Thursday, October 29, 2009

Another diagnosis

So without going into too much detail, my biological aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer. She has already gone in to take care of it and hopefully the reports will come back with no metastasis.

I found out in the freezer section of the grocery store. Sometimes email at your fingers tips isn't a great idea.

I leaned on a freezer for support... I felt like the wind was knocked out of me.

I was completely stunned.

I had my son with me so I was jolted back to reality. He's 2 and demands to be heard.

I forwarded the email to my husband and tried to go on with my list.

I walked about 10 feet before it sunk in.

Family history.

One thing the doctors always focus on is family history of breast cancer and now I have more of it. Not just a mom but an aunt too.

I think this was the first time I felt like breast cancer might be a reality.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Husband

First and foremost: he kept the boy safe, fed, bathed and entertained all weekend long! A 3 day weekend at that!

He kept up with the dishes.

He hung the new shower curtain.

He kept the living room clean (I did NOT walk into a house with toys littered everywhere... oh happy day!)

He changed the sheets on our bed.

He started the laundry.

Took the recycling to the dumpster (yes we live that far out in the country... they don't pick it up for us). And that task is generally monumental... we put it off until literally no more recycling will fit in the Jeep.

He had flowers and a balloon waiting for me when I got home.

In reality this is what I do everyday (well not every day but at least weekly) but this is my chosen career. I chose to be a stay at home mommy/wife so these are all in my job description.

Adam's chosen career is law. He did not choose to be a stay at home dad (and even if money were no object, I doubt he would ;~). So for him to step into my career and do it well and with my thoughts and feelings in mind... well it just reminds me how lucky I am to have him.

Lord knows I wouldn't want to spend a weekend in the law office!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Day 3

I have to say Day 3 wasn't that bad. I was definitely tired but the mileage didn't seem insurmountable.

The hardest part were the last few miles through downtown DC. I think they pulled a couple more '3day miles' on us.

But we did it... we walked into the waiting lawn of the finish line. And promptly collapsed.

Yes, we are hardcore... we just walked 60 miles!

After everyone was present and accounted for, we made our way to closing ceremonies. All of the people walking that don't or didn't have breast cancer walked first. Then the survivors walked into (wearing pink) together. It's really quite a powerful thing... and I think it hit me harder than I expected. Last time I did this my mom walked in with them. Unfortunately she didn't win her battle but these women and the 1 in 8 that will be diagnosised are the reason we keep walking and fighting.

As the survivors walk in, the rest of the walkers raise a shoe in honor of them. It's a great tradition that I hope always continues... I think it's a very visual reminder that they are why we have the shoes on in the first place. The best thing about this part of the ceremony was I remember doing this with my dad when mom walked in... very cool memory.

BTW, that's my shoe on the right!

Like I have mentioned before, I have some wonderful in-laws... I mean seriously blessed with these people. They (along with hubby and above picture son) came out to support me at closing ceremonies. It felt really great to walk into a family that missed me and was proud of me.

I love this picture.

My awesome supportive husband and the best son in the world. The husband will get his own post soon...

Team "I Walk For Her"... aka "Hooray for Boobies"

Saturday, October 24, 2009

My List...

of must haves for the 3Day walk.

As my friend Jen pointed out, the first thing is duct tape to securely fasten your camera tether to your wrist. Amen.

Secondly... a proper sized tarp. Now this is coming from a DC walker so it may vary by region (Jen, I am looking at you). We had a tarp that came up a little short... a couple feet and where it didn't cover, the tent was damp. Not a big deal but something I would do differently.

A change of socks for mid day. I didn't do this last time but thought 'what the heck, I'll try and see if makes a difference'. Boy did it! If only to refresh your feet from the 12 miles of stink you put on your socks before lunch!

Handmade t-shirts. Again, I didn't do this the first time around and I really wish I had. I wish I had worn t-shirts in HONOR of my mom before I had to wear them in MEMORY. Hindsight is 20/20. I made t-shirts this time around and had lots of fun. I felt great putting my moms picture out there for everyone to see... it makes the journey so much more personal for you and everyone walking with you. A face to cancer goes a long way. I also had fun making other shirts as well... I will do a post on those shortly.

