Oakdale residents Lisa Evans and Melissa Titus began the month of October doing more than just thinking about October being Breast Cancer awareness month.
On the morning of Friday, Oct. 2 the long time friends and co-workers took steps to put an end to breast cancer, literally. Gathering with thousands of their soon-to-be closest friends at the Cow Palace in South San Francisco, they began their three-day emotional journey as participants of the Breast Cancer 3day benefiting Susan G. Komen for the Cure. It was a 60-mile journey on foot, which took them through the varying sites and terrain of the city of San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito and Mill Valley and concluded on Sunday, Oct. 4 on the San Francisco Marina Green.
While the Oakdale SaveMart employees describe themselves as a little ‘crazy,’ each woman was quick to recognize the encouragement of their husband, family and friends as the support that made their journey possible.
According to Titus, she first became inspired to take on the challenge in March of this year after reading an article in a magazine.
“I went on-line right away and registered,” she said. “I’ve been thinking about it for about three years, but found it really intimidating … the amount of money we had to raise.
“It was just never the right time,” she added. “Then it sort of became a personal challenge.”
Committed to the cause, Titus knew she wanted a partner in this endeavor and could think of no one better than long time friend Lisa Evans.
“We’re the crazy ones,” Titus said of the duo’s 19-year friendship. “We’ve both been affected (through family and friends) by breast cancer. When I told her what I wanted to do she didn’t hesitate at all.”
“I think she already had me registered,” Evans said of her commitment to join her friend on the journey.
“I did,” Titus laughed, “but that is because I knew she would do it. There was no doubt in my mind.”
Once committed to the cause, the two women took on the physical challenge by utilizing the virtual trainer offered through the organization’s website. They began their training efforts independently, as well as jointly.
“It told us what we need to do Monday to Sunday,” Evans shared. “We pretty much followed that to the ‘T’.”
“As long as we didn’t have to run,” Titus added, “we’re fine.”
The physical aspect would prove to be the least of their worries, as they set their sights on achieving their individual fundraising goals of $2300 each.
With the end (financial) goal in sight, the two women constructed a fundraising calendar filled with products to be sold and parties to be hosted in the name of fundraising for the cure.
T-shirts, hats, reusable bags and buttons were among the products offered by team Imagine a Cure. The women, however, note that it was their $500 SaveMart Shopping Spree, which put their fundraising efforts over the top. And the Bra Party they hosted, which left a lasting impression with their friends and family.
“We printed 500 tickets and sold them for $5 each,” Titus said of the shopping spree, “and the winner received a $500 gift card to SaveMart.”
While the two had hoped to raise a fair amount of money during this fundraising activity, they admit to being taken aback by the generosity of strangers when they learned of their cause. The two shared stories of a mom passing their table outside of SaveMart as she hurried with her baby and groceries. As the two approached her to purchase a drawing opportunity, the woman produced a $100 bill from her handbag and proceeded to her car with her baby. She did not appear to be worried by the ticket, just felt the need to give.
They also told of the burly cowboy who approached them in the market parking lot one day and gave them $50 toward their raffle efforts. He shared with them that he had lost his mother, wife and daughter to breast cancer. He did not want a ticket, but rather to thank them for their efforts.
The Bra Party was an idea the women came up with to include friends and family in their fundraising efforts, while putting the emphasis on ‘fun.’
According to the walkers, invitations were sent for their ‘Mardi Bra’ themed event, encouraging guests to decorate a brassiere of their choosing with a slogan or a theme. A contest was then held for the most creative and inventive submission. An entry fee of $20 was collected for individuals interested in participating.
“We had 17 total bras,” Titus said. “Three came from my mom in Montana.”
Evans and Titus shared the event was such a success, they have already set the date for next year’s event. Inviting everyone to come next year by giving them each 2010 Calendars with the date marked for each guest, so they are not faced with scheduling conflicts.
Three weeks prior to the date they were to report to San Francisco for registration, also known as day zero, the team had achieved their fundraising goal.
“Then it kicked in to, ‘okay now we have to do this’,” Evans said of the total commitment.
“For the most part everybody was extremely supportive,” Titus added. “We couldn’t have done it without all of our friends. And our husbands putting up with our craziness.”
The dynamic duo soon learned that the support they received would extend beyond their friends, family and customers. From ‘Day Zero’ (event registration day) to the moment their sneakers felt the plush lawn of the Marina Green on their final walk, they were cheered, supported and honored by complete strangers.
For the people who lined the sidewalks and streets of San Francisco and the surrounding cities, to the individuals who honked as they passed in decorated mini vans, who these women were did not matter. What mattered to these ‘strangers’ was what they were doing in support of so many that need and benefit from the services and research offered by the Susan G. Komen for a Cure organization.
Founded over 25 years ago by Nancy G. Brinker, the organization began as a promise to her sister, Susan G. Komen who lost her battle to breast cancer three years after being initially diagnosed at the age of 33.
On the Komen website www.the3day.org Brinker shares feelings of amazement at the organization’s accomplishments in the past 25-plus years, noting that the three-day event is one that creates activists one person and one community at a time. According to Brinker, when the organization began, the five-year survival rate for those diagnosed with breast cancer was 74 percent; today it is 98 percent.
“We’ve saved millions of lives,” Brinker states in her ‘Message From Our Founder’ on the website, “making the 2.5 million breast cancer survivors the largest group of cancer survivors today.”
As the two women recall their three-day journey, a number of things come to mind. The obvious expectation would be talk of how their feet endured 60 miles of sand, concrete, asphalt and hills upon hills. Other than making mention of being grateful their feet held up, the pair was more eager to talk about the bravery and strength of the newfound friends they made along the way.
“We saw some heroic acts of bravery,” Titus said, recounting teams they met with teammates that had to leave for chemo treatments; a couple who had planned their wedding for that Saturday, but didn’t want to miss the event — so they left long enough Saturday to get married, then returned —and the large number of young women walking with the support of boyfriends, husbands and brothers at their side.
“The camaraderie was amazing,” Evans said.
“That was definitely the neatest thing, the camaraderie,” Titus echoed. “We were all in this together.”
With the personal goal now behind her and her friend still faithfully at her side, Titus has begun to look to the future.
“We’re on the fence,” she said of considerations for the 2010 3day event. “But honestly I think we’re more all the way over the fence.”