Tuesday, November 23, 2010

2010 Tampa Bay 3-Day for the Cure Recap ~ Day 3

Around 2:30 a.m. the ear plugs did little to block out the screams followed by laughter. My first thought was the bars at John’s Pass sucked in some walkers and they finally made it back to camp. The screams were followed by laughter, which was followed by slamming port-a-potty doors. Surprisingly, I was able to get a little more sleep until the five o’clock horn sounded.

I am assuming they woke us up early since we had to have our tents down and be all packed up and out on the walk by 8 a.m. Michele and I finished packing up and while I tended to my blister Michele took the tent down. We took our bag over to the gear truck, and the crewman sat on the back of the truck while we heaved our bags into the back of the truck, while the gear guy sat there. That is the only complaint I have about any crew since most always go over and beyond what is expected of them.

A lady crew member was a perfect example of this since she was a hoot to watch dancing around cleaning tables and recycling trash. She even joined a male crew member for a dance that included spins and finished up with a dip.

Besides watching the dancing crew lady , camp had a different feel and look than our previous day. The large light by the gear truck gave camp an awesome glow. While eating breakfast, we found out the early morning screaming came from fellow campers being treated to a very early cold sprinkler shower. Thankfully only a few select members in Zone 3 were treated to this experience.

After having some much needed nourishment, Michele and I filled our water bottles and got in line to finish out Day 3. The walk opened at 7:40 a.m. and all walkers needed to leave by 8 a.m. Walkers have the option of being bused from camp to lunch, and then from lunch to closing. Along the walking route there are also sweep vans that give walkers a ride to the next pit stop.

While waiting in line we enjoyed the banter around us. An older guy in front us was getting his picture taken by a fellow walker, and I made bunny ears behind him but quickly put them back down. A few minutes later I jokingly said to the guy he may want to check your picture because I may have made bunny ears or something. He said mumbled something about obscene gestures in his crabby old man voice; I replied that I didn’t know what he was talking about.  Michele and I joked that he must have taken an extra crabby pill that day.

Waiting in line to begin walking was also a pleasant experience when we saw Airport Girl. She even got the temporary name of Bendable Airport Girl since she was doing yoga poses. After a few stretches we were on our way, and I knew I was in for a GREAT day. The sun rising gave the sky a beautiful glow, and walking past the flags on our way out was a bit emotional knowing we wouldn’t since them again until closing. Instead of getting lost in thoughts of later in the day, I decided to enjoy the now and the people around me.

Michele and I enjoyed taking in others costumes since it was Halloween. Michele and I wore black cat ears with pink sequins in the middle. It is funny how our cat ears even took on their own personalities. Michele had perky ears , and my were labeled inquisitive by a walker stalker since I had one slightly up and the other down. No matter how floppy my ears were they were nothing compared to others costumes ~ like the boy in the tutu and bra or the bumble bees, and I can’t forget the Borats even though they walked that way every day.

The walker-jams when you first leave camp because everyone is trying to get in the grove are the perfect opportunity to talk with others around you, and Michele and I took this opportunity to walk with Airport Girl and friend for a little while. Airport Girl even captured a picture of Michele and me laughing. We said that it wasn’t nice since we were laughing because she was walking backwards, and we were fearful that she may fall. The picture is one of my favorites because of the childlike laughter captured in it. I guess the 3-Day magic is also present when walking because all the sudden you are walking next to someone and the next minute they are gone; this is what happened with airport girl.

A little farther up the road Michele and I were talking with Pottery Julie and Val. The walkway narrowed and a guardrail was to my right. The guardrail post were sticking out into the walkway so I was kind of walking sideways when low and behold I came to a ripping halt as my shorts caught on the guardrail posts. I had to back up a little so Pottery Julie could free me, and she told me I should wear tear-away shorts in the future.  Little did I know my shorts were going to be like the fellows walkers ~ right next to you one minute and gone the next. This also happened with Pottery Julie and Val.

Before we knew it, we had arrived at the first cheering station. No matter how many I walked through, the excitement is always invigorating. The high fives and thank yous melt a heart, and the misty sprays of water are refreshing. Cheering stations also hold welcoming hugs from family, and this time our two of brothers came out to greet us. After visiting for a bit and giving good bye hugs to Dave and Thane, Michele and I were on our way again.