Glow sticks... my tent mate brought the necklace glow sticks with connectors which made perfect zipper tags. Not only could we spot the tent down the row of pink tents, we could easily spot the zipper! No fumbling for us!

Headlamp... the ones you strap on your forehead. Dumbest looking things but OH SO HELPFUL when you are in a pitch black port a john trying to simultaneously squat, aim and keep your pants off the floor all with a flashlight in hand.

Bag to carry down to the showers and sinks. Not only the toiletry bag but one to put clean/dirty clothes in... it makes for less fumbling. Plus if you decide to go straight to dinner (or straight from dinner to showers) it's much easier!

Battery pack for my iPhone... sue me, I am addicted. I was so concerned about running out of juice that I conserved like a champ... but that meant not a lot of surfing time.

And if I do this again (which let's face it, I probably will), I will be bringing an air mattress. There is no way I am attempting a sleeping bag on a yoga mat again.

Towel service... never has $12 been more worth it. Trust me.

Mylar blankets... again, this is coming from a DC walker so take it with a grain of salt. You wouldn't think that balloon material could keep you so warm but it really does! They are cheap so throw in a few!

So that's all I have so far. If I think of anything else, I will be sure to add it!

Friday, October 23, 2009

No camera = no sleep

I have a hard time putting into words why pictures mean so much to me. For most of my life it was just my mom and I... which means she knew all the stories and memories about me. When she died, I felt like I lost my history. I felt like I just materialized out of thin air. Pictures to me are a way to combat that. They are a tangible piece of my history... and more than that, my sons history. They record moments that I may (and probably will) forget about. They bring up the emotion (happy, sad or angry) that I may have forgotten. To this day I wish I had someone take pictures and video at my moms funeral. I can't remember who was there or what was said.

Pictures are everything to me.

In a fire, the pecking order goes 1. {husband, child, dog}, 2. hard drives. We just invested in a hard drive to serve as second back up which will be housed in our fire proof box. I have even toyed with backing up again and leaving that at the in-laws.

Obsessive... yes, I am aware.

All that to say that the loss of my camera kept me up most of Saturday night. Thoughts about the specific pictures I had taken. Self portraits of Laura and I... each of us in front of the Washington Monument... awesome handmade shirts people had made for the walk... the crew members and motor crew... and on and on.

Everytime I thought of another specific picture, I cried. Which stuffed me up... which with laying on my side with no elevation made it even harder to breathe.

So I would will myself to stop and forget it.

Then my mind would drift back.... and the cycle starts over.

Somewhere in there I remembered the pictures I had taken on Thursday. My son and his friend at the park playing in the leaves... and the videos of them running and jumping in the piles... and the laughter.

Yeah, I lost it.

Finally after all the tossing and turning, crying and sniffling one person can do, I fell asleep. I estimate another 4 hours of highly interrupted sleep.

My bed never looked so good.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Day 2... aka 'introduction of the 3day mile vs an actual mile'

Day 2 started off well enough... even with the lack of good sleep. Breakfast was good and I was set for a long day of walking.

The first few miles were through neighborhoods that I thought only existed in TV shows and movies. Gorgeously stunning houses with stone fronts, Land Rovers in the driveway and perfectly manicured lawns. So basically the first few miles were spent walking wide eyed and drooling while trying not to trip and look like a complete idiot.

Then mile 6 hit.

I am not sure what it was about mile 6 but I'll be perfectly honest with you... I didn't think we would make it. Well, I at least thought I wouldn't make it.

I absolutely, without a doubt, thought I would be taking the sweeper van by lunch. Not that there is anything wrong with taking the sweeper van... I just so desperately wanted to walk all 60 miles.

But somewhere between miles 6 - 12 I thought I would have to give up that dream.

I believe this is where we were introduced to the '3day mile'. Up until this point if the signs said 1 mile to pit stop/lunch/grab and go, I believed them... I trusted them. But miles 6 through 12 ruined for all the rest. I can't be sure but I could swear that one of the '3day miles' was actually 2.6 miles... uphill.

Then we came to the stop before the lunch break. For some reason that stop energized us and we picked up some steam. Before we knew it... lunch!

