Sunday, June 08, 2008

Ta-Ta Sisterhood!

Finally, it's time for a post about the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer! I know you're all excited for this moment! I figured I would post a bunch of photos for your amusment with a few little antecdotes. I wish I could take all of the emotion, the spirit, and genorisity of the weekend and put it in a bottle. You truly have to experience an even like this firsthand to know the power of humankind. I encourage you all to sign up for next year. It's a challenge, especially the fundraising bit, but it is worth it! I plan on being there next year, but probably as a cheerleader on the side. Honestly, without those random strangers cheering you on every single step of the way, it would be much more difficult.

So, without further ado ---

The night before. I stayed at David and Patty's house (my boss and his wife). That evening, Patty's neighbor Betsy stopped by to see how our walk preparations were coming along. She walked two years ago and has been diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. She's too weak to walk it again and it was heartbreaking to hear how she has started planning her goodbyes. She doesn't look sick in the least, but her lungs are constantly on fire and when she goes for a short walk, she has to sleep for hours afterwards. She's a fighter, but eventually this battle will be lost. She encouraged me to take photos of everything, so I did... for her. Here's all of my stuff set out. Our shirt had three women currently fighting and two who have passed away.

Here I am with Patty at 5:00 a.m. getting ready for our drive to Soldier Field where all of the festivities began.

We were welcomed by the cheering Youth Crew and immediately we were swallowed in a sea of pink and some very interesting characters, like this Sweep Fairy who we later saw driving a van and picking up those who couldn't walk any longer.

Here's a man signing the wall in honor of someone he was walking for. We started the day with some group stretching, dancing, and laughing. We were also introduced to three survivors who told their stories to us. Already the tissues were being brought out from everyone's fanny packs.

I couldn't have done this without the support of friends, family, and semi-strangers who donated for the cause. Together, Chicago raised 9.1 million dollars!!!! Unbelievable!

I love this van. (I can relate to the mosquito bites bit) These vans were decorated with bras, hilarious sayings relating to the ubiquitous mention of boobies, and all sorts of fun things. Every time they passed, they would honk and scream and encourage us. It was the crew that truly made this weekend possible and inspired us.

Most people had cute little shirts with funny stayings such as "Save Second Base" and my favorite quote of the weekend, "I'd give a BILLION dollars if I could. I love boobs that much!!!" There was some extreme creativity involving pink and catchy boob-related phrases. And solidarity. It was awesome.

Patty decided in advance that she was only going to walk the half marathon (13.1 miles) on the first day to avoid injury. Jane couldn't join us because something came up at the last minute. I decided to press on and by 5:00 p.m., I was walking into the Wellness Village after 26.2 miles of solid walking. We had rest and quick stops along the way to refuel with food, water, and Gatorade. And there were cheering sections that you'd walk through with tons of people ringing bells, using clappers, giving you high fives, handing you Lifesavers, telling you "THANK YOU FOR WALKING," encouraging you with "YOU CAN DO IT. YOU LOOK GREAT! KEEP WALKING!!!" I have never seen such spirit in my life. Complete strangers all turning out for the cause. And all of them affected in some way or another by breast cancer. This was the most inspiring bit for me.

And here I am at the end of Day 1. I may look happy but I was in some pain and had booked it for the last 4 miles because I figured my hips wouldn't hurt any worse if I was walking fast, and that way I'd be done quicker.

Day 2 began with me feeling hungover. I had a terrible headache, so apparently all of my hydrating wasn't enough, and was feeling extremely nauseous. I had to choke down a muffin and was wondering if I was going to make it through the day. By mile 4, I was doing great. Jane got to join us and it was hilarious to hear her talking about her impressions of all that we had seen the day before.

We crossed busy roads with the assistance of some Hell's Angels types who decked out their bikes with boob references, kept us laughing as we stretched and stood waiting for the light to turn, and regularly entertained us with some music and dancing. They were unbelievable.

And some photos along the way...

With the "udderly" amazing cow people---

Copping a feel at a street crossing with Jane ---

And for once, Chicago produced some amazing weather as promised. We could not have asked for more beautiful weather. I can't imagine doing all this walking in the rain. how horrible. We soaked up the sun and the lakefront. Beautiful.

At the finish line (after devouring huge ice cream cones for the last .5 mile & 39.3 miles of walking), we met up with Betsy and Robin, another neighbor on our t-shirt. They were so emotional as they knew that they had inspired us to keep walking and to help with the fight against breast cancer. They were a fabulous welcoming committee!

Our days ended with a closing ceremony. I thought I was prepared for the emotion, but I wasn't. I can't sum it up for you. You just have to experience it. In fact, you should sign up for next year!!!!


Carly said...

YAY! Congratulations (again)!

Carly said...

I shared your blog with a fellow Raveler (because she walked) and for some reason she wasn't able to comment. So I'm passing this on:

Great job on the walk!! You did an amazing post, it summed it up so well. You are so right about the cheering people all along. Sometimes, if you’re tired enough, it can bring you to tears. This was my 3rd year to do the walk and will do it every year from now on. I’m a 4 time survivor myself. My daughter walked it with me for the first time this year.

I made it 20 miles the first day the first time (we were walking with a friend who was a couple of months pregnant and she started to spot a little so we stopped) and all 26 last year. I commend you for pushing on! That 26 miles just plain hurts.

We’d decided this year to do 13.1 each day as none of us had trained. It actually was a more enjoyable experience for us … relaxed more at the Wellness Village, ate dinner without passing out in the pasta, etc. I’m sure we’ll do it that way again.

Anyway … congrats! (and as a survivor … thanks!!)