Saturday, September 11, 2010

Peer Pressure

For years my friend Karen has been trying to get me to do the Jimmy Fund walk with her. There is no doubt that raising money for Dana Farber is a worthy cause, or that walking for those who have battled cancer isn't worth it. But I have always resisted because I just didn't feel I had the time...time to spend an entire day walking...and away from my family when all I was doing was working and spending time away from them. This year I had no excuse...I have the time. I purposely chose to take time to do more meaningful things in life and one of the top things on my sabbatical list was to volunteer more. So when Karen asked me to join her on the walk this year, you would probably be surprised that I resisted.

It was total fear that kept me from saying yes. What? Walk 26.2 miles?! What kind of condition would my body be in at the end? I do walk almost every day but the 3 miles I strut each morning is nothing compared to walking the marathon route. And let's be honest...I'm not as young as I used to be...I wondered how long it would take my body to recover. Recovering wouldn't be the tough part...but admitting that I am older now and can't bounce back so quick was really what was sticking in my mind. One night Karen and I went out to dinner and after a few glasses of wine, the walk sounded like a great idea. Karen also began to open up with honest answers. When I asked her what type of physical ailments she has had to endure over the years she uttered phrases like "once my toenail fell off and it took a year to grow back..." and "I could feel my blisters popping and oozing as I walked..." Hold the phone, or no wine...this was not sounding so good anymore!

It took me until a few days before the race to finally agree to walk on the team. I did give one last effort to back out when I told Karen that I hadn't done any fundraising and with the walk only a few days away, it didn't seem right to ask people for money on such short notice. She quickly responded with "You are in luck. The money isn't due until Nov. See you at 6 am on Sunday!"

I sent out an email to my friends and family that day and was pleasantly surprised how many people were willing to support me so quickly. It was an empowering feeling and one I have been living off of for the past few days. I need every little bit of encouragement I can get.

So, here I am tonight..the night before the walk...ready to take the plunge. In the days since I finally said yes to this, I have received tips from my fellow walkers. Things like "make sure you vaseline your feet really well..." and "you should vaseline your armpits...they tend to chaffe when you pump your arms"..."you'll want to get right up Monday morning, if you can, and start walking so you don't cramp up too much"...and "Pack your Advil". OMG.

I'm not sure what I have agreed to but it is much like going into labor with your first baby. You have no idea what to expect, what pain may lie before you. It is exciting and you can't wait to tackle the challenge. Tomorrow I will spend the day "in labor"...I suspect it won't be pretty at times, much like real labor. I am looking forward to it but I am also nervous. I hope I can make it without ending up wrapped up like a baked potato in one of those tinfoil blankets. I hope I don't end up with some sissy injury..."I was reaching for a banana, didn't see the curb, and sprained my ankle"...please, don't let that happen to me.

In the end it all came down to the fact that I do have the time. By that, I mean I am not battling cancer. I am not a loved one trying to stay strong for my family member who is suffering. I am not left alone by someone who was taken away from me by cancer. This is nothing compared to those who are fighting cancer, who are surviors, or those who have lost someone to cancer. I am proud to be able to have the opportunity to do something, however small, to help continue to fund cancer research.

I know tomorrow will be a truly inspirational day. I will walk in memory of Emma & Charles O'Brien, Roberta Nealon, Roseanne Messina, Anne Ranney, Charles Powers, and Evelyn Donovan. I am going to write their names on my shirt so that they give me the power to make it through the walk. Throughout the day I will be thinking of them and the loved ones they have left behind and miss them dearly.

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