Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Dreams I dream

If I were a fairy princess, I would have magical powers.

If I wanted the moon to shine more brightly in the dark and churning sky, I would wave my hand and shout to the sky... "More light Mr. Moon" and the moon would comply.

If I wanted to fly from here to there on my celestial wings, I would stretch my arms high above me until feathers appear and I would call "Up, I say, up!" and be lifted above the world.

As a fairy princess I could make enemies friends, and friends lovers and smiles out of frowns. I would look at the people who were not seeing what was in front of them - throw my arms out to them and call "Wake up and look!" They would turn and understand how much they truly care.

In my pink fairy dress I could blink my eyes and shout "Away with you!" and all cancer would disappear. There would be no chemotherapy, because I would make cancer disappear by commanding it to go. Because there would be no need for this potent poison, a woman's hair would never fall out, it would be long and flowing and catching the light as it moves in the breeze. Tears would turn to laughter and people would not die until they were very old and ready to move on to the next life.

But I am not a princess fairy and I possess no magic. Cancer is real and it will take real science and determination to end its fearful reign. By myself I am only one person wishing cancer away. Together though, we have created magic. Our efforts have raised over $26,000 just through our little five person team. That money will make its way to the people who really can end cancer. It will help fund research, and more than that it will find its way into the hands of people who need assistance now. It will help fund education and awareness that will save hundreds of thousands of lives, like mine.

But as I walked down the street in San Rafael today,
and passed this pink dress,
I thought to myself.... I wish....I wish....

3 days to go.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Four days to go....

Stories from Mid span.

The Golden Gate Bridge is longer than most people realize. When you stand at the North end there is a sign that says Crissy Field is 2 miles away. The actual span itself is 8,981 feet long or 1.7 miles. It is a world landmark, and when you are walking across it, it's like walking through the United Nations... only colder.

You see, usually, especially in summer, the Golden Gate Bridge is cloaked in fog. The waves of mist pelt you as you inch across the bridge, dodging the disgruntled photographers who are hell bent on taking that perfect bridge photo. You look ahead and see some woman, with a slightly bluish tint, in heels and a tank top, with a pained look on her face trying to keep up with her male friend in the athletic shoes and tee shirt reading, "I love NY". For those tourists, who while at Fisherman's Wharf, noticed the cooler weather there are those tell tale sweatshirts. It used to be the most popular one was "Property of Alcatraz", but these days, there are so many sweatshirt options, you never do know what you will see except some reference to SF.

I don't know what the brochures say in Munchen about a trip to SF, but they must omit the part about the fog. I usually come prepared, with a windbreaker, just in case.

Today was the last summer training walk on the bridge for Patti and me. It's four days until we start the 3 day walk. On Saturday, we walked to downtown Mill Valley and back from Patti's Sausalito home, a trek of about 8 miles. Our training calendar suggest scaling back this last week from the 18 mile walks we have been doing. The walk to Mill valley was slower than usual. It was a slow day for Patti, and I have had some of those myself. For whatever reason you lack the energy you normally have, and a walk that should be simple, becomes a challenge. When you have a day like that, it usually is a good idea to head back out the next day to regain your confidence. Especially if you are planning to walk 60 miles in 3 days.

Fall is upon us and the weather has been unusually warm. Inland temperatures have been in the triple digits. Our coastal temperatures on Saturday were around 90 and that is hot in an area that has NO air conditioning. I remember how on the first day of school, I would look at all the back to school clothes the kids would have, and be scratching my head about how to send your child to school in a wool skirt when it was so warm. I thought about those people in the other 3 day cities, like Washington DC in late July, and realized, we may have hills, but our weather rocks!

We decided for day 2, of this last weekend, we would head to the bridge. I think both Patti and I were hoping to see wisps of fog to cool us off. We got to Cavallo point, and took a seat on the deck, in the sun to enjoy some fantastic muffins and lattes as our late breakfast. Looking out at the bridge there was the smallest patch of light fog laying under the span. I took off my tee shirt and tucked in my tank top. We refreshed our water bottles, and I whetted a crisp linen towel and wiped the sweat from my face and back. Off we went, up to the bridge.

