Monday, October 31, 2011

Feel the rain on your skin

I am back from my weekend in DC. I was honored by being invited to attend the 2nd annual Honoring the Promise for Susan G. Komen. It was held last Friday at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

I debated long and hard about whether I could go. After all I had just been in DC for the 3 day walk. It would mean buying a gown, buying tickets, re-organizing my calendar and business. Finally I thought about these past few years. I thought about the adventures I have had when I started to believe I COULD do the impossible. After Glenn stepped up and gave me some miles (so I could fly free....) I was committed and immediately knew it was the right thing.

Of course last minute Allison and Chris did the best they could to squeeze me into their busy lives. Allison was in a leadership conference and would be around until an hour or so before the event. I knew I wanted her to be my date. She scrambled and got home just in time and threw on her dress grabbed her pink shawl and loaded her be-jeweled Mom into the car and got us to DC just in plenty of time to sip a blini before going into the event.

We stood on the red carpet - looked at the beautiful lights - and the beautiful people while we waited for the doors to open.

We finally took our seats as the main players were taking their publicity photos. Below is Sarah Brown (wife of former PM Gordon Brown of the UK and recipient of the Global Award) Jennifer Beals and Nancy Brinker.

When the performance began you knew you would be in for a treat. Denyce Graves-Montgomery performed "Habanera" while an aerial artist Amanda Topaz twisted and turned and spun on a long silken ribbon.

The Master/Mistress of Ceremonies was Hoda Kotb, co-host of the Today show and by far the best, most real, delightful person I have ever seen in that capacity. Oh, and by the way she is a Breast Cancer Survivor.

The awards went to Dandra Swain MD, for her work in the DC community bringing quality care to the under privileged. The Scientific and Medical Award to Charles Perou, PHD whose research into genomic studies allowed these genoms to be analyzed in breast tumors and determine the likelihood of recurrence and there by help tailor make treatment and for example avoid chemo when not warranted. Sarah Brown won the award for Global leadership for her work in not only the UK but in other countries in particular Israel. And finally a lifetime achievement award given to Susan Ford Bales the daughter of Betty Ford, in her honor. I don't need to tell you what Betty Ford did. Before she was diagnosed with Breast Cancer, people didn't say those words out loud. She single handley shattered the stigma of breast cancer.

Each of these awards had significance. All were moving. But for me the award to Dr. Perou and the award to Betty Ford were especially moving.

When I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer I didn't have choices. To this day I am not sure if I needed to do the kind of destructive treatment that I followed at the time. I only knew, I had no other choice. As a result of my chemo I have scaring in my heart and damaged cells in a part of my brain. One of the survivors in the circle with me at DC benefitted from Dr. Perou's research. They determined she didn't have to have chemotherapy because of the type of Breast Cancer she had, recurrence would be a unlikely possibility.

But when Susan Ford Bales accepted the award on the behalf of her mother, I was moved to tears and was grateful I made a friend of the woman sitting next to me who gave me a Kleenex. Ms. Bales spoke with love and loss for her mother who at 93 passed away this past July. It reminded me how hard it is to lose someone we love, no matter what the age. But Betty Ford had changed many stigmas and we are all better for it. Breast Cancer is now openly discussed, as is addiction. She fearlessly worked on her past demons until she had power over them and thereby empowered all of us to do the same.

The performances were incredible; Miri Ben-Ari who is a Grammy winning violinist who has created her own unique blend of jazz, R&B and hip=hop from her classical training (with Issac Stern no less!) Afro Blue from Howard University who have been featured on the NBC show "Sing Off". But for me the one performance that spoke to me was Natasha Bedingfield. She sang Pocketful of Sunshine which sold over 3 million copies and melted into Unwritten which for me spoke about why I came on this trip in the first place. Read the lyrics (sing along if you know the words) and imagine me sitting in the balcony in the Kennedy Center smiling knowing, for me, I am writing my own story... and I love rain on my skin.

Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words
That you could not find
Reaching for something
in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions

Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open *****
Today is where your book begins

Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else

Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open *****
Today is where your book begins

The rest is still unwritten
The rest is still unwritten

Often in life we are stuck with what we know. We don't explore what is outside our window. We don't open our arms wide to grab life. We don't speak the words on our lips. We don't feel the rain on our skin.... That to some degree had been me. Each and every day I feel I see the road in front of me clearer, and I am less afraid of what is around the corner. I look forward to writing the rest of my story.
The event ended with a celebration and then a photoshoot.
They took photos while the rest of us headed to the elevator to go to the party upstairs on the Terrace level. Allison and I rode up the elevator with Wolf Blitzer. When the doors opened for the elevator we were flooded with a pink glow. I said "Wow it's pink!" One person said what did you expect laughing... I answered... "well I supposed I would disappointed if it was blue."

Food was laid out in at least four different rooms for the 1000 guests. Many of the guests were sponsors of the event. Those sponsors and donors brought in 2 million dollars on this one night. That isn't too bad! I have had people ask me why Susan G Komen? They are so large...they think it is better to support things that are more local. One thing that someone said on this night struck very true, They (Susan G Komen) are big enough to matter. They are big enough to wield power and make a difference. They fund research others won't touch. And from those have come some of the biggest advancements. Big is not always bad. In the world of Cancer big is GREAT if its an organization like Susan G Komen. They have invested over 2 BILLION in groundbreaking research and life saving communitiy health and advocacy initiatives. Cancer needs every big gun we can pull together to find a cure. AND we will find a cure.
Allison and I found a table to eat with two open chairs. I asked a beautiful young woman if we could sit down and she said sure. She was sitting next to another beautiful woman, more like my age. As we spoke I found out the woman was the Ambassador from Cape Verde. I told them how much I loved the music from there and they invited me to an event the Embassies are putting on, where there would be music from Cape Verde. I thought, shoot another DC party and I can't come! But I exchanged cards with her and told them they were welcome to come to SF and take a ride on our boat on the Bay.

As Allison and I wandered about I heard a voice "Cathy!" It was Kirk Hammond who was one of the survivors in the circle with me. Kirk walked in the DC 3 day walk in 2011 but in 2010 there was a team walking for her, she was going through treatment. She is a bright light, a Mom with a husband who looks like an anchorman you may know, but is an attorney. It was exciting to see her. She told me Leslie Kerns was also there another survivor from the circle and we hunted her down. It was a little harder finding her than it would have been in the 3 day where her hair was striking bright pink, but we found her anyway.
Allison and I left to drive back to Falls Church feeling so treated and so glad to have been able to go to this event.

Chris and the dog met us and we had one more glass of wine before bed.

The next day Allison had off, so despite the forecast for snow we headed out for an adventure. First stop lunch at a place feature on Diner Drive-ins and Dives. La Caraqueia in Falls Church, is a Bolivian restaurant and it was good!

After lunch we headed toward West Virginia and Loudon County, Va. The snow started shortly after leaving and got steadily heavier the further we went.

This is October?!

Looks like a wintry scene to me! We tried a couple of wineries, one was closed for an event, the other was just closed.

But we found a couple that were open and these people were very friendly and the tasting room was full of people who believe in adventure like Allison and me.

Corked Cellars was like going to the living room of an old friend. The owner used to be from Sausalito and his wine was good and reasonably priced. he also had local cheese, eggs and beef! We grabbed some of each and headed home.

Back in Falls Church we made dinner for Chris who was working late and relaxed. The next day, Allison was off for a class and Chris was off to work. I was off to the airport and home.

Now I am back to work, waiting for trick or treaters and wondering what I will discover around the next bend. I can't help but feel there is something I am meant to do. There is a passion I am meant to explore. There is good for me to accomplish and I am curious just what that will be. If you have any idea what I am meant to be doing, let me know. Otherwise, don't mind me, I am loving that rain on my skin.

Monday, October 24, 2011

It makes me complete

"Though the pain is miles and miles behind her, and the fear is just a docile beast, when you ask her why she is still running, she'll tell you it makes her complete."

This line comes from Melissa Etheridge's song "I Run for Life." It is one of the best explanations for doing the walk that I could imagine. And as I begin the fourth year of training for my fourth walk, on what will be my seventeenth year of survival, I thought I would start off by telling you what I get out of the walk.

Back when I received my diagnosis, the universe was put on it's end. It was as if someone altered who I was in one moment, ultimately leaving me feeling less of a woman, less attractive, weaker, mutated irreparable. I quietly walked through life in a semi unconscious manner, blocking out the memory that had cause so much uneasiness.

When I chose to walk in the Breast Cancer 3 day, my words were "It gave me my power back." But Etheridge says the same thing in a different way... "It makes her complete."