Lunch was uneventful until a half a mile after we started walking again... when I discovered I didn't have my camera on me. Almost instantly I knew what happened.

We made a pit stop at the port a johns on the way out and usually I leave all my belongings in a pile right outside (as does everyone). When I got in I realized I still had my camera in my very loose pocket. If I left it, I risked losing the camera to the great port a john abyss... no way I would be going after that. Or I could open the door, toss it out and grab it when I was done. Or I could hang it on the hook of the port a john and think to myself, even if I don't remember it, I'll hear it clunk on the door on my way out.

Any guesses?

You got it. Dummy me left it on the hook and there was no clunk that reminded me to grab it. So there I left it.

I hightailed it back to lunch hoping that it was still in the same spot... or at the very least an honest 3dayer picked it up and turned it in.

No luck at the port a johns... and I checked all that were around the one I was in, just to be sure. At this point I am frantic. My camera and my pictures mean the world to me. I ask someone through held back tears if they had anyone turn in a camera. No luck.

They did reassure me that more than likely some crew member had it in their pocket and that they would turn it in at base camp. After asking many more people and fretting about my camera, I turned to leave.

I still had a lot more ground to cover and I just cost myself some extremely valuable time. So I left. Completely and utterly defeated... and pretty sure I had seen the last of my camera.

Laura and I finally made it into camp... around 5:30 or 6. Not too bad for 21.5 miles!

We snapped this picture with the iphone and then I went straight to lost and found.

They did have a camera but it wasn't mine. I cried. I willed myself not to but my tears overrode the willpower. The people in the command center (where all valuable lost and found item go) were so nice and they reassured me that someone would turn it in.

I left and called my husband. I bawled on the phone to him... and he got just as upset as I was (without the tears though). I love him for that. I just needed someone to commiserate with me.

I got off the phone and cried some more. Some nice crew member sat down and when I explained to him that I lost the camera, he said someone was sure to turn it in. I just muttered 'if life where that rosey then we wouldn't have to do this walk'... *sigh* I suck. To that guy, I am really sorry that my cynicism won out. You were very nice and I should have just accepted that.

I checked in with command center several more times that night... and once there was even another canon... but it wasn't mine.

Completely heartbroken and defeated, I went to bed.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Our Impersonation

of the Breast Cancer Ribbon...

Not too shabby...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Day 1... the night edition.

Let's just put this all together and see if we can't paint you a pretty picture. Gail force winds blowing so much that several people were worried that their tent... occupants, gear and all... might actually blow away. Winds which are clearly telling us that rain is on the way so be sure to have your tarps on... and we all oblige. These wonderful 'keep your stuff dry' tarps conveniently block the vent at the top of the tent. You know, that little piece of heaven meant to let air in... you know, so you can breathe?

With me still? Good.

Then the wind stops... for about 3 minutes before the rain starts. If you were lucky or had really good timing, you would have fallen asleep in that 3 minute window. I have neither so awake I stayed.

Try as I might I just could not get comfortable. I was on my sleeping bag (on... not in) which for me is huge. I cannot sleep without something covering me... and covering almost every inch... head included. But I was trying... no air so no blanket. At the same time I was attempting to use my breast cancer fleece blanket as a pillow (along with my worthless travel pillow) but neither putting it under my head nor putting it over was allowing me sleep. I was hotter than Hades in our little pink haven.

I went so far as to turn my head around to the opening of the tent, crack it ever so slightly... just to get a gasp of fresh air. Rain be damned... I had to breathe!

Needless to say I woke up when the rain started... if nothing else, just to zipper the tent back up.

I think all told... the entire night... I got about 4 hours of sleep. Non consecutive... just 4 hours over the whole night.

Oh did I forget to mention that I got about 3-4 the night before? Thursday night...

Yeah, I spent the night at Laura's and had what can only be described as the most horrendous case of nerves... I was up thinking and peeing all night long. TMI? Sorry.

So 2 nights of sleep disaster... I really wondered what Day 2 held for me.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Christmas Spirit...

Santa hates Breast Cancer too!

and he did something about it!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Day One Con't

Didn't think there was more to add did you? You underestimate my ability to talk ;~)

Once we got back to camp we set up our tent... which I had pictures of... which I lost along with my camera... yep, still don't want to talk about it.

