Wednesday, September 17, 2008

My Weekend to End Breast Cancer Experience

There is nothing quite like sitting on a stinky port-a-potty the morning after having walked 33km and sleeping in a cold tent to discover you need a tampon. Upon exiting I informed my teammates I needed to stop at a drug store en route. When they asked why I replied, "Well, the good news is I'm not pregnant." This didn't deter me from walking the remaining 27km. One nap, two feminine hygiene products and three painkillers worked wonders.

The walk is not a race but I started out quite well, keeping a brisk pace. Before lunch I slowed down to really enjoy the experience. I love long walks and I love Toronto. The Weekend to End Breast Cancer is the only time all year my schedule allows spending two days pounding the pavement without any distractions or obligations. My original goal was to keep pace with a speedy friend but I changed it. I stopped to enjoy the scenery, to soak in the atmosphere.

That could easily be the atmosphere soaked me. A steady rain fell on the second day of the walk. I didn't have a poncho or an umbrella so I used the ultra thin polymer warmth sheet a.k.a. one of those annoying as hell crinkly shiny things that retain body heat. I did not need to stay warm but it kept me dry. Anyone on the walk would remember for two things:

1) I did the walk in sandals
2) On Sunday I asked people if they would trade their ponchos for my sheet.

As we approached the downtown core I felt tired and entertained thoughts of quitting after walking past Princess Margaret Hospital. I was soaking wet, on the rag, and my sandals were squishy from the rain. The encouragement I needed came in the form of a human angel at the northwest corner of Church & Wellesley. A woman asked me if I was doing the walk. When I said yes she gave me her umbrella. I couldn't believe it. A total stranger just handed me her brollie. It wasn't just an umbrella. It was the kindness and support of someone I had never met and will likely never again meet. It was a sign that I could do it, I would do it.

I also had one of those weird childhood flashbacks. "The Courage of Sarah Noble" was a story I loved reading. The title character was a little girl wise beyond her years who would say "Keep up your courage Sarah Noble" when things got rough. If that little 8 year old could schlep through woods I could do this. One of my instructors gave me the word "commit" as a mantra. Instead of using it to get through on air assignments, I repeated it during the walk.

Just in case I needed another boost, the people lined up outside Princess Margaret provided that in spades. There was no way I could quit 5km from the finish line when cancer patients applauded me. Sometimes we need that kick in the metaphorical ass.

Someday we'll kick cancer's ass out of our lives but until that comes I'll be doing my small part one weekend per year.

P.S. - I still need to raise $300 so if you want to donate leave a message.

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