Our Story

In June 2005, my friend Paula walked in the inaugural Dallas Fort Worth Breast Cancer 3-Day. She asked me to walk with her – I thought she was crazy. Sixty miles. In Dallas. In June. No way.

The walk was tough, and hot. Something like 70 walkers experienced severe dehydration and had to be given IV’s on the first day. I knew I had made the right choice for me.

But I noticed something about Paula. By the time she walked in June, she was in really great shape. While walking 60 miles seemed crazy, getting in shape was something I knew I needed to do.

In Over My Head
By December 2005, the 3-Day had become something I thought about a lot; but I wasn’t ready to make the commitment yet. When I visited with my friend Lisa, we were talking about the half marathons she was running. She asked what I was doing, and I told her I was thinking about doing this 3-Day thing. Right away she decided we needed to do it. I was in trouble. Now I had to figure out how to walk 60 miles.

We signed up, and I began training – or so I thought. I’d walk around my neighborhood in the evenings, but really didn’t have the first clue of what to do. We were in the process of building a new home, and that adventure captured the majority of my attention. We moved four times that summer… our house to a rent house, back to our house, to an apartment and finally to our new home. We closed on our home the morning after the 3-Day — the morning after my 60-mile stroll around Irving, Arlington and Ft. Worth.

That’s right — in 2006, I walked in the DFW 3-Day in honor of my Mom’s triumph over her breast cancer. She was awed by the fact that my friend Lisa and I would walk 60 miles for her. She daily monitored my fundraising. Although Mom couldn’t be there, she made sure a bouquet of pink roses was waiting for me at the end of the walk.

Unfortunately, Mom’s health continued to decline, and her kidneys continued to fail. Even though she had no signs of the cancer returning, she was told her breast cancer history meant the earliest she could receive a kidney transplant would be 2009. She fought hard to keep from having to go on dialysis. My Mom was the most courageous person I’ve ever known.

Second Time’s the Charm?
That first walk was all it took. I knew I’d be walking this walk every year until we find a cure. We brainstormed ideas for a team name. We could come up with all sorts of names involving boobies, but wanted to be careful not to offend anyone.

In our house, we tell our girls they are princesses because they are daughters of the King. All princesses need tiaras, and Team Tiara seemed the perfect name for our team.

As I said, I hadn’t trained very well in 2006. Having struggled with tendonitis throughout the walk, I vowed not to face that issue again. I launched into training with a fierce determination. With the realization that a team would raise far more money than I could raise alone, I convinced everyone I could to join with me in building Team Tiara. If they wouldn’t join the team, they were required to donate. No one received a “free pass.”

Once again, Mom monitored my fundraising. She loved seeing who donated and when. I’d report in with how many miles I’d walked that day. Having heard all about the 3-Day, she was determined to be at the finish line to cheer me on.

On June 16, 2007, Biggsy and I moved our family to Houston. On June 20, my Mom was cooking in her kitchen when she fell backwards – straight as a board. Testing in Lubbock and at M.D. Anderson in Houston revealed a tumor at the base of her skull, growing down her spine, and spots on her kidneys and pancreas.

So many things were going wrong. Correcting one health issue caused three more. Mom passed away July 21. She was only 61. Six grandchildren, including my daughters Abbie and Kaitlyn, were left without a Granny. My sisters and I were left without a Mom.

In October 2007, 13 members of Team Tiara walked in memory of my Mom. As a team, we raised over $38,000. For me, the 2007 3-Day was more about healing than anything else. With Mom’s picture on my back, I walked all 60 miles – not one shuttle bus, and not one blister. I don’t doubt for a second that her angel was watching over me. As crazy as it may sound, multiple experiences during the walk proved that her spirit was walking alongside me.

No Such Thing as Coincidence
After a trip to MD Anderson in the fall of 2005, I had bought Mom a bracelet with Isaiah 40:31 inscribed on it. “Those who hope in the Lord shall renew their strength.” Mom had worn it every day. And I had worn it every day since her funeral.

The first morning of the walk, we passed by the store where I had purchased the bracelet, and I stopped to tell the women who worked there how very much it had meant to Mom. In an effort to honor her memory, I had purchased several small foam tiaras, and glued a picture of her on the front of each. Isaiah 40:31 was printed out and glued to the back of each. A ribbon tied each tiara onto our fanny packs or credentials. In this way, each of the Tiaras carried Mom with them.

