Lessons from a “Little” Walking

My friend asked me if the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer was fun.My response was that “fun” was not the right word. It was emotional, inspiring, funny, exhausting, cold & wet, memorable, touching, sentimental, encouraging, amazing, and life–affirming.

Strength

Tamera was the reason I walked this weekend. Yes there are many family and friends who have or are currently experiencing breast and other cancers, but when Tamera was willing to sign up to Walk after just finishing chemo and not yet finishing radiation I just had to join her. To complete the Walk is a huge accomplishment for anyone who had just finished cancer treatment, but Tamera had also not been able to walk just six months earlier due to hip and other medical issues.

Her strength is amazing. We began training before she finished radiation. Her gait was awkward and her speed was slow. Every time was met to walk we would joke about needing a wheelchair or that I would give her a piggyback ride, but come hell or high water she would complete the half marathon, 13 miles, each day. As we continued to train and she stopped receiving radiation, her strides became longer and faster. As her muscles grew and tighten so did her self-confidence. I was thrilled for her as we made it to the half marathon point on day one. And I was floored when she wanted to continue walking! Her strength to complete walking 16 miles just six months after being unable to take a step is truly amazing.

avon walk for breast cancerDetermination

But Tamera was not the only person to show incredible strength during the Walk. There were a multitude of other women and men who push their limits and accomplished so much during that weekend. One woman stands out in my mind. Day two of the Walk started out slower with many people nursing blisters and contracted muscles. Around mile two we passed Cheri. My heart went out to her. Each and every step was slow and painful. It was the beginning of a day of walking and she didn’t look like she would make it one block. As Tamera and I passed her we called out encouragement to this woman walking alone.

Much to our surprise, we ran into her again after one of the rest stops. Again, she was moving slowly and one could sense the pain radiating from her. More words of encouragement were sent as we once again passed her by. A third time the same thing happened. Tamera and I were amazed that this woman had walked over five miles when we didn’t think she would make it a block. She was walking alone but had the determination and will to keep going.

Around mile ten we stopped to chat with family who came to cheer us on. Our jaws dropped. Carina passed us with strong determined strides. I am positive that she made it through that day. She was walking for Mia, a friend or family member, and like so many others found that inner courage and determination to withstand some temporary pain and discomfort to make a difference in others lives.

Generosity

Many people gave so much financially in these economic times. The Chicago Walk raised over $7 million dollars. But the generosity that meant so much that weekend did not come from a bank account. It came from friends, family, strangers, crew and fellow walkers.

After Tamera happily headed back to the Wellness Village after heroically walking 16 miles, I felt compelled to try to finish all 26 miles, a full marathon, slated for that day. I am grateful to two wonderful Ohio transplants who allowed me to walk a mile or two in their company. Their openness and acceptance helped me through the first part of the Walk without my walker buddy. As I continued it began to rain and a bum knee started to act up. I walked on with my spirits dipping with each step. Then in came the angels. Strangers who honked as they passed by, incredible volunteer crew members who had seemingly unending positive energy, and fellow walkers who would slow down to ensure I was ok and provide me with words of encouragement. Words cannot express how much it meant to receive these random acts of kindness. But the feeling will stay with me forever. As we headed into that second day I had an unending supply of my own generosity and compassion to pass on to others, just as it had been passed on to me.

A big thank you goes out to Edie, Dan, Cheryl, and Norma for their signs, cheers, and smiling faces as we passed by.

Joy & Sadness

The most joyous and moving part of the Walk had to be Mile 13 on the last day. As we approached the mile marker, the sidewalk was lined with people cheering, clapping, and high-fiving us at every step. Everyone had to stop to take a picture at the marker.But there was no pushing, shoving, or cutting. Everyone wanted to take your picture, hug you afterward, and soak all of the joy that was radiating from that spot. And the joy continued. There was still over 50 feet to the finish line. The pack of well wishers was thicker and louder here. Smiles and tears of joy overflowed from every face.

As we reached the arch signifying the end of our two day journey, I was caught up in the pride, amazement, happiness, and sense of accomplishment that Tamera was experiencing as she met her daughter under that arch. My smile and tears became laughter as I watched them embrace. Then I saw another scene just to my right. A woman received a 3 Minute Ribbon.

Every three minutes a woman or man is diagnosed with breast cancer. Since the beginning of the Walk, every three minutes a 3 Minute Ribbon would be given to a walker. So here in the midst of the incredible joy was the stark reality of life. It made my heart stop.It was an incredible reminder to live each moment with the joy of crossing that finish line. Unfortunately there will always be sadness and pain in our lives, but do not increase it by giving up your joy to worry or regret. Live each day under that finish line and it will help you take bad moments in stride.

Hope

Hope was the overwhelming feeling throughout the weekend. Hope that we would all make it through the Walk not matter what our story or physical condition. Hope that the funds raised would help those who could not pay for their treatments. Hope that the generosity would lead to research to find a cure. Hope that the youth crew and the young walkers would not have to experience this disease. Hope that tomorrow would be that little bit better than today.

Take your own walk this week. Say hello to your neighbors including the crabby one at the end of the block. See how many smiles you receive in kind and feel the difference in the air as you spread your happiness and contentment to others. All too often in our modern world we are separated from others. Get out walking and make a connection. Then share with us what you learn after you walk with joy.

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