Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Real Wake Up Call

I did it! I completed, well kind of, the Avon walk for breast cancer! This past weekend was amazing and I met some truly wonderful people. While I was incredibly nervous to take on such a challenge alone, I am so proud of myself for staying strong and not backing out. 

By the time we had arrived in Charlotte, NC on Friday afternoon, the hotel had already been taken over by the color pink. Men, women, and even children had gathered to raise awareness. While I knew no one there besides my mother and boyfriend, I felt as if I belonged. When we went down to Event-Eve in the hotel lobby, there were smiles and laughter for miles. It was like one giant sorority - yet we were all strangers. It wasn't even fifteen minutes before a woman came up to me to ask me if this was my first walk. She shared with me that it was her first time and that she was also walking alone. This was a big relief knowing that I was not the only one alone. After purchasing some uber cute breast cancer apparel, we made our way over to check out the other goodies.

For those of you wondering who the cow is, I do not know his name. All I can tell you is that he is a true inspiration. He has be a part of 40 walks in the past ten years. He was also at EVERY rest stop along our 39.3 mile journey to cheer us on with high-fives and hugs. 

Friday evening ended with an early bed time and 4:30 a.m. Saturday morning came wayyy to fast. Despite the incredibly early wake up call, the adrenaline coursing through my veins helped me to get moving. By 5:15 a.m. we had made our way to the starting line for breakfast and some much needed coffee. This is when my nerves kicked in, full throttle. 

It was cold and windy and I was honestly scared. I saw several teams gathering for pictures and they seemed truly excited for the journey that lied ahead. I will admit, I seriously contemplated turning around and walking back to the car. However, my amazing boyfriend (boob guy pictured above), got me off of the bleachers and over to the crowd of women to take pictures and to raise my spirits. While it took some time, my mood eventually turned around and I remembered that the whole point of this was to push myself beyond my limits. 

This is only a small picture of what is actually a massive blow up. If you look closely you can see my comments - "I walk for everyone" & "savin' tatas for Melissa White". 

Once the opening ceremony began at 6:30 a.m., my fear was replaced with a passionate desire to make a difference. While the hundreds of us stretched as a group, Rob pointed out a sign on the back of a woman that was standing in front of me. It was a sign dedicating her efforts to a woman who had lost her fight to breast cancer exactly one week earlier, 10/13/12. This is when I felt the sudden urge to cry. As is this was not enough, the ceremony then began with a few stories of those participating. While already feeling emotional, a young woman stood up and spoke. She was 28 years old and was walking for her older sister of two years. This immediately struck a cord with me; my only sibling is my older sister of 18 months who is my best friend. She continued on to tell us that right after her sister's 30th birthday, while pregnant with her second child, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Even now as I am writing this, it is hard for me to hold back the tears. I am proud to say that this young woman and her sister, Hilary, were BOTH walking the Avon walk together to celebrate her being one year cancer free. 

After a few more heart-wrenching yet inspirational stories, an Avon spokeswoman decided to brighten our spirits before they sent us on our way. After much anticipation, she announced that we, as a whole, had raised $1.75 million dollars! I am so proud to say that my efforts helped to contribute to such an accomplishment. Now just so you all are aware, this money is just from the Charlotte Avon walk, not from any of the other NINE walks that took place this past year. As I looked around I saw both smiles and tears of joy - it was at this moment that I realized how much of an impact my efforts were about to make. 

And then we were off. All 900 of us. We began the journey of a lifetime. Despite the wind in my face and the countless miles ahead of me, it was no longer about my pain - it was about coming together to end the fight against breast cancer.

I have so many stories to share about my journey in Charlotte. However, if I do not cut myself off, I may end up writing a novel. I will post again tomorrow so stay tuned! I want to also thank everyone for their contributions and support. And to my mom and Rob for not only coming with me to Charlotte, but for also waking up at 4:30 a.m. with me to brace the cold.