I recently walked in my fifth Avon Walk. It was my fifth city, and my home city of Boston. There were many issues leading up to the weekend that could have derailed my participation, but the Walk is a commitment and a goal for me. I refused to get discouraged or give in. This was a significant year for so many reasons.
Back in December, as I was thinking about the Walk and talking with potential team mates I realized that the weekend was personally significant. It was May 16, 2008 that I had my last cancer treatment. Seven years later I was walking in the Boston Avon39 - the Walk to End Breast Cancer on May 16.
On March 17 I lost my friend Linda to breast cancer. I knew back in January that she would not be with us when I walked. While it was sad, I thought it was part of the “acceptance” stage. April 17 was significant to me; she had been gone a month and my heart still hurt while life around me seemed to go back to normal. It then struck me that Day 2 of the Walk was May 17 – two months after the death of my friend.
This year Avon gave out “connection bands.” Each band states the reason for walking. I could have taken a band that read “For Myself,” but it was the “For Someone I Miss” band that touched my heart. So I wore it for Linda, and thought of all the others that I have lost over the years.
I had known that this year would be difficult because my focus was on Linda and my loss. My reason for walking had changed. Opening and Closing Ceremonies are always emotional. This year, more than ever. I am thankful for the friends who have survived. And I thought of them as statistics are cited. We are the lucky ones. I cried when “loved ones we have lost” were mentioned.
This year I walked with the Solo Strutters; a national team that participates in each walk. It was formed so that no one would walk alone. Along the way I walked with others. Each person had their reason for walking. Each faced their own challenges over the weekend. I walked with Hillary for a while and we talked about walking alone and realizing that we are never truly alone. Both literally and figuratively.
This weekend was a jumble of emotions. Joy at being a survivor. Grief over the loss of a friend. Awe over the care that others bring and the connections that are made. And thankfulness for God’s grace through it all.
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