Thursday, August 4, 2011

Tomorrow We Walk

Tomorrow morning, I will be doing something I have done ten times before, but it will also be something I have never done before. Tomorrow, I will head out the door to opening ceremonies for the 3Day Walk for the Cure (aka the 3day walk for breast cancer) Tomorrow I will start the 60-mile journey that is the 3Day. I have walked this 60-mile path ten times before in 5 different cities, including this one. I’ve also crewed 7 times. Later this year I will walk another 3Day and crew another as well. Coming to a 3ay Walk feels like coming home to me. It is comforting and familiar. And yet, here on the eve of this particular 3Day walk, I am filled with uncertainty.

Why the disquiet? This year will be a very different walk for me. This year, my daughter, aka @60miledaughter, is joining me on the walk. Her cousin, @bros4boobies, is along as well. My husband, Matt, who generally walks or crews alongside me, will be crewing, as will my stepson. All this family stuff should be exciting. I am thrilled and honored and proud of each of the young people for making this commitment and for joining us on this adventure. So, again, why do I feel such trepidation about this year’s walk?

I was so excited when my daughter decided to do this with us. She was only seven years old the first time I walked the 3Day. This event has been part of her life growing up. I was so touched that it had come to mean enough to her from the sidelines that she wanted to jump in.

The past year of training together and fundraising has been a rollercoaster I hadn’t expected. Back when she first registered to walk, I saw the future of our walk together as this amazing mother-daughter journey. I imagined the conversations we would share during training. I imagined the tears and the laughter that would pass between us as we prepared for our shared journey. I didn’t actually imagine the arguments we would end up having. I didn’t imagine the miles of training walks when she would wonder aloud how her stepfather and I could possibly stand all this walking. I didn’t imagine how anxious she would become about whether she could do this.

I didn’t imagine any of that because I believe my daughter is an amazing person. She has a heart of gold and is always reaching out to others. She’s one of those people who remains popular among different groups of people, instead of being connected to just one clique. Yes, she can be anxious, but she can also be stubborn and determined. I simply know in my heart that she will do her very best at this thing.

I feel anxious about our walk together over the next three days. I worry, not about whether we will finish, but whether we will still be talking to one another when we do! I worry that our relationship might not be strong enough for this. But then I realize with a big burst that nobody ever knows how strong they are themselves or how strong the bonds in their lives are until they are tested. And this is a test that will have many moments of fun and laughter. Over the next 3 days, we will get to share a lot of great moments. And the tough ones will really not be all that tough.

I walk in memory of my dear friend, Mary Kaye. I also walk in support of a number of survivors who have come into my life. One of the survivors I walk for is my special friend, Diane. Diane is a 2-time breast cancer survivor. I didn’t know her the first time she was diagnosed. But, we were very close when the cancer returned. She bowed to a mastectomy and accepted the treatment to fight hard against this invader. She inspires me with her laughter and her strength.

Five weeks ago, her 32-year old daughter, K, was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer. K’s caution and preventative behavior because of her mother’s cancer probably will save her life. Two weeks ago, K had a procedure to remove a lump from her breast. This week, she had a second procedure because the margins weren’t all clean the first time. Diane has held her own breath and her daughter’s hand at the same time. Diane already knows every step of this journey that her daughter is just starting. This will be something they will share forever. I am heartbroken that Diane has to live through the fear of her child’s cancer. We are all grateful that it was caught early.

As my daughter and I venture off on our 3Day walk together, wondering whether we will make it through and anxious about how it might change our relationship, I simply need to stop what I am doing and reflect on the journey that Diane and her daughter are sharing. Their strength inspires me. If they can face this battle together as boldly as they are, surely my babygirl and I can walk a few miles without caring whether we argue and without it mattering at all if we are bored with one another. Coming to the 3Day will always be coming home. I’m just learning to come home to a different doorway.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

That Time of the Year

In honor of three friends who are each having their first mammograms in the next few weeks, I am reposting this blog from last June. It remains as significant as it was then.

Breast Sandwich Anyone?

Last week, I went for my annual mammogram. Some of you are too young, or are underinsured, or are too male, to know what this experience can be like. For you, I will try to elaborate.

