Friday, July 30, 2010

THE EXPERIENCE OF A LIFETIME!!!

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.

DAY #1

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.

DAY #2

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.

Camp Night 2 was electric. We ate dinner and waited for each member of Youth Corp. to deliver their short speech about why they are part of Youth Corp. This was the most I cried during the whole experience. Alexa and Dylan both spoke, but it was when one young girl spoke about her mom being diagnosed when she was 4 and losing her when she was 8. This girl just radiated poise and kindness and I just couldn't take it and the stories went on.... Alexa and Dylan were so composed and did such a great job. We are so proud! 
video

Let the dance party begin. Dance, you say? After walking 2 days and 40 miles, with another 20 to go tomorrow - are you crazy? YUP! If you know any of the other team members of TWP you know we all love to dance and dance we did.  (Sorry Sherri I have to tell the story to illustrate a point...)   At one point Sherri and I were getting down and dancing to a song called Low by Flo rida.  Well we got low on our tired legs and all of a sudden Sherri just fell.  I can't explain how funny it was when she did, but it became even funnier when I realized that teammate, Susan, had caught it all on Video, because the crew had given us Flip cameras and we were supposed to be videoing our journey for them when they weren't around.  Eventually I helped poor Sherri up (who was also laughing hysterically) and even thought to ask her if she was okay.  Together we re-played the video and laughed some more -- Sherri is awesome.  Such a good sport, she had opportunity to delete that video, but she didn't!  

Speaking of Special - Youth Corp!!!! Youth Corp. is 20 kids who are chosen to volunteer for the 3 days of the walk. They work their butts off cheering for us, helping us along the route, giving us a drink, saying something nice -- these are very special kids -- and Alexa and Dylan Turcotte (Maurine's son) were no exception. Seeing them brought me to tears almost every time. Youth Corp. is an experience like you can't get anywhere else. Alexa has been touched like I can't believe and has new friends for life. She also has a new appreciation of how small gestures really do make a difference in people's lives. She had so much fun and made lifetime friends.

Next Blog update in the next few days ---  Day 3 and Closing Ceremonies as well as total raised and the Tough Warrior Princesses plans for the future. 
Thanks for sharing this journey with me.  Your donations to this cause are so much appreciated!!

Blessings -
Patty

Monday, July 19, 2010

Pool Party - TAKE 1 -- What a hoot!!!

I truly could talk for days about our most recent experiences, but I'll try to keep it somewhat succinct.

When Sherri and I and the Tough Warrior Princess team got chosen for the New Balance documentary film, we had no idea what was involved. We didn't even realize we should be nervous. We were focused on the great team of women that we have and the cause... and for that we have passion, which makes it easy. I did start to get nervous when the film crew showed up for the shoot at the pool party for the team at my house. There were trucks and equipment and people everywhere. What?! My biggest fear was that we all might lose our unique personalities and more importantly our TEAM personality in front of cameras. When I found out we were being interviewed as a team all at once, I worried that we would lose our natural flow and humor -- we didn't!! We all support and admire each other so much and have such a good time together and I think that was more than apparent during filming. I think you can even see it in the pictures.

They interviewed Sherri and I together and that was great - it made me feel very at ease in discussing the team and answering the many questions that were thrown our way.  Mike and Sherri's husband, Andy were both interviewed. I missed seeing both of those interviews, but would love to see the footage. Yes, Mike and Andy are available to sign autographs!

The reason for the pool party was for all of our children and husbands that didn't know each other to get better acquainted. I think that happened. The kids made posters and crowns that will be brought with them along the route to cheer us on. They all swam and we all played volleyball. For the most part I think we all forgot about the camera's that were following us around and just had a great time. It was surreal. I am so grateful for such a unique experience.

We are down to the wire - the bus picks us up at 3:45 a.m. on Friday morning to head to Framingham for the start of the walk. (Alexa and Dylan the Youth Corp. volunteers have to arrive in Framingham at 4:00 a.m. so they can't even be on the team bus.) It will be the 10 Princesses and the film crew. Luckily, the film crew is fun! We are looking forward to having them along for our walking journey. We have made some new friends and two beautiful young women from the companies' involved in the filming process have decided to create a team and do the walk next year!!!

