Friday, October 19, 2012

Zero to Sixty

I did it!  WE did it!  Last weekend was the 3-day.  I feel like I have been preparing for this FOREVER.  And now that it is over I've been trying to wrap my mind around the emotions of the weekend. 

First I want to say a big, huge THANK YOU to every body who supported me and the rest of Linda's Ladies with your donations, your love, and your cheers.  We could not have done it without you.  And because of you Linda's Ladies raised $19,500.


We were so proud to be able to contribute to the $3.8 million that was raised by the Washington D.C. 3-day! 

And I couldn't have asked to share this journey with a better group of women.  Did I mention three of them were pregnant??!?!  That's dedication!

I won't say the weekend was easy.  In fact it was one of the hardest things I have ever done.  But surprisingly it was not the physical challenge that almost broke me, it was the emotional one. 

The last year, I have poured my anger and grief into preparing for this walk.  And while I was walking and fundraising and blogging I worked through a lot of my pain.  The pain is still there but it has faded into background noise.  Something that is always there but something I have learned to live along side of.  A quiet imissmymomimissmymomimissmymom.  Sometimes it bubbles up to the surface and breaks through IMISSMYMOM! But it soon returns to the hum that just kind of simmers as the rest of life takes center stage. 

But not last weekend.  Last weekend that low hum became a scream I FUCKING MISS MY MOM!  I HATE THIS WALK.  I WANT HER HERE.  WHY ME.  WHY HER.  WHY?  And with every foot step I was washed over with grief.  I had ugly moments that were full of jealousy.  Jealousy over the women who got to walk side by side with their moms.  Jealousy over the mom's who were waiting at the finish line to hug their daughters.  And loneliness.  Even while surrounded by people who have their own stories, I felt lonely.

Saturday afternoon just about broke me.  Overtired. Fighting a cold.  Racing to stay ahead of the sweep van.  I was physically exhausted and emotionally drained. 

There were four miles that I think summarized my whole three day experience.  It was during that low point on Saturday.  My teammates and I separated and I ended up walking this four mile stretch alone.  I think I spent the first two miles feeling completely sorry for myself.  I know the tears were flowing and the thing that propelled me forward was anger.  My thighs were throbbing, my calves were tight and my heart was broken.  The thought that I might just not be emotionally strong enough for this kept running through my head.

And then someone slipped their arm through mine.  The woman said "you got this.  You got it!  Let's go."  And for the next couple of minutes I walked like that.  Arm and arm with this stranger that I had never met before.  Her mom took my other side and we shared our stories.  We shared some tears.  And they kept me between them for a while.  The anger faded a little bit and the tears turned to laughter.  It wouldn't be the last time that I cried but it would be the last time I would question my emotional strength.   During those steps I found an inner strength I did not think I had and that strength is what carried me through to the finish line.  

I think I falsely convinced myself that I would find some big answers this weekend.  That somehow conquering the 3-day would make losing my mom a little bit easier.  That somehow, magically that constant hum would stop nagging me.  During those four miles I think I accepted that would never be the case.  I accepted that I would always be a little bit broken and nothing would ever be able to fix that.  No amount of money.  No amount of walking.  Nothing.  It was a freeing moment.  Acceptance.

I accept that I will always hurt.  I accept that I will be jealous of what others still have.  I accept that I will get angry.  I accept that there will be times I'm lonely.  I accept that the tears will come.  And I accept that I will forever live along side this constant hum "imissmymomimissmymomimissmymom."

On Sunday I crossed the finish line arm and arm with Linda's Ladies joined by Sam and Will.  Looking at those women, my friends and my boys it all came together.  The link between the past the present and the future was right there.  My mom, my friends and my boys.  I did this for all of them.  And you know what.  I just might do it again!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Moving Beyond Awareness


I know I have been MIA.  Life has been busy and most days I'm trying to keep up with the boys and the to do lists.  But everything is good.  We had a wonderful vacation where family joined us and the boys were surrounded by sand and sea and love.  The days have turned into weeks and weeks have turned into months.  Time is flying!

We are also closing in on the kick off of the 3-day walk.  I feel like I started this journey a lifetime ago and I'm not sure how I feel about it soon coming to an end.  Maybe I'll write about that all soon.  But today I wanted to write about something that I have written about before but as time passes I feel a growing urgency to share again.

It's October, which means the nation turns pink.  Many major brands roll out pink products all with proceeds going towards one breast cancer charity or another.  Even the NFL goes pink for October.  Don't get me wrong I love pink and I get a little choked up when I see those big brawly men decked out in hot pink but the message is the same message it has been for over a decade; one of awareness and screenings.  Totally important but I'd be shocked if you could show me someone who is naive about the risks of breast cancer and the need for annual screening.

Advocacy is important but research is critical.  Research is what is going to find a cure.  Research is what is going to save lives.  I get a little bit annoyed when I read about a company's charitable campaign and education is still the initiative that is front and center.  We need to move research up to the forefront.  October can't just be about breast cancer awareness anymore because awareness is not enough.  There's a lot of awareness out there and yet the statistics are startling. 108 women die from breast cancer every day. 

Stop and think about that for a minute. While I walk 60 miles in 3 days 324 women will die from Breast Cancer and 2,301 will receive the life changing diagnosis.  This is just not OK.

Education and screening might shrink that number slightly but research is what will lead to prevention and a cure and anything short of that is simply not good enough in my mind.  If we want to see a day when our kids don't have to worry about breast cancer the way we do then the time is now to shift the conversation.

So what can you do?  Ask where your money is going.  Make sure that the cute pink shirt or bracelet you buy funds more than just awareness.  Look into the organizations you donate to and find out what the funds are used for.

And while you are at it consider being part of the cure by joining the Health of Women (HOW) study which is being conducted by the Susan Love Research Foundation.  If you are a woman you qualify.  If you are a man with high risk factors they want you too. 

The goal of the HOW Study is to carefully study a large group of women and men over time to investigate the causes of breast cancer. In order to do this, they will need to include all ages, ethnicities, and races, as well as to compare those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer to those who have not. The HOW Study will ask you to answer questions about your health and health habits over time to give us a view of what people are doing and how their health is being affected.  In return for your time you get the satisfaction of being part of something that could change the future!

Let's make this October about more than just pink ribbons.