We are two weekends away from the 3-Day Breast Cancer walk here in Tampa Bay this year. When Larry and I went to the Buc’s game last Sunday and we were packed in a stadium like sardines in a can. I had a throw back moment for the first time to how hot it was when I walked in the 3-Day two years ago.
In doing all my writing about breast cancer this month, I dug into my 3-Day memorabilia and I came up with every thing I wrote as I trained. However one of my favorite writings of all was my thank you letter that I sent out to each and every person who sent me money. I had a long list because I raised $6850.00 and a lot of that came in as $5 donations.
Here is my thank you letter and yes some of it was “borrowed”:
I did it…a 3-Day journey, a grueling physical, highly spiritual and deeply emotional journey. It was three days of walking, 60 miles to cover, over 133,800 steps, all under the glorious Tampa Bay sun. Three days of Larry rubbing my feet, applying bandages and tape, using moleskin to cushion the aches, and I only got three small blisters and they were manageable.
Three days of portalets (the advice was “don’t look”), three days of new friendships, new stories, and new tears. Three days with 1,746 walkers, over 300 volunteer crew members, and we collected more than 6.6 million dollars here in Tampa Bay.
Each and every one of us believes we can make a difference, that one day we will live in a world without breast cancer. If those who walked before me had not made a difference, I might not be here today thanking all of you for your generosity.
On October 15, when I stood on the finish line crying and laughing at the same time, it was exactly 13 years to the day that I had my “bad mammogram”. It was a marker for me as I begin my 14th year of “no evidence of disease” as I have heard at each annual check up; I am not considered a cure, not yet.
I leave you with this:
Registration fee $90.00 – 2 pair of running shoes $350.00 – Donation minimum $2200.00
Saving one life,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,PRICELESS
Thank you so much for helping to give me the chance to experience this life changing weekend.
There you have it, my letter of deep gratitude to my wonderful supporters. In this upside down, topsy-turvy world I can tell you there is no feeling you can ever experience that is better than doing something for the common good of a cause. It doesn’t have to be breast cancer; there are so many organizations that need support.
Doing the 3-Day taught me all about keeping a promise. I was giving a talk to a local Homeowner’s Association in May, 2006 about the importance of early detection. At the end of my talk, a member of the audience pulled a newspaper article out of her pocket about a local group of women doing the 3-Day walk. I took that article and said to the entire group, “With your support, I will walk in this year’s walk.” Right then and there 5 people got their check books out and I had $500 when I left that meeting.
I have always felt asking people for a donation of any kind is terrifying. I do not like rejection (who does though) but I was totally amazed that when I started asking, I got positive results. I had collected my minimum of $2200.00 in 2 weeks.
But at that meeting when I announced my “candidacy” to walk I had made the promise to the community that I would raise $100 for every mile and every year I had been blessed to be alive. This was the birthday present I was looking for that year, to give back.
It wasn’t easy and it costs money to get to the starting point. I joined a gym to get the proper cross training. I walked on our local walking path 4 days a week with my longest training walk being 14 miles. I had blisters the size of Rhode Island. I had to drop out for a week because I even had to have a surgical procedure on my foot.
I held 4 fundraising events, and I had to collect many donated articles and services to get people in the door. I had a pink carnation sale at our local grocery store and one of our biggest donors was a biker who handed us a $100 bill. I held a wine tasting at a boutique and raised over $1500. Larry and I held a spaghetti dinner and raised $1000. But the fundraiser that was the hardest was when our walking team of women in their 50’s and 60’s held a car wash. I do not recommend that to anyone other than the kids you see doing them on weekends.
On the actual walk, Larry and my friend and fellow walker, Valerie’s husband, Dave were at every cheering zone along the way with signs and hugs and kisses. They were also in open air restaurants where they would call us on our cell phones to figure out where we were. Then as we passed by they would have the entire place on their feet cheering not only for their wives but for every walker as they passed by.
On Sunday, our last day, as we pulled into the last pit stop 4 miles from the finish line, there was no Dave and no Larry. By now they had earned the titles of “Walker Stalkers” and all the walkers looked forward to seeing them along the way.
I called Larry and he told me he was at Vinoy Park where we all would be finishing the walk and heading for the closing ceremony. I was disappointed. I had been walking the last 20 mile day with three of my team members, Heather, Nicole and Val and as we pulled out of the pit stop I took off almost in a sprint. I turned and yelled back “I am out of here” and I finished that last 4 miles in an hour.
The last mile was the most inspirational of the entire walk. Here in Tampa Bay, the walk is actually held in Clearwater/St. Pete and the last mile is along the water in St Pete through a beautiful park. Sprinkled all along the way were people cheering me on, most impressive were the young men wearing pink bras over their t-shirts. There were dogs with pink shirts on, babies dressed in pink, and one little girl standing with her dad, holding a sign that read “Thank you for walking so my daughter doesn’t have to.” I stopped and went up to them, and it hit me, he was crying, I was crying, and I said “Her mommy?” He just nodded his head in a yes motion.
It is very hard to see a finish line with tears pouring out of your eyes and streaming down your face.
This last mile also gave me a chance to reflect on how much my life had changed since being diagnosed, and how wonderful it had been along the way being involved with other women with the same disease.
As I approached the finish line I saw my handsome husband standing there with a beautiful pink rose for me, and when I got to the line I stopped and I jumped up and down on it laughing and crying (as I am now) and it is hard to type through tears also. I ran up to Larry who was also laughing and crying. He is such a good crier. He cries all the time. He cried the other night while watching The Biggest Loser.
I could not have done it without him. He was awesome, I was darn good too, but he was awesome.
That my friends is what giving back feels like-I encourage everyone to give back in any way you can. This weekend here in Tampa a local hospital is holding an event to raise money for free mammograms for women who are uninsured or under insured and cannot afford the $100. Men are walking in high heels, and have raised $20,000.00 so far. That is 2000 free mammograms. There are ways to help in your own communities. As the Nike slogan says “Just Do It.”
In laughter and tears, I remain, your friend and supporter all the way in all you choose to do!