When you walk 52 miles in 3 days, you expect to lose weight.
Before the 3-day breast cancer event began, I recall having a conversation with my sister and our 3-day alumni team mate, Aubrey. As my sister and I joked about how much weight we should lose despite all the snacking we would do, Aubrey sat with a big smile on her face ready to burst our bubbles. “Actually,” Aubrey said, “Unfortunately most people gain weight on the 3-day because it basically is a 3-day buffet.”
Aubrey was so right. After three days of continuous munching mile after mile, I ended up gaining six pounds. SIX POUNDS OF PURE MUSCLE. Hah. Or six pounds of calluses.
While accepting my weight gain and dealing with my calluses were some of the less positive moments revolving around the 3-day event, they certainly were not the hardest part of it.
One of the hardest parts of being part of this walk was dealing with the people who chose to use the opportunity of my eager participation to quickly bash Susan G. Komen for whatever reason they had previously heard before. From the very moment I started to share my involvement with the 3-day with other people, I constantly found myself in a debate over the controversies that have faced Komen over the past years. Friends and random people I would interact with in public found it easy to quickly turn my attempt at doing something positive into a chance to completely make me feel like crap for what I was doing. Yes, Komen has dealt with some pretty gnarly accusations and on another blog, I might be comfortable enough to open up the debate but my overall feeling is this:
If an organization exists and successfully helps a massive amount of people, then why is it OK for someone to verbally tear apart a person for being involved?
I also found it interesting that all the people (as far as I knew) had never themselves tried to do some sort of major fundraising challenge. Yet it was so easy for them to instantly bring up all the negativity around something that I was just trying to be optimistic about.
But through all the controversy and debates, the real hard part was the reason I was there. After losing friends and family over the past few years to an assortment of types of cancer, I was walking because I wanted to walk and honor the people that had been effected by cancer in the past.
I had made a simple banner that said “Always in our heart” and on the last day during lunch, my three teammates and I circled around it armed with a Sharpee and way too many names to write down.
When we were done we had over 100 names of people we were walking for who had battled cancer.
As Monique, Aubrey, Alyssa and I walked into the closing ceremony at Petco Park in San Diego, we carried the banner with so much love for the names on that pink piece of fabric. It was definitely one of the saddest but most uplifting moments of my life as I walked with my eyes full of tears towards the finish line. Behind the thousands of us in our white-for-walker Komen shirts, a group of beaming breast cancer survivors stood ready in their special pink shirts for their moment to walk across the finish line. Finally, when all of us in our walker-whites were across the line, we were asked to lift one shoe for the “One Shoe Salute” as the survivors crossed the finish line.
As soon as that group of women (and some men) started across that line, a flash of memories stored in my mind came over me as fast as my eyes were pouring out tears. Like every single person there at the event, we all came to honor someone who has faced cancer. The 3-day walk was EASY compared to what people face through cancer. All the pain I was feeling in my feet didn’t matter as my brain shifted into an extreme moment of reflection of why I participated in the first place.
Memories of blog posts that my friend Lucas Brooks had written about his colon cancer treatments…Happy smiles of him in the snow in Germany during his last couple months alive…The sunset our town had the night he passed…
Flashes of my friend Scott Schipper playing his saxophone with one of his favorite bands, Less Than Jake, months before he died… The impact Scott was able to make by starting the cancer organization “Thrive!”…
The moment my family was told that Alyssa’s mother-in-law Shirley had liver cancer… The way she smiled months later as she told us that her perfect blonde hair was actually a wig during a night we had dinner.. and then the way she was glowing the night I said goodbye to her before she left us for the heavens above.
The 3-day walk was such an incredibly fun experience and through all the blisters and tears, the absolute hardest past of the event was the overall reason it exists in the first place.
Cancer has taken millions of peoples lives and continues to be the second leading cause of death after heart disease.
According to medicalnewstoday.com, “In 2014, about 585,720 American are expected to die of cancer – almost 1,600 people per day.”
With so many people hurt by cancer, besides hoping and fighting towards a cure, the best we can do for the people we love who are facing cancer today, or to those of you who may be battling cancer right now, is to use every single day as a gift. We are fortunate to be here. We are fortunate to be able to wake up every morning, hopefully in good health, and to be able to see the sky show off its daily sunrise and sunset. We are fortunate to have friends and family to hold our hands and keep the faith strong, even when our own faith has dwindled.
For everyone we have lost, their memory lives on in all of us who are still here today.
With so much love,
PS: Special thanks to the awesome people at Chia Warrior for graciously providing us with delicious chia fuel through out our 3-Day journey!