The 3-Day Fight Against Breast Cancer: An Insider’s Perspective

Breast Cancer SurvivorAs October brings renewed emphasis on breast cancer detection and prevention, Emory Saint Joseph’s Laboratory Manager Eileen Stone, a 15-year veteran of the Susan G. Komen 3-Day, shares a first-person account of what this event means to her and to the thousands of survivors, caregivers and loved ones she serves each year through this event. This year, the Susan G. Komen 3-Day will take place in Atlanta Oct. 17-19.

Dark early morning skies and cooler temperatures can only mean one thing. The Atlanta Breast Cancer 3-Day is around the corner. In a few short weeks, just about everything in the general vicinity will turn pink. I’ve been involved with the 3-Day since its inception. This will be my 15th Atlanta 3-Day event and yet there’s still so much to look forward to.

I’m looking forward to seeing my fellow Co-Captains. Many of us have worked together since the inception of the 3-Day so the event has become more of a family reunion than anything else. We consider this event to be a labor of love. There’s a saying “…friends are the family you choose for yourself” and these wonderful people fall into that category. They have become my family of choice.

I’m looking forward to meeting my entire pit stop crew. As in the past, there are returning members and new ones. Some of the crew members live in another state and although we’ve spoken on the phone, I’ll actually get to meet them as a group for the first time on Crew Day (the Thursday before the event). As a captain, there’s always a tiny, practically miniscule bit of trepidation as to whether or not they will come together to form a cohesive team. Will personalities mesh? Will they get along? Theoretically, people of like-mind shouldn’t have any trouble working toward a goal and if my past experiences hold true, this year shouldn’t be an exception. But, I always worry…..just a little. I’d be remiss if I didn’t add that I look forward to seeing Amanda and Karen, two of the wonderful nurses that come from out of state to crew with us year after year after year. I’ve always been blessed to have so many wonderful people come back to crew with me. More of my family of choice.

I’m looking forward to this event because for three days the small world of the 3-Day will be as it should be. People will be doing little things for each other regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, political views, etc. These three days will be filled with kindness, incredible energy and love coupled with numerous and varied shades of pink, delightful creativity and smartly worded slogans. I look forward to supporting the wonderful walkers that have trained and raised funds and trained some more. Despite the Atlanta heat and humidity, they kept on walking in preparation for this event. During the 3Day, they’ll walk 60 miles in three days and will sport pictures and stories on their shirts (or signs or buttons). Some will feel the weight of the names of the people they’ve lost to breast cancer while others will be buoyed by the names of the survivors. I always hope there will be less of the former and more of the latter.

I look forward to the decorations and the myriad ways the color pink can be used – from mustaches and wigs to tattoos and boas. And there will be breasts everywhere and on everyone. There will be small ones and gargantuan ones. Men on motorcycles will wear them (proudly, I might add) and they’ll be on the front grills of cars and trucks and banners and tents and signs and balloons. Whenever I think I’ve seen every conceivable item in pink, someone taps into a wellspring of creativity and there’s something new to ooh and ah over. There’s lots of hidden talent at the event.

I’m looking forward to seeing familiar faces. Some of the walkers have participated enough times as to be recognizable to me. There’s a walker named Marge that has been calling me ‘Ellen’ for so many years that I don’t have the heart to correct her. When she walks into Pit Stop 3 and asks to see Ellen everyone knows she means me. And there’s Marsha, who I met on the second day of the 3-Day in 2005. She was having a rough time so I gently reminded her that there no shame in stopping for the day and urged her to head to camp early. I told her that if she rested up, she’d be able to walk into Piedmont Park on Sunday (which she did). She continues to walk every year and last year, Marsha’s two daughters joined her. In both instances, there’s excitement in seeing these old friends and there’s lots of picture-taking of hugging. Some people you just don’t forget. Two years ago, several women walked up to me and asked “Don’t you work at Saint Joseph’s Hospital?” This year, someone came up to me in the hospital cafeteria and asked “Aren’t you with the 3-Day?” I think I’ve become recognizable.

I’m looking forward to seeing many of the nurses that I work with at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital. A group of Emory Healthcare nurses have formed a team of walkers in memory of one of their ‘own’; a nurse that lost her battle with breast cancer last year. There are three nurses in particular (Joyce, Elizabeth and Susan) that I look forward to helping support. They are care-givers extraordinaire and it’ll be a nice touch to take care of them for a change.

More importantly, I look forward to the day when we don’t have to walk or crew or raise money or train or get up early or set up tents; a day when October is the harbinger of Halloween and is known more for ghosts and pumpkins than for pink ribbons and sore feet.

I look forward to the day when no one gets that dreaded diagnosis, no one goes through chemotherapy or radiation therapy or loses a loved one and breast cancer is a thing of the past.

If we keep doing this, I know that day will come.

I look forward to it.

Eileen Stone, MT (ASCP), MS
Laboratory Information Systems Manager, Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital

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