The magic of believing

Published 8:27 am Wednesday, December 16, 2009

This past summer I wrote an article titled “Heroes aren’t hard to find,” asking for donations for a 60-mile walk to raise funds for breast cancer research. And, true to the article’s title, you proved yourselves to be significant heroes in the fight for a cure. Your generosity was overwhelming. Now, in addition to a heartfelt thank you, I feel an obligation to share with you the outcome of our endeavor … blisters and all.

The 3 Day Walk occurs in 15 different cities. We chose Tampa, Fla., with a heat index of more than 100 degrees. Participants are told to bring only one duffle bag packed with their clothes, sleeping bag and camping gear. We chose to fill ours with mostly cosmetics (and a little Advil.) And walking 20 miles per day for three days requires training. We chose not to.

So, off we went, my sister June, my niece Katie, her friend Wesanne and me. And by the end of the first day, when we found ourselves lying in our pink tents (two among a sea of 3,000), with the caustic smell of Ben-Gay wafting through the 95 degree heat and the muffled moans of tired souls tending their blisters, did we realize for the first time the intense commission we accepted when we signed on the dotted line and started asking for donations. We were part of something. Something big. And yes, something very pink. And sometimes something a little bit miserable. But here we were, in the middle of it all. And we chose to stay the course. (OK, so I did ask once about where to hail a taxi, but the staff members told me we were not allowed to leave the premises.)

I won’t go into too much detail about the entire event because hopefully some of you will have the chance to participate in it and can experience for yourselves how life-changing it truly is. But having said that, I will share a few of the highlights with you, along with suggestions for those of you considering participating in a 3 Day Walk in the future.

Day one: I knew we were off to a bad start when Wesanne strapped on the world’s largest and most complex fanny pack I’d ever seen despite my specific mandate “NO FANNY PACKS” (just my personal taste, and I still stick by it). By midmorning we had already determined the safe maximum dosage of Advil that could be taken by an individual in a four-hour period; then we promptly set our watch alarms ensuring we wouldn’t be a minute late for our next ration. When we reached the lunch stop, I immediately located the sports medicine tent and stood in line for a chiropractic adjustment. It was there I made a new resolve: if I do this again, I will employ my own chiropractor to accompany me so I won’t have to wait in such a long line. By late afternoon, I felt certain that my numerous hints all day that I would “probably catch a ride on one of the sweep vans” would allow for an easy escape for me and at the same time hold June and Wesanne to the task of finishing the day’s trek with Katie. I was wrong. June and Wesanne were nowhere to be found. Not fair! I’ve run my lifetime goal marathon in 2004! I’ve proven myself. I canceled my gym membership a year ago and I’m good with that. I’m accepting this age thing. Besides, isn’t beauty in the eye of the beholder? Isn’t it relative? I’m sure in some country somewhere a pot belly on a woman is an envious attribute. I look at Katie plowing forward as the sun begins to go down, with a picture of her mom pinned to the back of her shirt. I hear the engine of a van slowing down behind us. I look at my niece again, and I hear her say, “After all Mom went through, I can do this.” That’s it. If that van stops and demands that we climb aboard since we are probably the last ones on the trail, I won’t do it. I’ll start running, even if my fastest sprinting speed right now would probably not qualify me for a fun run at a convalescent home. I’ll run from that van.

Katie motioned the van on as I tried to pick up my speed, defiantly reciting my new mantra “I am a marathon runner!” And eventually we finished the first day. I’ve heard this event described as “moving monument” to breast cancer heroes. And when you see 6,000 people all clad in pink walking through the streets of a city, I can see why. All day long vehicles blow their horns as they ride past, showing their support. People of all ages stand on the sidewalks and hand us candy, spritz us down with spray bottles and even water hoses. And every one of them says thank you.

Katie has planned for our team to walk again next year, and we will need to raise $13,800. Katie believes that we will find a cure for breast cancer in her lifetime. Katie believes that we all must do our part for this to happen. So I want to say thank you to Katie. I want to thank her for believing. I want to say thank you to all of you who gave to our cause and believed in us. Because believing is important. And especially during this Christmas season, children shouldn’t be the only ones believing in magic.

It’s never too early to start donating to our mission — 3 Day Walk in Washington, D.C., in October. Just make out checks to Breast Cancer 3 Day and mail to Katie Cobb, 10131 Fortsville Rd., Capron, VA 23829. Any amount is appreciated. We love you all.