Begin by imagining your breast on the most sensitive day of the month (guys, I invite you to substitute any other nerve-laden orb to which you are very closely physically attached). Now take this breast (or other orb) and settle it onto a large, thick, cold sheet of steel. Stand awkwardly as a smiling technician compresses a second steel shelf down onto your tender orb. Stay right there while those two pieces of steel squeeze toward one another until you want to scream and squirm because of the pain. But don’t move! The technician is sweetly explaining that she really needs you to stand very still as she screws those two sheets of steel just a little more snugly together. And so you do stand very still, because this is important. Imagine if you will, that the pain is intense, but just barely tolerable. Now stand perfectly still for about a minute while the image is taken. Finally, you can release the breath you didn’t even realize you were holding as the compression relaxes just a bit.

PHEW, it’s over, or so you think. But now, you need to shift your body just a little and submit that same breast (or other orb – boys!) to more compression in a slightly altered position. Two more images on this side, and then you get to do it all over again with the other one! Each time that those shelves of metal come squeezing your flesh into a shape you didn’t imagine possible, you feel surges of pain radiate down into your fingertips. But finally, it is over. You have survived the experience of submitting your breast (or other orb) to be the filling in a sandwich wherein the bread is the thickest, toughest steel, and the greatest weight imaginable has made your body part into something thinner than a slice of bologna. Fun, huh?

And so, the other day, my annual mammogram behind me, I walked out to my car and sat behind the steering wheel. I breathed deeply for a moment. My chest was burning and my fingertips were still tingling with the sensation of radiated pain. I took a few moments to compose myself to prepare for the drive back to my office. Then I glanced at the clock. The entire ordeal had taken just seventeen minutes.

I started thinking about other women’s pain during their mammogram. And as I sat there, the focus on my own aching chest changed into a reflection on something more. I started to think about what happens when those seventeen minutes are the beginning of fear and hurt, rather than just a painful interruption in one’s day.

I couldn’t help but think about my friend Diane, a two-time survivor. She feels fear for several days after her mammogram, as she waits - holding her breath - for the “clean” report she hopes will come.

I remembered a woman I met on last year’s Walk, who described an odd look in the technician’s eyes, as she proceeded to “just take a few more images”. When we walked together in Philly, she was between chemo and radiation for the cancer that had been discovered through that mammogram.

I thought about the pain of a mammogram when it leads to difficult decisions about chemo, radiation and surgery. Seventeen minutes of compression seems a lot less painful than imagining making the choice to have part of one’s body cut away.
Seventeen minutes of discomfort seemed fairly insignificant as I thought of the family of a woman who was diagnosed too late because she didn’t have insurance for a mammogram. For that family, seventeen minutes that never even happened cost them a lifetime of loving memories.

My mind swirled through example after example, illustrating that my measly seventeen minutes were only worth considering for about seventeen minutes.

This reflection brought to mind the reasons that I keep walking and crewing in the 3Day Walks for Breast Cancer. The funds that I have helped to raise ensure that more women will have mammograms. My fundraising helps to pay for vital research so that mammograms that do lead to frightening diagnoses are more likely to have less frightening outcomes. My footsteps help to support community programs and education. My footsteps are matched by the footsteps, fundraising and hard work of all of the 3Day community. Together, we make an impact that will last way longer than seventeen minutes. Our work will last a lifetime. Our work provides lifetimes. And everyone deserves a lifetime.

If you are over forty, or have a family history of breast cancer, please schedule a mammogram right away. Not all breast cancer can be identified with a mammogram. However, mammograms – combined with regular self-exams – continue to be the most reliable diagnosis tool for catching breast cancer early. And early diagnosis means more survivors. Spending seventeen minutes as the filling in a breast sandwich seems a small price to pay for your health and well-being. Please! Run, don’t walk, to your nearest mammogram center. And then, once you’re finished, walk 60 miles with me in the fight against breast cancer, or support my 60 miles with a donation.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

