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October 25, 2007

What I Saw at the Walk

On Sunday, I walked a mile in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure to raise awareness of inflammatory breast cancer.  I'm currently in treatment (weekly chemotherapy), so I thought that I would have to sit on the sidelines or ride a special trolley for those who weren't able to walk, but I ended up walking the mile with my family and friends, and it was wonderful. 

I didn't know what to expect, having never done a benefit walk like this beforer, so I went with open eyes and a readiness to report back to you, my friends in this struggle.  I wondered if I would see laughing or crying, great waves of support, or even individuals at all in the mass of the 32,000 who came out to walk that day.  I wondered how I would begin to process such an overwhelming event.  A week later, I can finally start to talk about it.  Here's what I saw at the race.

I  saw women and men united in a common cause, but not necessarily the one that I had suspected.

It wasn’t that we were all walking against breast cancer.  It was that each woman and man there had come out to support a survivor or walk in memory of a pathfinder who had lost her battle with cancer.

I saw hundreds of small groups here and there, scattered across the Hunt Valley Mall parking lot and environs, dressed in matching t-shirts, scarves, hats, or simply clasping each others’ hands.  Walking with their friends.  Walking with their family.  Walking in memory of one who mattered.

I saw a group of coworkers united as they walked by in green shirts decorated with the name of their company and the name of their survivor, walking proudly along with them.

I saw a group of friends clasp one anothers’ hands as they walked silently with the words “In memory” on their backs.

I saw a trio of young women walk tall and proud with pink scarves in their hair.

I saw a quartet of seniors walking slowly, but not silently, behind them.  Four women with pink shirts, caps, and scarves, all survivors.  All together.  All laughing, and going to and from the exhibits like toddlers eager to see what would be next.

I saw a merry band of walkers in pink satin capes, joking with one another as they approached the start line.

I saw a man walking alone, holding a sign commemorating his late wife, at the finish line.

I saw teenagers handing out stuffed bears, musicians playing, volunteers making it all happen, and a well-staffed tent just for survivors.

I saw people gasp as we passed them with our stroller decked out with signs (”Walking with WhyMommy” and “IBC: Breast Cancer with NO LUMP”).  Very few people asked me directly about IBC, but dozens asked my cousins, and we passed out the cards I’d made for BlogHer and thought to bring along at the last minute.

I saw women lining up for pictures to commemorate the day, stickers for their hats, stuff for their bags, and medical literature on a new chemotherapy regimen for their cancer.

I saw overstuffed mascots, toilet paper giveaways, sun chip snacks, and a host of other booths from local and national retailers eager to give out paper and support the cause.

I saw entirely too many teenagers and young women walking in pairs or small groups with the words “For Mom” on their backs.

I saw grandmothers walking the mile, for their friends, for their family, and for each other.

I saw grown men cry.

And then I turned to my family and friends, and I saw their love for me and my mother-in-law, and I thanked God that we could fight this fight against breast cancer.  That we have the science, the medicine, and the tools to begin the fight, and the faith to finish it.  I took their hands and began to walk.

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