As many of you know I suffered from sciatica in the early part of the summer and that cut into my training time. I ended up with several blisters, one bruised toenail and I was asked, “Why didn’t you stop?” The simple answer, I had 60 miles to walk. For the more complicated answer, keep reading.
Friday morning as we were walking out of opening ceremonies we walked right by the woman with the sign, “My right boob thanks you” from last year and I knew it would be a good walk. As we walk we are never bored. We talk to each other, but each community makes it obvious that they are happy to have us walking there. The business people come out to meet us; in neighborhoods people hand out candy, water, or just cheer as we walk by. Walking by a school is the most fun because all the kids come out to the fence or sidewalk and they all want to give you a high five, from kindergarten to the junior high kids. At one school we walked by a young man in a pink tie was keeping all the kids fired up. At another school the kids had a sign, “You can do it Mr. Miller” and it was obvious that they were watching for Mr. Miller, maybe a principal or teacher. I am sure with all that support he made it. And through all the day my “walker stalkers” Beverly and Barbara were driving the decorated green jeep along the route to make sure I didn’t need anything. After 20.2 miles I made it to camp at Brookhaven Community College where we had students to help set up our tents. I had a few blisters, but took advantage of the showers in the trucks, stood in line for the foot massage chair, and got a good night’s sleep on my two inches of air.
Saturday morning came early and I taped up my feet ready for another day. We walk about three to five miles between a pit stop for food, port-a-potties and lunch, or cheer stations. Cheer stations are places that the 3Day sets up for friends, family or anyone to cheer as we walk by. Saturday cheer stations are usually the best because that is when most people come out and this year we were not disappointed. One cheer station was at a shopping center and people were lined up along the sidewalk down the whole length of one side of the shopping center and when we turned the corner they were lined up the whole length of the shopping center down the side. That is hundreds of people clapping, yelling, holding signs, passing out candy, stickers, and all saying thank you for walking. And the whole time I was thinking, I am just walking, these people made the effort to come out and cheer, I need to be thanking them for making that effort.
Friday and Saturday I managed to stay toward the front, somewhere in the top five hundred. I got into camp around four o’clock both days which meant that I did not have to wait for the showers. There were nearly 4000 walkers, 300 men, 400 survivors, so you can see that being toward the front of the group is important. Most of the day my “walker stalkers” Beverly and Barbara followed us around, but just about the time I got to camp, they made sure I didn’t need anything and went to visit my parents for the night. Another foot massage, camp entertainment, checking out the blisters and a good night’s sleep would mean I was ready for the last twenty miles.
Sunday morning started at 4:30 A.M. because the tent had to be taken down, bags had to be packed and I had to meet a bus at 6:30 A.M. to ride to the starting point. Last year I walked as fast as I could on Sunday because I wasn’t sure I would finish, but this year I knew I would, so I walked a little slower and enjoyed the walk on Sunday. Well, except that I knew I was going to have some serious blisters and at least one bruised toenail when I was finished. The last cheer station on Sunday had pink balloons and ribbons tied outside the businesses and hundreds of the same people we had seen all weekend. I saw the lady with “My right boob thanks you” sign and had time to stop and take a picture. Sunday I had three cars full of “walker stalkers”, enough that other walkers made comments about my support team. So I walked across the finish line about 1:00 Sunday afternoon, about two hours earlier and in much better shape, despite the blisters, than I was last year.
I could have taken a sweep van to lunch, or camp anytime. I could have stopped.
Friday when we were walking on really rough concrete another walker complained loudly, “I really wish they would find an easy place to walk.” Then we all heard a quiet voice from a young woman who obviously didn’t have much hair say, “ You know I was always saying I really wish they would find an easier way to give my chemo too.” No one complained about the rough concrete or how far we had to walk again.
Saturday night in camp a young man told us that he was walking for his sister who discovered breast cancer when she was pregnant with her son. Her son is now three years old and it has come back, “with a vengeance” the young man said. A young mother should be able to watch her son grow up.
Sunday while walking I met a sixteen-year old girl who was walking. No one in her family was walking with her and no one she knows personally has breast cancer. When those of us walking around her said how unselfish of you to walk, she stated that she was not unselfish. I think she doesn’t realize how different she is from most sixteen-year old girls.
But most touching this year was the older man in one of the neighborhoods who was picking up his morning paper and asked us what we were doing. When we told him, a huge smile came to his face and he said, “Thank you, this is the house of a survivor.”
This year before the walk my dear cousin by marriage, Ann, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She is now a survivor. My walker stalker sister was called back for a biopsy right before the walk. No cancer was found, but until everyone who receives that call feels no fear because we have a cure, I will keep walking as long as I am able. Thank you for the part you played this year in contributing to the more than $7 million, that is the amount from the D/FW walk, for research, education, treatment, and prevention of breast cancer. I know I have great supporters!