Friday, July 29, 2011

Finding the Right Words.....

It is such a dilemna trying to find words fitting to describe to you what my experience at the 3-Day was like. There really aren't words to do it justice and I had forgotten just how breathtaking the whole experience is. I did not think my feeling about the 3-Day would ever compare to last year, after all, we had the extra excitement of a film crew following us everywhere last year - how could the excitement be the same? It was!!! There is something magical about 2,000 people all getting together and doing something extraordinary for a cause that is so near and dear to us.

Since the inception of starting the Tough Warrior Princesses there truly has been nothing but magic in everything. So many things have happened and you scratch your head and wonder..... Coincidence? I think NOT!!

Walking this year, Day 1 was one HOT experience, so hot, that they had to close the route down after mile 10 and bus us back to camp. A logistical nightmare if you think about the number of walkers that suddenly needed transportation. I would have liked to continue to walk, but I think it was very smart for Komen to close the route. Many people were hospitalized from heat exhaustion. So we spent the afternoon in the AC of a room in Gann Academy. It was nice to be able to cool down a bit. Most of us used this time to read the mail we had received at camp. I am at a loss to describe the number of tears shed from the letters I received. Thank you to those who sent them - it may seem silly, but when you are in the situation, it is incredible to receive the love and positive support.

On Day 2 the most memorable moments were at the cheering station set up by the Tough Warrior Princesses' family and friends. Thank you to McCue Garden Center in Woburn for letting us use your parking lot and providing watermelons for us to give out to walkers on the route! Day 2 was tough for me in the a.m. as we walked through downpours and thunderstorms - I do not like thunderstorms and was a bit nervous - but survived! The end of day 2 culminated with my friend and teammate, Maurine Turcotte delivering a speech to the 2,000 walkers and crew in attendance. It was both funny, as Maurine always is, and extremely emotional, as Maurine delivered a most memorable talk standing with her two young sons. She ended with... "When someone asks you what you did this weekend, you tell them you gave a mother from Amesbury a little more time with her children and husband." Maurine is in treatment for the rest of her life, as her cancer is metastatic. She is on weekly trial treatments now and these trials are funded in part by what we do. We don't have time, we need the research and the answers NOW.

Another huge part of the 3Day experience is visiting the Remembrance Tent. Alexa and I and many from our team all went together. In the tent are pictures of those walkers we have lost (so many - sooo young) and a tent and where you write messages. I need only say that the somberness and connectedness of these moments is utterly life changing. I watched Maurine's youngest son write a message and Alexa write a message to my mom, whom she never got to meet. These children as so wise beyond their years.

Day 3 started off with.... more Rain! But it quickly turned into a beautiful day. I spent the day walking primarily with my family teammates, Bob, Cheryl and Sue. It meant so much to me to be with them all day and share the experience. We walked pretty fast and got to our lunch stop early so that we could spend a lot of time with our families. Mike brought in Katie and Bob and Cheryl's boys and my brother, Ashley, came in with Olivia. And of course, my Dad! Dad, once again, was at every cheering station and lunch stop possible. He was everywhere! I don't know how he does it.

Leaving from lunch was with the entire team of 32! We had 3 miles to the finish line to walk together as a complete team. More magic. As we walked with our Tough Warrior Princess sign with our survivors holding the sign. A stunning moment came when Jeff Hollett, fellow walker and Iraq soldier, who walks in memory of his sister, asked our team to form a circle of trust around him. With our backs facing inward, he changed into his pink fatigues and our team broke out into singing God Bless America. God Bless you, Jeff, for defending our country and defending the memory of your sister. Boston would not have been the same without you this year.

Next came walking past an area where all the Pink Angels and Cup Crusaders, the 2 largest teams in Boston, were gathered waiting for their teammates. As the Tough Warrior Princesses approached, they all stood up and started clapping and cheering us on. What an honor that was. So many of us have formed forever friendships with these incredible teams and the love, respect and energy was breathtaking! We honor you and thank you!

On into the finish line we marched with tears of sadness and joy. Standing next to the 5 other survivors on our team holding our banner was so incredible. Seeing Mike, Katie and my dad waiting there along with all other teammates family and friends was so fantastic... but the best part was that as we walked in they were "coincidentally" playing the Tough Warrior Princess theme song "I Gotta Feelin'"!!!

I also got another 1 minute of fame as I was interviewed by Fox News. Kind of wishing I didn't look like I had just walked 60 miles - but, hey, "it's all good!" My dad also appeared being interviewed on NECN, but we have been unable to find the footage posted anywhere, although people did see it on the news.

Closing ceremonies were so much fun. Katie and I got to be on stage as I held the My Daughter Flag. The great thing was that the TWP team came in first to closing so they were right in front of the stage. It was so cool to watch them all with the fun, the dancing and the somber emotion as the ceremonies unfolded and we all watched Maurine walk into the Survivor cirle on center stage. My favorite picture from the walk is of Katie and I on stage - the only flag that is in the picture is the My Mother flag. It is stunning to look at that picture of Katie and I and have "My Mother" right behind us. I'll take that as my sign that she was with us and always will be.