Michele and I took in the sites on our journey; the signs walker stalkers held many inspirational messages, such as “You have to fight a battle more than once to win it” and one of my favorites “Your feet only hurt because of all the ass you have been kickin.” Everywhere you looked there was a message of support. It, however, wasn’t just walker stalkers; it was the community: church signs, businesses giving out free pizza, restaurants and businesses letting us use their restrooms, and after using port-a-potties for a few days, a flushing  toilet was treat.

Another welcome treat during the walk is lunch. At lunch we met up with Fitness Julie who Michele trained with and a veteran walker Stacey. After walking with Julie and Stacey for a bit, we teased Stacey about her fast walking pace, and she was nicknamed “Stace with the pace.”  We kept this pace all the way to the end.

After walking by the beautiful homes of Snell Isle, we curved around Coffee Pot Bayou, and we were in the home stretch. We were welcomed home by a dolphin as we walked along the beach. We made one last Pit Stop, and shortly down the sidewalk we saw a sign “Holding 1 Mile.” Someone commented “Kinda Sorta Maybe?”.  This was to make fun of the infamous Komen mile. A Komen mile is an exaggerated mile.

At this point we could see the see 3-Day trailers in the distance. As we got closer we could see the crowd ahead. It was clear the ladies in front of us we beginning to feel the same emotions Michele and I were since they were now holding hands. I can’t even begin to find the words to describe what an emotional venture the last part of the walk was. Right now tears run down my cheeks as I relive the memories, and this is also part of the reason this has taken so long to get to this part of the walk.

The sense of accomplishment is overwhelming and mixing that with WHY we are walking, and certainly, no eye fanning in the world was strong enough to hold back the tears.  After the tears subsided, we got our Victory shirts; okay, I sprinted. We then parted ways with the veteran walkers, Julie and Stacey.

Michele and I got our picture taken in front of the Day 3 sign, did a little shopping at the 3-Day stores, cheered fellow walkers in, and signed the 3-Day wall. Soon Michele’s husband Ken, Mom, Jessica, Derek, and Jennifer joined us, and they made their way down to the Pier where the finish was when we walked into the Closing Ceremony. Ken and family were joined by Michele’s coworker and two-time breast cancer survivor Ramie.

Michele and I got in line with the 1600 walkers to make our way into closing. As we stood amongst all these walkers, I looked around at all the bandaged legs, knees, toes, and even arms. I thought we are soldiers fighting the 3-day battle against breast cancer, and here we are way making our way into the ceremony to celebrate our achievement of having a world without breast cancer.

Walking those final steps is once again indescribable. As the walkers stood to walk, the crew walked by us, and we were able to cheer them on for feeding us, taking care of wounds, helping us across the street, giving us a ride when we couldn’t walk another step, and cleaning the port-a-potties. The walkers followed the crew, but as we got closer to the Closing Ceremony, they lined the walk way and cheered us. By this time, the tears were once again flowing. After we rounded the large inflatables, Michele spotted the family and Ramie. I will always be a big baby and cry for my MOMMA!

After sharing some hugs, Michele and I danced our way up towards the stage. Once all the walkers were in the closing area, the 350 crew members joined us in an inner circle. The crew members are followed by the reason we walk, the survivors. When the survivors walk in, we raise a shoe to salute them to let them know the steps we walked were for them since “everyone deserves a lifetime.”

We then work full circle and Jenne Fromm takes us back to the moment we decided to do something so bold and who was our inspiration: Mothers, Sisters, Aunts, Children, etc. The flag bearers joined Jenne on the stage. It is then that we turn our attention to the center stage, and once again the survivor flag bearers enter the Survivor’s Circle displaying flags that describe what got them through their battles: Courage, Strength, Hope, etc…

Shari Olsen then entered the circle to raise the flag that symbolizes the journey, like a mountain climber raising a flag on the summit after a victorious climb, but most importantly the flag is a celebration of the survivors and the fact that we will never give up in the fight against breast cancer. Candy Coburn joined us in the celebration by singing "Pink Warrior" one more time.

We then joined the family, and this was when Michele, Jessica, Jennifer, and I made a pinkie swear that we would walk together in 2011. In addition to Jessica and Jennifer walking for Team Rose Buds in 2011, our brother Dave is joining us in the continuation of this life changing journey.

