I want to thank everyone who supported my walk for the Susan G. Komen Walk for the Cure. It was a wonderful experience and I am so glad that I was able to be a part of it.
Unfortunately, Thursday night I got terrible food poisoning. I haven't been that sick since I was a child and was unable to walk at all move, much less walk on Friday. But Saturday morning I woke up feeling great so I was able to join the walk.
The first day was about 19 miles. We walked all around Arlington Heights and other Chicago suburbs. It was amazing to see all of the support from the community. Big and small groups would gather on lawns or in driveways and offer cold waters, bags of ice, food, and cheers. It was unbelievable to see women whose heads were bald from chemo, or wearing a scarf, to thank us for walking. It was so moving to watch my fellow walkers and the signs or pictures they had posted on their shirts or bags to honor the people they knew with cancer.
I finished the second day and was able to relax at camp for a while. They had so many tents to explore - free back massages, free foot massages, a cell phone charging station, a tent with games like bingo or the show 'Glee' playing so you could veg out for a minute, medical tents, showers, and lots of food.
There was also a place to stretch out or do yoga by the water. It was a great place to reflect on what had happened and thoughts throughout the day. I spent a lot of time reading (actually reading a book uninterrupted!) and writing here.
The memorial tents at camp were very moving as well. There is one tent for each 3 Day Walk they have this year. Inside the big tent there were pictures of walkers and crew members that had been in the 3 Day in the past. You could write to remember or honor people directly on the tent or you could write letters to the person in the book.
The first letter I read was from a daughter to her mother, thanking her for her fight. It described how her Mother didn't want to tell the daughter about the tests and test results that she was having because her daughter was pregnant and didn't want to worry her. She eventually had to tell her the news that it was breast cancer. The day her Mother was having a mastectomy, her daughter was in labor.
I revisited the tent later that night before going to bed. A man waited outside the tent for a long time, so I asked him if he was in line. He stared into the tent and said no. Then he looked at me and said that his wife, Jean, and he had done the walk years before. Her picture was inside the tent. (She was beautiful) He wanted to say goodnight to her and take it all in again before going to bed himself.
He said that he does the walk every year for her.
Everyone ate together and listened to announcements for the next day. There was music and games.
We also heard from a woman whose daughter, Sarah Jane, had breast cancer. It was a moving story and there wasn't a dry eye in the house. It hit close to home because her daughter was 29 when she found out she had breast cancer. It hit close to home because she was 24 weeks pregnant when she found out. She fought cancer, had chemotherapy, and continued to keep her weight up so she could support her baby. It hit close to home because she was able to have her baby, a healthy baby boy. Her mother recalled a story when her daughter was talking to her new son and thought that no one could hear her. As she held her son she whispered that she was the happiest woman in the world.
Sarah Jane's cancer spread after the birth and passed away shortly thereafter.
Her mother took care of her daughter and her grandson. When her daughter passed this past March, she committed herself to this walk. She will walk every year from now on.
There were so many veteran walkers. Breast cancer survivors and supporters came year after year, some seven years in a row, to support this cause. Each one with their own reason to keep their legs and feet moving despite the limps and blisters.
The next morning, everyone in camp woke up around 5am to clean up, eat breakfast, and start walking early.
After breakfast, we took buses to Chicago. There we walked the bike path into Soldier Field.
Sunday was hard in the morning. I had overextended my knee and it started to rain. I was wearing a poncho, hot, tears streaming down my cheeks from my leg pain, and walking alone along Lake Michigan. I was mad. Mad about the weather, mad about my leg, mad about my Mom. Mad that she couldn't be there. Mad about so many things. I kept walking. And I walked through it.
There are so many emotions with cancer and the death of a parent. I didn't spend a lot of time talking to people that day. I thought a lot and I allowed myself the time to work through some of the feelings that have been there for years, some of the feelings that will always be there, and some feelings that have risen. It was wonderful. I walked 17 miles that day and when I arrived at Soldier Field the sun was shining.
At the end of the walk, inside Soldier Field stadium, there were people cheering all of the walkers on, thanking us and handing us all a rose for the journey.
When all of the walkers had come in, we had the closing ceremony. The walkers came the stage first, gathering around the front. The crew came in second. When the breast cancer survivors who had walked the 60 miles came in and walked to the stage, all of the walkers took off one shoe to honor their fight and their walk. That's when the tears really came. I held my Liam in one arm and one shoe in the other and just cried. I am doing this for him, for those strong amazing survivors, and for me.
There is just something about this walk and the cancer experience that inspires people to come back year after year. Many women and men that I had met have done this walk for years, some have done it seven years in a row. Each person has a reason - their mother, daughter, sister, and even brother in-law had gotten cancer and they were moved to sign up. Men and women ranging from 16-70 participated in this weekend. Some had cancer and still participated, talking the shuttle bus when they had to and getting off to walk when they felt stronger. Some had blisters the size of my fist on their feet, some pulled muscles, sprained ankles, burst capillaries, and got heat rash. But I learned at the closing ceremony that our Chicago walk had raised 4.2 MILLION dollars!!! 4.2 million dollars closer to the end of breast cancer. 4.2 million dollars closer to a cure.
I had raised $2,727 myself and was able to walk because of all of you. Thank you so much for your love and support over these last eight months. All of the blisters, training in the rain, and tears were worth it.
I love you all and thank you again.