|Captain Boobie--Day One|
Apologies for yet another group email, but I am excited to share with you news about the 3-Day Walk, held last weekend, July 23-25, and update you about how the Boobies are doing, and this seemed the fastest way. You might want to sit back, relax. This is a long one.
After all, I have a lot of people to thank. Countless supporters. 110 generous donors. 14 incredible fellow Boobies and team mates. A wonderful, extended family. The innovative people behind Gu, shot blocks, and Brooks sneakers. My dog.
|Hey Cancer! You picked the wrong bitch!|
Just six months after my breast cancer diagnosis in the winter of 2008, in a fit of residual inspiration gathered first that April, 2008 upon watching the Boston Marathon and feeling like I Must. Do. Something., I signed on for my first 3-Day and founded the Blue Footed Boobies. In a strange, wonderful and empowering way, after completing my first Walk last summer, I felt a sense of closure with my recovery. In many ways, I had come full circle, regained my strength and good health, and proven to myself that cancer had not defeated me. But I knew that my journey was not over. Being a breast cancer survivor is an ongoing, lifelong journey, through the cycles of fear and dread and deep relief that arrive with every regular checkup and blessed test result; the frustrations and pitfalls of the health care system that, time and time again, falls woefully short; the often confusing, conflicting, harrowing world of treatment options, side effects, and preventative measures; and the challenge in each and every breath to live in the present moment, live strong, and not look back. The 3-Day has been the single most powerfully positive force in my own recovery—the benefits of all that exercise and fresh air, connectivity and community, laughter and love have been tremendous, and the absolute best medicine of all.
|Dara and Liz: Boobie feet|
Recovery aside, there were plenty of other reasons to walk again. Let’s face it: the 3-Day is a bit addictive. All that positivity and good Juju surrounding you, following your every step, radiating from each and every moment is simply awesome, and it is hard not to go back for more. In fact, since returning home, many of us have wondered if some of those supporters—men like the Pink Angels, who don crazy pink angel wings and dresses and line the sidewalks throughout the route each and every day just to cheer us on—might be for hire, to follow us around during our busy lives, give us high-fives while hanging out the laundry, clap for us as we juggled the usual brouhaha of our lives, make us feel appreciated.
|Dara with the awesome Pink Angels|
Most importantly, however, there is still work to be done, and I will continue to walk and fight for a cure as long as there are women—and men—facing this terrible disease. I walk because I can, and others cannot. And there is plenty of rich inspiration to keep me going. While in the midst of treatment—including chemo and hormone therapy—for metastatic breast cancer that has spread to her bones, my teammate and friend Cindy Harris not only trained with us but walked every one of those 60 miles this past weekend. Cindy walked with a smile on her face and an undeniable bounce in her blue Boobie Vibram feet as well, her spirit speaking volumes about her dogged determination to get through the Walk, and this latest round with cancer—with strength and dignity. There was never a prouder Boobie moment when Rachel, Mike, Dara, Carlos, Barb and I—who had reached the finish line earlier on Sunday—spotted the I Love Blue Footed Boobies banner rounding the final corner, and Cindy, fellow survivor Jeanne, and teammates Meg, Gretel, and Marggie all coming into view together.
|The Blue Footed Boobies banner at Boobie Camp|
Since beginning the process two and a half years ago, there have been many moments like these that have helped balance some of the more difficult moments in life with absolute joy, and an uprising of hope that has brightened my world. I have been touched by the love, support, and generosity of old friends and new, family members, neighbors, teammates and classmates—from people like you—who have come forward, reached out to me, and encouraged me to push myself beyond what I thought possible. In the last two years, you have helped me raise nearly $20,000 for Komen on my own. This year, over $3,000 came in during the final four weeks, bringing my individual fundraising total to $9,348. And my team--the Blue Footed Boobies—cleared a phenomenal $48K just a day after the Walk. In two years, the Boobies have raised over $73,000. At the Boston 3-Day, over 1700 walkers raised over $4.5 million for Susan G. Komen for the Cure. The Blue Footed Boobies were recognized as being one of the Power Teams, garnering the sixth spot on the top fundraising team list. The support we received was incredible. Many of you are repeat donors. We could not have done it without your continued support, your compassion and generosity, and I am deeply grateful. Thank you.
