In January of this year my sister-in-law and dear friend, Mandy, told me about a 3 day 60 mile walk for Susan G. Komen for breast cancer awareness she wanted to do to cross off her bucket list. Since I love a challenge, and helping people cross things off their bucket lists, I said, “I’m in!” Not only did I have to train for this walk that was happening in September, but I also had to raise $2300 for the cause. I was excited for this challenge because it was definitely something I have never done before. So, I set out to work doing fundraisers. I had three fun events. “Wine for a Cause,” “Boobie-Q,” and a “Bake/Yard/Craft Sale.” I was completely overwhelmed by the amount of support that I received through that portion of my journey. The money was raised. It was great to be able to learn how to do this, since it inspired me to start my own non-profit organization, Rainy Days Foundation and be able to gain some insight as to what goes into events like this. Grateful that the fundraising goal was met and even though the training had already began, it was time to step it up. Now, I didn’t follow the training schedule the way I probably should have, however, I truly don’t think anything would have prepared me for what I put my body through these last three days.
I know that my story, my life, my purpose is dedicated to helping people. I speak, I write, I coach and mentor, and I heal. The epiphany I had during the past three days is one I need to share. It is a magnificent analogy to the journey one takes to heal from loss and grief is one that can be compared to the journey I just took on this walk.
And so our incredible journey begins….
The day was finally here! Mandy and I were excited and nervous, (what my daughter likes to call, “nervocited,”) on our way to the airport. We knew that we had quite the journey ahead of us and were not sure what it was going to look like I knew it was going to be a challenge, but I was in denial of how hard it was going to be. I had trained, mostly doing my kickboxing for hours. Went on hikes and a few 6-8 mile walks. I am in better shape then I have been my entire life. I knew that this kind of walking was going to be a different kind of strain on my body then I ever imagined, or could prepare for, but I was feeling confident I could do it, even though we were told we picked the hardest coarse of them all. I had to find a reason that was greater than myself to begin the journey. I was walking, for the people who battled, or are battling this disease. I was doing it for my grandma, who was a survivor, my coworker who was also a nine year survivor, and especially for my two friends who are fighting right now the battle of breast cancer. It was for them. Just like while grieving. I was able to start my healing path because I knew that my son would have wanted me to. I had friends and family that I would get up for everyday. I needed to find a reason, greater than myself.
Once I got to the beginning for the opening ceremonies of the 3 Day, I was inspired. I definitely had some anxiety going on…I was too quiet Mandy had told me. I truly was taking it all in. We began our walk. Only a few minutes in my body started to talk to me. I already started to feel the muscles in my right hamstring and butt cheek. Already feeling my muscles start to revolt on me was extremely frustrating. The anger was kicking in…another stage of the grieving cycle as well. How could this be happening to me? I worked too hard to get here. The pain in my legs kept moving. It was now in my calves and my thighs. I have a really high pain tolerance, so I kept pushing through. As I walked, I didn’t really think about much. I got quiet, which usually I am excited and love to chat. Mandy was cheerful and happy and pulled me though. I had to rely on others to keep me going. Since it was day one, my spirits were up and I was bound and determined to enjoy this journey. I had my Mandy and made 3 new friends already. We were going to conquer Seattle together. The constant movement became pretty meditative, taking in the scenery, concentrating on each enormous hill, and praying for the next pit stop, which were usually about 4 miles apart. Finally we were at the end of Day One. I was literally limping into camp. After setting up camp, we rubbed some Deep Blue on our muscles, went to eat with very little appetite, and then went right to bed.
Day 2…the rain was pouring, my muscles were so sore it was hard to walk, yet we started out. Very slowly. I was amazed at one woman in particular. She was probably 80+ years old, hunched over with walking sticks and passed me! I was so discouraged right from the beginning. This would be the depression stage of the process. The pain was almost unbearable, but I was not going to give up. I fought through tears and even spoke with my sweet children at home to give me courage. I was confident that if I could just take it easy, stretch, pop some Ibuprofen, and rub on some pain cream I could keep going. This day was becoming one step at a time. The rain stopped after about 4 hours. I was grateful for the lady that gave me the suggestion to put bags inside my shoes to keep my socks dry. This day was now for nobody else but me. It was pushing my physical limits and I was proving to myself what I could endure. It was the most physical pain that I have ever been in since natural child birth. When I was sobbing on a rock because of the pain, a sweet safety lady stopped to check on me. I cried and cried. I didn’t want to give into the pain. I didn’t want to feel like I quit. However, the bargaining part of the cycle kicked in. The negotiating didn’t just happen in my head, but with the ladies in the sweeper, what I like to refer to as the rescue, van as well. I knew deep inside I had pushed myself to my limits. I did do just about 20 miles and only had 3 left…so I gave in. I got help. I let the van carry me to the end. Just as when I am pushed to my limits of my healing and am brought to my knees and let God, my guides and guardian angels carry me until I can go again. When I got to camp, I was greeted by Mandy. We hugged and cried together. I was so happy to see her. I went to the medical tent and got taped up. They taped both calves and both thighs. The amazing news? I had no blisters! I was more than grateful for that. My spirits started to come back along with my appetite. Dinner was great and even though we were in a tent, sleep was even better.
Day 3…still stiff and hurting, but it was the last day. Acceptance for the reality of the situation kicked in. Again, as in grief, there is a moment of acceptance where you know that life is going to be the way it is and living from moment to moment is the only way to get through. I had a great attitude and saw the sun peaking up over the eerie mist in the morning. NO RAIN! I wasn’t worried about keeping up with any fast pace. I knew that the slower I went, the further I’d go. I still had moments where I would slip into my head again and focus on the pain instead of the progress. I still got discouraged and forget to live in the moment. But then a beautiful thing happened. I got a surge of energy for about 2, maybe even 3 miles…the last real miles I walked, I was happy, listening to music with one of my new friends and dancing my way to the pit stop. It was great! It was exhilarating! It was how I thought the whole walk was going to be like. I still had pain, but it was OK. And then, just like in life, about another mile in…another pain started screaming at me. This time it was in my knee. It was like my shin and my thigh were both pulling it apart! Now, normally I could hobble through this but, since my left hip was in the worst shape and my right knee was throbbing, there was not a step I took where my legs weren’t shaking and threatening to give out. I walked about a mile with the pain on both sides and saw my relief…the sweeper van. I knew it was time to ride to lunch. Only about another mile in. The medical staff taped up my shins and knee now too. I started out again. This time I only made it maybe a quarter of a mile and knew I couldn’t make it any further. Sigh..acceptance again.I pushed as far as I could. Probably about 50 miles total I had completed. Mandy and I still walked the last few steps onto the “Pink Carpet” and down the hill to cross the finish line. We laughed, we cried and hugged each other tighter than we ever have. We got cheers and high fives from new friends and strangers. It was amazing. We did it. We had pushed ourselves to the limits. We finished together!
I have been humbled beyond humbled. I received the blessing of this beautiful analogy that came to fruition and the circle was complete to now add this story to my speeches once again helping others now. This experience is one I will never forget. One I thought I’d never repeat again…but once sitting in the airport waiting to board our flight home, Mandy and I found ourselves signing up for San Diego next year…because there is nothing greater than giving life your all, for others AND for yourself…and at least we’ll have beaches, and not so many damn hills!