In 1999 I did a sixty mile walk for breast cancer with Rachel, one of my best and funniest girlfriends. We were young, in shape and always up for the next
adventure. To this day I have no idea why I felt so compelled to do that walk. I had never been affected by cancer of any kind nor had anyone in my family.
I was on a mission.
We never did the proper training walks, we felt like we ready without them.
It’s amazing how stupid you can be, even at thirty.
The itinerary went like this.
Morning one, you load your gear onto a truck that will deliver it for you with a tent twenty miles away. There are pit stops along the route with snacks, fruit and water that are all operated by volunteers. It’s hot in Georgia in September. So by lunch which is the big stop at halfway I notice my first blister. We were told to change socks mid day and either throw away the sweaty ones, or put them in a baggie to wash when you get home.
We threw ours away.
By the time we reached camp I had a new idea of exhausted.
We really should have practiced more but who knew walking would be this hard? Obviously, not us. We soon realized we would have to pitch our own tent, um what?
I’d never slept in one, much less put one up.
We are hot, tired, crabby and completely undone by this tent. Rachel finally got it, I was zero help. We took a shower in the back of a semi truck that was rigged up for just this type of thing.
The port a potties were just too far away, I decided to hold it.
They served dinner in a main tent that was going to have entertainment later.
Who could stay up after a day like this?
They also had chiropractors and medics set up, which we did see.
I’m not even sure we ate dinner but the next thing I know, it’s time to wake up and do it all again. Shit! This was like a million times harder than I was prepared for.
By lunch that day I had so many blisters, I saw the medic tent and went over, hobbling.
They drained them with a syringe and as gross as that sounds, it did work!
Off we went to finish day two and if possible we were even more tired and couldn’t imagine getting up the next day to do it again.
I mean really, this was brutal.
I am eating lots of bananas and drinking just enough to stay hydrated but not too much to have to use the port a potties.
When we wake up the last day, we feel ready to go.
What’s twenty more miles?
All the cancer survivors wear pink and they are an inspiration to everyone else who is on the road with them.
Many of the women wear shirts with names and pictures and you know without
asking, they’re walking for someone who couldn’t.
That was inspiration too.
They do have a van that drives the route looking to pick people up that just can’t go anymore, they called it a sweeper truck.
We always waived it on, We wanted to walk each step. It was important.
We also knew this part of town and lots of families and loved ones were lining the road with signs and cheers. We felt like heroes.
By the time we crossed the finish line, Rachel had lost her toenails and I had walked my hip completely out of socket. I was dragging my left leg at a very weird angle. But,we had done it!
From that day on we compared everything hard or painful to the walk.
Whatever the malady or injury or heartache we always asked ” is it pain,” or ” is it walk pain?”
It set the bar very high.
But, I think I just topped it with this illness.
I have a new marker and on this walk and I feel terribly alone.
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