It is as if someone rebuilt you into a stronger person than you were before. The walk allows your soul to fill the void that Cancer left, with something that is powerful and meaningful. You realize as you walk that not only can you change your own life, you can change others. You can change the world. The wonderful thing is you may never have felt this way before Cancer. You never knew you were THAT person.

In these past 4 weeks that I have been laying low, and not walking, I feel a void in my life. I feel older, I feel weaker. I know what happens next, I start to feel less optimistic about lots of things and that is exactly the opposite to what I want to feel. I do not feel whole. I do not feel complete.

This week I have business to take care of and then on Thursday I will be leaving for Washington DC. I was honored to be invited to attend "Honor the Promise" at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. This black tie event will celebrate 30 years of Susan G Komen with music and entertainment, and present awards to some real life heroes who have had an impact on Breast Cancer. During this week I have agonized over what to wear, how to wear it, bought 4 dresses and returned 3. Its a role I am not used to, this black tie affair. But next week, my daughter Allison and I will be wearing our finest and walking down a red carpet. I hope I am able to connect with people who have learned how to make a difference and maybe in the course of that learn how to do even more to end Breast Cancer.

So look for more it the week to come about the event, people I will meet and perhaps even the dress. Then after that, it will be back to work and if I have anything to say about it, back to walking. Because after all, I do like to be all that I can be... (sounds like an ad doesn't it...)

P.S. secret personal goals for the 2012 walk season...

1. Earn $17,000 ($1,000 for each year of survival)
2. Perhaps walk in 2 walks
3. Walk with Patti, Patty, Katie, Allison, Leslie, Judi, Claire and ???

DONATE to a complete Cathy
and and end to Cancer!

Monday, October 17, 2011

A blog that is humbling and inspiring

I do believe Bridget is the gal who called me last year to thank me for my fundraising efforts and encourage me in the DC walk. She has been fighting a brave battle. This blog is raw and real. I wish I had a magic answer for the situation she finds herself in. But I want her to know that she has been in my thoughts since that phone call and I pray for her answer to be around the corner and close enough for her to grab.

Bridget.... You rock.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Susan G Komen Mission

The mission is to end Breast Cancer and one of the most important ways to do this is to get screened early. If a woman is screened and Cancer is detected early the survival rate is 98%. If the Cancer is found later, the rate is 23%

So the campaign Susan G Komen has started is one to encourage early screening. It's called, what would I have missed. They asked survivors to record a message about what they would have missed.

Share the message, save a life!

Friday, October 7, 2011

The journey

Walking 60 miles in 3 days is a big deal. This distance alone would be remarkable to most, the fact that we walk for reasons beyond ourselves is what makes this transcending.
This is my third 3 day experience. Each walk has been incredibly moving. This year had more than its share of tears ( and not from blisters or pulled muscles). This walk carried more significance because this year has had more challenges. And it was more meaningful because of people I met along the way.

Part of what this walk is, is, a victory dance over adversity. And there has been too much adversity around in 2011. Our dance therefore was epic.

Our team of six, Allison (our daughter) , Patti Bott, Barbara Bryant, Alicia Bryant and Judi Quinn Palmer each will have their own stories to tell. This is mine. This is what I will remember most from the Susan G Komen 3 day Walk for the Cure, Washington DC, 2011.

I don't know if you have ever before sat in the rain with a lunch bag, It really doesn't work very well. The bag just dissolves before your eyes. But somehow while the bags dissolved, the walkers only got stronger. It was as if with each drop of rain, the will to do the whole walk strengthened. Like a gauntlet had been laid down.

I know there were a few people who started this walk thinking "I'll just take the sweep van" "I'm not walking all 60 miles". We sat there staring blindly out in front of ourselves as the rain dumped on everything until smiles popped out on each face. Maybe we realized the rain wouldn't stop us. And each and every team member stood and walked the entire first day, sloshing and squishing along with determination and high spirits.

For me, perhaps the most significant memory of the walk will be carrying Olivia and Leslie.

I met Leslie when she and her husband Rob began looking for a house to move to in Mill Valley. It was one of those wonderful moments in life when one part of your life, intersects with another making perfect and complete sense. Leslie had read somewhere that I was a 16 year Breast Cancer Survivor. Since Leslie had recently gone through her treatment for Breast Cancer, she liked the idea of working with a fellow survivor. (Ok maybe the fact I am a top Mill Valley Real Estate agent helped a little).

