Doctors, housewives, hair stylists, flight attendants, lawyers, college students, little old church ladies and I’m pretty sure even ex-strippers.(hey I saw the dancing) I spent this last weekend surrounded by some of the strongest women I’ve ever met. I found myself in the middle of nearly 1800 boobie burdened soldiers and soldierettes, all collaborating together unselfishly for dedications many of us have never dealt with or even considered. Everyone I met this weekend was from a different walk of life. Each coming from a wide range of social circles, having different personalities and all walking for various personal convictions. There were lovers, “fighters”, “survivors”, lovers of the fighters and survivors and then those who just came to show support, give hope or simply deliver a smile into a moment where a smile didn’t seem to fit.
Going into the Susan G. Komen 3-Day I had no idea what to expect. But as day one started and we approached lunch time and mile 12 it soon became reality. No matter how physically “fit” I had thought I was, I was not prepared for what came with each titillating mile. My knees, ankles and feet hurt like they had been dancing inside a cake mixer. My thighs throbbed like they were being pumped full of hot lava and my back was stiffer than light pole sprinkled with Viagra. Mile after mile the pain grew, but so did the experience. While somehow fighting back the man tears, I was able to have some incredible conversations and learn so much about what this event meant to survivors, fighters as well as the friends and family of those affected. Day one was tough, but my highlight of the day was walking the second half of the day with an older gentleman who was on his 10th event. THIS YEAR!! Yep, he is walking in all 14 cities in honor of his late wife. This weekend he cleared his 600th mile of the 840 total he will soon complete in a west coast city just 4 weekends from now. Talk about not being able to quit. I’m a machine, right? I work-out like an animal with the endurance of the energizer bunny of meth, I got this. If this guy can do it and do so with many years to my senior, I MUST not quit. So a few cocktails from Ted’s Montana Grill, and an “Optimism” flag later. I made it through day 1. (Don’t judge folks, alcohol does give you courage. It’s not ALWAYS used just to spit horrible pick-up lines at your local watering hole.) And I needed courage damn it!!
I had a blast the first 21.3 miles of day one. I met probably 100+ people that day alone and laughed while also wanting to cry all day. It was truly amazing. And despite my desire to cut my legs off with a dull plastic knife, I continued on to Day 2. It was no different than day one except for the fact that my legs now felt like rubber packed full of razor blades. Mile 1 -7 was rough, but hey I was moving still. The afternoon became more difficult and the knee wraps and my love affair with BioFreeze soon began to fade. I found myself in agony and ready to fall on my face and cry. I began to slow my pace and my team forged ahead after lunch. And because I was walking SLOWER than an old grandma I also had the chance to meet a few as they began to pass me. Here is where my Day-2 highlight came into play. As most did through-out the event, the women would come up along my side and ask how I was doing, I would respond, try to crack a joke and act like I was totally not sore and then proceed to ask them the same. Well hold onto your Hello Kitty thongs here folks because if Hallmark had an award for inspirational cards, this would be on it. She proceeded to tell me about her own fight with breast cancer and…….. I quote: “I don’t expect to make it through the holidays, so I’m just walking out my last days doing what I love, helping people. Every little bit helps you know!” Yes folks this beautiful 62 year old lady is losing her battle to this horrific disease and yet she is still strong enough to “walk the walk”. It was in this moment my feet felt no pain and my heart began to ache instead. Here I am this young bullet proof man, crying about a few aches and pains yet this lovely dying women would rather be nowhere else in her last days than helping other men and women in an unselfish hope to make their days better and life last longer despite her own aches and pains. Needless to say, I now had the strength to push on. Not for me, but for her this angel God had placed on the same sidewalk at this exact moment.
The nightly celebrations, dinner, dancing (and I really mean wobbling) brought comfort and a relaxing tone over the group as each evening came to a end. “Lights out” came around 9:30 and it was never soon enough to cuddle up on that fabulous concrete floor and pass out quicker than a late night during Spring Break 98’. And speaking of crazy, was there really a dancing Pink Gorilla Saturday night or did I dream that?
Folks I would love nothing more than to boast of how I was able to finish all 60 miles on Day-3, but let’s face it, I’m no super hero. While I met several hundreds of them this weekend, but I in fact have not reached that level of awesomeness YET. I began Day-3 with the intentions of giving it my all and that I did, but I was quickly and humbly brought back to reality as I took the “Sweep” van to the end of the route. Day-3 was indeed humbling, as part of me felt very defeated. But in reality it has sparked an even bigger fire inside me that I see to be a true blessing going forward. And while the weekend was tough, fun, emotional and rewarding, it wasn’t until this morning that it all truly hit home.
As I woke up from my warm cozy bed, feeling rested for the first time since last Thursday, I headed out for the day. It was at a red light leaving my regular Chick-fil-A that I broke down for the first time. This funny man, full of muscles and smiles burst into tears thinking back on what had truly taken place over the weekend. I had experienced something amazing and life changing and yet while I had felt the pain and sorrow alongside all the others over the weekend, I was now able to return back to my normal life. A life free of this disgusting disease, while so many others, all my new friends, had to go home and continue to face the reality that has become their lives. Coping with family members they only spend time with in thoughts, prayers and memories. Some continue to make doctor’s appointments, go to treatments, living with severe pain and restricting their lives to a disease that does not deserve to have such a hold on the lives of anyone, especially our loved ones.
I’ve always had a huge respect for women as my grandmother to this day continues to be one of my best friends, my mother I owe my life and my sister continues to keep me grounded as sometimes I fly away. But after this weekend and seeing so many truly “rough it” and push thru the pain that I myself could no longer handle and do so while continuing to nurture and support others all the while putting their own discomforts aside, I have an new respect and a new place in my heart for these beautiful boobie baring icons that have brought us into this world.
I’ve heard so many stories from people who “do not support Susan G. Komen” during my fundraising and prior to the event. And after participating and witnessing in person what this organization has done and how these women are effected by the change, it becomes perfectly clear REALLY quick, it has nothing to do with the money, it has little to do with the foundation, the focus is on the lives of these men and women and the dollars or pennies add up to giving someone a better life. Someone who may even be healthy and free of cancer, someone like myself. Thank you supporters, thank you Susan G. Komen and thank you to all of my new friends from the Atlanta 3-Day!