Memory Scarf and Counter-Irritants

by Cathy Miller

in 3-Day Walk for the Cure

memory-scarf-postA wonderful tradition of the 3-Day Walk for the Cure is wearing the names of survivors and those we lost.

Each year, I create a list with “In Memory Of” and “In Honor Of.”

  • Some are names I added myself
  • Most are names shared by my supporters

After 13 years, the list has grown. The good news is the survivor list (In Honor Of) is longer than the names of loved ones lost to cancer (In Memory Of).

One of the biggest challenges is figuring out how to wear the names. Putting it in the context of those battling cancer, it’s not a very big challenge. More funny than challenging.

In Memory of Lists Gone By

I started this 3-Day journey in 2003. For that first Walk, I was lucky I got myself there. I was a total newb with no idea about 3-Day traditions.

As I walked, I noticed some walkers wore pictures of loved ones they lost to cancer. Others had pink ribbons attached to their shirts, hats, fanny packs.

What a great idea.

I crewed in 2004 so it wasn’t until the 2005 3-Day Walk when I searched for a way to honor those affected by cancer. What followed was an often hilarious search for comfort.

The Counter-Irritant Year

One of my dad’s southernisms when we complained about something was ~

I can give you a counter-irritant to take your mind off it.

pink-braceletYou’d think walking 60 miles in 3 days would give you plenty of counter-irritants.

That didn’t seem to be the case with my first brilliant method for honoring the names of loved ones.

For years, I’d worn a pink bracelet, inscribed with – Sharing the Promise. I thought why not write the names on the bracelet.

Remember, this was the very early days when my sister was one of the few breast cancer survivors I knew. I planned on wearing multiple bracelets for the few names I had.

One problem. Absolutely NO writing element stuck to the slippery silicone. (Isn’t it ironic a breast cancer awareness bracelet is made of silicone? Sorry, I digress).

Next, I decided to write the names on labels. Nope. They wouldn’t stick to the bracelet either.

That’s how I came up with the idea of writing the names on stiff paper and taping them to the bracelet. Sounds brilliant, right? Wrong.

  • It’s amazing how irritating tape can be when wrapped around a bracelet
  • The edges become like the razor-sharp teeth of a flesh-eating predator
  • Sweat seeps into the tape’s pores, curling them into laughing caricatures of disdain

I needed a Plan B.

Plan B

2008-namesNo more names on bracelets.

My next method for capturing the names was writing them on heavy printing paper.

Similar to paper used for printing business cards.

I attached the sign to my lanyard.

That method seemed to work so well, I used it for several years. Then, the irritants appeared again.

At first, those irritants were pretty minor.

  • The edges curled
  • The slightest rain waterlogged it

Then came a slap in the face – literally.

One Walk had higher wind than usual. Soon my In Memory – Honor list began slapping against my face, as if to say ~


Now what?

The Memory Scarf

Mystery of Passion postI figured I would foil the slappers by wearing the names on my back. But how to do it?

Because we wear a different shirt every day (for way obvious reasons), writing them on at least three shirts seemed a bit much. Knowing me, I was bound to miss some names.

Enter the memory scarf.

  • I purchased a pink ribbon scarf
  • Printed the names on business card stock
  • And used pink safety pins to fasten them to the scarf

Sometimes crass commercialism works.

That method, too, was successful so I wore the names that way for several Walks. However, even my clever solution had a few problems.

Even though I used business card stock, the names would get bent and beat-up along the way. So, I came up with yet another twist.

Hey, you have a lot of time to think about these things when you’re walking 60 miles in 3 days.

The Laminate Touch

2015-names-smallThe next phase of Operation Memory Scarf was to toughen up those name cards to survive walking 60 miles in 3 days. My feet know all about toughening up for the 3-Day.

  • I used the same pink ribbon scarf and safety pins
  • The business card layout still worked
  • But I laminated them for extra strength

Success. We were ready to roll. Well almost.

The weight of the laminated cards kept twisting the scarf. Curses. So close.

Memory Scarf Reborn

You have to admit, I don’t quit. Once more I revised the carrier for my 3-Day Walk Names.

memory-scarf-olwI purchased a new scarf I designed at my Old Lady Walking Store.

  • One side has “In Memory Of”
  • The other reads “In Honor Of”

I used markers specifically designed for clothing to hand-write all the names. My plan is to tie the scarf to the strap of my water bottle holder.

Have I discovered the secret of the Memory Scarf?

Counter-irritants be damned.


Walk on.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Sharon Hurley Hall November 1, 2016 at 6:07 am

I love the way you persisted till you found a workable solution, Cathy. Walk good, my friend. 🙂


Cathy Miller November 1, 2016 at 7:20 am

Thanks, Sharon. I will try to do just that. 😉 I appreciate your ongoing support!


Harleena Singh November 1, 2016 at 7:00 am

I agree with Sharon – you do so much good for people through this walk – we DO appreciate all the time and efforts you put into making it such a success, Cathy! Walk on, dear friend 🙂


Cathy Miller November 1, 2016 at 7:20 am

Leena, thanks so much. And I appreciate you and all my supporters. 🙂


Roy A. Ackerman, PhD, EA November 1, 2016 at 7:13 am

I’m really glad you opted for a scarf and not a quilt. Or, we’d need a wheelbarrow to help you finish the walk!


Cathy Miller November 1, 2016 at 7:21 am

LOL! By the end, someone would have to be pushing me in that wheelbarrow, Roy. 🙂 Especially with those hills!


Paula Hendrickson November 1, 2016 at 8:57 am

How nice to see my mom’s name on the Memory side and my sister’s on the Honor side!

And Roy’s right – at least it’s not a quilt!

Your dad’s Southernism is similar to my dad’s approach. If any of us complained about a minor irritation he’d say, “If I stomp on your toe it’ll take your mind off it.”


Cathy Miller November 1, 2016 at 10:48 am

Yep, sounds like a counter-irritant to me, Paula. 😉 And your mom and sister have been walking with me for a few Walks.

I was thinking of tying this scarf on my hat (that’s what I did with the prior one) but this one is much heavier. I’d probably get pulled onto my back by the end of the Walk. 😉


Anne Wayman November 1, 2016 at 5:10 pm

What Sharon said… now write a booklet so others can do the same next year, or post instructions here or start a business – another one 😉


Cathy Miller November 2, 2016 at 3:57 pm

One is written about surviving the 3-Day, although this topic isn’t covered (I don’t think). You can download a copy if you’re so inclined, Anne. 😉


Meg Aylward McCann November 2, 2016 at 7:07 am

Things I learn as an adult: while the rest of us were being told ‘quit crying or I’ll really give you something to cry about’ the Millers were being informed of the value of counter irritants, I’m thrilled! And love the three-day walkers, best to you on your journey!


Cathy Miller November 2, 2016 at 3:54 pm

LOL, Meg! Trust me. The Millers heard the “…I’ll give you something to cry about,” line a time or two. 😉

Thanks for the good wishes for the 3-Day Walk. I usually ask people to pray to the no blisters gods. 😉


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