Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving Is What You Make It

This year I spent Thanksgiving away from from my family due to my current work assignment. I am uncertain what made this year different as I haven't always spent Thanksgiving with my family. But for a reason that I cannot put my finger one, I really wanted to share this Thanksgiving with my family.

Maybe it was knowing that my office wasn't going to do anything special to recognize the holiday. I mean when it is less than 24 hours to the holiday and talks are just beginning about 'What should we do for the office?', anything that was going to be organized for 125 people should have happened well before then.

A few good friends that I know were on this assignment with me. For some of us it had been awhile since we had last seen one another. The next thing I knew a plan was in place to go to Ruby Tuesday for lunch. Ruby Tuesday was having a holiday meal - roasted turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, and sugar snap peas. So off we went. And you know what? The meal was really good! But what I think was even better was the company.

We talked about our job and how it take us away from the people we love in addition to making us desensitized to the fact of there even being a holiday to celebrate. How everyday is just another day unless we are at home and able to celebrate with our families. But on the flip side, here we were celebrating the holiday together as friends who were reunited on this assignment and making the best of it. We shared some laughs and funny holiday stories. We even left there with our bellies full (minus the sweet potato and pecan pie!).

Later two of us decided to see a movie after work. Although it wasn't the movie I would have picked (more about the movie in another post), it was still good to continue the day with someone else and not just return to my hotel room. It reminded me of last year when I did spend Thanksgiving with my family and we went to see a movie Thanksgiving evening.

As my friend and I parted ways for the evening, I found myself commenting that the day had been far better than I expected it to be. I had the chance to fellowship with good friends throughout the day. Most importantly, I didn't feel alone. Although I didn't spend the my family, I spent the day with my adopted family of friends who I chose to spend the day with. Things didn't turn out so bad after all!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk - Day 3

Day 3 of the walk started with a short bus ride further into Dallas. The air was a bit chilly but definitely the start of what would be a beautiful day. My teammates that I had been walking with decided that we would take Day 3 leisurely and just enjoy the walk and the day since we knew that we didn't have to be to the Closing Ceremony until 3:30 p.m.

Soon after the walk started I saw Barbara and Nancy. As usual they were walking at a pretty fast pace. I really wish that we had taken a minute to get a picture together since that would be the last time that I would see them during The 3-Day event.

We walked through some beautiful neighborhoods that I had never seen before. I loved seeing the older homes that were being restored into more modern homes. We walked past one home that had a stunning pumpkin patch on the corner of its lot. The pumpkins were so big and the mums really made it feel like Fall. Although I am certain the pumpkins were not there for us to sit on and take pictures, we couldn't help ourselves:

By lunchtime time we were all starting to get pretty tired. Also, happy that we were finally in downtown Dallas and closer to our goal. We started walking through Turtle Creek and I just took in the Fall day. The sun was shinning, the weather was not too warm, and I noticed the leaves had changed colors and were starting to fall. It was finally Fall in Dallas!

We walked to the American Airlines Center (home of the Dallas Mavericks) and the it was on The West End. Here is where we would have our last official cheering station. When we entered The West End, spectators were already lined up. But when we turned the corner, I don't think any of us were prepared for all of the people that we out there! I got the chance to see my family and Tanya again. Although my family had been a pretty quiet cheering group, they were finally really getting into the spirit of things. (I have a feeling that if they had been at a Notre Dame football game, it would have been a lot different!).

We continued walking past the Grassy Knoll, Deep Ellum and finally to Pioneer Park. Pioneer Park was the very last pit stop for the 3-day walk. We knew that from here we only had about 3 miles to the end.

I believe that it was during the last miles of the walk that I finally realized what I had done...I had really walked 60 miles! I kept saying to myself 'I can't believe I just walked 60 miles! I can't believe I just walked 60 miles!'. And then I began to think about what a statement myself and all of the other 3-Day Walkers were making...we were willing to take a stand for something that we believed in.

One of my biggest surprises came as I was walking into Fair Park, our final destination. I ended up meeting Team California. Team California is a wife and her husband who walk all (and yes, I mean ALL, each and every one) of the 3-Day events each year. She started walking when she was 60 years old, and she told me the Dallas 3-Day was her 110th walk! UNBELIEVABLE!!!

When I rounded the corner and I could actually see the end in site, I was moved beyond words. We each grabbed hands and began our victory walk in. Some of the Angels that had made it in before us were standing there cheering us on. It was at that moment that I could no longer hold back my emotions and I began to cry. I began to cry for so many reasons, reasons that I cannot even articulate here. I couldn't believe that I had been a part of something so much bigger than myself.

I saw a quote that said 'A perfect day is when you do something for someone else, and that they will never know you or what you did for them.' And that is what the 3-Day Walk was for me: committing to do something important to me but that would benefit someone that I will never know.

During the walk spectators constantly thanked us for walking. I felt so humbled because I was honored to be able to walk. To be able to participate in the walk had been a goal of mine for such a long, long time. What started out as something very personal for me has changed me in ways that I may never be able to tell others. The only thing that matters is that we are one step closer to finding a cure for breast cancer.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk - Day 2

Day 2 of the walk started started nice and early under overcast skies. The temperature was forecasted to be in the mid to upper 70's, which would be a beautiful November day in Dallas if you're not planning to walk 20 miles!

Once we started the walk I was feeling pretty good...I had slept well (OK, well enough for being in a small two person tent where I couldn't really stretch out) and I had minimal aches and pains. But sometime during the first 8 miles, things began to fall a part for myself and for my teammates that I was walking with. Between the first and second pit stops (at 3 miles and 6 miles respectively) we started to experience varying problems:

1) I began to feel upset to my stomach. (I knew I should be drinking more water, but I wasn't thirsty. I also knew that even though it was overcast outside, it was a lot warmer than the day before!) I also started to feel some hot spots on my feet that could possibly turn into blisters.

