Friday, September 14, 2012

Lessons learned in the 2012 SF walk

I have been blogging about my journey with the 3 day since I signed up and started this blog in March of 2009. Having just finished my fourth walk there are a lot of words I have used to describe the indescribable. How has this journey changed me? Its hard to write with enough emotion for you to understand. I think it must be easier to see than read. I am a different person than the one who began this journey 455 posts ago.

As anyone who has watched my metamorphose will attest, I live life large. I am not afraid. I am bold and brave and I believe in life. I have, in the past three years, fully embraced the miracle that was my survival, and I am armed and ready to fight this fight until Cancer in no longer stealing moments and lives.


This past 3 day - the 2012 SF 3 day was particularly special to me. It began with a promise I made in DC to walk. When Leslie signed up the day that Olivia had her last chemo session, I knew then, the stars had aligned to make this a walk of consequence.

Last year when I walked the 2011 3 day in Washington DC I was carrying a button with Olivia's name on it.  As is understandable her family fought this with her. Their vocabulary included things like stem cells and little girl broviac ports and things that should never be in the same sentence with anything to do with a 3 year old little girl. When Leslie signed up for the 3 day it was a step beyond CANCER and a step toward healing. I was blessed throughout training to walk with the kids Olivia, Jack and Joe and watch them thrive. Many days had them all running the entire length of the walk. I was blessed to get to know Jack and Joe (who understandably had taken a back seat to their sister). But I was also blessed beyond belief to watch Olivia bright and engaging. An old soul in a young child's body - living life large.

When the whole fiasco that hit Susan G Komen happened in February I was a little unsure of what to do. But watching these children and knowing the truth of the 3 day I was committed to not only walk, but do everything I could to get the conversation back to where it should be, ending Cancer. Our commitment was borne out of a deep understanding of how important these funds are. Leslie and I were firmly committed to walk on.

Leslie was incredible both during and before the walk. She is someone who sort of expects she can do it all, and usually she does. Our training most times included 3 kids, a stroller and a dog. Her walk and the training was not always easy to balance, but she did it. As a Mom I know how hard that is to do. But all you have to do is look at these kids and see them embracing and actually enjoying the walk to know it was good for everyone especially Leslie. She tenaciously held onto her commitment flag and was visably not happy when they didn't have it for her to carry on Day 2. She is one tough cookie.

Oh and how cute are Rob and Leslie together? TOO DARN CUTE.

It was a wonderful day when Patty announced she would be joining us in the 3 day this year. Last year she walker stalked in DC and saw first hand how powerful this event can be. For many reasons, she took a leap of faith that she would be able to move beyond the limitations she believed she had and walk 60 miles. When she walked 17.5 that day to SF you could see that freedom from fear wash across her face. She came to KNOW she could and would walk all 60 miles. AND she did!

The last time I saw Judi before  Pinkinti and Popcorn was the last day of the DC 3 day. She was emotional and disappeared before I could properly say goodbye. The gift of Judi has been one of those unexpected things that the 3 day brings to people. Judi and I went to High School together but really didn't hang with each other. She read on Facebook that I was doing the walk in 2010 and I saw she was doing Atlanta's walk. I was thrilled she signed up with our team for DC and even more so when she signed up for this years walk. (I did promise I would return the favor and walk Atlanta next year). Judi is generous and kind, emotional and caring. She is an amazing person and we all consider ourselves lucky to call her a friend. Look what the 3 day can do!

Allison.... what can I say about Allison. My daughter. My walking partner. Here she comes all the way from Washington DC. She wouldn't miss it. I think she and I know it may not always be that way, her work and her life will inadvertently get in the way. I feel so blessed that she has been able to prioritize in a way that has allowed her to walk in all 4 of my walks. Just as I felt like something was missing not to have Patti Bott walking this year, I will feel Allison's absence from our San Diego walk. We are tent mates (with or without a cold). She is tenacious. She is fierce. It's been amazing to be with her while I follow my passion, because I think she shares that passion.

Then in this walk there was an extended crew of walker stalkers. Chris, Claire, Rob, Joe, Jack, Olivia, Arlene, Joe, Mike, Dana, Pam and of course Glenn. I KNOW the rest of the 3 day walkers were pea green jealous of our attentive stalkers. The coffee, the frosties, the cheers the love were all over the top. But on a personal note.... what can you say about Glenn that I haven't already said. He is an amazing support to me both during the 3 day and every other day. But it is when I see that smile during the 3 day from that boa clad boy's face that I fall further and further in love with my stunningly wonderful husband. It is because he shares this passion. He shares this quest with me and that is what makes the journey so rewarding.


