“Thoughts While Walking the TBBCF 26.2 Mile Marathon”
The first thing that crossed my mind was how just a year ago I made this a goal of walking the full marathon not even knowing if I was going to be alive, or if I would physically be able to walk. I never had to worry about being mentally strong enough to complete the marathon because I never give up on anything.
This year I walked with my good friend and neighbor, Keeny Donohue. As we stood at opening ceremonies and listened to our friend Sandy talk about why she walks each year, I could not help but shed a few tears for those who have lost their lives to cancer and those who are currently fighting for theirs. To hear Sandy say that I am a part of the reason why she walks seems so surreal to me because I don’t view myself as a “cancer patient”. We then heard Terri’s oldest daughter, Ashley, speak so eloquently and with grace of who her mother was as a person and shared a couple of memories of how, despite what her mother was going through with cancer, she could brighten their home with smiles and laughter. I was empowered when listening to how Ashley and her siblings were just young kids when they had to say goodbye to their mother in a hospital bed, covered in tubes and wires. I thought how no child should ever have to say goodbye to a parent due to cancer. In a somber moment, the walk was underway. We set out as the sun was rising, full of smiles and a little pep in our step. We were feeling strong, well rested and ready for a full day of walking.
It did not take long for my own reality to smack me in the face. One of the side effects of the drug that I am currently taking for stage IV breast cancer, causes muscle and bone weakness. It was a couple of weeks ago when I completed a 20-mile training walk and then a sprint triathlon the next day that the pain in my right heel became unbearable. The week before the walk, I went to a podiatrist who took x-rays and confirmed that I have a heel spur and Achilles tendonitis. He warned against further training; however, when I explained that I was walking a marathon for breast cancer research, he quickly told me how his mother is a breast cancer survivor. He told me how to get through the event with Advil and heel cushions in my shoes. As Keeny and I were approaching the first pit stop, the sharp pain was stabbing me in the heel with every step I took. The pit stop was out of water, so I opted for the Gatorade to get the Advil down. I figured the extra electrolytes could not hurt as I was already sweating, another fun side effect of cancer treatments.
As we pressed forward, the miles seemed to be passing by quickly. We chatted with fellow walkers and lost track of time and all else happening in the world. We were completely immersed in our walking. As the miles continued to pass by, we became more and more quiet. Deep in my thoughts, I started to wonder why I wanted to complete the full marathon, I could have opted for the half marathon, quarter marathon, volunteer or even choose to be a spectator. I feel a strong need to be an example of what I hope to see in others, determination, motivation, strength, courage, etc. I want others to be as passionate about finding a cure for breast cancer as I am. My motivation is fueled by the fact that I know I will die from breast cancer without a cure; others are fueled by loss of a loved one, or a diagnosis of a loved one or self.
LUNCH! The most upbeat person I have ever met, Shelly, was volunteering on the medical team and was ready for any aches or pains. She asked how my feet were holding up, which at the time seemed like a loaded question. I was afraid to look at them, as I knew the blisters had already formed so I politely told her that they were good and I went to grab some grub. I have never been so happy to sit down and eat. I don’t even like wraps, but that wrap was the best I have ever eaten. Our friend and fellow breast cancer fighter, Michele, came and ate lunch with us. She provided us with added energy and crucial tips for continuing along the way. Michele also filled us in on how the rest of the team was doing. Most of our team did the half marathon, and from what we heard, they were powering through with strength and perseverance! A quick visit from Sandy and we were back hitting the pavement.
Shortly after lunch I got a text from my sister Jen asking if I wanted her and my niece Kaitlynn to wait at the start of the quarter marathon. I knew Keeny and I needed some new faces and something to distract us from the pain we were physically feeling, so I told Jen that it would be awesome if she waited for us. Keeny and I exchanged thoughts of how great the massage at the end would feel, how nice it would be to put our feet in buckets of ice, take a salt bath, and just lay on the couch for the rest of the day. We met up with Jen and Kaitlynn, and I quickly had to ask Jen to walk a little slower as my legs just could not keep up. I also noticed that I was miserable at this point, I just wanted to be done. It was as I was walking over the Niantic Bridge that my emotions really started to well up. I was in pain, I was angry, I was sad, I wanted a cure, and I needed it yesterday. The last few miles were torture, but I can honestly say that I have been through worse. Chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, and the endless amounts of pills are all far worse than walking a marathon.
The pink flags at Harkness Park and the big pink balloon arch were a welcome sight. I could barely keep a smile as we walked over the line, all I wanted at that point was to get home where I could take a nice hot bath and start the “recovery” phase. I found a seat and listened to the closing ceremonies. All that I kept thinking was that I would never do the full marathon again.
The term “recovery” has a whole new meaning. The following few days were spent tending to the many blisters on my feet and my achy muscles. Thank goodness for Advil, Band-Aids and Epsom Salt. I also needed those few days to recover emotionally, I did not foresee this event being so difficult in this manner, yet I’m not sure it’s every year that a cancer patient in active treatment walks a marathon. It did not take long for me to consider the possibility of doing the full marathon again next year.