What I Saw At the Walk

October 23, 2007

What I saw at the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, continued from previous post

I saw women and men united in a common cause, but not necessarily the one that I had suspected.  It wasn’t that we were all walking against breast cancer.  It was that each woman and man there had come out to support a survivor or walk in memory of a pathfinder who had lost her battle with cancer. 

I saw hundreds of small groups here and there, scattered across the Hunt Valley Mall parking lot and environs, dressed in matching t-shirts, scarves, hats, or simply clasping each others’ hands.  Walking with their friends.  Walking with their family.  Walking in memory of one who mattered.

I saw a group of coworkers united as they walked by in green shirts decorated with the name of their company and the name of their survivor, walking proudly along with them.

I saw a group of friends clasp one anothers’ hands as they walked silently with the words “In memory” on their backs.

I saw a trio of young women walk tall and proud with pink scarves in their hair.

I saw a quartet of seniors walking slowly, but not silently, behind them.  Four women with pink shirts, caps, and scarves, all survivors.  All together.  All laughing, and going to and from the exhibits like toddlers eager to see what would be next.

I saw a merry band of walkers in pink satin capes, joking with one another as they approached the start line.

I saw a man walking alone, holding a sign commemorating his late wife, at the finish line.

I saw teenagers handing out stuffed bears, musicians playing, volunteers making it all happen, and a well-staffed tent just for survivors.

I saw people gasp as we passed them with our stroller decked out with signs (“Walking with WhyMommy” and “IBC: Breast Cancer with NO LUMP”).  Very few people asked me directly about IBC, but dozens asked my cousins, and we passed out the cards I’d made for BlogHer and thought to bring along at the last minute.

I saw women lining up for pictures to commemorate the day, stickers for their hats, stuff for their bags, and medical literature on a new chemotherapy regimen for their cancer.

I saw overstuffed mascots, toilet paper giveaways, sun chip snacks, and a host of other booths from local and national retailers eager to give out paper and support the cause.

I saw entirely too many teenagers and young women walking in pairs or small groups with the words “For Mom” on their backs.

I saw grandmothers walking the mile, for their friends, for their family, and for each other.

I saw grown men cry.

And then I turned to my family and friends, and I saw their love for me and my mother-in-law, and I thanked God that we could fight this fight against breast cancer.  That we have the science, the medicine, and the tools to begin the fight, and the faith to finish it.  I took their hands and began to walk.

What I Saw at the Race

October 23, 2007

On Sunday, October 14, I walked a mile in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure to raise awareness of inflammatory breast cancer.  I wrote last week about how it felt to walk it, and how hard it was, just 3 days after chemo, but I want to share with you all a bit of what I saw at the race. 

I didn’t know what to expect.  I had never been to a benefit walk before, and I hadn’t run a race since high school.  I had read blogs of friends who had done a walk for breast cancer, and I diligently bought and read a beautiful photoessay book called Why We Walk, but I wasn’t sure how the walk would speak to me.  Would it be a great big massive upwelling of support and tears?  Would survivors who had never met hug each other and be all gushy?  Would I be overcome at the sight of the thousands of walkers united to raise money, awareness, and support for those with a breast cancer diagnosis?

What would that cold morning in October bring?

As it turns out, the race was a beautiful, unifying event, but not exactly in the way I expected.  There were 32,000 walkers registered, raising $2.7 M, all walking in the same direction, at the same time, with determination to fight this cancer in any way that they could.  It was a stunning reminder of the number of women and men that are affected each year by breast cancer.

But there weren’t as many pink shirts as I expected.

I should back up a little.  Susan G. Komen For The Cure was founded to honor Suzy Komen, who was diagnosed 25 years ago at the age of 33.  She lived 3 years after her diagnosis.  Her sister, Nancy Brinker (now a DC local) founded the organization and the race in her honor.  Every year, at every race, the survivors don pink shirts and hats, and are feted with roses, stickers (for their hats — one for every year), music, and giveaways from local or national companies.  The pink hats and shirts make survivors easy to pick out in a crowd.  (They also turned my simple red hoodie into a cacophony of colors fighting amongst one another; but that was my dumb luck.  The weather turned so quickly I forgot a winter coat and had to make do with red hoodie and scarf.  I never realized how COLD my neck would get without my long hair to cover it.)  Whereas the white shirts of the other walkers and runners were covered with tiny sponsor names and logos, the back of each pink shirt was adorned simply with the words:

I walk for those who have walked before me
and for those who walk beside me

25 years

It made a statement.

On the one hand, the number of women in the pink shirts was dwarfed by the sheer number of supporters that they had brought with them.  I was, in some weird way, thrown off at the fact that I didn’t see dozens of young survivors, moms my age, walking around with their babies in strollers and toddlers at hand.  I had expected it.

On the other hand, even one pink shirt is too many.  This disease affects entirely too many women and men.  We have to find a better way to screen for this disease and prevent its development … before it becomes so deadly.  We really do.

With that in mind, I should mention that I walked not for myself, but with my mother-in-law, Jane, who I love, and for my internet friends LawMom, Stella, Aimee, Angela, and all of my IBC sisters who are fighting for their lives.  Their names were on my back as I walked that day, and I thought of each of them often.

This is getting really long.  I’m going to continue this in my next post.  Please bear with me, and leave comments on the next post if you’ve got ’em.

baby in blankets

Little Bear and Widget, all bundled up against the cold October morning. Aren’t these blankets gorgeous? The blue one was a baby gift from WhyDaddy’s aunt; the yellow one was hand-knit by Grammy, and the pink one was quilted by a friend of ours from BREW beagle rescue, and given to us by the whole group.  Absolutely lovely.  And warm.

WhyMommy Walks

October 17, 2007

Every day, I am stronger.

Where last week my major physical accomplishment was a walk around the block (and what an accomplishment that was!), this week I accomplished something that I truly thought was beyond my grasp.

I walked in the Susan G. Komen Race For the Cure.  That’s right.  I didn’t sit on the sidelines.  I didn’t ride the trolley.  I put one foot in front of the other, and, with the help of my amazing family and new friend C.E., I walked a mile.

Sure, I faltered.  Sure, I tired quickly.  But family and friends kept me going, and, when I needed it, they stopped and rested with me.  My mother-in-law put her arms around my waist and kept me going.  My younger cousin’s inexorable spirit kept cheering me on and snapping pictures of us as we walked.  My older cousin pushed my toddler in the stroller and set the pace.  My cousin-in-law kept talking to me and encouraging me to walk if I could.  My husband, God bless my husband, carried our baby the whole way, cradled in his arms, so the baby could sleep through and take his morning nap.  My husband and father-in-law even registered for the race at the last minute (they’re not listed at the link above; their registrations brought our team donation to over $700) to walk with us and cheer my mother-in-law and me on.

And we made it.  We walked the mile.  Together.  And at the end of the race, teenagers ran up and gave us pink roses and Boyd’s bears, and we laughed and smiled and went out to breakfast.

It was an amazing experience.

It did, however, wear me out.  I’ve spent the last few days recovering, and working through the bone pain that has only increased with the second Taxol treatment, building on the first.  My body hurts.  But that which does not kill us makes us stronger, and today, I am stronger than I was last week.

The event itself was amazing.  I didn’t know what to expect, but what I saw was dozens of breast cancer survivors with tens of thousands of supporters.  I think I’ll try to write about it again tomorrow, and talk about What I Saw At the Race. 

In the meantime, check out who’s talking about Breast Cancer Awareness Month and IBC!