2) One of my teammates had always experienced problems with her feet blistering and today her feet were in worse condition than ever before. To be honest I applaud her because if I had half (OK, a quarter!) of the blister problems that she experienced, I don't think I ever would have done the walk.

3) Another teammate began to experience a problem with leg cramps, which in turn caused her to aggravate an old knee injury.

We decided to stop at the 6 mile pit stop to really address our problems. After spending more time there than we intended to we kept on going.

By lunch, mentally I was really starting to second guess myself and began to wonder if I would be able to finish walking the next day and a half. Although I wasn't hungry, I did eat most of my lunch, drank a lot of fluids, and nursed my feet. The rest did my body some good, but I still wasn't sure how I was going to get through the afternoon.

Since Day 2 of the walk was a Saturday, there were many more spectators out than the day before. In addition to my family being out to cheer me on, a good friend had driven 3 hours to be there, and another friend that lived in the city came out too. It did so much for me to see all of the people cheering us on...they gave us beads, candy, cookies, stickers, and even hugs! For me, it was the spectators that helped me through Day 2.

By time I was down to the last 5 miles for the day, my feet were hurting unlike anything I had ever experienced before! With each step, the pain was there. But when I stopped walking, my feet would just throb, so I had to keep walking. With each step that I took, I was feeling so defeated...I had NO idea how I could walk another 20 miles tomorrow! The spectators were still out thanking us for what we were doing and telling us we didn't have much further to go, but even with their words of encouragement, I wanted to cry. I felt like I was going to let down not only myself, but all of the people who supported me with my fundraising, and not to mention all of the people who would like to walk but couldn't.

By time I got to camp I was so tired and in so much pain. I called my good friend and put her on standby to 'spring me out of jail' as I put it because I didn't think I would be able sleep in the tent again and not have a comfortable place to sleep.

Fortunately a teammate had extra baggies with Epsom salt. I took two bags and went to go soak my feet. I sat there for about 20 minutes just letting my feet rest and soak. And something magical happened...the tenderness and soreness in my feet went away! It was like I had brand new feet and my spirits were lifted!

To make the night even better I had the opportunity to take a 'private' shower! I mentioned before that the showers were not private with the exception for the breast cancer survivor showers. There were 5 private showers that had a door, a small dressing area and shower. Since I had waited so long to shower that evening, everyone else had already taken their shower for the night. So I had 30 minutes of peace and PRIVACY!

I felt like a new woman and began to anxiously await Day 3 of the walk...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk - Day 1

I can't believe that it has been almost 2 weeks since I finished the Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk and I am just now blogging about it! (Please don't think that my delay in posting diminishes The Walk for me, it's just that I was deployed to a new work assignment 5 days later, changed a time zone and have been in two different states since then!) So here goes my attempt to put my story in words...

I arrived at the Plano Convention Centre during the wee hours the morning of November 6th. I was there early for two reasons: 1) I had to secure a weekend long term parking space , and 2) I was so excited that The Walk was finally here!

Soon after I arrived more and more people began to arrive. Many people had friends and family there to drop them off. Soon I found members of my team, and we began to get in line (the first of many lines that I would stand in over the weekend!) for the Opening Ceremony. Standing there in the dark, I could just feel the excitement mounting. I met ladies from all over the country, and each one had a story to share about why they were there.

After the emotional Opening Ceremony, we were finally released to begin The Walk! Not long after leaving the convention center, there were already people on the side of the road to cheer us on, along with car honking their horns at us. This is one of the first signs that I saw that made me smile:

Little did I know what a journey I would be on for the next 59.5 miles!

Walking that day I felt like such a celebrity! There were so many people out to cheer us on! And since it was a Friday, I was really surprised at the number of people that were out. One of the great things was that we walked past a lot of schools and the children were outside to cheer us on. Although I don't know if they really understood what we were doing and why, seeing them gave me so much encouragement. Me and my teammates wore angel wings (our team is Angels for the Cure, and yes, I wore the wings most of the weekend) and the kids really liked that. More than once I heard someone say 'I just touched an angel!'

During the walk, there were flags available that we could carry. The flags represented a person to honor (mother, daughter, best friend, aunt, etc.) or a word of encouragement (hope, commitment, cure, etc.). If I had one goal for the weekend, I secretly had hoped that I would have the honor of walking with the Grandmother flag. During the first 3 miles I was able to get that flag! It was nice to walk with it so early on because I felt like my Grandmother (who was a breast cancer survivor) was there with me during this journey.

Speaking of family, my family made it in town just in time to see me at the last cheering station for Day 1, and this really made my day more than they know!

I believe Day 1 of the walk I was fueled by all of the anticipation that had been leading up to this weekend. But by the end of the day, I was so happy to finally see our camp insight. Even though it meant I would be sleeping under the stars!

My tent mate and I put up our tent (OK, we did have help from some other teammates!) and settled into our new home for the next two nights. After that it was off to the mobile showers. The mobile showers were quite the experience because you couldn't find privacy if you want to. And to be honest, at that post I just wanted to feel some hot water on my body and change into something less smelly.

As I walked around camp after dinner, I ran into Barbara and Nancy sitting in the cafe reading! I was so excited to see them since I didn't know if we would get the opportunity to spend any time together during the weekend. Being the fast walkers they are, they had been at camp since early in the afternoon. Nancy had taken a bit of a spill and scrapped up one of her knees pretty bad. But it was so great to catch up with the two of them!

By time lights out came at 9 p.m., I was ready to hit the sack (or the air mattress) and call it a night. Little did I know what Day 2 would bring...