We both had a myriad of things to accomplish today. Patti, who is in the midst of a big business project, needed to get everything packed this weekend for the 3 day. Glenn and I were going to head down the Peninsula to see his Dad who is still in the hospital. Walking all the way to Crissy would put us further behind than we would have liked, so we decided to aim for mid span on the bridge.

As our feet hit the bridge pavement and we started off toward mid span. A young mother and her son came weaving by on Razor scooters. They both had flipflops on. She wore a sweet green sundress, while he wore jeans and a soccer style tee shirt, along with a bike helmet. Patti turned to me and said "They must be European". We passed a backpack clad fellow with a scruffy beard, walking his Briard dog. They looked like they were on a cross country adventure. There are a lot of different people and critters you see on and under the bridge.
We have at times seen small dolphin swimming in the waters below the bridge. Today, we didn't see any of these, but we did see seals corkscrewing through the water on the surface. From above you can see their entire bodies and the patchwork of grey and black spots on their fur. Their play had a decidedly vacation cadence to it.

There was medium sized (around 40 ft) sailboat we could see, practicing a man-overboard drill with a lifesaver ring.

This is an important skill to master if you are sailor. When Glenn sailed to Hawaii in 1980, he volunteered to be the "man" in the man overboard drill. He had a wetsuit under his tee shirt and as the boat was going at full speed under spinnaker, he stepped to the back rail, and voila, he was gone. The boat disappeared from sight in seconds. He took out a beer, put a smile on his face and waved off the many boats who came to assist. The crew noticed he was gone, (thank goodness) dropped the spinnaker, turned on a dime and within 12 minutes he was back on board. For a person in the water, that is good news, but what most people don't count on are the bruises you get while they haul you on board.

The sailboat we saw today, needs more practice. Patti and I decided the life ring was dead already in the cold SF waters and would soon reach Japan. Their final move came mighty close to running the ring over, but they did eventually grab the ring with a pole and bring it on board. Patti and I cheered them from above, but even if they saw us, I am sure they were not too happy about having witnesses to their.... skill in process.

Standing at mid span we could also see a navigation light that I have never seen before in the many times I walked all the way across the bridge. I think that by the time you are mid span your eyes on on the other side and you miss the details of where you are walking. Standing mid span we had a good vantage point for looking at Crissy Field and where our pink tents would soon be erected. I doubt there is anywhere in the world where people are lucky enough to have this view while participating in such an event. I can't wait!

Heading back to Sausalito, we walked through the Bridgeway tourist traffic, and on to the more local, Chili Cook-off in the park. Deciding there was no compelling reason to stick around, we walked on to Clipper Yacht Harbor where we snagged a ride from Glenn who had escaped the heat of the house for the warmth of our boat.

Our total walk today was 13.5 miles, and was 3.5 miles more than the recommended distance.

I think Patti and I are alike this way. Maybe that has helped make us survivors! The suggested walk is 10 , we'll walk 13. They want you not to aim at 20 miles until the walk itself, and we walked 20 miles over a month ago. Over achievers...

The next time we get together it will be for pasta dinner and a sleep over at my house, before starting our drive to the Cow Palace. My goals for this walk are not to walk further than anyone else, my goal is to walk as far as everyone else and have fun. Since already Patti and I have shared moments when we slip into tears, we both know this will be a very emotional walk. As survivors, you feel very blessed to be able to feel the wind on your cheek as you walk across the bridge. As a survivor you realize your are blessed to have a sore tendon, and to have the worry of sunblock and blisters. Because as survivor you realize you are walking for more than just yourself. As a survivor, you are walking for all those women who have had Breast Cancer who cannot walk for themselves. You are walking so they will not be forgotten. You are walking so your survival means something. You are walking because you have determined Cancer will not defeat you, and if your feet have anything to say about it, it will not defeat anyone you love or care about. As a survivor you are walking because you choose to do more than survive. You have decided it is time to live life to the fullest; to thrive and show others they can thrive along with you - with or without cancer.

