60Miles Can be Fun -- When you are with the right people for the right cause!
I really feel the need to share so much of this weekend with each and every person willing to read this blog. I want you to feel the love and the magic that was created, that I am not going to let go of - we can only work to build more from here. I truly understand what it means to be a TEAM and what a TEAM can accomplish goes beyond anything I could have ever dreamed of.
This is about the Tough Warrior Princess TEAM and the Komen 3-Day / 60 Mile walk in Boston and the individual perspective that I had during the process.
It's 2 a.m. on July 23rd and the alarm goes off. Mike is getting up to take Alexa and Dylan Turcotte (my teammate Maurine's son) to Framingham for a 4:00 a.m. arrival time - so that they are there and ready to cheer on the walkers as they arrive, pick up their luggage for them and make a positive connection or impact on each and every walker they encounter. They are a part of a group of 20 kids called Youth Corp.
It's 3:30 a.m. and I am at Sherri's house (team captain and BC survivor) picking up her and another teammate Kaitlyn to head over to Cheryl's house to catch the Party Bus. We decided that it would be so much easier to go in all together and not have a bunch of cars parked in Framingham. What a great decision that was. We bonded on the bus. Fueled our bodies with some breakfast and talked about what we were anticipating. The New Balance film crew (which included people from Element - the Production company and people from Marketing Drive, the advertising agency) was there and filming each and every moment. Now the average person would think that you would freeze up a little and not be genuine because the camera's are rolling and the sound is on, however, this was so not the case. Because we had already met these people at the pool party and also in the interview process, we were all very comfortable. These special people had fast become our friends and we felt like they were part of the journey with us. (More about them later) So we partied on the party bus and had a great time.
Arriving in Framingham was breathtaking. It was dawn and you could see the staging and the big pink Komen signs surrounding the area. My first encounter with tears started as I walked in to check in and get my credentials as a walker. There were ribbons to write the name of loved ones you had lost to Breast Cancer. I wrote my mothers name down very slowly and fell apart. It was a lot of pent up emotion... already. Of course the TWP's were all there beside me, wiping tears and experiencing the pain with me, as only they seem to know how to do. See, there is magic in the way the 10 of us gelled together. Maurine was right there, with her hip pack so full of stuff -- offering up tissues!
Opening ceremonies were so beyond anything that I had expected. A women telling her story, the Komen spokesperson, who has the most soothing voice talking about what it means to be there and be walking for a cure. But nothing compares to the moment the few survivors who were chosen to carry flags came out onto the stage and into the survivor circle. Watching Sherri walk by with the flag for LOVE was fantastic. The team all cheered her on as we cried watching her in that circle and seeing all her raw emotion. Being chosen for this was something that was so important to Sherri. She made us sooo proud!! She is the very definition of Breast Cancer Survivor if you look it up in the dictionary - I'm sure of it. The other thing that really hit me during opening ceremonies was the pink ribbon made out of a pool noodle with big TWP letters on it bouncing around way over on the sidelines. It was strange, as it was nothing that we had made or knew about. It was exciting to see and we all decided it must be Sherri's friend Tracy - who did the walk with Sherri last year.
The walk began and there was just so much excitement. We all looked good in our New Balance shirts with the Tough Warrior Princess team logo on the front and the big pink NB on the backs. We all had TWP pins that Sherri made and all had New Balance shorts and sneakers. We were looking pretty unified. And we were in all ways. Even our luggage all had tags made by Tina that had our Logo and team name. No detail overlooked.
The first day of the walk was hot and humid! By the end of the day we had rain - but our spirits were intact. We had family at cheering stations that kept us going. At the end of Day 1 we made up our team cheer and went into camp arm in arm chanting our cheer and feeling the sense of great accomplishment. We all made it!!
The Camp experience is so cool. Tent city sporting hundreds of pink tents on a football field is something you need to see. Unfortunately, it was POURING buckets when we got into camp on day 1 and needed to set up our tents in the rain. Yes we were all soaked and so wasn't our luggage - but it didn't matter. At dinner they announced that the last walker was arriving in to camp - every one stood up and started cheering and clapping as the last walker came in. It doesn't matter where you are or what you are doing - everyone stops everything to cheer on that last walker. It's electric.