2010 Tampa Bay 3-Day for the Cure Recap ~ Day 2

Visiting dreamland didn’t happen as I had hoped. You would think that one would be exhausted after walking 20 miles in a day.  This little story will explain why dreamland was hard to find. Not too long after waking, one of our neighbors, in a tent about 18” away from ours, returned from the shower and asked her tent mate, “How did you sleep last night?”. The tent mate responded, “Not at all.” The freshly showered tent mate says, “I thought you slept well since you sure were snoring earlier.”

Not long after trying to find the sandman I realized that Michele thought it was me snoring because she readjusted in her sleeping bag and let out an aggravated sigh; however, upon waking, the realization hit her that it wasn’t me because I was sitting up and the log sawing continued. Michele and I did share a good chuckle about the snoring over our breakfast of scrambled eggs, home fries, yogurt, and fresh fruit.

After breakfast, we made sure our water bottles were full and got in line to start walking at about 7:40 a.m. Michele and I knew that we were going to walk at a fast pace today since we planned on having a little reunion at John’s Pass. Because of the faster walking pace, I decided to wear my sneakers and carried my Vibram FiveFingers in my waist pack.

Off we went on a new day’s adventure. Today Michele and I set out on our walk. As we were progressing along, I noticed an older gentleman walking with a picture of a young lady pinned to his back. I was done guessing and asked him about the picture. Hugh went on to tell me that his wife is an RN and had cared for the young woman for four and half years before the young woman lost her battle with breast cancer. With teary eyes we parted ways.

Thinking this day would be similar to the one before, I quickly realized by my conversation with Hugh that each day would hold its own unique experiences. And this proved truer than I ever imagined when up the road I saw a familiar faced little girl handing out water in front of a house. As I was trying to figure out why she looked so familiar, I saw her mother and it all clicked. I hadn’t seen Cheryl, a high-school classmate, since attending the funeral for a three year old angel who lost her battle with cancer eight years ago. Cheryl, her husband John, and their three children were cheering on their neighbor who was also walking.

The day also held other surprises and support. We had cheerleaders, Girl Scouts, a boy fishing for the cure, the Pink Dragon Ladies ~ Team Survivors, and the Seminole Fire Department. The firefighters were also so kind to give us drinks and Italian ice to cool us off. Wink-wink! This was followed by one of my favorite Pit Stops. This Pit Stops mission was to fill the port-a-potties. Upon exiting the potty, the crew cheered you for getting them closer to reaching their goal. Okay, maybe you had to be there for it to be funny, but it does fit nicely into the 3-Day motto of “drink, pee, no IV.”

Michele and I needed this reminder since we were on a mission for the day. We were having a small reunion at John’s Pass and were on a mission to get there as quick as we could. After getting our credential scanned at lunch, we discovered we were doing great on our mission. Although I can remember the exact number I think we went from being the 550 walkers out the gate to around 330 in for lunch.

After getting a quick bite and attending to my hot spots, we were on our way, and we passed Jenne Fromm walking with a 3-Day staff member. Little did I know a little further down the road she had a pleasant surprise for me ~ a mile or so back I dropped my red glitter heart sunglasses. I thanked her profusely and told her without them my world isn’t right. Again, I guess you had to be there to find the humor.

After sharing a laugh with Jenne, Michele and I were approaching John’s Pass. As we entered the shops, Michele pulled from her pack a banner for mom since our journey was for her since she fought for us. The walk through the shop area was indescribable, and a bit funny. Michele and I again spotted a familiar face. Michele said to the lady aren’t you Paige’s mom. The ladies reply was no. Michele and I looked at each other and Michele said you aren’t Paige’s mom, Vivian. She finally agreed she was. :)

We got back on the path and not too far ahead spotted them. Mom came running out to meet us and the three of us hugged like we never hugged before with tears rolling down our cheeks. Michele and I made our rounds thanking the rest of our cheerleaders, which included Michele’s husband, Ken; Michele’s daughter and son-in-law, Jessica and Derek; Michele youngest, Jennifer; our brother, Thane; our other brother, Dave, and his friend, Debbie; dirt road gang member and an awesome supporters, Rick, and Renee; and our cousin, Joyce, and her granddaughter, Amaya.