P.S. I thought those of you who care about George would be glad to know he still has his sense of humor. He allowed me to snap a pic of him yesterday. He said he was imitating WC Fields...

Friday, September 25, 2009

One week from today...

One week from this moment, I will have gotten up at 4am to have a protein and carb rich breakfast, my team mates will have piled our duffel bags in the truck and driven to the Cow Palace, we will have completed our sign in and finished our group stretching. One week from right now I will be somewhere in Daly City heading to Ocean Beach. Hopefully the sky will be blue and the air warm. The route will be filled with people cheering us on. We will have begun the first of our three day walks.

As we stand on this threshold of this last week,
I can't help but look back at how far we have come.

Back in April I was celebrating yet another birthday. It had been 14 years since I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. The TV blared yet another ad for the Breast Cancer 3 day. I looked at the screen and imagined how great it must be for those athletic types to walk in something so worthwhile. I shook my head and went back to work, searching on the Internet for some signs of life in the Real Estate market.

I had a Dr. appt. to go over the results of my blood test from my physical. He sat me down and told me my blood sugar was borderline diabetic, there were signs of potential heart disease and said to me. "I know just about every Doctor who looks at you thinks, ah, Breast Cancer survivor, and they treat you like you are a cancer patient, but Cathy its been 14 years. You are not going to die from Breast Cancer, you will die from heart disease."

This was a little scary but in a strange way very liberating. I had been living 14 years like I was going to die from Cancer (someday). What he said made me realize, I was just like everyone else. I didn't know what I would die from, it could be Cancer, one day, but while I was waiting for that, it could be something else like a heart attack.

Within the next week I got a phone call from my friend Patti. Patti had just been diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Here it was, another Aha moment. While I was waiting to die from Breast Cancer, other people would be diagnosed with this disease, other people would die. Then the ad came on the TV again. 3 day - 60 miles, a walk for the cure. I looked closer at the ad. I could see old and young people. I saw people with no hair (chemo patients). I saw heavy people, skinny people, men and women. I saw and realized, that I had misjudged this walk. I saw, that if I wanted to, if I believed in myself and took it one step at a time, I could do this walk. I could DO something about Breast Cancer.

I sent out an email and asked who would like to come along. One of the first to say yes, was my daughter (who also happens to be Patti's God-daughter), then followed by good friends and college sisters of Patti's and mine, Jill and Barbara. We began our training, as Patti began her treatment. After surgery, they found no evidence of disease in her lymph nodes, and so, she began radiation. Patti also began her training with zeal.

The first walks for me were 2 miles. They were around my office. Even in those I saw things I had never seen before. I walked paths I wondered about before, but never had walked. I began to build my strength and my insight. With every step I became to feel more empowered and stronger. I awakened in myself a sleeping tiger of self confidence and pride. Before I knew it, I was walking with Patti on my first 20 mile walk. The smile didn't disappear from my face for days.

Now, here we are. The walk is one week away. I want to walk every mile. I want to go the distance. There is a piece of me that wishes the end to the 3-day wasn't in sight. I do not want to lose one little bit of this gift I have gained during the past months. I have worked too hard for too long to get where I am today. I don't want to lose the hard fought battle to find out the truth. And the truth is, I can make a difference not only to others, but to myself. The truth is, nothing is impossible. The truth is friendship, true friendship, shows up, and always will. And the final truth is, Cancer is not the boss of me! I am the boss of me. Cancer is a pretender who threatens and bluffs its way into stealing people's lives. Cancer has power over us because we are afraid of Cancer. To beat Cancer you need to stare it square in the eyes and call it like you see it. Cancer is a dark and angry monster that needs to have a spotlight on it, so it will lose its power. If everyone would only shine their own light on this disease, we will kill it. We will end it. I have my light shining on it now and I can see how I have weaken it and in the process strengthen myself. In the beginning, I didn't think I could make a difference. Now I know we all can. Put your passion into the light you shine and watch how it transforms the world around you.

