Sunday, September 7, 2008

On Sunday, August 24 I staggered off the urban trail after 60 miles. The occasion was the Cleveland Breast Cancer 3-day, a grueling 60-mile hike through lovely neighborhoods, scenic parks, quirky little communities, and stark urban miles with nary a shade tree in sight. Did I mention the heat? The mercury climbed to 90 the first two days. Unfortunately, many of our pit stops did not include shade - oops!

Anyway, the 1,200 walkers who participated raised over $3,000,000 for breast cancer research, awareness, education and support. Some of the walkers were survivors, others walked to honor someone special. I wore a Miss America-type sash bearing the names of 11 women who have been touched by this devastating disease. My wonderful donors contributed over $3,200 for this effort.

One of the names on my sash is Lois Hatch. Lois was my bridesmaid 28 years ago. She handstitched a quilt for me when my son was born 24 years ago. She fought breast cancer twice and lost the second battle in 2003. She is the reason I took on this challenge.

Now, I'm not usually an outwardly emotional person, but I shed a lot of tears this weekend - especially at the end of the trail. When I reached the entrance to the Cleveland Convention Center, I was startled to hear a roar - a stadium cheer went up as I entered the space. A gauntlet of cheering people - walkers who had arrived ahead of me - stood in two long lines, forming a path. They clapped and cheered and held out their hands to touch me as I passed by, tears streaming down my grubby sunburnt cheeks.

Two women who had befriended me on the trail - Kitty, a 1-year cancer survivor, and her sister Beth - shrieked midway down the line and the three of us hugged and jumped up and down for a moment. Then I passed through, was given a victory shirt and a pink rose, food and water. Then I turned around, found Kitty and Beth and began cheering the walkers arriving after me.

The next day, I felt stronger (but a bit stiff) and able to walk tall (that part is figurative - I actually hobbled gingerly, trying to avoid pressure on my blisters). I found myself thinking, "Next year, I'll do this differently" and then catching myself. Next year??? Am I nuts? I knew I wouldn't be walking again in 2009 because the event is planned for the day of my mother's 70th birthday celebration. Except that when she found out about the conflict, mom offered to reschedule her party, and then some friends offered to join me as a team. It looks like I may do this again.

Many thanks to everyone who made this possible. My donation website will be active until about September 24 - if you would like to contribute to the dream of a world without breast cancer, please click the 3-Day icon in the right-hand column. Thank you.

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