It was great seeing all of them since I hadn’t seen Joyce in more years than I can guess. It was also the first time I met Amaya; it was also a first for meeting Rick’s wife Renee. I also hadn’t seen Rick in at least eight years. It was awesome, but way too short! Did I mention Thane wouldn’t stop hugging me ~ Nah! If he did, I wouldn’t complain. After all the hugging we realized Dave was putting his cheer bag contents to good use; he was wearing a pink wig and tutu and had purchased a pink shirt, but what was under the shirt was over and beyond any imaginable support even though we had joked about Thursday evening. Dave had made a visit to the barber shop and had a ribbon shaved in his chest hair.
After visiting for a bit, it was difficult telling them good bye, but we still had about seven miles ahead of us. After leaving John’s Pass we crossed some beautiful bridges with awesome views, and before the next pit stop, we walked on a sidewalk right along the beach.When reaching the pit stop, we were greeted by a pink THING. I think Michele gave IT a pinch on its tushie to see if it was indeed real ~ take a look at the pictures, and you will see what I mean.

While taking a break, I decided I needed to switch back to my Vibrams, and it was then I discovered I had a small blister on the ball of my foot. I tended to my blister, gooed my feet up with Body Glide, and proceeded to put on my Vibrams. It was then I noticed Michele walking by me; at first I didn’t know what she was doing until I saw a photographer taking a picture of my feet. He asked me a few questions about my feet, and we were on our way to finish out another day.
 On our journey back to camp, we met Pottery Julie’s mom and Julie’s daughter Niblette. Niblette was entertaining herself in the car while grandma cheered the walkers on. Grandma complained the whole time how rough it is to come to Florida from Georgia to spend time with her granddaughter at the beach while Julie and Val walk. I think grandma’s complaint was really full of blessings.

The last few miles of Day 2 were the only point in this walk that I didn’t count my blessing. This was, however, brief. I whined a little about my baby blister, but quickly, noted if I cut my foot like I had mentioned, I would have to hop the rest of the way back. At this point, that probably wasn’t a good idea.

Although those last few miles were truly Komen miles, the welcome back at camp is always full of high fives and thank you! And more important, when walking back into camp, I see the flags and recount they  hold the purpose of the walk ~ the milestones, the people, and what it takes by those who fight the fight.

Our routine was a little different for camp. We iced our feet down, showered, and had a delicious steak dinner. At dinner we were treated to a live concert by Candy Coburn, and she rocked the tent. Dusty encouraged a few walkers to get up and dance, and Candy noted that it had never happened before. After a song or two we welcomed the last walkers home and reminded that we are one day closer to the end of breast cancer.

Candy finished up her concert with a sing-along of Sweet Home Alabama, and whenever I hear the song in the future, I will think of Pottery Julie’s addition to the song. There is a video of it out there somewhere, and when I find it again, I will link it below. I will wan you if you watch that to get the full effect, you may have had to been there.

After many laughs the mood changed a bit. Michele and I visited the Remembrance Tent. We waited until it was dark out because at night the tents are aglow like white heavenly angels. Although I had prepared myself for how difficult the visit may be, I had no idea the impact it would have on my heart.

When you walk in the tent, the memorial ribbons are hanging above the tent. Around on the walls are framed photos of walkers who lost their battles. As I walked around, my heart sank over and over looking at the pictures of the women holding their young children. I thought of the milestones that were never shared because these lives were cut short. I read journals until my eyes wouldn’t allow me to read anymore. Before I left I wrote messages on the tent for the PINK WARRIORS that I am walking in memory .

The somberness of the tent was followed by an inspiring story by Carrie of Naughty Nodes. Carrie retold her story of her fight. Carrie learned five years to the month of her mother’s diagnosis that she also had breast cancer, and now, Carrie has been fighting for five years. When Carrie first received her diagnosis, her chances for survival weren’t good since the cancer spread to her ribs and into her lymph nodes; hence, her teams name. When Carrie was done, I don’t think there was a dry eye to be found. Carrie finished out her talk in the “fight like a girl” spirit when she loudly and proudly announced she walks because “EVERYONE DESERVES A LIFETIME!”

Carrie’s story was followed by some great laughs with the nightly game show. It is hard to explain it ~ you just had to be there. After the game show, Jenne called Dusty and the other male walkers on the stage,  and they started the dance party. Michele and I joined in for a dance or two.

After another day of walking, Michele and I decided it was time to get some sleep, and this time we had a new plan. First, we turned our tent so our door wasn’t directly facing a light, but we also did this so we a little further away from our log sawing neighbor. But more important, we broke out the ear plugs. After saying good night and putting in the ear plugs, it didn’t take long to drift off to sleep...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tampa Bay 2010 3-Day for the Cure Recap ~ Day 1 Walk

Michele and I kissed mom goodbye and were on our walk with 1600 walkers including Julie and Tracey. The cheering as we left the part was only a small sample of what we would experience over the next 3-days, and once again this could be related to labor and the building as the days progressed. First the cheering included family and friends of fellow walkers and crew; then the safety crew, who monitor the roads; and then the gear crew who transport our bags to camp.