When you work with one of the people in this family you are blessed to work with the whole crew. Leslie and Rob have three children Joe, Jack and Olivia. They also have parents who come to visit and help out from Pennsylvania. Now I have met a lot of children. My own were wonderful and quirky and amazing. But I don't think I have ever know three children so kind to each other and a family so beautifully connected.

In the middle of an escrow, on the day we were to remove contingencies for a home they were thinking of buying, Olivia had a seizure. Olivia, is only 2. She shouldn't be having a seizure. What has followed has been frightening and inspiring. How this family has navigated this I have no idea. What I do know is they have made real for me once again the urgency to find a cure for Cancer. No one should have to make the kind of decisions they have had to make about their little girl.

And what a little girl she is. She is spunky and bright and full of life. She has a smile and laugh that melts your heart. When I made the quilt for the fundraiser, it was quite obvious to me that this quilt was really meant for Olivia and her family. They have put the quilt in the "happy corner" where they huddle under it.

I made buttons to honor survivors and people lost to wear on the last mile of the 3 day. Dozens of them, but two buttons I wore all 60 miles - Leslie and Olivia. They were in my thoughts every step so I thought it only appropriate they be on the front of my shirt.

Susan G Komen's mission is to end Breast Cancer. In the process they have brought advances to all kinds of Cancer. I met a woman this year whose research (funded by Susan G Komen) is researching not only Breast Cancer but Pancreatic, Uterine and Ovarian Cancer. I am praying that one of the advancements will be the answer for all Cancers.

Olivia has just had a stem cell transplant. She will overcome this Cancer and she will be someone who changes the world. She and her family have already changed mine.

One major learning for me, was the chance meeting of Cate Edwards and Trevor Upham in Healdsburg a year ago.

It was in September and Patti and I had walked 18 miles in the hills around Healdsburg on a hot day. As we often do we try to plan a little reward at the end of the longest walks. Our reward this time was to stop into Toad Hollow. Toad Hollow had become one of our favorite wineries, not only because of their great wines, but because we met Jim Costa there.

Jim's wife Judy had passed away from Breast Cancer and he had even walked one day of the walk back in 2008 to honor her. We were chatting about the walk with Jim when I noticed the couple at end of the bar. I struck up a conversation with them.

They said they were recently engaged and lived in DC. He said he had just accepted a position at the National Institute of Heath. I told him a recent client had just done the same thing and suggested he probably would never know the guy since the Institute is so HUGE. But when I told him the name he laughed and said he had interviewed with him and would be working with him. The coincidences didn't stop there. The girl mentioned her Mother had Breast Cancer. I asked how she was doing and she said "She's done really well up until recently. It came back in her bones."

I told her to keep the faith. Her fiancee could tell her better than anyone of the advances that happen every day.And I suggested she and her Mother walk with us in DC in 2011. She said that would be something she would think about.

I went off just wishing the best for the young couple and her Mother. But Cate went back and the following weekend took her Mother to Mirror Lake in NY to celebrate her birthday. She told her Mother about meeting two women in Healdsburg who were walking in the Susan G Komen 3 day in DC in 2011. She told her that she wanted to walk in her honor.

Elizabeth Edwards, was her Mother.
She said "Well maybe I will walk with you."

Elizabeth Edwards (wife of presidential candidate John Edwards) had had her share of tragedy. But she never gave up.

The fact that we inspired her daughter to walk in the Washington DC 3 day will be one of the proudest moments of my life. I first found out they were walking because Trevor asked my permission to tell the story of how they decided to walk. It was wonderful to see Team Elizabeth at the 3 day, with their buttons of Elizabeth on their backpacks.

Elizabeth was walking with them.

During the walk I knew we would be walking past the White House. There had been a lot of discussion about tying pink ribbons on the fence as we passed. Many people were concerned we wouldn't be allowed to do this. Some were even concerned we would be arrested.

But many of us brought pink ribbons to use anyway.

The moment came very near the end of the walk. We zigzagged our way through nearby streets until we finally were at the White House. I pulled out the ribbon and some of the team had already picked a spot to tie their ribbons. But I couldn't really see the White House from where they were. I kept walking until the House was framed in my vision.

