I have returned from the Breast Cancer 3-Day! Did you behave while I was gone?
As always, the 3day was amazing. I laughed harder than ever, I cried regularly, and I wanted to die a little every time our alarm went off at 4am. I paid my yearly visit to a shower stall inside a semi trailer, to the giant food tent serving spaghetti on Friday and chicken marsala on Saturday, and to the kiosk where we go to pre-register for next year’s event. It keeps getting better every time I return.
As I’ve mentioned, Wendy and I joined the crew as sweep van drivers this year. Our job, as part of a 7-van team, was to drive up and down the 60-mile route, and pick up walkers who couldn’t make it any farther. More importantly, though, we were there to encourage them. We drove alongside them honking, yelling, and ringing our cowbells out the window. When they climbed into our van hurt or crying, we made them laugh. We handed out beads, which were such a huge hit that we ran out too soon. And we LOVED it. It was kind of the perfect role for us.
We drove around 12 hours a day, taking 5-minute breaks whenever we could swing it. We’d stop to use the bathroom and cram food in our mouths, then get busy for a solid two or three hours before having time to think again. It was exhausting and gratifying. It also helped that our crew captains were radioing several times a day to tell us how glad they were to have us there. I have no idea what we were doing to make us stand out, or earn the title of favorite sweep drivers, but whatever it was, we loved it.
The thing I love about the 3-Day is that it’s this experience that gets people to walk away from their normal lives for three days, work harder than they ever have before, and devote themselves entirely to one common goal. It’s the most positive, uplifting, and empowering experience you can imagine. No matter what your misgivings are before the event — whether you can fundraise successfully, or walk 60 miles, or even make a difference — they’re all erased when you walk through the gates into closing ceremonies. Whatever happened along the way, you’ve done something extraordinary, and you’ve been a part of something that is unquestionably good.
It’s really hard to get too hung up on the everyday annoyances and hurdles when you’ve participated in something so life-changing. That’s the feeling I wish I could share with everyone, but I think you’d have to go see for yourself.
I don’t have exact numbers, but we were told that we had 3,200 walkers in the Twin Cities this year, and raised over $7,000,000. I feel like Wendy and I probably talked to at least half of those walkers along the way. I loved being able to cheer them up: to let them know we’d been there, that we knew they were hurting, that we were all going to make it to the end. Because we did.
Registration for the 2009 Breast Cancer 3-Day is already open! Just sayin’.