Walking in Seattle

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My birthday is Sunday, September 20, 2015. In theory, I could spend my special day doing pretty much anything: relaxing in front of the television, climbing a mountain, or doing whatever my 48-year-old heart desired.

I will spend it walking the final twenty miles of the 2015 Seattle Susan G. Komen 3-Day, a sixty-mile walk to raise funds for the fight against breast cancer.

I’m fortunate to have reached the age of 48 with no serious health issues. But dozens of my acquaintances — members of my church, fellow employees, relatives, friends, and relative strangers — have suffered from breast cancer. I wouldn’t wish the radiation and chemotherapy and surgery and the years of watching scans praying “please, please, no recurrence” on my worst enemy. And yet, like my friends and acquaintances, that’s exactly what millions of women have to go through each year. I walk and raise money in hopes that some day cancer will become at worst an annoying but fully treatable health condition, not the potential death sentence that we all fear.

I also walk for those who lost their battle. Each year I lose more and more 3-Day friends to cancer. Some days it seems like every visit to Facebook brings another round of bad news of death, new diagnoses, or recurrence of cancer thought to be in remission.

I vowed to never give up as long as that’s the case. And I haven’t. 2015 is my eighth year taking part in 3-Day walks. I’ve walked or crewed in 24 walks so far — 14 as a walker, 10 as a volunteer crewmember. This year I’m not crewing at all — just walking. But I’ll continue to walk every year, as many walks as I can, until a brighter day dawns.

In the end, though, when you get right down to it, I’m walking because of one special lady. Bridget Spence (see photo), a 22-year-old college senior, was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer around the time she graduated from college. She fought her especially virulent cancer with everything she had, undergoing clinical trial after clinical trial, watching her cancer come back each time, for seven long years. Each year her physicians would essentially tell her “Don’t start any long books”. Each year she proved them wrong, surviving and working as a Susan G Komen spokesperson and walking in the Komen 3-Day several times herself. We all felt certain that she’d survive to her 30th birthday, a goal that had been flatly declared impossible on several occasions. We knew she was going to make it.

Until she didn’t. Her cancer spread to her heart and she knew the end was near. Having decided to go out with dignity instead of spending all day every day in an infusion chair, she passed in the arms of her loving husband at the age of 29 and a half.

Bridget’s last public request was that we remember her. And I do. As long as there’s strength in my legs to walk, I will keep on raising funds for the fight against breast cancer… or until the day that it’s no longer necessary. May that day come soon.

You can still donate toward my fundraising goal here:  http://www.the3day.org/goto/jayfurr — and thanks!

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