***It has taken me months to write this because it makes me emotional just to think about it. It was the greatest most difficult experiance of my life and I can't wait to do it again. Disclaimer- This won't be very funny. Cancer sucks that way.***
Two years ago, I had the pleasure of watching my sister walk in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. It was heart warming and emotional and being newly pregnant didn't help the emotional part of the situation. I brought my daughter and we made posters and set up camp outside the lunch area to wait for her. What we saw was indescribable. I cry now just thinking of the women (and men) that we saw walking and struggling and pushing themselves, all to raise money for breast cancer awareness and research. That day I told my husband that I was going to walk the following year.
39.4 miles and $1,800.00 was a large hill to overcome. I thought the money would be the hard part, but it wasn't. The support I received from my family and friends was overwhelming. In a matter of months, I had the money I needed and had started walking to prepare. Nothing, I repeat NOTHING, could have prepared me for that weekend.
I started off the weekend with one goal: to finish. I didn't care if I came in dead last, I just wanted to finish. I'm not in great shape, I bake the worst banana cookies in the world, and my house looks like a hurricane came through it. All I wanted to do was start something and finish it.
I rode to Houston with my gracious friend and her husband. I was thankful to have him to drive us because I knew that after walking almost 40 miles, I wouldn't be in any condition to drive. Looking back he was our own knight in shining armour! Checking in was wonderful and the event eve could not have been better. Our group showed up with about $250 extra dollars and we were able to pass it on to another walker who was just shy of her fundraising goal. We had a nice dinner out, and a less than nice conversation about the air conditioner setting in the hotel room.
Me: I hope you like to sleep cold.
Ria: Not really. Like how cold are we talking?
Me: Really cold. You're lucky I didn't bring my travel fan.
Ria: Shit, that's cold.
Me: OH MY GOSH! Just put on some more clothes and go to sleep!
The morning of the walk, I was buzzing. Literally, because it was freezing cold Medina outside and I was in shorts and a short sleeve shirt. We rode the buses to the starting line and huddled together in an effort not to freeze our ta-tas off. During the opening ceremony, we stretched and listened to various women speak. I was crying before I ever took one step. Listening to these women talk about their struggles and triumpts and losses to cancer was sobering. It had been almost two years since losing my grandfather to cancer, and the weight of the grief still knocks me over sometimes. I was a hot (freezing) mess. Never in my life did I feel like I had such purpose just walking. When it was time to go, they cut the rope.... or dropped the gate... or something else really symbolic. I was way in the back so I'm not sure exactly what happened, but people started moving.
At the first official rest stop, I was introduced to something that changed my life. The peanut butter and jelly graham cracker sandwich in the little purple wrapper. I swear, next year I'm walking again just to get the chance to eat another one of those sandwiches. They also gave us the coldest, most refreshing orange slices I've ever had in my ENTIRE life. Maybe it was the heat or the miles getting to me, but everything was just so wonderful. By the time I left the first quick stop, my friends were getting to the lunch stop. My sister waited for me at lunch and we sat down and inhaled a sandwich, got some medical attention and headed back out on the road. This was when I started to hurt. I don't know if it was because we stopped so long for lunch or if the miles were catching up to me, but it was getting harder. When we reached the halfway mark for Saturday (13.1 miles), my sister called it a day. She was walking a half marathon each day for one complete marathon over the course of the weekend. As much as I wanted to go back to the hotel with her, I made up my mind that I wasn't stopping. In hindsight, I probably should have. Once I was back on the road, I found myself walking alone again. The women in front of me were getting further ahead, and there were fewer women coming up from behind me. Then, out of nowhere, I heard this car honking as it was coming down Post Oak. People had been honking and waving and cheering us on all day, so this was nothing new. I threw out a quick wave and kept walking. But the crazy woman in the car kept on honking. When I finally turned to look, it was the most amazing sight in the world. It was my mother! My mother and my crazy Aunt! They pulled into the quick stop to sit with me for a bit. We hugged and cried and hugged some more. Seeing them, and knowing that they were in the city was enough to keep my pushing forward. They left to go shopping and look for some blister pads and I kept walking. It was turning into a bad episode of Finding Nemo. "Just keep walking. Just keep walking. What do we do? We wallllllllkkkkkk." When I hit mile 16, I had to tell myself, "This is it. You only have 10 miles to go. KEEP WALKING FORWARD."
