Hundreds to join Komen 3-Day walk in Metro Detroit

Alex Nester
The Detroit News

Walking 60 miles in three days is hard. Battling cancer is harder. 

Hundreds of participants will lace up for the Susan G. Komen Michigan 3-Day walk beginning Friday.

Following an opening ceremony at the Sheraton Detroit Novi Hotel, teams of participants will walk 60 miles over three days through Metro Detroit, including Dearborn, Northville, Novi, Plymouth, and Walled Lake, sharing survival stories and support.

Among the walkers will be Detroit native Melissa Melson, who will be making the trek for the seventh time in support of her mother, stepmother, grandmother and many friends who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. 

Melissa Melson, right, with her mother, breast-cancer survivor Debra Melson, will participate in her seventh Komen 3-Day walk starting Friday.

She and other walkers hope their effort — and fundraising — will help researchers find a cure for the disease that is the most common type of cancer among women, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control.

"I think the cure part is what we want. If we cure one cancer, that will translate to another," Melson said. "We want to make an impact, and how do we do that? We do something that makes a ripple effect."

This is the 16th year for Michigan's 3-Day.

The Susan G. Komen 3-Day series begins in Detroit, with events held through November in the Twin Cities, New England, Seattle, Philadelphia, the Dallas/Fort Worth area and San Diego.

Carrie Stovall, senior director of events for Susan G. Komen, said in an email she expects 400 participants in Detroit this weekend. About 100 to 150 volunteers called the 3-Day Crew will provide food and medical support to the walkers while encouraging a lively, positive atmosphere for the event. 

Runners start the event on Jefferson at Chene as thousands of supporters participate in the Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure Detroit as they run and walk  Saturday morning, May 21, 2016.

Each participant raises a minimum $2,300 to join the walk. Since the 3-Day began in 2003, the 3-Day series has raised more than $848 million for breast cancer research. 

Stovall said each year around 500 people, or 8 percent of participants nationally, are breast cancer survivors or patients living with breast cancer.

Melson first heard of the Susan G. Komen 3-Day walk on a radio commercial while she was driving.

"I was exactly where I needed to be," she said, "and the radio was exactly what I needed to hear."

Supporters of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure get out and dance on the pink carpet at Comerica Park in Detroit Michigan. (Photo by Dave Reginek-Special to Detroit News)

Melson, a mental health therapist, registered for her first walk in 2012 after listening to the commercial. 

Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer just months later.

After receiving treatment, Melson's mother walked with her the following year and has been in remission for six years. 

"It was a definitely a difficult walk and she did not give up," Melson said. "That was amazing to walk alongside her."

Three years ago, Melson was "adopted" into the Hines Pink Panther team, a group of about 40 participants who walk in the Komen 3-Day each year and are known for their bright purple T-shirts. 

A memory rack for participants to hang mementos honoring loved ones that lost their battle with cancer during the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure at Comerica Park in Detroit Michigan. (Photo by Dave Reginek-Special to Detroit News)

To date, the team has raised more than $1 million.

The group begins training for the event in April and assists each other's fundraising efforts with raffles and flower sales.The Hines Pink Panthers dedicate one of their walks to deceased teammates every year before the 3-Day event. They call it the Purple Angels walk. 

"I've made the most amazing friendships," Melson said. "They are always interested in what I'm doing. It's definitely a family, not just a team."