When you walk the 3-Day, the cheering stations are crazy and fun and oh, so addictive. All those people cheering for you. Excited to walk through Plano, my turf, I thought I would see people I knew. A dear friend was supposed to meet me at the first cheering station. She missed me. I couldn’t find her.

As we left that first cheering station, I felt like I was walking with the weight of the world on my shoulders. And I was so hurt that she wasn’t there. But out of the corner of my eye, something caught my attention. “That’s my mom…. But who are you?”

It was a fellow walker wearing one of the tiaras. I didn’t know her, but she had found the tiara along the way and picked it up. She offered to give it back, but I asked her to keep it instead. My friend Suzi said, “She’s here! Your Momma is here!” I think she was right. At lunch, another walker walked up and said, “I found your Mom.” I asked her to keep the tiara she had found and to walk with my Mom.

Day Two… We walked and walked and walked. Plantar fasciitis had become my most common companion, and walking was slow for me. Suzi never left my side. I wore a picture of Mom on my back while I walk, and an unending stream of walkers passed me telling me she was beautiful. They were right.

We passed very few walkers. If we passed them, we knew they were struggling. As we’d walk up behind a slower walker, I’d tell Suzi, “Okay. Get ready.” As we passed them, I’d ask if they were okay, and if they were walking alone. Then I’d say, “My Mom will walk with you.” And Suzi and I would take off, boo-hooing as we went.

“I’m Walking with Sue.”
That evening, after the longest day ever of walking, Suzi and I answered a casting call for the 2008 3-Day PSA’s. Due to the fires raging in Southern California, the ad agency had had a difficult time filming the 2008 commercials. They were on the hunt for people with stories. I had a story to tell.
Suzi went in to the casting call with me. She really just wanted to go eat spaghetti and go to bed, but she had vowed to stick by me all the way. We told my story. We told her story. We told the story of the Tiaras. We opened our hearts.

And then we went to the Remembrance Tent.

The Remembrance tent is large white tent, with tables and books. Books and books and books where loved ones have written notes and love letters to the courageous women and men they walk for. In the middle of the large tent sits a smaller white tent, in the same model as the pink tents we sleep in each night. There’s a memory tent for each of the 14 cities where the 3-Day is held. I signed the book and tent for my Mom.

The next morning we prepared to leave camp, and my Mom’s bracelet was gone. Nowhere to be found. We searched tents and trash cans and couldn’t find it anywhere. I had a job to do, so we walked. Day three was not easy. I felt like I had let Mom down by losing her bracelet. By the time we got to the closing ceremonies, my heart was broken.

I posted a note on the 3-Day message boards about my bracelet, and the next day I got a call. My bracelet had been lost in a large city park filled with 1500 pink tents. Of the 3000 walkers in Dallas, a walker who lives 20 minutes from me in Houston had found the bracelet. I got it back that Tuesday. Coincidence is what happens when God chooses to remain anonymous.

During the 2007 3-Day, my sisters M’Lys and A’Lise found their spot. They became Walker-Stalkers, a role they both excel at. They provide a vital support role that our team could not be without. Their Whoo-Hoos and unselfish service have endeared them in the hearts of everyone on Team Tiara!

A Dream I Never Knew I Had
The next weekend I realized a dream I never knew I had. I joined 16 walkers in Los Angeles to shoot the print, radio and TV commercials for the 2008 national 3-Day ad campaign. What an awesome experience! As a stay-at-home Mom, I never dreamed I’d pick up the phone to hear, “We want you to fly to L.A. to shoot a TV commercial.”

Suzi went with me, and we spent three days in the company of incredible men and women – people who are making a difference in the battle against breast cancer. The experience left me with a renewed desire to help find a cure for breast cancer before it steals another of my loved ones. The list of women I walk in honor of, in support of, or in memory of, is already far too long.

While in L.A., we met our sweet Stephanie. Stephanie’s cancer had spread, and her time on Earth was going to be shorter than she had planned. She had made the trek to L.A. with her son, David. Stephanie touched my life. She went to be with Jesus in February 2008.

We Won’t Stop Walking Until We Find a Cure
In 2008, Team Tiara included four members of Team Talent – our group from L.A. We were joined in the Dallas walk by other Team Talent friends, and cheered along the way by still more Team Talent friends.

