Walking for the Cure for Breast Cancer

My Story and Why I Walk

As stated on my Susan G. Komen for the Cure web page, I lost my mom to breast cancer on February 26, 2004.  Although I had known several others who died from this disease prior to Mom, it was through Mom that I learned about the courage, fighting spirit and optimism they all share together.  I have told many that Mom stared death straight in the eyes and never blinked.  She dealt with the situation head-on and for eight years survived this deadly disease.  As a Christian with a strong faith, Mom new that ultimately breast cancer may win the battle, but she would declare victory in heaven. Photo Gallery of Mom

As with many, this was a difficult situation to deal with, as no one wants to lose a family member or friend, especially to such a heartless disease.  For several years I learned how to deal without having my mom around, whether it was during a visit with Dad, at holidays or simply on the other end of the phone for a call on "how things are going with my family."

In 2008, during the early winter I heard a radio advertisement for the "Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure" 60 miles walk. That simple advertisement challenged me to begin to make a difference to finding the cure for breast cancer, to find a way to rid the world of a disease that has affected so many lives. It was no longer going to be, "What are others doing to find the cure?", but "What can I do to make a difference to find the cure?"

Although my thought was to honor Mom through the fundraising and the 60 miles of walking, it quickly became much more than a one time tribute.  During the many hours of training walks my thoughts would be about Mom and all she meant to me, the things she provided and the opportunities we would no longer have together.  Until then, my journey had been pretty much what I expected as I raised my required funds and continued the many miles and hours of training.  Then the life-changing journey began...I walked the San Francisco walk for the first time!

Although a bit nervous on how I would do as I had passed the golden age of fifty, I also was not sure on how my emotions would run as I walked with so many that I did not know.  The first thing I learned was "real men wear pink" and tears flowing down the face was a totally random event, brought on by old memories and through new memories being made on an hourly basis.

The people I met throughout the three days: many experienced 3-day walkers, many rookies as myself, the crew who kept us going, the amazing staff who dealt with so many things and the crowds on the road who cheered us on were some of the most positive, optimistic and loving people that I have ever met.  I had never experienced such a focused group of people, numbering in the 1000's who were so committed to completing one goal: to find a cure for breast cancer, to defeat this terrible disease. If this type of interaction with people didn't move you, I'm not sure what would.

And then one meets, walks, listens, shed some tears and lived for 3-days with the most amazing of all these people...the survivors of breast cancer. During the three days, along the trails and at camp, I met many survivors who would tell their story, how they coped and their changed perspective on life. Words simply cannot express how much this meant to me or how it changed me in so many ways.

When one crosses the finish line, one of the first things, along with hydrate, hydrate, hydrate, is to pickup your participant's shirt. The crew received gray, the walkers white and survivors could pick either gray or white for how they participated, or they could take a pink shirt.  Both years as I went through the line, picked out my white shirt, one of the walkers I had walked with would continue past the white shirts to pick out their pink shirt, with this being my first knowledge that they were a survivor!  What a humbling experience to find out that the one you have met, made friends with and walk so many miles with, was a survivor! And to think I was complaining that my feet hurt!

I realized that the walk was really a "life changing experience" as I gained a new perspective on how others had dealt with breast cancer, whether they were a survivor or a family member or friend who walked to honor the one they lost.  One thing I knew, was that as long as God continued to bless me with good health, I would continue to "walk for a cure." I definitely had a new passion to fulfill.

Then in 2011, I made a commitment to walk in all fourteen events that year, stretching across the United States.  Although my "life had been changed" since my first walk in 2008, 2011 brought my walks into a focus that I had never experienced before and also into a relationship with the 3-day community before. Having walked in four events prior to 2011, you might wonder how this could have happened. To understand, one has to have met "the little girl on Belmont Hill" near Boston during the first 2011 walk.  My story on the impact of this little girl.

Since 2011, my passion has continued to grow, the people I have met and share our stories with has grown with so many people touching my heart through what they have overcome. I have also been very blessed through some amazing supporters who through their contributions have allowed me to walk in multiple events each year, having walking in all seven during the 2014-16 years. With the close of 2016, I have now completed 49 walks, walked nearly 3000 event miles, at least the same in training miles and through your generosity raised nearly $139,000.  We have been very blessed by all of this, to say the least.

Why do I walk?  I believe the answer is clear.  I walk because I want to see an end to breast cancer, and the devastation it causes. I walk because I don't want my wife, my daughter, my sister, my nieces, my family and friends to deal with it...ever!  To borrow from the Susan G. Komen organization: "We walk because we must....We walk for the cure!" 

Someday we will make one final walk, a walk of celebration that breast cancer has been defeated, a cure has been found. We will all walk together, with our sign saying, "We walked for a cure! The cure has been found!"  I look forward to that day of celebration, the day breast cancer becomes past tense. 

To Return to my SGK website to donate: 3-Day Donation to Jim