After leaving the park, we headed over a flat-land hill better known as a bridge. For the first mile we walked behind Dusty Showers, a 3-Day celebrity known for wearing a bra. But the fact he wears a bra isn’t what makes him so special; it is the unconditional, selfless love that he shares with those around him, especially the Pink Warriors battling breast cancer. Dusty’s contagious spirit was evident when he started cheering and the walkers around joined in. For many this was the encouragement they needed to make it over the bridge.

Our walk then took as by Clearwater Beach. We made it to the first pit stop were we refreshed our drinks, grabbed a snack, and continued on our walk. I still hadn’t had my first 3-Day port-a-potty experience and wasn’t in a hurry ~ we cheated and used the bath at the Clearwater Beach.  While at the pit stop I saw Julie the Energizer Keep Going Blogger. I met Blogger Julie when she came to Atlanta for a convention, and another Julie (Pottery Julie) decided that we get together for a training walk. So again in this big small world, I was now walking with Blogger Julie who lives in Florida, but I trained with her in Atlanta and am now walking with her in Tampa. Confused yet?

Somewhere over the bridge we became separated from the Julies, and as the scenery changed Michele and I were walking solo with 1600 walkers. Yes, this is possible. The change of scenery brought many changes; I am not sure if it was because we were walking in quiet zones now since we were in neighborhoods, but that is when the 3-Day giddiness set in; however, since giddiness is part of my everyday life, I am not exactly sure. As we walked the sweep vans would drive by to see if anyone needed a ride, and Michele and I would give them the thumbs up signal but hold off from cheering. The sweep van occupants would do the actions of cheering without the noise. (Maybe you just had to be there to get it). When the quiet zone ended, Michele and I would leap past the sign and yell woo-hoo! We also started singing the save the boobie song.

Here she comes just a walkin’ down the street
Singin’ save our boobies please oh please
Snappin our fingers and stompin our feet
Singin save our boobies please oh please

The time went by fairly quickly, and using port-a-potties wasn’t as bad as I had imagined. Although it was a little odd walking out and not flushing, so I compensated by making a swooshing noise. I also have to note that all the pit stops had themes and the doors of the port-a-potties often had jokes or facts posted on them like 75% of  people put the toilet tissue on so it goes over the top.  Of course, if a walker is following the 3-Day motto “Drink, pee, no IV,” and hydrating properly the use of port-a-potties can’t be avoided. I think Michele had the port-a-potty thing figured out because I usually went in first and by the time she got out, I had her moist towelette open or staked out the pump sink for her.

During our walk I met many of the women Michele had trained with and surprisingly met up with Pottery Julie from Georgia and her teammate Val of Two Chicks Fo(U)r Boobs. I met Pottery Julie on Twitter and ventured to Alpharetta to attend her and Val’s 3-Day Pottery for the Cure fundraiser. In addition to the fundraiser, I also had the pleasure of going on a training walk with Pottery Julie when Julie Blogger visited Atlanta. Walking with Julie and Val on Day 1 was a pleasure since we shared the same sense of humor, and Julie, Val, Michele, and I jumped out of a quiet zone together and shouted WEEEE! I am so grateful to have met Julie and Val because it was at their fundraiser in May when I realized that the people involved in the 3-Day are like one big happy family, and if you aren't comfortable with hugs, you will soon be since 3-Dayers handshake is a hug.

The hugs we were about to receive would be familiar ones since we were approaching the first cheering station. As we approached the stoplight to cross the street, a radio DJ said to do the Macarena ~ for the life of me I couldn’t remember all the moves, so when Michele and I got the word to cross, we skipped across the road and down the sidewalk into mom’s arms. Jennifer, my niece and Michele’s daughter, was mom’s chauffeur for the afternoon, and mom and Jennifer had met up with long time friends Lil’ Michelle and Linda. The 3-Day magic was at work ~ if I hadn’t participated, I don’t know when I would of seen either one of them. Lil’ Michelle and I were inseparable when we were younger. If I wasn’t staying with her, she was staying with me, and Linda was like another mother growing up, and her hugs were as warm and comforting as they have always been. We soon had to say good bye and continue down the road, and of course, we skipped away by the crowds of people cheering us on this life changing journey.

