Personal Stories, Community
By: Susan G. Komen
Glen DeKeyser, Greenville, SC – Co-survivor, 3-Day Walker
“My first four 3-Day walks were in Michigan – but I knew from the very first walk that I wanted to do all 14 in one year. That year was 2012, and what a year it was.”
“It’s more than just walking – when you’re sharing 60 miles over three days, there’s an incredible camaraderie that’s established. There’s a saying about the 3-Day: ‘You’re never alone unless you want to be.’”
They say a journey begins with a single step. More than five million steps later, I’m still walking in the journey to fight breast cancer – and I’ll keep walking until we find the cures! When I lost my first wife to breast cancer in 1999, I decided immediately that I wanted something positive to come out of that, so I donated money to her hospital, the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit, with the requirement that they buy a bed for every room so that caregivers could stay with their loved ones. And I kept looking for other ways to give back.
Buttons from each of the 14 3-Days that Glen walked in 2012
In 2002 I saw the first Michigan 3-Day, and knew this would be a fun, powerful way to raise funds to fight the disease. I had no idea what a life-changing decision this would be for me. My first four 3-Day walks were in Michigan – but I knew from the very first walk that I wanted to do all 14 in one year. That year was 2012, and what a year it was. It truly is “60 miles and 3 days you’ll never forget.”
I’ve made friends in the 3-Day that I’ll keep for life. Like Joan DeFilippo, my coach and now friend who gave me somewhere to stay in Chicago. The 3-Day crew, who are an amazing group of people. Jim Hillmann, who lost his mother to breast cancer and who has done 28 3-Day walks, including all 14 in 2011. And John Shinar, who did all 14 walks this year in honor of his wife, Martha, who passed away from breast cancer in June, 2012.
Let me share with you the power of the 3-Day community. While walking the Boston 3-Day in 2011 Jim Hillmann saw a young girl holding a sign that said, “My mother died from breast cancer. Keep walking for a cure.” Jim learned that the girl’s family didn’t have the money for a marker for their mother’s grave; he posted Zoie’s story on the 3-Day community site, and in a matter of days generous people had donated more than enough money to purchase the marker.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s more than just walking – when you’re sharing 60 miles over three days, there’s an incredible camaraderie that’s established. There’s a saying about the 3-Day: “You’re never alone unless you want to be.” I’ve never met a more supportive, compassionate, generous group of people. You see someone struggling, you help them up. You see walkers with bags of ice taped to their knees, ankles, shins – and you hear them say “Walking’s easy compared to chemo.” The desire, the commitment is overwhelming.
John Shinar (left) and Glen DeKeyser
I look back on last year, especially the walks on seven consecutive weekends, and I think “How did I do that?” I can honestly tell you that I never felt tired. It was too energizing and compelling. John, Jim and I will be walking together in 2014 in the Twin Cities, and I can’t wait.
But we walkers don’t do it alone. A lot of key people make that happen. My company allowed me to bank vacation days. My wife Beth, whom I married in 2001, held down the fort at home and was behind me 100 percent. Donated air miles allowed me to travel to all 14 locations. And more generous people than I can name helped me fundraise more than $32,000. But the thing that really drove home to me how much my walking meant to my family happened last year right before the 3-Day in Washington, DC.
My father passed away on Thursday night, the day before the 3-Day was to start. My mother insisted that I walk, so with a heavy heart I boarded an early flight on Friday morning, and made it to DC just as the opening ceremonies were ending. The 3-Day family once again showed extreme caring and compassion – in more ways than one, they help you carry the load.
Twenty-two 3-Day walks, more than 2500 miles (including training) and five million steps later, I wish everyone could experience the 3-Day. I could tell stories for days about the power of the 3-Day, but, really, you should just join me. I hope you will.
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