I looked at the White House and tied the ribbon on the fence.
My whole life I have felt one of things that means most to me is being heard. Doing something of consequence that makes a difference. As I tied that ribbon on the fence, I felt like I was heard. This is the best way I can explain the tears that ran down my face.

What we had done MATTERED.

There are moments in this walk when you feel tired and sore. And on this walk we felt wet and hot and sweaty. You eye the sweep vans and imagine in the van you could lessen some of the discomfort you feel. Then there are moments in this walk that take your breath away.

I first saw Bob King and Ashley on day one as I watched the walkers leave on the route. Seeing a man with an artificial leg participating in an event like the 3 day certainly would cause anyone to stop and take notice. But as the day wore on I saw him several more times. On day 2, he was in obvious pain. He had tears in his eyes when we saw him at a pit stop. His fiancee Ashley consoling him. I fully expected him to take a swept van to the camp. I almost went over to him to suggest he do that. But he didn't take the van.

Later at the last pitstop I went over to him and told him he was an inspiration. He said thank you and I went on to say to Ashley, "You are a lucky girl and he is a lucky man. You both are inspiring. " He walked the rest of the way to the camp with determination.

On Day 3 he had to bow out. There was an infection that developed in his leg that was very dangerous for him. He was admitted to the hospital. Ashley took his leg and walk the third day carrying the leg and in that way carried him.

This walk is about going further than you thought you could. It is also about walking for those who can't. This couple exemplified this perfectly.

I have since written Bob and asked his permission to tell this story. He said he would be honored. I am honored and humbled to tell it. He walked in 2010 to honor a friend who was a survivor who was pregnant and unable to walk. He added.
" I also have very important women in my life who I realize make my life so much better because they are around. Besides my beautiful... children and a handful of great friends; everything amazing in my life came from that first walk. I've now added thousands of women to my list of reasons why I will continue to walk."

How far can you go?
Life sometimes give you a gift that you realize may be one of the most incredibly ever. Being asked to stand in the Survivor Circle representing thousands of Survivors was one of those gifts. What came with it, was unexpected. Knowing the stories of the other 7 survivors who stood with me created for me a wider circle of people who "get it."

Each woman had a profound story to tell. Each woman was brave and strong and a fighter. One was still in the middle of their fight. A couple had just completed their treatment. I may have been the one who had survived the longest. I have realized that my survival is a great gift to others. It is the gift of hope.

The flag I carried was Belief. People have usually looked at me as optimistic - certainly tenacious and bullheaded. But Belief was something I needed to remind myself of as I stood in the circle. Standing there feeling the power of belief, helped me to fully accept that we will find an end to this disease. And it instilled in me a deeper commitment to keep fighting until we do.
There are people who say this walk should be more of a remembrance of people we have lost. They take issue with having too much fun on the way. But I disagree. This walk is like a symphony. There are hundreds of instruments that create the music. From the soft soulful sound of a cello to the brash and bold sounds of a temphony drum the sounds build and soften to the mood of the moment.

In the end this walk is a celebration of life. In the end the music is a triumph. In the end we swirl and dance and laugh out loud. We carry the joy with us as we return to our normal lives. The power of the music will remind us as days go on how it feels to take the silence around us and fill it with our collective voices. It is magic.

Team: Are We There Yet - Coast to Coast was a wonderful group of people, walkers certainly, but supporters aka stalkers, that made us the envy of the 3 day. Here are my thoughts about each.

Our son in law Chris has been a stalker in the past, but this year was different. Chris was our stalker driver through DC and Maryland, and that folks isn't easy. Although Chris lives in N. Virginia, he doesn't really know the area where we were walking. He had to endure a route that is not posted anywhere, his Father-in law in the passenger seat, Tom Tom, the exuberance of two woman, rain, parking, traffic and more.

He did it all with full commitment even on his 5th anniversary. I will always remember his entrance with the ice cream cones on Day 2. (Anyone within a 2 block radius would! The car kind of bottomed out as he came in to park). I will remember him rubbing Allison's feet in the Hotel. He is a warrior. And yes he does look good in a pink boa. Chris was a champion!
I have known Patty and Claire since 1991. Claire was our daughter Katie's best friend. We maneuvered a few challenging moments together. I worked with Patty while I was still being "Mommy". They are extraordinary women, both of them.
As stalkers, they took our Stalkers to another level. Ice cream, coffees, hooting and hollering. (I don't believe we had that before.) They both have a joy for life that you cannot miss.