That night, the highlight for me was receiving mail in camp. I didn't really know about it and didn't think I would have a piece of mail -- but I did and it was so great. I know you are thinking big deal you got some letters from people - but when you are going through an emotionally taxing and physically taxing journey, there is something incredible about the support and love from the letters.
Bank of America had a tent where you could sit in foot/back massage chairs a n d.... use a computer for about 5 minutes. That is when I realized I really do have an addiction to Facebook. Enough said.
This was a different experience than Day 1. On day 1 we had the film crew following us and stopping us for different interviews, etc. (which was sooo much fun.) But day 2 - it was just the 10 of us - alone. The first thing we realized was that now that we were not all dressed in our official team gear - it was much harder to spot each other and stay in a cohesive group. If felt scattered, as we were always looking for each other - and everyone on the entire course is wearing some combination of pink. Day 2 was so much tougher than Day 1 - first it was much more hot and humid. The sun was beating down and the course is uphill most of the entire day. Since our teammate, Maurine, with Metastatic breast cancer is again in active treatment, we were encouraging her to get on the sweep van that will bring you to the next pit stop as often as we could. Maurine is strong and determined.... but doesn't always use her head and listen to her body. So, Maurine was swept and waiting at the next pit stop for us. The team arrives and we are filling our waters, etc. and I happen to look over at the commotion at the medical tent where an ambulance has arrived -- and there is Maurine -- helping out the ambulance crew! She never ceases to amaze all of us. It was so hot at that point and there were people passing out and we were all concerned for one another. Blisters started and feet were really hurting. The medical tent couldn't keep up. This was a low point for me in the walk.
Onward we pushed and got through the day. We met so many women along the way and heard their stories. Sherri's friend Tracy had posted many, many beautiful and inspiring signs all along the route that day that made us laugh and lifted us up. Our families and friends showed up at the pit stops with signs and all kinds of fruit and lots of love. Sherri's husband Andy, who has done this the past 3 years really knew exactly what we needed and when. My dad was the one who had me most in awe. My dad, for those of you who don't know, is about to turn 80. He was at every stop along the way, cheering and taking pictures -- well you knew if he was around he would be taking pictures - that is what he does best... that and being proud of his family. My dear, dear friend's Danielle and Leslie showed up to cheer and also sat with us for lunch. I dare say we had the biggest cheering sections on the whole route. It really helps you get through the day when someone you love shows up! Ben, a producer on the crew, also showed up that day with his beautiful young daughter. He had to bring us a new Flip video camera as we were having trouble with ours - but his presence was more of support and concern for our team. It was great having him be a small part of day 2. The love that flows along the route of this walk is something like you will never experience. We are all there for our own personal reasons and when you bring together all of the stories and the pain and the hope -- something very special happens. The downfall of Day 2 was the huge blisters that developed on the bottom of Cheryl's feet. She walked in pain for so long and then couldn't anymore and had to forgo the rest of day 2. That was painful for me, as without doubt, Cheryl trained more than any of us for this walk. It isn't fair that a blister can bring down months of training. We were all so sad for her.
During the walk, I spent a lot of conscious time focusing on the person I want to be and the people in my life that are important. I honored my mother and spent a lot of time thinking about my youngest inspiration - Kelsey. If you forget about Kelsey's story - go back and read my prior blogs. Every time I think of Kelsey's story and her dedication to a cause outside of herself it puts it all back into perspective for me. (Hi Kelsey - You GO girl!!!) I had the breast cancer ribbon necklace with me that I got at Kelsey's birthday party. Other pieces of inspiration I brought on the walk with me were a pink survivor bracelet that I had gotten the year before from a woman who had just walked the 3 days and I met by chance and told her I was signing up for next year. She had just worn the bracelet the 3 days of her walk. I also wore a bracelet given to me by a friend/acquaintance when I was first diagnosed. On the bracelet is inscribed "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." This bracelet got me through some of my darkest hours and long tests and unknowing waiting periods.