Thank you 2011 TEAM TWP!!! The 32 of us were magic! $108,000 and counting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have special memories of each and every person on the team. The struggles, the pain and the complete and utter fun. I am all signed up for the 2012 already! Alexa will also be walking with our team in 2012 and needs to raise her own $2,300. I am so proud of her commitment to this cause and stepping out to take on such a huge challenge! Click here to see Alexa's story and donation page.

As for the upcoming months, the Mellon Family is switching gears. We will walk in October for Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. We have a golf tournament coming up to honor Roberta Mellon, who we lost almost one year ago to pancreatic cancer. Proceeds from the tournament will go to Juvenile Diabetes. If you are interested in playing in the tournament on October 7th or joining 'Katie's Krew' and participating in her 3 mile walk in Boston on October 2nd, please let me know. We would love to have a huge team to honor Katie and raise some more money and awareness for this cause.

Thank you for all your love and support!!

Forever grateful and forever changed,



Thursday, July 14, 2011

It's time to Walk the Walk!

The 3-Day is next weekend!! I have trained well and am so ready. Can't wait to share this time with 30 others on our team that have made such a huge commitment. It is very impressive! All have met their minimums and are ready to go. Committing to raise $2,300 and walk 60 miles is not as easy as it may sound. The hours of training and the fundraising work is no small feat. Once again, Kudos to each and every one of you on the Tough Warrior Princess team. My sole sisters! We had a goal at the beginning of our fundraising of $100,000. We are so close to the goal!!!! Thank you to everyone for the amazing support!!! I am just amazed at the dedication!

Want to attend an event that will most certainly motivate and move you?! Come cheer us on at our private TWP cheering station at McCue the Florist parking lot on Saturday July 23 from 10am–2:15pm. It is located at 200 Cambridge Street, Woburn on the corner of Rte 3 and Lexington St next to the 99 Restaurant. Or consider coming to closing ceremonies on Sunday. The closing of this event is beautiful and we would love to see all of our friends and family there. The ceremonies are held at UMASS Boston in Dorchester. More details to follow as they become available.

I mostly can't wait to share this time with my daughter, Alexa. Alexa is part of the walk again this year, as she once again has the opportunity to be part of the Komen Youth Corp. She has raised $1,500 and will spend the 3 days working the event. Working the event is harder than walking the event. These kids are up before the walkers and work not just during the walk but before and after. They do so many different chores and also do a lot of cheering and kind things for the walkers. Alexa is perfect at the cheering part. My favorite part of the day is when I get to see her at a rest station or cheering station. Her smile and constant enthusiasm just melt me. I am so happy she partakes in this event with me. The best part of the entire 3 Day for me is when each of the Youth Corp kids get up on stage and talk about why they are there - it is extremely moving. This should be Alexa's last year of participating in the Youth Corp, as next year she will be 16 and will be old enough to be a walker.

I have been given the honor of carrying the My Daughter flag into the opening and closing ceremonies this year!! How proudly will I carry that flag?!! Because Alexa will be working the event, she won't get to walk with me as I carry the flag, but Katie will!! This is so significant for me, as I know my mother would be proud of us, her daughter and granddaughters for what we are doing. I will be so happy to have Katie by my side. Katie, who is the very example of strength and determination and facing a tough situation with grace. Katie just "celebrated" her 3 year anniversary of being diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes. And yes, we did celebrate because Katie is well and is able to do everything she wants to! I never want my daughters to have to face a breast cancer diagnosis like me and my mom had to. Every step with that flag stands for the determination that I have to keep going until there is a cure.

My brother, Bob, is also walking the event this year and that too means so much to me. He is such a trooper. Being on a team and training with 30 women as the sole Prince can't be easy. We are all pretty strong, opinionated women and he has to put up with a lot. The work he has done for us is over the top. He handles all of our technical fundraising needs, just check out our website for a sample of his work. The fact that he is walking in this event to honor his mother and his sister is just awesome. There aren't many men on the route and I am so glad he will be one of them!

And lastly, but certainly not least. MY DAD!!! My dad is my biggest fan. Many of you reading this know that - because you have to listen to him gush about me - but I love that he is so proud. My dad goes nowhere without my business cards and the Video flyers. Heck, he was sick in the hospital passing them out to every nurse and doctor or person that would listen. He is also the biggest fan (well, next to Sherri's husband and family - the Ziomeks) along the route. For the entire 3 days that I walked my dad showed up at every cheering station and was there the entire way. My dad is 80 years young and the heat last year was so extreme - but that certainly didn't stop him. Last year he also had custom designed silver necklaces made for each team member with the princess logo engraved. Having lost a wife to breast cancer and then watching your daughter go through it all cannot be an easy thing. Thanks for always being there for me dad!! I love you!