We rolled out our mats and our sleeping bags, situated our gear and headed down for some well deserved food.

Dinner was spaghetti and meatballs, veggies, garlic bread and a brownie for dessert... and I ate every bit of it. I don't generally eat that much food at once but it's amazing what walking 20 miles will do for an appetite ;~)

Then we headed to the showers.

Shocked? Yeah, I was too. They have mobile showers. Think tractor trailer with 8 or so curtained off stalls. Pretty amazing what's out there that you might never think of.

So we showered and let our hair dry in the beautiful weather.

Oh did I forget to mention how gorgeous Friday was? The weather was awesome. So beautiful to walk in during the day and even better to putter around camp in at night!

Once all the primping and cleaning was done... it was off to tend to the feet and knees. Well my feet and her knee!

I got one blister 'taken care of' and that is all I will say about that out of respect for my easy to queasy readers! I bandaged the others and was done. I think I counted 4-5 blisters in all... not too shabby! My SmartWool socks held up well!

Laura sat on the yoga mats stretching while icing her knee for a good 20 minutes.

All in all... not a bad medical tent trip. There were women and men far worse off then us, that's for sure!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Motivational Safety Crew

Part of the real fun and energy comes from the safety crew... our Breast Cancer 3Day motorcycle gang. They start in the early morning with us making sure we cross the larger intersections safely. They start where we do and then ping pong ahead of us so we end up seeing each person at least a few times a day!

In addition to keeping us safe (their # 1 goal I suspect) they go above and beyond in the cheerleading department. They dress the part and have music blaring on their motorcycles... always a great pick me up when the walk starts to get overwhelming.

Like I have said in previous posts... I had tons of pictures to show but then I lost my camera... still don't want to talk about it ;~(

Here are the pictures I managed to snap with the iPhone (thank God for the iPhone ;~)

This guy was SO awesome... and I swear he is a cuter version of Cameron from Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

This guy is off the hook awesome. I learned from another walker that his wife is a survivor and usually they do this together every year. When regular walkers saw him and not her, there was some very real fear that something bad happened. Fortunately she was just out of town for this event and she is still in good health!

Same guy, just on day 3.

I mean clearly this guy has a heart for the cause. If you think the clothing was loud, you should have seen his spirit... didn't even compare.

I don't have pictures of one of the other safety guys that I loved... a big, burly, bald with a long goatee biker dude who wore pink sparkly chucks (one of a kind as far as he knows!) and outfits to match. He is one of those guys that looks like they could snap you in half but as soon as he smiles, you see the teddy bear inside. I am not sure what his connection to the cause was but man is he dedicated!

Hopefully I will get my hands on some more pictures so you can see more of this awesome crew!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Where to begin... the beginning is a good place!

Laura and I at opening ceremonies! All pumped up and ready to start walking!

I have to say here... in case anyone isn't aware... I lost my camera on Day 2 at lunch so I have very few pictures from Day 1 and the first half of Day 2. I wasn't taking many iPhone pictures because I was using the camera... which I no longer have... which I am still deeply depressed about. I don't want to talk about it right now.

Day 1 is always fun... your pumped up and excited... there is a bounce in your step and a wave in your arms.

'wave in your arms' you say??? why would there be a wave in your arms???

Glad you asked! When there are 2000 people walking through dressed primarily from head to toe in pink, people take notice. Cars honk, people shout, fame is ours!

Anytime someone shouts or honks all the walkers close in proximity hoot, holler and wave back... it's fun! (well for us and the cars... the neighbors might disagree ;~)

We saw some great sights... the Washington Monument and the Capital... which we had great pictures of... but I lost the camera. Yep, still don't want to talk about it.

Here is our schedule for the day:

Pit Stop 1 - 3.1 Miles
Pit Stop 2 - 5.8 Miles
Cheering Station - 6.9 miles
Pit Stop 3 - 8.0 miles
Grab and Go - 10.2 miles
Lunch - 12.5 miles
Grab and Go - 15.7 miles
Cheering Station - 16.2 miles
Pit Stop 4 - 17.5 miles
Pit Stop 5 - 20.0 miles
From Pit Stop 5 they bussed us back to camp.