It is kind of ironic that some of the people standing there cheering us on are survivors, and I feel like I should be cheering for them for their brave and courageous battles. I am also amazed by the numerous survivors who walk. Michele had walked a couple times with a survivor Stacey, and she was honored by a huge sign that said “Stacey You’re Awesome!” The support is absolutely incredible. I had also heard the jokes about the walk being like a 60-mile buffet ~ it is the truth. People hand out water and all sorts of sports drinks, sweet and salty foods, and although not edible ~ even wet wash cloths, which were a blessing because of the temperatures.

With the increasing temps we enjoyed a tasty lunch and met up with Michele’s training walk partners and walked them again to the next cheer station. As we approached the cheer station, I saw a familiar face from earlier in the day ~ the beautiful bald lady was holding a sign ~  A Komen mammogram saved my life. Of course, the eye fanning didn’t work because my thoughts were turned to mom and a mammogram saved her life since they caught her cancer in the early stage ~ Stage 2. But knowing mom and Jennifer were ahead, Michele and I skipped once again to them. While visiting for a bit we were entertained by the Eager Beaver cheerleaders rocking out in their van. After enjoying some laughs and cheers and a few hidden tears, we were on to finish out our day and the first 20 miles.

Just a mile or two down the road, all the walkers were bussed back to camp. The ride on the bus reminded me of the bus ride after spending the day at Disney. Across from us the woman couldn’t keep her eyes open. The girl next to us rode one too many rides and could hardly walk, and of course, we had an energetic one ~ no, I am not describing myself although Michele and I both danced into camp.

When we got back to camp, we were welcomed by the crew with high fives and got a picture in front of the DAY 1 Impressive sign. After that we found our gear and set out for home sweet home ~ our pink tent. Michele and I worked like champs together and had our tent set up in no time. We then moved on to the semi-trailer showers, which weren’t nearly as bad as I had imagined, and I highly recommend the towel service.

After our showers we were ready for some nourishment, and the chicken and rice with marinara and salad was pretty tasty. With yummies in our tummies, we walked around camp and retrieved our 3-Day mail. Again I was overwhelmed by all the support when I pulled out my stack of mail. I received over 32 pieces of mail, including the three from Michele. As we picked up our mail, the last walker made her way into camp and raises the flag “One day closer to end of breast cancer.” Enjoying the activities of camp we went back to the dining tent to enjoy the nightly entertainment ~ 3-Day game show similar to A Minute to Win It and karaoke.

Of course, night life at camp doesn’t last long since it is lights out at nine p.m. Michele and I ventured back to camp, donned our sporty headlamps, and read our  letters of encouragement. Some made me laugh, and some made me cry. Again, I was overwhelmed by the love and support I have received on this journey. With thoughts of 40 more miles in my head, I lay on my sleeping mat and sleeping bag, and tried to visit dreamland…

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

2010 Tampa Bay 3-Day for the Cure Recap ~ Opening Ceremony

Five fifteen the next morning came early and this was much like my labor with Jacob. The excitement of the impending day far outweighed the almost sleepless nights. The drive to the beach was barely worth mentioning except for when we headed over Sand Key Bridge, and once again the 3-Day Opening Ceremony was in view. Since the sun hadn’t fully lit the sky, this time the surrounding area had a beautiful pink glow.

After dropping off our bags at the gear truck, we mentioned there was no turning back and headed toward the pink globes. We took several photos before the  Opening Ceremony sign and set our goal. Michele and I also stopped to sign the memory ribbons. Although we are walking in memory and honor of so many beautiful women who have fought the courageous battle, Trudy Runnels and Vickie Barber both lost their battles this year, and we dedicated this part of the journey to them and their families. At this point, Michele and I started the eye fanning, which was code crying.

We then staked out our spot for Opening Ceremony. We were soon joined by veteran walkers, Julie and Tracey, who Michele had walked with on training walks. After introductions, Julie gave mom the nickname of “Queen Rose.”
It wasn’t too long after this and opening ceremony got underway. If I had to recite what was said, I honestly can’t tell you because it all seems so surreal. However, the theme was why we are walking. We are walking because EVERYONE DESERVES A :LIFETIME; hence, we walk so we can share with loved ones the important milestones:  birthdays, graduations, weddings, anniversaries, etc…and these milestones were displayed on flags that flag bearers carried into the ceremony, including a bearer being escorted by a beautiful bald lady.