There is still time to DONATE. I promise, I will let you know all about this event. This 3 day will help Susan G Komen provide funds for education and treatment to thousands of women just like me and Patti. It will be the batteries in the floodlights that will end cancer. We need your help, please DONATE.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Photos from the soiree

Here are the long anticipated photos of our "Dancing under the star of hope" event. Thanks Toni ands Gib for shooting them!

There are a few missing characters from this set, so if anyone else has some photos to contribute send them my way. Once again thank you to all invovled for making it not only a fun evening but one that will help bring an end to Breast Cancer!

THE END of the party...but the continuation of the journey!
8 days people...please donate.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Open Hearts

Back when I was a little girl, my mother had a friend, her name was Virginia. I have to admit, in my memory of her, there are only a few distinct ones. After all I was quite young at the time.

The most pronounced was of Virginia coming to our house. She had brought a present for me. She knelt down and held out her gift. She said I was a very special little girl and she loved me. It was a very elaborate book of Fairy Tales. The illustrations were intricate, lush and vivid. I found this to be a strange thing to say and to do out of the blue, but my mother told me Virginia was to be admitted to the hospital for something called open heart surgery. My mother told me it was very dangerous, and she would be one of the first women to be given this surgery. She said Virginia may not make it, but without the surgery she would surely die. I would guess this was around 1957 or earlier.

Then one afternoon my mother got a phone call. She was crying when she hung up the phone. Virginia did not make it. She had survived the surgery but after two days, she passed away. My mother told me she was very brave and what she had done was make it possible that others might live.

After that, I had a hard time looking at the book Virginia had given me, even though there were magical pictures inside, and stories of happily ever after. In fact I started having dreams where a big story book would slowly open and inside there were monsters around the words on the pages saying... Once upon a time.... and then the nightmare would begin.

Virginia was brave, and she did make it possible for others to survive. She made it possible that other little girls and boys would not have real nightmares in their lives. Those who pioneer procedures in medicine are heroes.

Today my father-in-law had an aortic valve replacement. In this procedure a pigs valve replaces the faulty valve. It is a major surgery but in my father-in-law's case the survival rate is 95%. Today as we left his room, he was a little cranky and cracking jokes. He was his old self, only rather banged up and attached to a bunch of tubes. He is 86 years old and hopefully with this new valve he will live for many more years.

It takes an open and brave heart to be one of the first at anything.
Thank you Virginia for your courage... and the book.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A walk and a sail

At the end of our walk yesterday Patti asked me if I would like to take a walk today. She let me know that she needed to leave at 8am, since there was yet another birthday celebration for her planned. (This girl has more Birthday celebrations than your average person!)
Glenn had asked me if I wanted to go sailing with he and our good friend Dana. I said I did, but training is more important than ever, here in the last 2 weeks. I told him our plan was to walk to Cavallo Point and back and he suggested he pick me up there.
Knowing that I would have no idea when they would be there, I suggested I just keep walking and maybe rendezvous at the St. Francis Yacht club. So when I headed out in the morning, I had my phone turned on and ready for "the call."
We met with Wren, a fantastic gal from our club, and a good friend of Patti's, who walked with us to Cavallo Point. We stopped in Murray Circle to have a latte (and I added some unbelievable muffins!) We sat on the porch while we enjoyed looking out over the parade grounds. It was a leisurely start to the day, but we all have places to go. I left to go on my way.
The hike up to the bridge is a far cry away from the first time I walked this hill. Then I would have to stop every few steps to breathe. I would say I need to take a picture, but I was just taking a break. You will notice in this post....no pictures from that hill. It was up and over for me. Straight onto the bridge. I noticed half way down the bridge that my posture was tall. I was walking like a proud peacock. My chest was out, my chin was high and my gaze was out to the horizon. I watched the tourists and dodged a few as I headed to the south part of the bridge. I felt like I owned this bridge. These people were visiting my bridge. It was a unique feeling and made me smile.
I texted Glenn when I made it down to Crissy Field. I suggested I could meet them at South Bay Harbor (down by the ball park). But the timing was perfect to be picked up at the St. Francis as planned. When I got to the yacht harbor, there was a lot of activity, from huge yachts to to small 29ers or something like that. It looked to me that they would have trouble bringing the boat all the way in, so I walked down to the Golden Gate Yacht Club, down at the beginning of the breakwater, to see if there would be somewhere for them to pull in to pick me up...and there was!
As I saw them round the corner I looked over to the Marina Green and saw dozens of kites soaring in the air. I wished I had a better camera to take this photo, but you get the idea!
How many people on earth can say, they walked across the Golden Gate Bridge and then was picked up by two fine gentlemen and whisked away for a sail on a J-105 on San Francisco Bay, not many I'd guess. But that is what happened to me. There was another passenger named Courtney, who is a friend of Dana and Misakos, onboard as well.
The sail had a good mix of wind 20+ knots, sun and shelter in the lee of Angel Island and lots of sea life; pelicans diving for fish, seals looking rather curious and a bit lazy and the other birds all vying for there spot of the sky and sea. It reminded me a bit about the otters who looked so happy. San Francisco Bay is more alive than ever, or maybe its me.
It's been a busy few days and for sure it will be a busy few weeks.
It is amazing to me that the end is in sight. In the meantime..... Bye for now.

