In the process of defining purpose, I’ve come across several turning points and my friends’ lives being changed for ever by cancer was one of them. Ever since I heard of them or their family members’ struggle with cancer and all the pain and agony they were going through, something in my heart told me I needed to do something. Being occupied with work and various other activities got me side lined and I stashed this away as a to-do item for a while. But, when I heard about Relay for Life, I knew I had found a starting point and it was the least I could do.
When I first read about Relay I was very excited, because it was just what I was looking for, i.e. a fun walking event that was not a marathon and that supported a good cause, American Cancer Society to be specific. As I read more, I found out that I needed a team and Tina Dunning (Relay for Life Tempe’s organizer) was generous enough to let me join hers, The Usual Suspects. Thank you Tina! So, I was all registered and ready to go! Since this was my first ever fund raising effort, I decided to set a very modest goal and as it turned out I had under estimated the generosity of my friends and family. They helped me reach my initial goal on the very first day!! Needless to say, I was overwhelmed and immensely thankful. After suggestions from a dear friend, I raised my fund raising goal and even today, as I write this, I am amazed at how generous, thoughtful and supportive my friends have been! Thank you! Thank you all! I had never even imagined I would be able to fund raise so successfully! It was just wonderful to watch everyone come together to help. So much so, that I got back in touch with couple friends whom I hadn’t spoken to in years…. more like 15-20 years, thanks to Relay!
About the event itself…. When I registered all I knew was that Relay for Life is a 12 hour overnight event and I should walk as much as I can. With that in mind, and about a month and half to go, I began training with regular walks in my community. Now I have so many front yard landscaping ideas, thanks to all the walks! 🙂 I found a lovely lake community nearby with rather cool birds and ducks and also met some other regular walkers. Anyway, let me not get too detailed on that. Bottom line…. training to walk for hours was really not as bad as I thought it would be…. comfortable shoes, upbeat lively music, cool breeze, beautiful surroundings, regular “Good Morning” wishes and nods shared, a lovely event to look forward to, that’s all! It all worked like a charm.
The day before the event, I was all energized and had been dreaming about it. With all the training, I had set a goal of walking 6 hours out of the 12. I tried to get as much sleep as I could, but it was hard… I was way too excited. But, guess what? I didn’t know anyone there….. now, I’m not such an outgoing person so I was a little nervous… How would this go? All strangers….. I wouldn’t know what to talk about… and all that. The husband went with me to help me settle in…. and once I got there, I decided, eh! I’ll just have fun. I met all my fabulous team members and then it got easier. That’s when it struck me, “We are all here for the same reason!” As I heard some heart melting stories from my team members and others, I knew I was on the right “track” :). With every story, I heard of successful and strong survivors, of departed family members and friends, of constantly fighting warriors and supporters, I realized how easy and comfortable my life was. I realized that my choice to participate was one of the best decisions I had made. That got me going!
The Relay organizers had done a wonderful job of keeping everyone entertained. From little kids to senior citizens, there was something for everyone. The main crowd, the teenagers and high school kids had the best tents, camps, decorations and activities. Such a fun bunch and such a carefree age! With all the activities and themed laps I realized that keeping track of time would be next to impossible. So, I set a personal goal of walking 15 miles. My team members turned out to be a cool gang, some that actually started Relay for Life in Tempe! And they were enthu enough to walk the whole 12 hours!!! I knew that I would never walk alone. Walking began with the survivors lap and then everyone joining in. It was simply humbling! I know that sounds clichéd, but I don’t have better words. As I walked every mile with my team members, I heard more and more stories, which just reinforced my determination and confidence. In the beginning, there were lots of people walking, kids playing, singing, dancing, just having fun. There were barbecue grills, tents, food and what not set up to make it an entertaining night. People were walking lap after lap, energized and happy. As it got darker, it was time to light the luminaries. My favorite was “Hope” shining above us, lighting the way to a brighter tomorrow. And then in the wee hours, the crowd started thinning and we’d see only a few people on the track. Those were the best hours, I think. Not too loud, not too many people, clear dark skies, with a million twinkles, followed by a crescent moon rise, very nice!
By this time, I was at mile 10 and now I could feel the exhaustion set in. I could feel every inch of my feet, but the Usual Suspects were going strong. I think my team member’s music player with the portable speaker was the huge force nudging us ahead. We danced, we hummed along, skipped and jumped, walked on our toes, on our heels, walked backwards, in zigzags, tried various different walking styles to help relieve the pain….. I’m sure, at some point, we all looked like hens, ducks and penguins! 🙂 More than anything, knowing that our pain was nothing as compared what cancer patients go through, we walked!
What was 15 miles, a sunset, a moon rise, a sun rise for me, was an immense amount of Hope for someone else. As the sky lit up and the event wrapped up, we were all home ward bound, looking forward to our comfortable beds. Looking back, I am proud of what I did and yet at the same time, it was a humbling experience. Thank you again to everyone who supported my craziness! 🙂 You rock, I walk!