Team Talent Tiaras
It was an incredible weekend. Four of our team members carried flags in the Opening Ceremonies. I was one of them. What an honor. The 60 walkers on Team Tiara raised over $125,000 for breast cancer research and education. We walked, we talked, and we shared even more tiaras with Mom’s picture on them. The Tiaras have become a tradition for me – I love sharing my Mom with men and women who need her to help them along the way.

We gathered in the Remembrance Tent once again – this time to watch a video of our dear Stephanie and her son. God gathered us there…. Steph’s mom and sister, some of her friends, and Team Talent. It was a very powerful evening.

For My Mom and Stephanie
I crossed the Finish Line hand-in-hand with my friends Ed, Sherry and Pam. Ed and Sherry were part of the Team Talent crew. I don’t think I’ve ever met a couple more in love — that bumper-sticker kind of love that’s just overflows.

Ed went to be Jesus this in February 2009 after suffering a massive heart attack. He is missed — it’s hard to walk the 3-Day this year without Ed and his smile.

In 2008, we also went “National.” Our sister team, Fight Back for Your Rack, was founded by 2007 Tiara, Nichole Earls.

We grew again in 2009, and in 2010 we formed the Team Tiara Foundation — a non-profit corporation with 501 (c)(3) status. While the vast majority of funds we raise still go to the 3-Day, our Foundation gives us the flexibility to provide direct support to those who are suffering.

In 2010 we were the largest team in the DFW 3-Day — with 81 walkers. We were #2 in fundraising. We walked with 17 of the Isaiah 40:31 bracelets identical to the one I had given my Mom. After the walk, we began giving those to survivors as they were diagnosed with the message that 3000 men and women were walking for them. You should see those bracelets. Some of them look like they were drug behind a sweep van for 60 miles. They are battered and bruised — much the way our survivor friends feel. But those bracelets are all the more beautiful for having walked the path they’ve walked. And so are our friends.

2011 was a HUGE year for Team Tiara.  In March, we celebrated Opening Day on Hope Field, the first girls’ softball field dedicated to breast cancer awareness.   Team Tiara built Hope Field in partnership with Fairfield Sports Association.   We provided direct support, including financial support, to over 20 breast cancer survivors.  And we funded 20 mammograms for women who did not have access to health insurance. 

At the DFW 3-Day, Team Tiara ranked #4 in fundraising.  It was our best walk yet — we were incredibly visible with our turquoise sparkle skirts and sock monkey hats.  We walked with 17 of the Isaiah 40:31 bracelets — those will be given to women as they are diagnosed this year. Physically, our entire team performed better than ever before.  I even walked all 60 miles — for the first time since 2007!  No one ended up in the IV tent or emergency room. We had NO drama.  This truly has become a family.  A family that has raised over $600,000 since 2006. 

Please, God, Let Us Find a Cure
Now we come to 2012. As I write this, Team Tiara has 32 team members. To date, we have raised over $600,000, and our fundraising goal for this year is $250,000. With each year, we have had an increased awareness of the immediate need for a cure. Where Lisa and I walked for my Mom, the list of women and men Team Tiara walks for has grown far too long.  At least once a week, we hear of another friend or family who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. We can’t stop fighting.

As a team, we have an increased awareness that men and women do not die of breast cancer that is confined to their breasts.  We lose those friends and family members when that cancer metastasizes, or spreads, to their liver, brain, bones, lungs and other organs.  We lose them when their bodies begin shutting down under the onslaught of the hated cancer cells.

In 2012, Team Tiara will begin directly funding research into metastatic breast cancer.  This is an under-funded area of research where we NEED to make a lasting impact. It’s an area of research where we WILL make a lasting impact.  Our goal is to raise $100,000 for metastatic breast cancer research in 2012.  That’s on top of the funds raised for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure and our direct support of survivors.  Will you help us meet this life-changing goal??

More than anything else, I can tell you… This is not D’Lyn’s team. This is God’s team. The experiences we have had would not have happened without God’s direction. The success of this team should be wholly attributed to God. As long as this “written history” is, it’s only scratching the surface.

This year, the members of Team Tiara include many, many people whose lives have been directly affected by breast cancer. We take this disease very personally. Whether you choose to walk with us, or to sponsor us, we welcome you to join the Tiara family. We believe that this is a fight we cannot afford to lose.

For my Mom,
Team Tiara Captain
DFW 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011 & 2012