We also walk  because of those who have touched our hearts and have given us the inspiration to do something as bold as walking 60 miles over 3 days. My lists includes my mom, Anita, Savonda, Aunt Marian, Ramie, the ladies from the airport, the beautiful bald lady, etc....  Flag bearers again honored the people we walk for: Mother, Grandmother, Aunt, Friend, Wife, Husband, Children, Daughter, Heroes, Families, etc...

At this point the tear fan didn’t do any good because as I stood next to mom, the tears freely flowed for the fight she gave, so we can share milestones in life. The flag bearers entrance was followed by the remembrance of those who are no longer with us to share in the milestones of life. It was then I thought of my husband and how he hasn’t be able to share milestones with his mom Barbara since  she had lost her battle with ovarian cancer years before we had met. I also thought of Aunt Sue’s granddaughter Darby who recently lost her battle with colon cancer. While these thoughts were running through my head, a survivor entered the circle in the middle of the stage and raised the memorial ribbons. Sadly, the lady raising the ribbons only has months left share these milestones  with her loved ones.

We then honored our heroes who have battled the cancer beast by saying their name aloud. I can still hear the echoes of the names.  This was followed by survivors carrying flags to represent what they endured while battling breast cancer:  Strength, Hope, Courage,Love, Patience, Optimism, etc... The survivors in the circle would also be walking on this 3-Day journey, and again, we were back to why we were walking ~ the living proof that we are one day closer to the end of breast cancer. And the survivors led us on this 3-day 60 mile journey...

2010 Tampa Bay 3-Day for the Cure Recap ~ Day 0

Over the last week, I have been trying to absorb the 3-Day and put the experience in words, but I have come to the conclusion that it isn't possible to express the love, emotions, and gratitude that have become entwined in my heart by this AWESOME experience. Bear with me as I dig through the emotions and try to recap this life-changing journey for you. An online album of pictures from this journey can be viewed at http://picasaweb.google.com/htapley821

On Wednesday, October 27,  I ventured over the mountain and through the woods to pick up mom ~ Rose, so we could make the journey to Florida on Thursday. The ride over the mountain couldn’t have been more beautiful. The leaves were in full glory from deep burgundy red to golden yellow, and the preceding day’s rain made miniature waterfalls over the face of the rocks ~ it was truly a gift from God and a wonderful start for an incredible journey

After a restless night, Mom and I woke up early eager to start making our journey. From the moment we got to the airport we knew this was going to be a day like no other (not because of the police dogs due to bomb threats). Because of our pink attire including ribbon necklaces and mom’s rose hat, we got the attention of many people around us, and the stories of breast cancer surrounded us. The security guard who checked mom’s medicine told me her mom, Pat, was a nine year survivor. Then when we got on the tram, Sarah, a woman in her 30s announced she was a one year survivor. Her battle included a double mastectomy and radiation and chemotherapy, and it was obvious her curly short hair was the result of chemo. Her cancer didn't show up on mammogram but she knew it was cancer before the doctor she worked for broke the news to her. As we were exiting the tram, another young woman (Kristy), also in her 30s, announced she was also a survivor who also had a double mastectomy. Mom told them to keep the positive attitude.

Once we landed in Tampa, the big small world became more apparent. As mom waited for me outside the restroom, she was approached by two women , Kim and Donna ~ who were on the same flight as us, and they were also walking over the weekend. We all made our way to meet Michele.  Michele had also made arrangements from the 3-Day message board to give the the Bippity Boopity Boobs from Pennsylvania a ride to their hotel. These three women were easy to spot since they were wearing 3-Day shirts from the walk the year before. At the same time we were approached by Airport Girl who was also there to pick up a friend, and they were also walking in the 3-Day. We greeted each other as 3-Dayers do with hugs.

After gathering luggage, we headed to the beach to take the Boobs to their hotel. As we drove over Sand Key Bridge, the excitement in the vehicle rose;  we could see the park where the Opening Ceremony was to be held, and it was adorned the 3-Day way. Michele made a little detour before dropping the Boobs off at their hotel,  and we drove through the park. It was hard to believe the event was finally here. Michele, Mom, and I later joked this experience was like having a baby since we had been planning for nine months and soon we would go through 3-days of labor.

To be continued...