The Walk

If you have never heard of the Susan G. Komen 3-day walk I will tell you it is unlike anything you have ever seen. Before the walk, I would have told you it is an organization that wants to find a cure for breast cancer by hosting a 60-mile walk to raise funds. While this is a true statement, after the walk I would state it differently. Now I would say it is a group of passionate people who walk miles and miles with determination and purpose, and they raise money while doing it. It is a slight difference, but it is an enough of one that it changes everything. Before, it was a good cause to support. After, it is a grassroots movement, which has dedicated time and resources to become stakeholders in a cure for breast cancer.
The logistics alone are mind boggling. As a detail oriented multi-tasker, I could not begin to comprehend how all of this comes together. The hours and hours of volunteer time put in so that 2,400 participants could eat, bathe, sleep, and walk is unbelievable. There were over 350 crew members dedicated to serve the walkers in any way possible so that they could complete their mission without concern for their safety, or any other need. Focus. Single-minded focus. Do what ever it takes to keep them walking.
The walkers themselves were as committed a group of people as I have ever seen. We came from all walks of life and all levels of fitness. Some came in teams. Others came alone. All of us had our own reasons to try to walk 60 miles in 3 days. Many, like me, wore the names and faces of those whose lives have been disrupted by cancer on their backs. Others, like me, were trying to prove to themselves that they could do it, that physically they could rise to the challenge of pushing their bodies. I watched women with blisters covering their feet put on their shoes and walk. I saw ladies, with ice strapped to their knees, keep walking. There was one woman in a wheelchair with her team pushing her along the roadways. While the atmosphere was lighthearted and jovial, the underlying mood was unwavering…a dogged determination not to quit, but to walk.
By design, the walk pushes your body beyond its limits in order to replicate the cancer journey. It is uncomfortable and hard. You have to keep going in order to finish. You find that you can take much more than you ever thought possible. Your spirit rises up to meet the goal you set. By the third day, we looked like battle weary, walking wounded. People limping. Legs bandaged. Let’s just say that the volunteer medical team got a work out at each pit stop along the route. Our pace slowed considerably, as our blisters increased. But as our bodies grew exhausted, our bond deepened and like the cancer journey, we learned to care for each other. If someone had to stop, others joined in to make sure all were safe. There was no looking down on someone who needed a rest, because at times we all needed one. It was a team effort to get every walker over the finish line.
The community members came out to cheer us on. They clapped and gave us candy and water. They played music and held up signs. The traffic crew dressed in crazy costumes. As we crossed the streets, they danced and motivated us to continue the fight to finish. The medics on bikes dressed in bras and bunny ears circled us to take care of any injuries. Police officers in each town came out to direct traffic and they were great sports as walkers gave them pink boas to wear. The carnival-like parade continued on and on through country roads and city streets. It was remarkable. I have never been a part of anything like it.
At the end, there was a victory walk. Every participant was cheered through a tunnel of walkers singing and yelling words of triumph. I had the feeling that I did on my last day of treatment. “I AM THROUGH!!! I MADE IT!!!” It was exhilarating. And when the last walkers came through the noise level went even higher. We did it together. The closing ceremony was a celebration of that fact. It was emotional and many tears were cried, but there was a sense of accomplishment that hung in the air. It was tangible and you could feel it. Oh yeah, and we raised 6.1 million dollars. While that is a huge number, it was the walk, not the money, that bonded us all as survivors. Survivors who pushed ourselves beyond our limits and finished what we started. We had a common goal, and we achieved it. As long as the walk continues, there will be more people who feel the heartbeat of desire for a cure. Eventually I believe the cure will come through the passionate commitment of the walkers.
Will I do it again? It is too soon to ask. I may or I may not. Similar to having a baby, I have not forgotten the pain just yet. We will see. But I know this, even if I don’t walk the fight will continue on. There are too many people who are tired of seeing cancer steal life. The Susan G. Komen 3-day walk is a way to fight back, and I believe there are many pink warriors out there who plan to carry the torch until there is a cure…I am one of them.

One thought on “The Walk

  1. There are souls in this world which have the gift of
    finding joy everywhere and of leaving it behind them
    when they go,(Faber) Michelle finds joy even on a
    60 mile walk. (Oh my aching feet!)

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