|Survivors Cindy, Jeanne, and Liz at the Closing Ceremonies|
|Our "Before" picture!|
|Opening Ceremonies--a sea of pink, and a whole lot of bunny ears|
The Opening Ceremonies—always a bawl fest—pulled us right into that space inside where we hold our losses and fears close. We cried for Valerie, Dara’s older sister who lost her fight just a few years ago, for Rachel’s grandmother Joy, who died just this past winter, for Marggie’s Mom, who died almost twenty years ago, and for ourselves and all the survivors and warriors still fighting, we let the tears flow for them and held on to each other. And we positioned ourselves for an early, easy exit onto the route, making sure we did not repeat last year’s disastrous start, when we were the last team on the course and were forced to spend the first few hours slogging behind the masses. This year, we entered the course breezily, gave hugs and kisses to Gail and Damon, and as we took the first steps of the day’s 20, the urgency of why we walk filled every fiber of our being and fortified us against the elements: the heat and humidity, which was, by all accounts, oppressive throughout the weekend, and the constant traffic, honking, and smog that followed us along the way—so unlike the clean air, quiet country roads, and hills of Gill, but lined, too, with wonderful supporters who came out to cheer us on. I had to take some Advil to keep a creeping headache at bay; the hideous stench of traffic fumes, cigarette smoke, and rotting urban garbage would irritate us all that first day, and make us long for the quiet country roads we had left behind, but we pushed through. It became instantly clear that we would lose each other—to the crowds and the traffic lights and the varying paces and strides. We agreed to meet up with each other at lunch, get it done.
We made our way through Framingham into Wellesley, where the air was decidedly fresher. We walked by One Washington Street, site of countless visits to my plastic surgeon’s office, where I had gone for weekly expander fill-ups for a while before my exchange surgery brought in my new girl, and later, where I had the color for my new nipple tattooed on. I wanted to run in to say hello to Dr. Pitts, show her the beautiful lizard and flowers that I had had henna-ed on my new girl, and have my “after” picture taken then and there, but with skies starting to threaten rain, I kept walking, past Newton-Wellesley Hospital, where I had most of my surgeries and procedures done just two years ago, through Newton, and into Waltham. A few times, we skipped a Grab ‘n Go or cruised through a Pit Stop, just to put a little distance between us and the crush of other walkers.
|Liz and Rachel--Day One|
Day One was a rollercoaster ride of emotions for all of us. Opening Ceremonies allowed us to process our sense of loss and grief and sadness for those casualties of the collective cancer battleground, while the actual walking that followed provided ample time for reflection, head clearing, and a hefty dose of hilarity that kept our feet and hearts well-grounded. In our 3-Day Diary, Carlos wrote about “life’s rebirthing energy,” and how in a single day he had gone from feeling “heavy with the weight of my friend’s loss” to “finishing the walk with pure laughter…,” the race with Rachel “bringing me back to the joy of life.”
|Silly crewbies at pitstop|
|Cozy pink tent city under darkening skies|
|Marggie at Boobie Camp|
The Boobies were up extra early on Sunday—to take down our tents, pack up our duffels and get them to the gear trucks, and get a jump start on the crowds. It would be another hot day, but the morning route quite happily took us through shade, from Belmont into Cambridge, where we met up with BFB Angie Murphy Timm, who had walked with the Boobies in 2009 and who had come in to support us in our final day. We enjoyed the sights and sounds of a sleepy Harvard Square, caught a few curious glances, and wondered what had happened to Crate and Barrel. At Central Square, the T beckoned in a Rosie-Ruiz sort of way, but we opted to keep on following the arrows through some gorgeous MIT architecture and over the Mass Ave Bridge onto Commonwealth Avenue. Near the Public Garden, we were treated to our own personal cheering section from teammate Gretel Schatz’s wonderful family, who had made a huge banner and signs for each and every one of the Boobies and greeted us all with smiles and hugs. Once on the Common, it became harder to distinguish the route and walkers from the other pathways and groups of tourists. One pair of walkers started to follow a big arrow sign into a parking garage. Oops!