Patty is not subtle. She is not a mystery. She is who she appears to be. That is a smart intelligent woman, a "go to" person. She is funny and deep and soulful and silly. She comes into a room and you have no doubt she has arrived. I find when I am around her , I dream a little bigger. I love Patty and I am so thrilled she will be walking with me next year in the 3 day. I know the walk will change her life in ways she didn't imagine, as it has mine.

Claire, has always been one of my favorite people. She has a wonderful laugh and is beautiful and charming. But Claire is one of those people who is very connected to her spirit and the spirit in others. She feels deeply. She thinks deeply. She is someone who will always be making the world a better place. For that reason and more I hope she will join us in the 2012 walk.


Alicia joined the team this year to walk with her Mother. Alicia is a sailor (really, she graduated from Cal Maritime). She works with boats (the big ones) and for fun she crews on racing boats. The physical work on these boats is intense at times. She didn't have the opportunity to train in the same way as we did. Even though she didn't make it all the way, I was blown away by her tenacity. She pushed herself (maybe too far) wanting to walk all 3 days. I felt her disappointment when in the end she just couldn't make it. But I for one was mightly impressed with how far she went (at least 40 miles!) I know it meant the world to Barbara to have her daughter there.

Curtiss had supported Barbara throughout her training. I am sure there were times when he would have preferred not walking on a training walk. They are retired and driving cross country exploring as much as they can. They pull their MacGregor boat just in case there is a place to put her in the water to sail. Barbara and Curtiss have done a lot of exploring. This 3 day has been Barbara's mission and having a spouse support that is so important.

You can tell all the Bryants love being around each other. We are so glad they could all come to DC especially because than meant Barbara could walk with us.


Judi Quinn Palmer. Judi went to Los Altos High School with me (graduating in 1971). We were never all that connected in High School . We knew each other for certain (but with my failing memory I couldn't really remember her very well!). Last year through Facebook, I think, we discovered we both were walking in the 3 day, she in Atlanta and I in SF. She said "I'll donate to you if you donate to me" and we did.

This year when I announced our DC walk she asked if she could walk with us. Her Georgia team were electing to crew and not walk in the 3 day this year. I said yes, of course, but I didn't know how it all would go. After all I was walking with my daughter and two sorority sisters.

How would Judi fit in?

Well, it was the perfect chemistry. Judi has a great sense of humor, mixed with that emotional makeup that has her crying just like us. She is tenacious, walking even though she was hurting, but she is mature enough not to push it too far. She had stories to tell, and we all loved hearing them. I left feeling there is so much more we have to hear. I am hoping, although, I suppose some of this is contingent on her team, she will walk in SF in 2012. If she does, I will walk in Atlanta at some point. I promise. I hear Atlanta is amazing on the 3 day.

Walking with Judi sure is.

My friend Barbara is my Tri Delta sister, past roommate and fast friend for 35 years. I was in her wedding. We saw them off on their round the world sailing adventure that lasted over a decade. She has been here for birthdays and Christmas parties and was one of the first members of Team:Are We There Yet? in 2009.

Barbara is optimism personified. It is hard to be depressed around her positive spirit. She is brilliant for sure, but she knows how to have fun. She is retired now and out enjoying life like she has done all her life. I only wish she lived closer, but I count myself blessed I have been able to share so much with her. And I look forward to many more adventures.

My friend Patti has had one heck of a year. Sometimes I am sure it felt as if life was just piling it on to see when she would break. Her husband had a seizure several months ago. The uncertainty of its cause, the surgeries and recovery were more than enough for anyone to deal with. John thankfully will be fine. His tumor was benign, and he is recovering rapidly.

All of this happened while the economy was bad and life had its own stresses. Then recently Patt's mother passed away at 93.

Don't let anyone tell you, losing an aging parent is easy. It isn't and Patti took it hard. The one sanity for her, and for me in hoping I could help, was training for the 3 day. We were able to go outside and breath the air and talk about life. We are both survivors in more ways than one.

I cannot imagine walking into a 3 day without her. This year Patti said she was walking slower than usual but she was determined to get ahead of me at the end so we could walk in arm in arm. As if I would ever walk in without her. She is a huge reason why I started this journey in the first place. I hope she will ALWAYS be walking with me. I am hoping we will be able to continue to do this incredible walk for years to come, together.

