October 18, 2011 by Darlene McC
What’s just under 40 miles, draws thousands of participants, and raised $8.5 million this weekend? The Avon Walk for Breast Cancer New York City.
This past weekend I had both the honor and the challenge of being a part of a movement 9 years in the making. I walked 39.3 miles, sprouted (at least) 10 blisters and 6 patches of chaffing, and got to be part of the thousands of men and women who walked to show solidarity and raise support and awareness for the fight to defeat breast cancer.
Everybody Knows Somebody
By current statistics, 1 in 8 women in the US will have breast cancer at some point in her lifetime. Everybody knows somebody whose had it, fought it, is fighting it, or we have lost to it. As a girl I grew up watching my Great Aunt Dot beat it twice. Later in my childhood I discovered that my awesome, quirky, odd-ball Great Grandma Ruth had been wearing foam in her bra all these years because she’d lost both her breasts in the 70’s (she described it as ‘nice in the summer because this is much lighter than the real thing’).
When I announced to my friends that I’d be taking on this crazy/ridiculous feat one of my best friends replied “Oh, I’ll have that some day”. “What!?!” I asked in confusion (likely similar to what you’re thinking right now). “All the women in my family have that and beat it. I’ll get it at some point… it’s okay, I’ll beat it and get fake boobs.” … I want to live in the world where she doesn’t have to go through that, don’t you?
The Avon Foundation
The Avon Walk for Breast Cancer will complete its 9th year when it rolls through Charlotte on the 22nd and 23rd of this month; the event’s supporting organization is the Avon Foundation for Women, whose primary mission began with the goal of improving the lives of women. Today it focuses on ending breast cancer and domestic violence.
Someone told me the other day that she supported me doing the walk, but she doesn’t donate to “this kind of thing” because she felt she couldn’t trust the organizations that put on ‘these kind’ of event. I’m confident that the Avon Foundation does well with the funds we raise (or I wouldn’t have jumped on the band wagon)… but don’t take my word for it, this video is entirely made up of organizations who’ve received funds from the Avon Foundation in the past:
Sore and Worth It
Doing the walk is hard. Like, really hard. There are little pockets on my feet that have gone a bit numb and a pulled hamstring. My sneakers got so uncomfortable that my walking buddy Emily convinced me to finish the last 3 miles in flip-flops, which caused it’s own set of problems.
You know what else? Totally. Worth. It.
For the last 2 miles there was a woman walking with us that felt so empowered that she was telling a total stranger about wearing spacers and how she couldn’t wait to get her implants for Christmas.
There were old women at each of the cheering stations in lawn chairs wearing Survivor hats thanking each walker as they passed by…. and guys & gals on Harleys in full leather who rode along the route stopping at major crosswalks to keep walkers safe… one safety van had a GIANT bra on the top made of insulating foam.
And my favorite: the kids crew. Made up of kids whose lives have been affected by breast cancer (many who have lost their mothers to it) whose only job is to cheer walkers a loudly and emphatically as possible. And those cheers make all the difference in the world – when you know in your head you have another 10 miles today and complete strangers are telling you that you can do it and how much they love you, eventually you come to believe them. You can do it. And you want to thank them for being so encouraging, for standing up, for fighting through the disease and WINNING. (Screw tiger blood, I want to have what she’s having).
At the end of the two days my feet and back and hips were on fire. I crossed the finish line and hugged Emily. I called my mom and texted my best friends who’d been sending me their digital love all weekend. And then I lay down on the top of the steps behind the wellness tent and felt the sun on my sore body I thought of all the reasons I did this walk. For the ghost of my great grandmother, a woman who fought but didn’t talk about the Big C. My friends that I love and how much I want for them to be in a world without cancer. My father who survived cancer, and my grandfather who I lost last year. All that energy soaked in and I was exhausted but exuberant.
I’m doing this again next year.
Tips for Next Time
I haven’t signed up yet; but I’m sure I’m gana. A few things so I don’t forget (that you might benefit from):
- Pack extra socks. Your feet will sweat and it encourages blistering so pack extras and switch them often.
- Stop fully for lunch and stretch out after. I didn’t give myself enough time to digest on day 2 and I think I paid for it.
- It’s good to be out front! There are a million reasons to want to be out front. The food you want is going to be in stock at the rest stops… in the early walk it will keep you from getting bunched and you can walk at the right stride… perhaps most important of all: if you’re out front no one had used the porta-potty when you stop for a break
- CAMP THERE! I live in the city so I thought ‘what the hell, it’s not so far’ and stayed at home. Mistake: I lost 3 hours of sleep to travel and missed evening bonding time back at the Wellness Village.
- Bring flip flops! 2 reasons: 1) you’ll want them at the Wellness Village regardless if you’re staying there or not. 2) If you need a break from your sneakers, but just can’t stop, another option is clutch.