Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The only thing better than her cookies is her friendship!

Melanie & Patty - Two Smart Cookies!
One of the best parts about my work with the Komen 3-Day for the Cure is meeting so many amazing people. I often look back over the past few years and wonder how I ever lived my life without these wonderful women! Some of them I feel like I've known my whole life. One of those special friends is Patty Mathews. Many of you know her as "Cookie Patty" since she and her friend, Melanie, run Two Smart Cookies - a cookie shop in St. Paul. (Next time you're in that area be sure to visit or go to their website http://www.smartcookieshop.com/ to order the yummiest treats ever!)

Honestly, I'm not sure when Patty made the leap from devoted 3-Day volunteer to cherished friend. It just seemed to happen. One of my favorite Patty moments occurred at the Twin Cities 3-Day event last year. My mom and I were walking around the camp just after lights out and we ran into Patty. I took the opportunity to introduce the two of them, knowing they would hit it off. We stood there chatting long after we should have gone to bed. As we'd get chatting and giggling, I'd have to remember to shush all of us - since many people were already asleep. It was such a great chat and one of my favorite on-event moments of all time! Maybe that was the magical moment where Patty began to gain "Outlaw" status with our family. (For those of you not familiar with my family, we have in-laws... you know those relatives you gain by marriage. And then we have the outlaws... those amazing friends who we wish were actually family! So, yes... Patty is a full-fledged member of the Outlaw clan.) Little did I know at that time, how important the Patty-Connie connection would be.

Shortly after the 2009 Twin Cities 3-Day, Patty received her own breast cancer diagnosis. I don't want to steal any of her thunder - you'll read her story in her own words in a just a few minutes. But I remember feeling like the air had been knocked out of me when I heard that news. Patty is one of the most vibrant people I've ever met. To think of her as a cancer patient simply did not make sense. And, that was the only moment that I ever thought of her in that way. To nobody's surprise, Patty faced her battle with humor, honesty and sass. Mostly, sass!

Just a few months after they were introduced at the 3-Day camp, my mom and Patty were sitting down at brunch to chat again. This time as fellow survivors. I felt lucky to sit in on this little gathering, seeing the sisterhood in action! It was amazing to hear the similarities and the differences in what they faced from diagnosis, to surgeries, to treatment options and recovery. I remembered thinking that there was a reason that we ran into Patty that night at camp. There are no coincidences on the 3-Day. These kinds of connections happen for a reason.

So this year I walk with Patty
and I walk for Patty!

Patty's story
My journey with this disease began with my mother’s diagnosis about 25 years ago. I remember the fear and sadness in her eyes when she told me, in her smallest whisper, about the lump in her breast that was cancer. She had a mastectomy and chemo and was pronounced in remission. Unfortunately, less than 5 years later it came back with a vengeance and, despite all of the treatments they threw at it, she lost her battle. It was devastating to lose my mother and watch such a beautiful and loving person be attacked from within by such a merciless disease. I promised myself and my mom that I would do what I could to make sure that no one else would have to lose their mother, or any other loved one, to this killer.


About 8 years ago, a dear childhood friend was told she was facing a fight of her own. She had been mom’s hairdresser and had seen her through all of her hair adventures. Di, too, had many courses of treatments and went into remission. Three years later I attended a healing service for her because the prognosis was very grim. But thanks to new drugs and treatment she fought back...her fiery red hair gone due to the constant chemo, but her fiery spirit inspiring us and assuring us she wasn’t going anywhere. She fought with everything she had to stay around for her children but, sadly, she lost the battle just before Thanksgiving this past year.

In the beginning I walked the 3-Day for them. In tribute to their spirit, their determination, and the gift they were in my life. For 6 years I have been a part of that 60 mile journey for all of the people in the fight and all of the amazing survivors I have met along the way. One month after completing my 420th event mile I received my own diagnosis. It was scary, hearing those words, Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma. I will admit that it shook me up a bit. But not for long. Once I wrapped my head around what was happening, I knew that my story was going to differ greatly from my mom’s. I tackled my “health project” with all of the positivity I could muster. I went through my treatments surrounded by amazing cheerleaders who believed, like me, that this was just a bump in the road. With surgery and chemo behind me now, I am cancer-free and plan to stay that way. I am ready to add another 60 miles to my 3-Day tally but this time the journey is personal...VERY personal. I am grateful for all of the money that has been raised over the past years as I am sure that it has made my fight that much easier. All of the research and advancements mean that I get to claim the title of SURVIVOR and hold it for many, many years to come.


So this year I join my sisters in the pink shirts. All of us together will keep walking until no one else has to face a breast cancer diagnosis.

Patty (right) completes the 2009 3-Day!

1 comment:

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