Thursday, October 29, 2009

Begin Here

A bright arrow marks the start line on a map of the route for the 2004 CIBC RUN FOR THE CURE. I visualize the course. It doesn't look that long. I can run this I tell myself. I have never been a runner and often make jokes that I will never be a runner lest I am being chased by an axe wielding scary dude. While I have never been a runner I have been directly affected by breast cancer. If collecting pledges and running for a half-hour (my estimate for a 5k) helps, then sign me up!

It's amazing how helpless one can feel while watching a loved one battle any sort of illness. This run seemed like a way for me to be proactive. My friend Sharon who is an avid runner of great distances said she would run with me. "You can be my pace bunny," I said.

On the morning of the race Sharon and I met up to ride the subway to the stop nearest the start line. While on the train we pulled on our white Race T-shirts. On the front was displayed "Run For The Cure" on the back was my mother's name and the year of her birth and death. All around us were people dressed in clones of our t-shirts only the names on the back were different. So many names.

When we got off at our stop the sun was shining, the sky was blue it was a picture perfect October day in Toronto. We lined up with thousands of people who were all sporting the same T-shirts accessorized with pink bandannas, pink boas, pink stockings, pink shoes and pink socks, worn even by the men!

Among the white T-shirts were a sprinkling of pink t-shirt clad people. "What are the pink T-shirts?" I asked a woman. She said; "they are the survivors." I swallowed a lump in my throat while I smiled at her in thanks - I couldn't speak. I was overwhelmed to see so many people out, so many people affected by cancer. We all stood excitedly together under a big banner that read: Begin Here.

There was such a positive energy all around us, a static electricity generated by thousands of regular everyday people just like me out for a Sunday morning run. The gun sounded and off we went through the streets of down town Toronto. At each KM mark a band was perched up on a raised platform playing loudly while bystanders cheered us onward to the next mark. It was just amazing to see all the people come together united under hope.

Sharon and I finished the race no problem. I amazed myself because I had never run a 5k. We ran the entire way we didn't stop to walk not even for a step. I was lifted. If this feeling was the much talked about runner's orgasm then I certainly know why people run for fun!

This was more than a run for me. It was about being a part of a great big group of people who had suffered the ravaging effects of cancer and were here to lend support. We were all together running away from our helplessness toward a future free of breast cancer. For the first time since my mother's death I did not feel alone in my grief, I felt joined and I felt hopeful.

The next year I ran again. This time I ran in Ottawa with my friend Renee. I had not been working out and was not ship-shape to run for a minute let alone 30 minutes. I walked a lot and endured the most annoying leg cramps and stitches in my ribs. The magic just was not there. There were no bands, fewer runners, no crazy costumes, no Sharon and that's when I decided I would rather run my handwritten signature across a cheque the following year in support of the run and I hung up my sneakers. That was 2005. I beat myself up over it. I gave up on running due to a few leg cramps and side stitches. My mother endured far worse and I woosed out over a 5K.

An Email I received: October 4, 2009
So I did the Run For The Cure this morning - was happy I actually ran it and didn't have to walk with my mildly wonky leg. It's never the same without you but I always think of you when I'm doing it and had your mom's name on my bib along with my aunt and two friends. The same emotions still wash over me when I cross that finish line - and I still feel like you're running beside me, and like I'm running for both of us. I have such warm fuzzies for my friend Michelle Shipley today - every day really, but super high today!

I hung up my sneakers sure, however, here is an email from a dear friend who did not. Her words take me right back to the first run we did in 2004. Sharon didn't have a chance to meet my mother. I met Sharon about a month before my mother passed away. How much do I love Sharon for wearing my mother's name? A Lot! You see, even when you think you can't take another step if you're lucky, like I am, a good friend steps in and takes that step for us. Thank you Sharon!

For The Love of Breasts
A Party Benefiting Cancer
That's ME in the middle.
(Photo: Toronto Star Society Page)

When one person in the family has cancer the whole family has cancer. It affects EVERYONE. In my attempt to cure myself of the aftershock cancer had left in my life I ran, I walked, I also worked with a small team to put on a huge benefit called For The Love Of Breasts each October from 2000-2005. It was a one night event each October raising approximately 100 thousand dollars over six years benefiting The Canadian Breast Cancer Society and Rethink Breast Cancer.

I will always be an advocate for early detection and do share the story of my mother's battle when I am asked and last year my donation went to the Susan G Komen Foundation via my husband's Christmas gift to me of a pink Kitchen Aide mixer.

Breast Cancer is a horrific disease.

Please check your lovely lady bumps for lumps. Early detection CAN save your life.

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