Whew! It felt like a really long road to September 12th, the first day of the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. This was my second time participating in the walk, but it was much more challenging this time. I'm sure the declining economy has everything to do with it, but raising $1,800 is never easy. I really started to feel like it was stressing me out and I was starting to forget why I was doing it. Especially once I accepted the contract for Singapore, my mother said, "It's too much, you raised a lot of money but maybe you should just leave it at that." But, I couldn't. I made a commitment to raise $1,800 and to walk 39.3 miles and I was going to do it.
First, I'll tell you WHY I decided to do it the first time around. I was living in NYC and my mothers birthday was coming up. I felt like I always got her the same thing (a collectible shoe figurine which she loves, but it's nothing she needs,) or something that I think she'd love, but come to find out later that she was just being polite and has never used it. So, I was sitting on the subway and there was an ad for the Avon Walk. It was only 2 months away and on further research I learned how much money I had to raise in such a short amount of time. But I did it! And the experience of walking all over New York City was amazing. I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, the 59th street bridge, even the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey. It was amazing! The night you spend on the campsite is inspiring. Seeing the survivors and those fighting breast cancer that are involved with the walk makes all the little problems and hang ups in your life disappear. You think, "This woman is fighting for her life, and she's here. I'm so blessed!"
When I saw an ad early in the year for the Los Angeles walk, it was a no brainer. I was excited to experience it in a new city, and in a new place in my life. Last time around I was very depressed. Living in NYC was not good for me and I found that although I loved the walk, I really didn't break out of my shell and connect with anyone. This time, I am in such a happy, great place that I was talking to everyone and what an experience!
The thing about the Avon Walk is that there is so much support and love surrounding you. Everytime I felt like I could take another step, there was a group of people waiting on one of the street corners, cheering, holding signs, and saying 'thank you for walking,' that kept me going. Between the woman with no hair from chemo holding a sign saying, "You are walking so that I can live," to the man with a long grey beard, smoking a cigarette with a t-shirt that read, "I'm a breast man," I couldn't stop laughing and crying. I also specifically remember a woman along the way that was waiting at a street light who didn't hoot, holler, hold a sign or cheer, but looked everyone right in the eye and said quietly, "thank you."
I felt really proud to be a woman. I was surrounded by all of these women, young and old, who were huffing and puffing and all of us in pain by those last few miles but kept going. Especially the second day when we had all walked a marathon and slept in tents, woke up the next day as sore as I've ever been in my life to say, "Yeah, I'm going to walk another 13 miles." One of my favorite signs was, "Proud to fight like a girl."
I thought of my mother so much. I thought of her when I heard stories from women who lost their mothers to this disease. I thought of how lucky I felt that I didn't lose my mom when I was just 8 years old when she was diagnosed. I thought of how I'd never know that she would come to nearly every performance of every show I was in, that she would have never made my costumes for me when I starred in the high school play or see how proud she was of me at my college graduation. I don't know what kind of woman I would be without her. I feel like I am the strong woman I am today because of her and seeing her fight the disease. I just felt so humble and lucky that my mother is a survivor (cancer free for over 20 years now!)
And with all this "woman power," I saw some amazing supportive men! Husbands walking with their wives, holding their hand and wearing signs on their backs saying, "I'm walking for my wife, cancer free for 5 years!" Husbands, brothers, sons all walking for a special woman in their life. It was really beautiful. But the biggest difference for me this year from last year was the support I got from Del. If you had told me 2 years ago when I participated that I'd have this wonderful guy see me off at the starting line, bring me dinner after the first day, set up my tent for me, and be there at the finish line to help my nearly crippled butt to the car, I'd tell you you're crazy. I didn't think guys like him existed, and if they did, there certainly wasn't one out there for me. It made things so much easier to know that after that next step, I'd see him there waiting for me. And this was in Long Beach so the poor guy made 4 different trips in 2 days to do all of this (while wearing a pink t-shirt, no less.)
Now I just have to decide which city to walk in for 2011 . . .