There is nothing better than knowing you may have made a difference. I intend to do this walk every year - until a cure is found. If I had been diagnosed with the agressive type of cancer that I have - HER2 breast cancer - 10 years ago, before a drug called herceptin was developed, I would have a much lesser chance at survival. I personally know how important funding is to keep progress moving. My mom didn't have that chance. I want my daughters to have the best chance. I see the progress being made in the trial drugs being offered - which our teammate, Maurine's, life depends on.

Thank you for taking the time to follow my journey and for all the incredible support!

If you are interested in coming in to a cheering station or for closing ceremonies - follow this link for information.  http://www.the3day.org/site/PageServer?pagename=BO_Spectator

The film crew intends to film at two specific stations during the event and will be looking for our families and friends:

FRIDAY - 
 8:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.  (Can't pinpoint exact time)
St. Paul's Church
502 Washington St.
Wellesley MA 02482

SUNDAY -

8:15 a.m. - 10:45 a.m.

Cambridge City Hall
795 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge MA 02139

Closing Ceremonies -
Sunday, July 25


5:00 p.m.
University of Massachusetts
100 William T Morrissey Blvd.
Dorchester, MA 02125

Friday, July 9, 2010

It really does just keep getting better!!

It was on a whim that I replied to an email from Komen/New Balance asking why I walk and who I walk in honor of.  It's not something I would typically stop to do; but that day I did.  That email led to another asking for a phone interview to be considered for a short film featuring New Balance and Susan G. Komen 3 Day for the Cure.  Sherri, my beautiful friend and our team captain also replied to the email and was selected to be interviewed as well.  The folks at the advertising agency soon realized our seperate submissions unknowingly told an entire story - a story about each other and about our team - The Tough Warrior Princesses. 
 
We made it to the final selection process with New Balance and their advertising team and this week Sherri and I went in for on camera interviews.  It was a bit scary,as we were interviewed by two gentlemen as the camera rolled and the mic's were on.  Behind a curtain sat a bunch of other ad executives watching us on a TV and taking notes.  Sherri and I seemed to fall into a groove and forget the camera as we started talking about each of our teammates and the reasons that we walk as well as what has been involved with fundraising and training. 
 
We have just learned that we have been selected to be featured in an upcoming New Balance and Komen 3-Day short film!  They will follow our training, will come to our team pool party and will follow us on the 3 days of the walk. We will be  getting outfitted in New Balance from head to toe!
 
We are all so excited for the opportunity to make a difference and hopefully to inspire other women as to what you can accomplish with a goal in mind and friends by your side.  We are 10 women and each one of us has a unique story and unique talents, but when you put us all together as a team, we become so much more powerful and interesting.  This team has become a very close group.  We have raised a lot of money and we have had a lot of fun together.  We have raised awareness and all have a very special reason for walking.  I think we have done a good job at bringing community together and inspiring others.
 
This journey and my walk is in honor of the most beautiful woman I ever knew - Beverly Ann Woodsom.  My Mom.  I know she would be proud to see what we have accomplished and will continue to accomplish!  Breast cancer affects and takes the lives of so many women.  Breast cancer has shattered my world - losing a mother and fighting the disease myself- and at the same time built me as the person I am today.  More faithful, stonger and hopefully making a difference so that my daughters won't have to face the same things.


Quick Fundraising Update - We had our Flatbread fundraiser this week and it was spectacular!  It was a steamy hot, and I mean HOT, evening and the turnout was awesome.  It was so great to see so many Amesbury friends and others get out to support the cause and eat some great pizza.  Thanks to Flatbread for giving us the opportunity! 
 
I have reached my personal goal of raising $10,000!!! I could not have done it without each and every one of you - my beautiful friends and family.  I am so blessed to have this support.  My team now has surpassed it's goal of $40,000 total and we are still going!  
 
I often say I am happier and more grounded and a better person now, since my diagnosis and since Katie's Juvenile Diabetes diagnosis, and I think people don't always understand how that could be possible.  I think I just focus more now on the blessings in my life and what each person in my life brings to it and the gift of every single day.  To put it into focus, my friend, Brian Dahn, is currently on a mission trip with a group at his church to Haiti.  It is so amazing to me the way people can step outside of themselves and help others.  Seeing his blog and knowing what those people in Haiti are living like and facing every day is just stunning.  (http://oslc2010haiti.blogspot.com/)  Makes me want to be a better person.

To borrow a phrase from a song and my friend, Danielle, GO LIGHT YOUR WORLD!