Monday, September 10, 2007

The Day After........ The Weekend to End Breast Cancer

It has taken me an entire day to recuperate from the 60 kilometre walk I had this weekend. I knew it would be a life changing experience but never quite realized to what magnitude that meant.

My journey began on the evening of September 7, 2007 as I packed my bags equipped with good walking shoes and socks, shorts , sleeping bag, pain relievers, peppermint cream for my feet, and a couple of nicoderm patches. This is a day I have concentrated on quitting smoking for once and all. I felt like it would have some meaning behind it and did it ever! I learned more on that walk about myself than I have in several years.

As I began walking I suddenly realized that I had 59 kilometres to go. I had a breast cancer rosary around my wrist and I sure used it. Every time I was in pain, I repeated " God give me strength" I would concentrate on all the reasons I was there raising this money, walking this path. I thought about my mother who died, I thought about the pain of the women in radiation, and chemotherapy and I thought of all the lives that have been taken so early by cancer. It is not easy to forget when you see walkers with pictures of their loved ones on their shirt. I saw one teams shirt that said S.O.B's ........... funny those were my mothers initials and every time that group of ladies passed me I felt like my mom was right there beside me, and I am sure she was.

As the first day went on, I found my feet getting tired, my hips starting to ache and cramps in the back of my legs. I carried onward, knowing that I would complete this journey. For so long I have focused on not having good health. REALIZATION!! I have great health. I have two feet that can walk, and strong legs that can carry me. I have strong arms, and I have a strong heart. For so long people have made fun of my feet, because they are always calloused and hard. On Saturday and Sunday I said many thanks to God for giving me those hard feet, because those are feet that do not blister or bleed when walking 60 K. I also saw that this was the REAL start on my journey to improved health. When looking at all the survivors around me, when seeing the people on the side of the street cheering me on, I knew that there was no turning back, no giving up.

I found myself crying several times that day. A tiny bit of it was from pain, but most was from joy. I realized that the gift is truly in giving. Was there anywhere I would rather be at that point in time absolutely not! I was completely in the moment for 2 days. I saw every smiling face, every house that I passed, I looked in windows of retirement homes where I saw old people looking out, and gave them a smile and a wave. I appreciated the feel of the sprinkler on my feet and did not feel strange saying hi to the person on the road beside me and asking them if they were ok, or how they were managing. You could feel the positive energy coming from every direction. Simply incredible is the only way to word it. With every high five a person gave me , sent a little more inspiration through my legs and into my feet. By the late afternoon of Saturday the 8th I had trekked across 34.5 km of Toronto. The last half kilometre that day was the toughest

I slept at camp that night. I was afforded the luxury of a deluxe tent without a tent partner. This meant that I would not have to worry about snoring, nor my infamous tossing and turning during the night. I crawled into my tent exhausted, but totally at peace with myself.

I awoke the following morning to the sound of rain on the roof of the tent. The first thoughts were. " great...... walking in the rain all day." I found I was able to reverse that thinking quite quickly, knowing that I had packed emergency rain gear that was comfortable, and the fact that I would not be sweating in the blistering sun. I was right ....... the day was quite comfortable. I was able to enjoy the change in temperature, and try to ignore my aching feet.

Over the course of the day there were several pit stops ( stops set up for hydration and bathroom facilities) and grab and go's ( where you get energy foods to last you through the next few kilometres. ) I was fully aware that I could not stop for long, my body had reached a point, where any delay or relaxation for too long would result in in seizing up. I just kept plodding along, knowing that the end of the walk was just a few hours away. Yes, only 25 Kilometres to be exact.

5 Kilometres from the end of the course, we walked past Princess Margaret Hospital. That was the most moving moment I can recall. Tears streamed down my face as the Doctors and Nurses and Survivors lined the road, shaking my hand, patting me on the back, thanking me for walking and for my help. That is the highest I have ever felt in my life. It is very true that the gift is in giving. Those few moments gave me enough strength to reach the finish line.

I have signed up for another year. As I sit here and nurse my blisters and complain about my aching feet and my aching back I am ever so grateful that I have been graced with the body that enables me to walk 60 k. It required some perseverance, some faith and some determination, but, lucky for me I have also be blessed with those gifts. Hats off to all the people that this disease has affected. I do hope that the 17 million we collectively raised will assist in putting an end to it, and in the meantime we can all strive to do our best.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Thoughts from the Shelter

I often think of how content I am by myself. I have been alone now for a nearly 7 years. By alone, I mean not in a romantic, long term relationship. I still have lots of relationships that are wonderful and very fulfilling.

So many people tell me how hard it must be to raise my children on my own. NOT REALLY. I seem to have had support where and when I needed it. I have spent a few years learning to love myself.

I am not sure, to be honest, if a relationship is that important. Sometimes I think it would be nice to have, and then at other times I think that it might get in the way of doing what I need to do for myself. All relationships require work, and compromise, and I am not sure that I am willing to sacrifice my time to put the energy into that right now.

The reason I am blogging about this is I recently read my journal from the months that I lived in the shelter. I was able to clearly define my fears and the top of the list was Being alone. It is ironic how time changes our perception. My biggest fear has now become a choice, and something that I enjoy.

When living in the shelter, I felt very lonely. That loneliness lasted for a few months. I do not have any feelings of loneliness now. I enjoy my privacy and my time with me. Sometimes I make jokes that I am my favourite company to keep. As I write this blog today I am referring back to my notes of February, 2001.

My fears were:
of financial stress
being empty
never meeting people
being unloved
being abandoned
being hurt

My goals at that time were:
to find a stable job
to heal myself
to be independent
to be self sufficient

I must acknowledge that I have accomplished these things. It is amazing if you really focus on something how much you can get accomplished. And it just proves to me that if I can do it, anybody can.