One last thing... if you haven't donated... do.... Click here to donate to our walk.

Ice cream, Champagne and Shin splints

The day after.

I have aches in my head, my back and my hands are covered with small little cits. I have bruises from I don't know where. There are guests in my house and a kitchen so piled high with dirty dishes, pots and pans I wonder if I will ever be able to dig out.

I come upstairs and find Jill with the dogs nearby. They are laying quite contentedly on the wood floors as she sips her morning coffee. The rest of the house is quiet. Outside the fog is so thick it is coming in waves to blast my windows and leave them dripping wet.

We had a plan to leave from my house at 9 am to go walking. The plan was to come as close to 18 miles as we could, while squeezing in a Birthday lunch for our friend MB. So as my first accomplishments of the day, I changed that plan. NEW plan meet in Corte Madera at 11, walk to lunch and back, then play it by ear. Good plan so I sent a text to Patti.

As Jill and I sat on the sofa and chatted with Jill. If you were to add up all the wonderful gifts I have been given since I started this journey one of the biggest, if not the biggest is the pure contentment I have gotten from being around my friends. In my too busy life of work, work, work I would see my friends rarely, perhaps as little as once or twice a year for Barbara and Jill. Now here I was sitting chatting with Jill, with Barbara and her husband Curtiss in the other room, feeling like it should be. Like we are all family.

This walk of ours has been a huge endeavor. If you know anyone of us you have come along to some degree, knowingly or not knowingly. Our husbands in particular have had NO CHOICE. Well, I suppose they did, but then, it could be the beginning of one of those... ex-husband things.

Glenn has been very supportive besides being the representative for Heller at Wine Wars, he has been my mover and kitchen clean-up helper and my shuttle service when I have walked too far and need to get home in a hurry. He has stood by me with a look of pride that helps me keep on heading toward the finish line. He has walked with me on occasion, at least until one walk left his toes bruised terribly. John Patti's husband, has cheered her on, and had to put aside some of their plans to allow for her training. He was hoping to come last night to help pour wine and beer ( like he did at Wine Wars) but he fell while working and has a broken ankle. He called me the day before last night's event to volunteer to still come and to make his famous sausage rolls. He was one of the great Bar Boys at Wine Wars. Jill's husband Randy has watched as she has commitment countless hours to her training. He served as her Sherpa, as she walked the Cachagua grade the day after our 17 mile drive. He was one of our happy bar boys at Wine Wars. Allison's husband Chris, has walked with us, and Allison. He has come to Wine Wars from Denver and may have found a new calling as a Bar Boy. (Our Bar Boys were so good they were offered a job!) Then there is Curtiss. Barbara's husband, who my husband just described to me as someone, who is "like someone who is born again, but he is born again on life". He has a vest of living that is hard to ignore. He is optimistic and joyful. Frankly it would be hard not to be this way being married to Barbara. He had walked more miles with his wife than any of the other husbands. They get up early or walk late as they live in Sacramento. The heat there is intense. This past week Curtiss has developed shin splints. If you don't know what those are, look it up, they are extremely painful. But here he was, a smile on his face, pouring a Cote du Rhone for someone who asked for Merlot, and leaving them happy as a clam. Knowing we have the support of these great guys... how lucky can we be?