This is Allison's town now. She has come a long way. As a little girl in Mill Valley Allison
would always complain about her knee on walks. Her Dad would carry her the rest of the way home on his back.
Now Allison has completed 3, 3 day walks. She has been by my side and it has been a wonderful gift. As children grow you wish for their happiness and that somehow you will be able to be a part of their lives. Walking with Allison in DC, I saw her happy, satisfied and confident.

On occasions, Allison would run ahead. One time I practically ran to catch her. I got within ear shot and called "You're killing me! Slow down!" She was on a mission. She had started the walk saying she was going to sweep part of the walk. She didn't. I don't think it is the first time Allison has surprised herself with what she is capable of and it won't be the last. But somehow ... it never surprises me.

I have cherished the time we have been able to spend these past 3 years. I hope you get that foreign assignment you dream of, but, I also hope you can walk in SF in 2012 because I love walking with you.

My boa boy.

Blessed doesn't cover how I feel about being married to Glenn.
Every time I see my husband I get a little rush. No time do I feel that more than during the 3 day. He is an incredible man.

He is supportive. I think he recognizes what this means to me. I also feel, and maybe I am wrong, it means nearly as much to him. Why else would this guy unabashedly don a big bright pink boa and wander through streets leaving a trail of feathers behind. No one has to wonder if he has been around... those pink feathers and my smile says it all.

I am so fortunate to know what it feels like to have someone totally and completely accept and love me. We have been through some times Glenn and I. Times, I know I would never had made it through without him by my side. I know when I look at him I look with with eyes filled with love and pride. I do have to say, I think I have seen the same look in his eyes on occasion. How lucky am I?

And so now the walk is over and what I have gained is immeasurable. There is no way I am done yet. Cancer came into my life 16 years ago. It has stolen people from me who should have been around to share in this grand adventure called life. I see it trying to steal people still today. We have Cancer in our sights and I know we can stop it. We just have to keep walking, and keep shouting, and keep living. For when it comes to Cancer I have to tell you... Living is the best revenge.


SF 3 day here we come!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Raising the final flag

Back on the bus at 0 dark hundred, we headed back to camp where we met the rest of the team and boarded a bus to the starting point for day 3. Barbara and Alicia had stayed at a cousin's house in Potomac, and they were there bright and early. Alicia was getting her leg taped and blisters attended to since her intention was to walk the last day. This of course worried us, since after all, this is a walk about health. Although Blisters don't need chemo, a wrecked tendon can cause someone to be out of commission for too long.

The weather looked like it would cooperate.
We were filled with excitement for the day ahead.

The girls... Allison and Alicia

When we boarded the bus to the starting point Patti and I were asked to sign one woman's flag ( a survivor ) and this woman's shirt. The picture on the front of her shirt is of her daughter who is 4 months pregnant. Her options for therapy have been limited. Once again, we were hit with the significance of the walk and the importance of the money raised.

When we got to the staring point we ran into Cate Edwards and Trevor Upham again. Team Elizabeth was doing their part to end the disease that took Cate's mother too soon. I envy them one thing. By being who she is, she has the potential to be heard louder and clearer than many other people. But I remind myself, even this old realtor lady and her friend are heard. We gave them the idea to walk. I am excited for them. Their life ahead has all the potential of being very significant, Trevor as a Doctor and Cate as the director of a foundation she is forming in her Mother's name that will provide funds to talented young women without resources to pursue their dreams.

Allison knows about this walk. She knows the importance of stretching.

We were waved goodbye to from this pink clad fireman.

These young ladies saw us off too.

I loved the message on this shirt.
"I walked 60 miles and all I got is"
Click on the picture and read the list.
What you can't see is the bottom line under her fanny pack
"And this tee-shirt"


And the best part....
Our coffee delivery. Glenn had one extra cup so I suggested he give it to one of the other walkers.
This gal literally did a cartwheel before taking the cup.
And giving Glenn a hug.

We walked through some Maryland neighborhoods headed back to DC.

One long hill through a neighborhood luckily had a couple of bubble blowing cheerers. I stop to catch my breath and have Allison take a picture.

We stopped for lunch at a Metro station. This fine gentleman pulled out a chair for Patti. I must have looked a little disappointed because he pulled another one out for me.

Seems a whole lot of people took the opportunity to air out those warrior feet.

Are We There Yet feet...

Another poor walker...

