Over at Kelly's Korner for Show Us Your Life everyone is posting about their favorite charity. The charity that is near and dear to my heart is the Breast Cancer 3 Day 60 Mile Walk. I had been intrigued by the walk for a couple of years, but finally got inspired enough last year to actually sign up. In previous years, I had attempted a half marathon and that was hard. I also completed a triathlon and that was hard too. Then my thyroid went crazy and I fell off the exercise wagon - HARD! In fact, I think the wagon ran over me a time or two!
This year was different though. I had some very wonderful friends had just lost their mother to lung cancer and watching their family go through that was excruciating. I really felt the need to not just find some inspiration to exercise again, but also do something positive in the shadow of all that sadness and sorrow.
So when looking through an Oprah magazine one day I saw the ad for the 3 Day 60 Mile walk in Dallas. I thought that this might be just the ticket I needed to get out of my exercise rut and do something positive and worthwhile. The walk was established to raise money for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. You walk sixty miles over three days - that is far, but I felt like if I trained hard enough for it that I could do it. A perfect challenge and that is what I was looking for.
When I first logged on to the website to do a little research I was a bit apprehensive when I learned that participants had to each raise $2300 for the Susan G. Komen fund in order to walk. YIKES - that is a lot of money. I had second thoughts, third thoughts and probably even fourth thoughts, but finally decided to take the plunge. Realizing that if I didn't raise it all, that at least whatever portion I did raise would go to a great cause. I wouldn't get to walk if I didn't raise the money, but I was willing to give it a really good try.
I talked it up with some of my friends and before you know it we had nine folks on our team and together we were going to have to raise over $20,700 if all of us were going to walk. Beth and Karen, whose mother had just died from lung cancer both signed up. I was excited about the physical challenge, but what consumed me at first was the fundraising. With a couple of yard sales and a few months of emailing family and friends I had reached the goal. I signed up in January for the November 2009 race and by April my fundraising was done. People constantly amazed me. They are just genuinely kind, generous, supportive and have huge hearts.
Here is the other thing that started to happen - it started to not be about me and the physical challenge at all. I heard so many stories of people who had lost loved ones to cancer - who had battled it themselves - IT INSPIRED ME!! I wasn't the least bit shy about asking people for donations. What if it was me, my sister, my mom, my friend...desperate to stop the pain for everyone who is affected by cancer.
After the fundraising was taken care of it was time to start training. Although most of us were doing some kind of exercise already, we started training in earnest about the middle of May. We walked and walked and walked and walked. Far and often. We did lots of back to back long walks as we got closer to November. Maybe 10 miles on Saturday and 10 miles on Sunday. Sometimes more (longest walk was 14 miles) and sometimes less. But we put in the time and got blisters, figured out our sock preference, how long we could go without needing to pee - all kinds of important stuff. And, you know what else...we had fun! We walked and talked, walked and laughed and it was actually pretty darn entertaining. We moaned and groaned, of course, but we kept showing up.
When November finally arrived all nine of us had raised the minimum. In fact, many had raised more than the minimum. I won't say it was easy, but it wasn't hard either.
So we worried about what to pack, what to wear, the weather, our feet, our decorations and our families we were leaving for three days. Then it was here. We were on our way to Dallas. I was an emotional mess the day we left. Just working that long toward a goal and finally getting to the date was pretty powerful stuff. We all had such amazing support it was very touching.
Words won't do justice to the experience, but let me show you just a few of the 100's of picture we took on our adventure.
Day One - We have to get up at 4:00 a.m. to catch a bus ride to Opening Ceremonies! It is early, we drink lots of coffee, but we are so excited to get this adventure underway! As we leave the bus, there are volunteers clapping and cheering for us! Wow, we haven't taken one step yet and they are already telling us we are awesome!
We get to the Opening Ceremonies and start to grasp how big an operation this is. There are 1000's of walkers and pink, pink, pink everywhere you look. It is organized so well and volunteers are everywhere to help you figure out where you are supposed to go. Massive inspirational hot air balloons with messages like "Stay Positive. Whining Causes Blisters!" and "Cheer A Lot. Give Each Other the Hero Treatment". And then this....
Give you goosebumps galore. Then the sun starts rising, the music starts pumping, the banners start walking in. All the reasons we walk carried by the very women we are walking for - THE SURVIVORS! Talk about being an emotional mess. Some of them cried, but ALL of us cried.
Then the walk starts and we are taking our first steps to cover sixty miles! Can't even get my head around how far that is, but it is FAR!! We pass tons of cheering stations like this one.
Entire elementary schools lined up at their school fence with posters and banners. Telling us we are awesome and thanking us for doing the walk. Feeling a little guilty about all the praise. Don't feel like we are the heroes here in this journey. The heroes are the ones who are battling the disease. However, it does raise your spirits and put a little pep in your step to know you are contributing to this amazing cause.
Day one was awesome! We rocked along until about mile 15 and then it was terribly hard. The pace was slower than we expected and dang if we didn't get some fresh blisters even after all the training. We were empowered though. We saw so many people on the route who were genuinely and sincerely appreciative of our efforts. They were shaking our hands, high-fiving us, passing out candy, clapping, just a million different ways they found to thank us for raising money. They were losing wives, husbands, daughters, sisters, friends, their own lives to this disease and the money we had raised was making a difference. We felt like warriors in the battle. Crying now just thinking about it.
The last morning. Up early again to pack up our suitcases and take down our tents. This morning marked the one year anniversary of the passing of Beth and Karen's mom. They wore pink shirts with the words "For Mom" embroidered on them. Tears flowed so freely that morning. So happy that we were on a crusade to do something positive to help fight cancer. What a powerful and amazing way to celebrate the one year anniversary of losing their beloved mother.
We saw and heard so many amazing stories of people who had beaten cancer and those that had lost their battle. We saw two girls with matching shirts on. Turns out they were sisters and their shirt told the story of their mother’s death from breast cancer. They were twelve and thirteen when she died. Their shirt said something "We will always wonder what our lives would have been like if she hadn't had died so young." They are grown now and were walking in her honor. She would have been so proud. We were. More tears.
We reach the last cheering station and it is HUGE!! People on both sides, tons of people, clapping, cheering, handing us water, candy, taking our trash, patting our backs, telling us congratulations and thank you. Lots of folks are telling us we are almost there and we have much to be proud of. Lump in throat. Feel very deserving of the praise today because this has been hard. Not has hard as chemo, but really, really hard.
If you ever have the chance to participate in a cheering station for the 3 Day - DO IT!!
It was an experience that I will never forget. I think we really made a difference! As hard as it was I just couldn't walk away. It changed me. It made me want to do more. We walked for a cure, to give those with cancer hope and to give the rest of us a fighting chance if we are ever faced with cancer ourselves. It was powerful stuff.