After all, this was day three, the final 20 miles. We were all fairly exhausted by this point, not just from all the walking, but from lack of sleep, sheer emotional release, and months of preparation and build-up. Because so many walkers were suffering from all sorts of injuries and maladies, there were far fewer of them on the route Sunday. Blisters, sprains, rashes brought on by all that heat, chafing, swollen this and that, aggravated old injuries and fresh, annoying new ones—by Saturday night, camp looked a lot like a war zone, with a lot of people wrapped up and taped and hobbling on crutches, icing all sorts of body parts, and waiting in line at the medical tent. We didn’t hear about anyone fainting in the showers this year, but there were plenty of other stories. A woman got heat stroke and crashed out on the lawn at the finish, right next to some Blue Footed Boobies. A quartet of gray-shirted, towering, well-built young men nearly dropped a few times in the heat throughout the weekend. Two of the guys had lost their mothers to breast cancer, and had been joined by two friends who had come from afar to walk with them. None of them had trained. They were, after all, athletes, well-conditioned and fit. What’s a little walking?! They came in late in the afternoon on the first day, tails between their legs, clearly humbled by the experience. But their dedication to their moms—and to each other--pushed them through to the end. Sag vans and big air conditioned buses awaited at every pit stop to bring people to the next pit stop or to just before the finish, so they could make their way across and enjoy the sensation of finishing on their own. Despite some pretty nasty blisters, a smattering of road rage, sore hips, and several bum (old!) knees, the Boobies pressed on, and just one of our teammates needed to use this service—a sore back forced the irrepressible Jeanne Rees to make some wise compromises on Saturday and Sunday, hitch a ride here and there, receive a special sag van legacy pin for her trouble, and be able to finish strong on Sunday afternoon. That’s how you get it done.
|Dara, Mike, and Liz|
|Carlos, the Energizer Bunny|
|Never a prouder moment...|
|Barb at the finish|
|The Shoe Salute, Closing Ceremonies|
The Boobies have scattered once again, but for many of us who live close by, we are already planning dog walks and mini-adventures and time together. The Southern Boobies have invited us Northern Boobies to come visit, and to visit often. And I’ve already signed up for my third 3-Day (ok, I wanted that 3-peat legacy pin and the $35 off coupon for registering early), am thinking about walking Boston and Atlanta next year, and am setting my sights on expanding the flock. Please think about joining us next year. Truth is, we need you, and you just might come to realize that you need us, too.
Summer is flying by, and with the Walk behind me, I suddenly have a little time to get into my gardens, make pickles and jam, hang at the neighborhood pool, and spend my Saturdays not walking 18 miles but instead, taking advantage of the simple pleasures of summertime: carousing the local farmer’s markets, harvesting and canning and cooking and eating, walking barefoot on the lawn, tossing the Frisbee to the dog. It feels good to kick back a little, spend some time writing, and give my feet a little rest. But the roadways beckon, and the woods trails call to me, and I have already enjoyed getting together with several Boobies, for walking and talking and watching the dogs dart and dash like phantoms through the trees.
|Liz and Dom enjoying Sunday post-walk feeding frenzy with the Boobies|
|YES YOU CAN! Cindy's Boobie feet|
I’ll be in touch again soon, to try to convince you to join the flock, and to talk to you about my new project, http://www.thethriveproject.org/ which will no doubt be keeping me busy until the next training season begins!
LOVE & THANKS,