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.

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