “Your sister had sarcoma not breast cancer, why are you walking for breast cancer?” Cancer is cancer folks. It sucks, it hurts, it kills, and it takes families and rips them down. If by raising $2300 and walking 60 miles would save one single family from this fate, it would be worth it. This is not to say that facing this road did not scare the holy hell out of me. My initial thought was "I will never be able to raise that much money". I will never be able to walk 60 miles. But one baby step at a time I am traveling that road. Sometimes faltering, and even falling. But at each stumble and step I know my sister is right there beside me, doing what a big sister does best. She has given me courage, determination, and most of all hope. It is no surprise that her middle name is Hope. I have raised above and beyond the minimum, and though a few months ago walking 3 miles seemed impossible, I am now walking 7 miles back to back two days a week.

I walk because it eases my pain. I walk because it brings me closer to what I have left of my sister. I walk because I hate cancer. I walk, because standing there in limbo for the rest of my life is not an option. We must all move forward at some point in our lives, and if we really listen, and look closely we will discover what it is that is nudging us every so gently forward.

Anna and her team captain got these tattoos together

Q2: Why would you recommend the 3 day to others?

Anna says:
It will change your life! in more ways than you will ever know!

And more from her blog...
I met an amazing team captain, which could very well be my long lost twin. She graciously changed our team name to Walking for Hope. That small simple gesture was one I cannot thank her enough for, or ever show her just how much it meant to me. Where my sister has given me silent support, Michele has held my hand, and kept me motivated, when I was ready to quit. She has praised me, and encouraged me. In only a few weeks she became the best friend I have ever had. I could never repay her for all the light she has brought into the darkness that my life became when I lost my sister. She has taken up some of that empty space left in my heart when my sister left. Of course there will always be a hole where she was, but Michele has filled some of that gap quite nicely.

Q3: What has been your best contribution to the cause?

Anna says:
I feel that I have been the one who benefited from this. My team and I are still fundraising and donating to other walkers who are coming up short, as well.

Thank you, Anna!
To hear more about Anna's journey (and read the wonderful blog post I have taken from) visit and don't forget to leave a comment!

One more thing, for all of you in Boston....
Good luck on your walk! Kick asphalt!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Support for those with the BRCA gene

I was forwarded an article from cnn about a breast cancer support group I had never heard of, and thought some of you may like to have the info.

Bright Pink is a nonprofit that supports and empowers young women who are at high risk of breast and ovarian cancer. It was created by a woman who tested positive for the BRCA gene (a gene that increases the likeness of getting cancer by up to 85%) and subsequently had a double mastectomy. So many women face increased statistics (through having a relative with cancer, finding BRCA, etc.) and are not sure what to do about it -- that is why Bright Pink was created.

Their website ( is fantastic. It is filled with tons of information, facts, advice, and community to support those at risk. They even offer a one-to-one support network that pares participants up with a "PinkPal" that offers experience, advice, and guidance.

Check it out, or pass on the info.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Talk To Me Tuesday (aka Talk to me Thursday) Margaret Roberts

I'm sorry I skipped a week! And that I'm late for this week! (I didn't think it would be missed, but I found a few of you do read my posts regularly! My apologies and sincere thanks for being a reader. These ladies (and gents) have great stories that deserve to be heard.)

So, to make it up to you, I have a great interview for you! :D

Today we are hearing from Margaret Roberts, a first time walker, participating in the San Francisco walk. She was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 39, and was diagnosed with a recurrence last year, at age 44. She is an inspirational woman, with a fighting spirit.

Question 1: What is your connection to breast cancer?

Margaret says:
This will be the first time that I have shared my story from the depths of my heart. I was only 39 years old, a single parent of a teenager and had been overweight my entire life. I previously had several lumps in my breasts, yes that is plural, that were nothing. But when I felt this lump, I knew right away it was different. Let me say that I am a very stubborn woman and determined not to be a bother or burden to others. So I went to the doctor alone and not really telling anybody what I was going for. I went immediately from the doctor’s office to radiology to have a mammogram and two days later a biopsy, again by myself. The results came in the day before I was to leave for a conference in Yosemite. The surgeon wanted to remove the cancer right away but I told him it would have to wait because I had some training to attend. So off I went without telling a single family member.

My parents had been planning a cross-country trip for probably 5 years when I was diagnosed and the trip was only weeks away. My family is very close and I knew that if I told even one family member they would tell my parents and they would cancel their trip. So I decided to keep it to myself. I did share with my sisters (I have 3) and finally my parents when they were half way across the states. They wanted to come home right away and I assured them I was fine and to continue on their trip. They called me every day without fail. At the time of my battle, I lived in a very small community and it did not take long for people to find out. My church family started showing up with meals.

I still went to my treatments alone. I took public transportation and I am not going to lie - it was the hardest and most difficult time of my life! I did not want my daughter (who I had not shared how really were) to worry about me. She and I are very close and she needed to concentrate on on school. With the initial surgery they missed a bit and I had to have a second surgery and my parents could hear something was wrong and I finally broke down and told them everything. They were home from Pennsylvania in 3 days!

Q2: What would you say to someone fighting cancer and keeping it all inside and to themselves?

Margaret says:
DON'T! Family and friends are a tremendous support system that want to be there for us. Let them help during a time when you need it the most. I hurt family and friends by not letting them in and allowing them to help me. Reach out to those who love you, they will feel your love as much as you will feel theirs.

And from Margaret's 3day personal page:
What I realized and why I share my story is that nobody, and I do mean nobody, deserves to have breast cancer. It has really taken me most of these years to come to that realization. For you out there that are being diagnosed, don’t go through any of the procedures or treatments without those who love you. In the end they are the support you need, they will give you hope when you feel there is none; they will give you a hug when you need it most and they ultimately love you unconditionally. Family and friends would have made a drastic difference if I would have let them in from the beginning. Let them in and share with them how you are feeling. They may not understand but they will be there to listen.

Q3: Why did you join the 3 day?

Margaret says:
I joined the 3Day with the hopes that the experience will help me to heal. I still struggle over the recurrence daily and at times find it hard to even get out of bed and function. I have made the choice to “take charge” of my healing and I am hoping to gain support from others. I also hope that along the walk that I can in some way help others by sharing my experiences. I want to reach out to people as I have had people reach out to me.

Q4: Any fundraising advice you can pass on?

Margaret says:
Reach out to everybody you know, business and personal. I sent emails to vendors that I work with, everybody in my business contacts list from work and my personal address book. I sent out close to 600 emails. Even if they give $10 - it is just that ten dollars. Some of the vendors personally donated and the amounts amazed me; they were some of my biggest donations.

Thank you, Margaret, for opening up to us. Now, I expect to see a few comments down below, as you throw your support and words of encouragement to Margaret. She knows the walk may be difficult, but she is taking it head on. Let her know how great she is doing -- and make sure to cheer her on in San Fran!