This photo was taken almost 4 years ago, and although its true that memories fade, and although you can't see my face in the picture, I'm pretty sure I was smiling. The dirt alone was enough to make a person cry, for heaven's sake, never mind the blisters, but I was grinning from ear to ear. I took this picture of my feet on the second day of the Boston 3-Day For the Cure, a 60-mile walk aimed at raising money and awareness to combat breast cancer. This was the first weekend in August, 2007 and it was 104 degrees. I don't think anyone's feet were made to sweat that much - so, yup - we got blisters - and heat rash - and sun burn. But no one that I encountered over those three days - and there were about 2,000 of us - no one, was whining. Why? Because the people of "The 3-Day" are a rising tide that inspires and lifts us all. I had never before been around that many strong, selfless, gracious and determined human beings in one place. The spirit of The 3-Day is infectious and I hope this blog will continue its spread. Maybe by talking about what I go through to fundraise and train for a 3-Day event, I can help people stay motivated and committed. I am proud to be associated with this cause. I am grateful I have the strength to walk. And I'm filled with joy that I can do it with such a great group of people. So I'll buck up and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Feel free to join me. But remember; no whining allowed!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Family Reserve

Back in July, a couple of weeks before the Boston 3-Day, I went down to Virginia for a family reunion. I mentioned it here in an earlier blog post on July 9. I find myself thinking about it from time to time and what is striking to me now is what a big family we have! My Mom's family had eleven children in it and my Dad is one of four. My husband is one of three and both of his parents came from three-child families. As a result, I have about a zillion first cousins and my children are blessed with an enormous extended family - most of whom seem to value it and want to keep the generations in touch. We are very fortunate indeed. But then I start to do the actual math. . . . .

When a family member was diagnosed with breast cancer about 4 years ago, we looked at her like she was some sort of anomaly. This wasn't something that ran in our family - we had no history with it. I think there was a lot of scratching of heads and pointing and wondering "Why her?" What had she been exposed to? What had been the trigger? But I'm afraid the real question is not 'why her?' It's 'why just her, so far?' The disease is ubiquitous. Women in their 20's are getting it along-side women in their 60's. It's rampant. You just don't meet people anymore who haven't been affected in some way by knowing and/or loving someone who has faced this diagnosis.

The Breast Cancer incidence rate in the United States right now is about one in eight women. My current home state, Rhode Island, is a high cancer rate state. If you live here, your odds of being diagnosed with breast cancer in your lifetime are 1 in 6!

When I got home from the family reunion this summer, I made my own little family tree. A very cursory one that only included living relatives. It basically lists my parents and my husband's parents, their siblings, spouses and children and then our first cousins with their spouses and children. Then I got out my pink Hi-lighter to illuminate all the women and girls. There were 50 of us. 50. Technically, I guess that means 6 or so more of us might be fighting this fight first hand at some point. Those are suckish odds. I think of my sisters-in-law, my 11 year old niece, my 70 year old aunt. Myself. And never mind all the girlfriends we love like sisters. How many of them get stamped into the algorithm? I don't like this math. And I just want it to stop. I want my family tree to remain crisp and white with pink hi-lights. No circles or asterisks or footnotes. Nothing to indicate how the statistics took their toll. Just names of living relatives. So it has to stop.

Many of us are working very hard, in the only ways we know how, to make it stop. I really think my "flash freeze" idea that I discussed here in my October 2 post might be a way to symbolically and cathartically "make it stop." We claim a couple of moments out of the event and "freeze" them. We hold them motionless; stopped. And maybe that will carry us until it stops for real; inspire us to keep going, work harder and see that it stops for good in our lifetime.

My "flash freeze" post has received a lot of attention. People are definitely spreading the word. But I'd love to know more about what people actually think of the idea. Interesting? Worthwhile? Do-able? If you have any comments or suggestions, please share. Thanks a lot!

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