Walking over the bridge heading into DC

Cheerers on the way


Judi had scouted a place for a beer on the final leg of the walk in Dupont Circle

Allison didn't mind

Patti had received beer money from Wren and friends for her birthday.

They knew an icey beer with lime was part of our training regimen.

Allison thanks the pink fireman

While several groups stood curbside to thank us.

Those crew members work so hard on this event. They are awesome!

"If I am walking for boobs, why do my feet hurt?"

These tutu gals were awesome. Singing and dancing along the way.
Thanking me for my 16 years.

OK.... there they are! STALKERS at the white house!

Shhhhh. They bought some of us a icey beer (ice melted because Komen had us zig zag our way to the White House.) Allison did not participate.

The team minus Alicia who had swept to the closing ceremony.

We brought with us pink ribbons to tie on the White house fence. There had been a lot of discussion on whether we would be allowed to do this. We were. It was one of those moments you will never forget.

It just felt like the exclamation point on what we were trying to do, bring attention to the battle against Cancer.

We brought Alicia's ribbon to tie on for her.

Poignant Pink

Curtiss walked the rest of the way to the closing with Barbara, while the rest of the stalkers fast forwarded to closing to find a good spot to watch.

I put on my button sash and walked the rest of the way in honor of survivors and those who had not survived.

Judy who had an injury finished strong with my gal Patti.

I thought of Mom, I thought of Glenn's Mom, I thought of Olivia and Leslie and Beverly and Jane. I thought of Alice and Gloria, and Tamara and Nicole. I thought of my daughters and my grandfather, Nancy and all the other who found a spot on the sash each and every moment I have been able to live past my diagnosis and the duty I feel to make that matter.

Those last steps deepened the meaning of this already powerful walk.

I am sure it was the same way for many. It isn't an ending - it is a shout. We are here. We are not stopping until there is an end to this diesase.

The team poses at holding before getting our shirts.

We made it!

And so did so the bags.

Barbara celebrates.

Team in holding ...

Patti thanks Trash Boy!

Another thanks the pink q-tip

They organized the group into survivors wearing pink, walkers wearing white, crew, volunteers

The survivor circle participants were held back for last.

We got to cheer as every walker walked in first.

All celebrating a great achievement

There are my gals...

The crew and medical and volunteers come in first to the ceremony, followed by the walkers. When the survivors enter there is a salute.

Patti would have been one of the first to see it.

Everyone raises a shoe in salute.

Can't tell you how moving that was to me when I saw it first in 2009.

And it still is. But we in the survivor circle were still waiting to come in and I felt bad for some of the first time walkers in the circle that they didn't get to feel that moment. But we had a different moment.

I came in with my flag ready to find my spot on stage. The second person in the circle missed her spot to put her flag, so when I came in and looked for my place to put my flag it wasn't there. Glenn said it looked like musical chairs. I wandered a bit and looked and then looked from face to face until finally someone spotted the empty spot, just in time...
Joining hands with other survivors, you could feel the power.

This ceremony is so moving to me. The words are still just about the same as they have been for awhile. But it ends with a raising of a flag.

"Like mountain climbers who plant their flag to symbolize the attainment of the summit, this flag is a proof that we were here. Living, breathing and shouting with every step "We will never give up, WE will NEVER give up, WE WILL NEVER GIVE UP!"

The flag says "A World Without Breast Cancer."

And we believe what we have done, DOES matter.

And it is worth celebrating.

We are powerful pink warriors.

Still flying high we took a while to sit on the green drink some champagne.

And congratulate each other.

And get a bright red rose from our stalkers.

This is the end???

Or a waystop on a journey?

It is a moment for soaring.

And that calls for congratulations.

Or a final drink of water.

Or a moment to just relax

Knowing the pink is never far behind

And friends who matter are always there.

Deep satisfaction

The final rose.

Thinking about what we lost along the way in this life and realizing how much we have found.

Now its time to chill out.

Get those feet ready for "normal life"

And leave this city behind
And stare into the eyes of those who matter, and who are always by your side.

Thanks for all your support. With your help I was the #4 individual fund raiser with over $16,100 going toward research and community programs that will END this disease. That's in a town of fundraisers! Our team was #2 per capita with over $31,000 raised and the walk itself raised over 7 million dollars.I will be walking next year in SF. You can get me off to a great start with a donation at

Because we aren't done yet!