Of the many moments that will stand out for me of this 3 day I will narrow down to 6. Each walk seems to have moments that define it and set it apart. Here are the ones I will remember.

1. I will remember the morning of the walk and a special mother daughter conversation that I will always treasure. That's all I am saying since it was between Allison and me. But it reaffirmed how much I love my life and my family and how grateful I am for both.

2. During the practice for the survivor circle (which I found out last minute I would participate in) I stood next to those survivors on the right side of the stage. One of them (a young woman) said "I think we should carry the flags about how we really feel about Cancer." Now this made everyone laugh. She said "Bitter!" Leslie said "Skeptical" the other survivor said "Lopsided" and I said nothing. So they decided I was "Stressed and Worried." The next day Leslie brought handkerchiefs with those words on them and handed them out to us. I carried mine throughout the walk. But all along I thought about those words and how I couldn't come up with a flag I would rather carry than my "Belief." You see in the past 3 years I have left all those negative words about my Cancer on the pavement. To me when I think of my Cancer and how it makes me feel now, it is courageous, hopeful, committed, optimistic, loving, healed, positively powerful, more patient with myself and others and full of belief. I carry no bitterness and not one ounce of skepticism. I am lopsided... and I am stressed but not about Cancer. Those handkerchiefs truly represented for me how far I have come.

3. There was a woman on the 2nd day who carried a sign that said 42 year survivor. To me this may have been the most poignant of moments in this 3 day. Leslie got emotional and went over to tell her how much that meant to her. She said to her in a quiet voice filled with emotion. "I just want my daughter to hold that sign one day." It made visible how Leslie worries every minute of everyday about Olivia. To me, I hoped this moment may help her to see Olivia holding that sign, because I believe she will.

4. When Patty finished the walk she had tears in her eyes. I know it was not easy. I know what a struggle it has been. During this walk she came to understand how important it is to be proactive in your own health. She has been (as Judi put it) blessed with an Angel moment where she has gotten the courage to fight to be heard at Kaiser about her difficulty sleeping and how that impacts her life. Patty may have walked 60 miles and that is great, but I believe it will be finding answers that will be her biggest gift.

5. The speech. I was asked if I would be willing to speak at Camp about a month ago I think it was. Alot has happened since then. I discovered there were a couple of people they were considering. But I certainly was willing because I knew exactly what I wanted to say and who I wanted to say it to. But I was very tested. First through the interview process and the help in fine tuning the speech and then continuing to reading the "fine tuned" speech in the parking lot of the hospital while my father was in ICU. Frankly I thought it was a sign that there must be someone who would get the message across better. Someone who would make a larger impact. I almost withdrew my name for consideration because it just felt like... well it might not be something I was meant to do. So when they told me I was the one they wanted to speak I was more nervous than I had been originally. It took me awhile to refocus on why I wanted to speak in the first place.

I wanted to speak because I didn't want Leslie, or people like her, to spend 14 years not accepting the fact they had survived. I knew how much more powerful I have become and how much better able I am to help others since I finally accepted my survival. I thought in sharing my story it could help.

I practiced while walking. People probably thought I was some crazy woman talking to myself... When I stood on the stage I was emotional but not nervous. Here was this sea of faces who would understand what I would say. They were ready to hear what I had to say. To me it was an incredible moment. When Sheri said "I was raised in the church and this had me almost saying "Get your Bibles out", what she really was saying was I was speaking the truth. That, that was very special indeed.

6. Finally, my precious moment was Leslie and I in the survivor circle hidden from almost every one's view. She gave me a hug and said "Thank you. I love you. And I hate you. But mostly I love you." Then she added "I needed this."

We all need that moment when we celebrate our survival. Celebrate our life. That moment where our focus is on the days we are living instead of worrying about how many we may have left. We need the moment when we shout to the skies in a defiant declaration "WE WILL NEVER GIVE UP!" We need the moment when we walk on and live our life, past disappointments, past negativity and on to empowerment.

Each and everyone of us were given the gift of life. It is up to us to live it large. Thank you Susan G Komen for giving me the road to follow, the flag to carry and the belief that one person can make a difference but together we can change the world.

I'll get back to training soon because it is 9 weeks away!

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