Walking, Walking, Ouch, Walking

I’ve been shirking my duties as a blogger recently. I’m sure the blogosphere has really missed me [sarcasm]. Instead of writing, I was preparing and executing my part in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.

In order to walk, I raised $1,800. The walk was 39.3 miles over two days in Santa Barbara, California.

I chose to do the walk as a tribute to my mother-in-law. Last year she was diagnosed with breast cancer. It sent the bearded gentleman and I reeling. There was nothing we could do but watch and hold our breath as she fiercely fought her way through a mastectomy and chemotherapy. I felt helpless. My reaction to crisis is always to do something. To have that taken away was painful.

I’ve had two other mother-in-laws over the years and neither liked me very much. Neither went out of their way to make me part of the family. This woman has done that since the very first day I met her. She hugged me when the bearded gentleman introduced me. Without a mother or family of my own, it was beyond special to be welcomed into a family by a mom. She calls us “her kids” and says “I love you guys” at the end of a phone call. I love her more for that than I can put into words.

So I felt helpless to do anything practical for this amazing, loving woman. And then I ran into an advertisement for the Avon walk. I didn’t know if I could manage it in fundraising or walking but with some encouragement from the bearded gentleman I decided to try. Our family stepped up to the plate and knocked the ball out of the park when they found out what I was attempting. At my sister-in-law’s baby shower, I was flooded with checks and cash. I reached the $1,800 goal well before the deadline.

That left the walking. I felt confident I could do the walk even though I have severe runner’s knee and osteoarthritis in both knees. I didn’t really get to train because of ridiculous circumstances. First I had a toenail removed and couldn’t wear a shoe for about six weeks. After that, I started battling a severe depression. Training to walk distances when you can’t change your pajamas or brush your teeth is like trying to climb a skyscraper with suction cups on your feet. It just isn’t happening.

Even still, I started out doing great and feeling awesome. Then something wholly unexpected came my way. I thought the walk would just be on streets and paved paths. But we hit a dirt path. My left knee twisted and the pain started. The path was followed by stairs. I managed to walk 10 miles out of the 26 the first day. I decided to cut short because I knew the pain was getting worse and the sooner I attacked it with rest, ice, and medication the better.

Actually, having some time at the campsite by myself was kind of fun. Avon had a shop set up as well as massages, a chiropractor, chair massages for the back and feet, facials, and yoga. The bearded gentleman even came to hang out and bring me a sugar-safe dinner and treats.

I was concerned as the second day started but old lefty felt pretty good as we left camp and started the rest of the trek. Around mile 3 the second jolt came as I slipped on grass and lefty twisted again. I was going to keep walking and try to ignore the pain but the bearded gentleman’s voice sounded in my head. The night before he had repeated to me not to walk if I was in pain. He told me that it was okay to ride the walk if I needed to. It pained me to do it but I boarded a van to ride to the next rest stop. At that stop, I iced down my knee and weighed my options. I also realized that I had lost a necklace meant for my mother-in-law. Defeated and in tears I walked to the nearest van. The van’s crew member was amazing. She recognized my emotional state right away and set about trying to make me feel better. She insisted I ride in her van and called other van crew to see if anyone could find the necklace.

About four miles from the finish, I decided to walk to the end. My pace was slow but steady. Faster walkers cheered me on and made sure I was okay before moving past me. It was a pretty walk along the bluffs of Carpinteria and into the town’s downtown. As I approached the finish line I saw them. The bearded gentleman and my mother-in-law were there, holding a bright pink sign. When I reached them, I got hugs and my mother-in-law started to cry. I showed her my shirt that read “I wear pink for my mom” and she cried some more. Her best friend was waiting for me just past the finish line. She hugged me tight and thanked me. Those are going down as some of the best moments of my life.

I also go to re-buy the necklace for her. It said ‘Love” and part of the ‘L’ was a pink ribbon. In fashion true to her, when I gave it to her she said “You didn’t have to do that.”

My answer, “I know but I wanted to.”

I had some measure of disappointment that I couldn’t walk more but seeing the joy it brought to her erased all that noise. I brought her joy. And that brought me joy. I wasn’t helpless after all.



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