60Mile Daughter Training Notes

I'd like to share with you the next installment from my 17 year old 60MileDaughter. (you can read her first post here) I am so proud of her as she begins seriously training for her first 3Day Walk For the Cure. She is planning to walk with me this summer in Chicago. This past weekend, we took a training walk of "10 miles" together. She was cranky before we started and I began to dread what I had brought upon myself by inviting her to share this. Walking (and crewing) in the 3Day Walks is a precious part of my life. It has been a big part of my life for ten years, and training walks are something I dearly love. Her crankiness seared my heart. I feared what her attitude might do to my own training. My fears were mostly unfounded. Indeed, training with her will be very different than training with Matt (60MileHusband) has been. It will be very different than training alone my first year. It will be very different than training with friends has been. BUT it will be an amazing experience for both of us and I am excited to move into this new adventure.
Read on, in her words, and "hear" about her first big training walk.
Yesterday I walked out the door with my parents, decked out and ready to spend the day walking. It was all planned out, as my stepfather has warned me – “make sure your mother maps it out beforehand so it really is the length she promises.”
Ten miles, mapped out with a lunch break half-way through, I can do this, I thought … maybe. Five steps in I was already complaining, there was no way I could do ten miles, let alone twenty miles for three days in a row. Yet somewhere along the way, something clicked for me. I can walk, I can put one foot in front of the other and I can make it. Not for myself and not simply for the sake of saying I can do it, but because not everyone can. I am walking sixty miles in three days for those we have lost to breast cancer and for those we don’t want to ever lose.
I returned home from our walk and mapped the route for myself --- 11.5 miles! My feet were sore and my legs were tired, but I had done more than I thought I could, way more. Today I feel fine, tired muscles but not in pain.
All I want to do is walk, I want to go out there and push forward again, and walk until I don’t think I can walk any further, and then keep on walking a little more. I want to walk because at the end of each walk there is another chance, and the feeling that I really can make a difference.

I can’t do it on my own though.
I have my mom cheering me onward, reminding me of the little kids who will for cheer me on during the three days. I’ll hear them yelling “Thank you for helping my mommy”. I have my mom telling me of the tears I will cry and the memories I will make and never forget. I have my friends congratulating me on another mile walked, and telling me it is fine that I can’t spend time with them today, they understand. The walking is more important.
And I have you, supporting me in the most important way. You are supporting the fundraising, the reason I am pushing for more miles. I may be walking to raise awareness, but you are listening and supporting me.
I would like to thank those of you who have helped me so far in this long journey to come, and for those of you who haven’t it’s not too late. Your donation in any amount helps. We’re also selling t-shirts for a $16 donation if that better suits. I thank you for anything and everything.
Thank you again,

Aliza Majewski
Make your donation PLEASE visit my website now.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Proud Mother

I haven't written a blog post in a long time, since my most recent 3Day last October. Now that things are gearing up for the new season, my mind is on all things 3Day, and I am ready to start writing along with all my other training and preparing. However, today's post isn't written by me. Today I am sharing my daughter's fundraising letter. This summer, she will be walking in her first 3Day For the Cure. I am so proud of her I could burst.
Here is her letter:
Ten years ago this coming May I watched my mother in her first 3Day Walk for Breast Cancer. She walked sixty miles in three days. I saw how hard she worked to train and to raise money, and how dedicated she was to the cause. My family has experienced breast cancer. We have lost dear friends and cried tears of joy when other friends have survived. That first year, 2001, my mom met my step-father Matt. Since then, they have walked and crewed in the 3Day Walk for Breast Cancer each year. Each year, they have participated in this event so that hopefully one day we can live in a world where no one has to go through the pain and suffering that too many people in this world have experienced. This year I turned sixteen, and this year I can do more than just support my parents as they work for this goal. I can do more than drive to Chicago to cheer them on. I can do more than drive to Boston in snow and sleet in the middle of May to give them dry clothes because they are unwilling to give up. This year, with their dedication in my heart, I can do more. In August of 2011 I will be walking sixty miles in three days in Chicago during the Susan G. Komen Walk for a Cure. I have a lot of work ahead of me. Ever since I was six I have heard my mom talk about how the commitment is like a part time job. You have to train and train hard, you have to build up strength and endurance, and you have to raise $2,300 for this amazing cause.
The Susan G. Komen 3Day Walks for the Cure raise millions of dollars to help research cures and to support those who are suffering. Thousands of people participate in each of the 15 walks in different cities. I have chosen Chicago. My parents have both walked and crewed this walk, and I have walked along the trail cheering sore walkers along, thanking them for what they are doing. After the 2010 walk, my older cousin called me up and said he wanted to walk, but he wanted me with him. After a few days of back and forth I realized that I was being silly. I had suffered with my family; I had supported people when they needed it most. I held my mother’s hand as she sobbed over one of her absolutely closest friend’s fight. She fought this disease to, sadly, not make it through. I called my cousin back, and told him to grab his sneakers because we were going to Chicago.
I am writing this letter, not to tell my life story, but to ask for help in this battle. Help me help others, and let us try to stop this tragic disease from hurting more families. Any donation helps, the more we raise, the more opportunities there are to solve the mystery of breast cancer.
Thank you for your help,

Aliza Majewski