That van left, but another one took its place. It wasn't just any sweeper van, it was the head of all the sweepers. He was nice and caring, but I wasn't having any of it. He finally stopped the van and got out on the street with me. After briefly explaining that it was getting darker, and the neighborhood was becoming unsafe for me to walk alone in, he managed to get me in the car. When he closed the door an entire day of emotion and physical stress came pouring out of me like Niagara falls. I'm not talking about slowly falling tears and a slight frown, I'm talking FULL ON UGLY CRY! Like, Kim Kardashian and Julia Roberts combined UGLY CRY. All I wanted to do was finish. That was my goal all day long, just to finish. I JUST WANT TO FREAKING FINISH! As we rode past the dark building and made our way to the closing ceremony, I began to hatch a plan.
Me: So, that was a bad area of town?
Captain Sweeper: Yes. It's really not safe for you to be walking alone over there.
Me: Where are we now?
CS: Getting into the Rice University area. This is a great area of the city. The Wellness Village isn't very far.
Me: So this is a safe area?
Me: Great, stop the car.
CS: Excuse me?
Me: You said I couldn't walk over there because it wasn't safe. This is safe area. PLEASE let me finish this walk? Please?
CS: Alright lady. You've got about a mile and half left to the Wellness Village. Think you can make it?
Me: Nope. But I'm damn well gonna' try.
And so I started walking again. My feet and legs felt like jello. Extremely painful and sore jello. At one point, my mother and aunt found me again. My aunt even got out and walked with me a little while. Once in the center of Rice University, I started hearing signing again. The absolute worst singing in the world and my heart exploded! It was the six women who sat with me in the park. They were waiting for me! Through my tears, I hugged them all and I had no words to express what it meant knowing that these women had waited for me.
Together, we turned the corner and walked that last 100 yards hand in hand. At the end of the day, I crossed the finish line with six of the most wonderful women I've even had the honor to meet. I finished last, but I wasn't alone. I had never met them before that day, and I've never seen them since, but that day we were sisters. United as one and walking towards a common goal. Waiting for me at the finish line were my wonderful mother, my crazy aunt, my devoted sister, and my two beautiful twin nieces. Seeing those baby girls, I prayed that our efforts over the course of the weekend would not be wasted. Every dollar raised and every step taken was another step in the fight against breast cancer. Maybe if we keep walking, those girls won't have to grow up in a world full of cancer. Just maybe.
Chris: How are you feeling?
Me: Like I've been walking for the last 12 hours. How the hell are you feeling?
Jess: We are just so proud of you! This was a long day and I know it was really hard at the end. We are going to go. We'll let you get some rest.
Me: Please, just let me die in peace.
*** Did I mention I get cranky sometimes. Because I do. Very. Cranky. *** As I lay in bed, I found myself unable to move. My back hurt, my arms hurt, my legs hurt. There were parts of me that I didn't know existed that hurt. AND I still had another day of walking ahead of me. After a few minutes of laying down, Ria came back to the room to come to bed.
Ria: Shit girl. It's so cold in here!
Me: It's really not.
Ria: Well, I'm turning it down. And if you don't like it, you can get up and change it yourself! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
***It's possible she didn't laugh quite like that, but it's been a few months and I'm the one with the blog, so I get to write what I want. This could also be where I insert the HORRENDOUS picture that she took of me passed out, but again, my blog, my rules.***
Look for the conclusion of my Avon Walk experience in the next post. If you are interested in donating to the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer and to my fundraising efforts, here is a link!