When everyone int he house was finally up and awake, I made some pancakes and eggs. Barbara and I got ready to walk. We called Patti and arranged to meet in the parking lot at the Bay Club. Jill was heading back to Moraga so off she went in her pink pants and shirt. The next time I see her, most likely will be for another slumber party at my house the day before the walk.

Glenn went off to work while Curtiss left to spend time at Barbara's nephew's house. I know if his legs would tolerate it, he would have rather walked. But what he really would rather be doing is sail. That too has been a small sacrifice to the 3 day... wives too busy to sail.

Since it was Barbara. Patti and MB's birthdays this month. I had wanted to take them to lunch. But I also wanted to give the a little gift. I found these darling PJs on Slumberheads.com and bought Patti and Barbara pink varieties for the Crissy Field camp, and MB a blue dot sleep shirt.

That was part of the reason I wanted to meet in the parking lot, I really didn't see myself walking with 3 big boxes!

MB is our very good friend from UOP and Tri Delta. She is one of those people that some people believe is too good to be true. She was telling us a story about some younger people who she heard whispered to each other, "Shhh here comes MB", because they were using foul language. MB said "I don't know why they did that. I am not that old." I told her she should tell them to "shut the F up." and see what they say! The reason why they did that is they respect her. She IS a good person. And today was the first day we were able to walk with MB.

Off we went on our way to R'hon Thai in Kentfield. Boy did I need this walk after last night. I needed to leave that kitchen of stuff and get back to the outdoors, the air, the space and walking!

We had a great little lunch on the deck overlooking the marsh land. Fresh Thai rolls and Tum Kai Gai was the choice for three of us while Barabra ordered some sort of tofu.......

We laughed and chatted and caught us with each other. When we were totally refreshed and ready to go, we headed down Magnolia to the creek with the plan to follow it until Bon Air Road. We were only a few yards down the path when I noticed an animal in the water. Having seen one earlier on a walk near us, I identified it as an otter. The sleek critter was swimming with ease along the concrete wall of the creek. "Hey you guys! OTTER!" Then a second later, there was another and then another..... a total of four otters swam with each other enjoying the warm day and the still water. These guys seemed a little browner than the one I saw near Richardson Bay.

It's amazing that I have seen otters in Marin twice in such a short time! It must be a good sign that not only me, but the creeks are healthier than they have been... don't you think?

On we walked and took a short break at the Children's Memory garden, which always makes me cry. The thought of all those people and their lost is quite intense. Its a beautiful place thought but you can feel the weight of a thousand tears when you walk into the center.

Back on the path we headed up to Magnolia and walked along until Patti announced "I need birthday ice cream!" We swung into Piccolo Pizza and got some yummy soft serve Strauss ice cream then walked across the street to the shaded park on the corner of Magnolia and Madrone and took a few pictures while we finished our creamy treats.

Patti looked across the street and saw the Tavern at Lark Creek. "We should get champagne." She said she was joking but it sounded like a great idea to me. So I insisted ( and everyone agreed) we should go over and check out the Tavern. When we poked our sweaty heads inside we were told they were closed until 4:30, and they suggested we head back down to the Left Bank for our birthday champagne. That being the wrong direction.... I suggested Il Fornoio back where we had rendezvoused int he first place.

And that is where we ended our birthday walk, sitting outside sipping Mumm Cuvee Napa, smiling and laughing and enjoying each other's company.

This 8 mile walk took longer than any other we have done. But come on, how can you argue with Thai food, ice cream and champagne. Now that is what I call training!