About nine years ago, a friend encouraged me to walk the Avon Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk with her. At first, I didn’t want to do it. I wasn’t sure I could raise that much money, and I wasn’t sure I could walk 60 miles in three days. But that year, the Chicago 3-Day was taking place in June. That June, in 2001, I would be celebrating five years of being cancer free. Five years! That is a wonderful milestone to reach when you are a cancer survivor. And so I decided to walk the 3-Day, from Kenosha, Wisconsin down to Montrose Harbor in Chicago.
It took a lot of training and a lot of fund raising, but it was also one of the best experiences in my life. This is one of the scrapbook pages I made of the event:
These pictures were taken at the end of the first day of walking, which had been 18 miles. We were hot and tired. The first thing we wanted to do was take a shower. The showers were in huge semi-trailer trucks. We had to wait in line with a lot of other tired walkers. I felt like I was back in college again, waiting in the dorm bathroom for a shower to be available.
We spent the night in a “tent city,” which was set up in a local high school field. The tents were back to back, row after row. We could hear a woman in a different tent snoring that night. (And once I got to sleep, I’m sure someone else heard me snoring, too.)
On the last day of the walk, I was given a pink T-shirt to wear as a breast cancer survivor. Survivors were to walk to the finish first, to be recognized by the crowd and to be closer to the closing ceremony. That meant I had to leave my walking partner behind. In hindsight, I should have dragged her along with me! For the last mile of that walk, I cried my eyes out. Women were coming up to me and asking me if I was okay. I remember thinking that in the middle of that crowd, I felt so alone. Every single survivor was older than me. Why? I kept thinking. Why was I so young? I was afraid that someone would take a look at me and ask me to prove that I had actually had had breast cancer.
That year, five years after being diagnosed with breast cancer, I was 32 years old.
This year, I have read so many blogs – too many blogs – about women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Many of them are in their 30’s or 40’s. Being a young woman diagnosed with breast cancer doesn’t seem to be so rare anymore. Why? Why are we getting breast cancer at such a young age?
I know in my case, I have a very strong family history of breast cancer. Before she died, my mom was genetically tested for the breast cancer genes that researchers know about. She tested negative. However, there is so much about genetics that we don’t know, it is still probable that the women in my family are genetically prone to breast cancer.
In 2011, I will be cancer-free for 15 years. Another huge milestone. The Avon Breast Cancer 3-Day has now become the 2-Day, and I’m thinking about walking the walk. But I’m ten years older and I have two little girls. I’m not sure I’m up to the challenge. I’m still on the fence about signing up.
Before I started this blog, I used to scrapbook. (See the above scrapbook page!) I just loved it, and I want to start scrapbooking again. Christine’s Scrap Party takes place every week, and this just may be the right motivation for me to start scrapbooking again…blogging about it! For scrapbooking ideas, click Christine’s button.