So really it's not a 20 mile walk... it's about 10 '2 mile' walks. At least that is what I told myself each step of the way! Small victories mean more confidence ;~)

Laura and I estimated we started walking around 8 (was that right Laura? Already I can't remember ;) and we got to Pit 5 at 5:10. 9 hour and 10 minutes of walking... I'm tired all over again just thinking about it!

But here we are... Day 1 done!

Camera hanging from my arm... *sigh* Still hurts.

Stay tuned for more about the walk!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Getting ready con't...

Some necessities...

In a sea of pink tents... one can quickly lose spatial reasoning and end up squatting in some one else's tent... purely by accident of course!

In order to combat this, they (the infamous 'they') suggest decorating your tent so it stands out to you.

Here is my contribution...

Some lovely pink and white flowers to put out in front of our tent... in theory we should see them as we scan down and know that we are in the right place. We'll see how that pans out. Laura is also bringing glow sticks which should help us pinpoint our tent! Oh and the lone yellow rose... my all time favorite flower is the yellow rose... mom used to call me the yellow rose of TX (birth state ;~)

I spoke with Laura 2 nights ago and then we texted this morning. Can I just say that having a partner in this makes it SO much more exciting? If I didn't have her I would literally be scared out of my mind... probably seriously contemplating faking an injury. But having her to do this with... having her to get excited with... having her to travel with... it makes it SO much better! Thanks again Laura for joining up to walk!

Another essential... coffee. And GOOD coffee at that. I am one of those people that will get a severe (mind-numbingly severe) headache if I don't have coffee in the morning. And apparently it has to be fairly strong coffee... the weak stuff doesn't even register with me.

Luckily Starbucks heard my call and came up with instant coffee!

We do use Starbucks regularly for our morning coffee... granted it's in the french press which ensures that it's strong enough to grow chest hair. So this isn't a 100% sure bet but it's a start! I figure I can use a pack and a half if need be. And I packed some Excedrin in case it isn't enough.

Fingers crossed!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Getting ready

So in preparation for the walk, I am making some personalized t-shirts. You know, I can't train but crafty t-shirts... that I can do ;~)

So I made 1 pink t-shirt with black lettering and 1 white t-shirt with pink lettering... then I made this...

Those letters are so expensive so instead of caving to the man, I figured out my own method and now I have 3 "I walk for her" t-shirts.

Now to print some pictures of mom and get them on the front! More to come!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Last picture

This was taken days, maybe hours, before my mom died.

She was admitted on a Saturday and I stayed in denial until Tuesday morning. The doctors called my dad and I in to a small conference room and told us there was nothing more they could do. I don't remember much after that. I remember sobbing uncontrollably. I think I remember a doctor patting my back. I remember them asking how far we wanted to go to keep mom alive. The only thing I remember vividly is sobbing... 'doubled over, from the gut' crying.

In prior months my mom tried a couple times to tell me that she wasn't going to be here much longer. I didn't believe her... either out of stupidity or self preservation.

So from Tuesday on we waited for her to take her final breath. She was heavily sedated... I guess because the pain would have been too much to bear. She looked as if she was sleeping at first but as the week went on she looked as if she was further and further away. She was slipping away and what remained was a broken empty shell.

She waited until everyone had gone home on Friday and at 1:40 am (Saturday morning) she took her final breath. My dad, Adam and I around her crying, she let go and went home to be with the Lord. I've never been so full of despair as I was at that moment.

A short time later, I removed her wedding band and engagement ring from her finger and placed them on mine.

I think I will always wear them.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A gift from the heart

This was my birthday present from my in-laws this year. I can't even begin to describe the wonderful feeling of opening this up and seeing something so deeply personal. My MIL designed it with the help of the jeweler and picked out the "Love Iris" phrase. I may not have my mom but God has certainly blessed me with a wonderful MIL and FIL. No matter what I have lost, I consider myself truly blessed.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Dear 3Day,

I am very sorry I didn't train correctly. I realize the error of my ways now that I am a week out from the walk. I started off with such good intentions... but my follow through was non-existent.

Still, if you could find it in your heart not to destroy me, I would really appreciate it.

Thanks, Jessica