Honoring a Breast Cancer Warrior
Bringing Fancy the Flamingo to Life
by: Emily Dill, Tata Tribe, 2017
In 2015, my sister suggested my family--me, her, our cousin Allyson, my mom and dad, sign up for this 3-day event in SC, called the Locomotion. Mom jumped on the wagon, and we planned a weekend without spouses or children (except for my dad, Papa) and walked 30 miles on three islands in three days for the cause--to bring awareness and raise money for breast cancer while having the time of our lives. That was September. It was AMAZING. I came home and I could NOT stop talking about it. In November of that year, one of my dearest friends, Cheryl, was saying goodbye to her father after a battle with dementia and Alzheimer's. Just before he passed, she found her lump.
The day after his funeral, she went in for a mammogram and biopsy. Her breast cancer was diagnosed. She called me and I was speechless, heartbroken for my friend. See, we both work in oncology, but when the dreaded disease strikes one of our own, especially our close friends, we reel. It isn't supposed to happen to those of us who are part of the healing community. I was shocked. But even more than that, it was decided....we would return to Locomotion in 2016 in honor of Cheryl. And she wanted to be with us--she is the reason this kind of thing exists, and we were honored to have her.
We talk about the fight, the battle of cancer. Let me tell you, Cheryl is nothing short of a warrior. She embarked on her treatment journey determined to be positive, remain active, and not let this ugly beast steal any living from her. Her husband was and still is, her ally--they walked, hiked, cycled, and kayaked throughout her treatment. Treatment that caused her to lose her hair, be extremely tired, sometimes nauseated, and often with dreaded stomach issues that were nothing short of unpredictable. She worked as much as she absolutely could, but also took care of herself when she needed to. She was signed up for LoCo, and when September rolled around, she had just a few more IV treatments to go.
Two days after one of her treatments, we loaded up and headed the Hilton Head for LoCo 2016. It was her first time acknowledging in front of a group that she is a breast cancer survivor. She stood on Day 1, with her fellow survivors, overcome with emotion that indeed, she had been fighting this fight for almost a year. I watched in awe. And then we walked. 10 miles. TEN MILES. We walked them together. We were just ahead of the "sweepers" for a while. We bypassed a few rest stops so we weren't the end of the line. We slowed down a lot, stopped occasionally, but we just kept going. We talked, laughed, cried, and sometimes just walked. She finished that day. She had done it.
Day 2 arrived and 1,058 pink flamingos were waiting for us at Mile 7. Each of the birds represents a donated mammogram in honor of a LoCo registrant. We HAD to get there. We had to witness the Guinness World Record setting Flocks of Love.
And when we got there, she was exhausted. Between the recent therapy and her bum knee, she was spent. She was determined not to give in to her exhaustion, her pain, her tears. She wouldn't admit it, but I could see it in her eyes. She wanted so badly to finish that day. She wanted to say she had covered that 20 miles without help. I knew 3 more miles would be nothing short of excruciating for her. I hugged her. I whispered to her--"You have walked this far. Let us walk for you. Let us carry you the rest of the way." We cried. She breathed relief.
I realized what all this flamingo stuff was really about. We found someone to drive her the three miles to the after party. And the remainder of the Tribe walked for her.
She signed up for 2017 before any of the rest of us could even think about it. Tribe member Allyson had her SparkleSkirt with her in 2016. We all loved it. But Cheryl especially loved it. And she wanted to have a SparkleSkirt for her 2017 event complete with SOMEthing for LoCo, now renamed Pledge the Pink.
She worked with Pledge the Pink founder Laura Morgan and the SparkleSkirts (SS) team to create Fancy the Flamingo and Pledge the Pink Embellishments, and now SS gives $5 to Pledge the Pink in honor of Cheryl and The Tata Tribe! I mean, seriously, how awesome is THAT?
We are headed to South Carolina next month and Cheryl is excited to put in all the miles, feeling healthy and walking further away from breast cancer with each step. She is done with her initial therapy and she is now on to her hormonal suppression for at least five years. She is not just surviving, but she is living life each and every day.
In July, she logged over 300 miles of walking, cycling, and kayaking (just typing that makes me feel very tired), often in her SparkleSkirt. She is a fighter and a champion in her own right, and I am so very honored to walk with and for her again this year. Thank you for all you do. Thank you for making this big world seem a bit smaller by reminding us that we all belong to each other, that no one needs or has to fight alone, and that every small contribution can make a difference. Thank you for using your gifts to bring so many together.
Pledge the Pink is on a mission to fund 2000 mammograms, helping thousands of women during the scariest 10 minutes of their lives. Your donations save lives. It really is that simple, that direct. That important.
Your donation doesn’t get lost in bureaucracy—it goes straight to a woman who needs your help.