ina, my hairdresser, was waiting for me in Somerset at 5 am to start the journey. We talked all the way up about walking 39.3 miles, and we were determined to finish. We arrived at the Westin hotel where Lina was going to stay, she checked in her bags, valet parked her SUV and we were on our way. There were two wonderful women who let us ride to Carson Beach with them for the start of the walk. As we went through opening ceremonies, the couple on the side of me filled with tears as the announcer said “Who are you walking for”, “Who here is a survivor, raise your hand, and if you know someone touched by the disease raise your other hand.” Both my hands went up, as did theirs, with tears rolling down their cheeks, and then we were asked to lower our hands and connect them to someone next to us. Emotions filled the air, as I thought of Sarah, Marie, and little Millie who is still fighting the fight of Ewing Sarcoma at only 10 years old.
Then, I thought about the journey that led me to the starting line for this event. From March 19th thru May 9th, my team and I set up every weekend. Our bright pink tables cloth and our banner of real faces of cancer touched many. I didn’t have enough for all my team by April 20th so I had to separate from my team or none of us would have been able to walk. By check in on May 15th, Team Nique Strong had raised approximately $7500.00. It was enough for the whole team to walk, but we did not have the funds for the team due date of April 20th.
Then we were off. Lina and I had no idea what to expect, and it was so exciting to see the pink arrow signs that were along the route and each mile was marked when you reached it. It was the motivation to keep going. There were rest stops in between, with water, Gatorade, snacks, to rejuvenate, and also the Port-a-John. Once Lina got over the fear of the Port-a-John concept, we were all set.
By mile 22-23, the pain in our feet was intensifying. We started to jog in between walking because it was actually easier on our feet. When we saw that sign that said mile 26, we almost cried. We asked someone to take our picture, and thought it was over, but we still had 0.2 miles to go. Oops!
here was a tent to massage your feet and back and that’s where Lina and I ended up. But taking off our sneakers was painful, never mind trying to get them back on. We had to go to the medical tent. Once seen by medical personnel, the quarter size blood blister on the ball of Lina’s foot pulled her from the walk. You see, the blood blister could turn into a pressure ulcer, so unfortunately I lost my partner. She took a medical ATV to her bus for the hotel, and I went to find my tent and my knapsack. As I looked around at other luggage that was there I saw blankets, sleeping bags, pillows, towels. I thought to myself, I guess I should have read the checklist. So here I was with the volunteers helping me put up my beautiful pink tent, and all I had was me and my knapsack. It was going to be a cold night. I thought of boot camp and sleeping with my M16, giggled to myself and said, “What would STRAUB do?” (She was my bunkie in the Corps.) I just kept giggling and thought, guess I better start paying attention to details.
I got my tent together, well actually the volunteers did most of it as I passed around my Twizzlers. As I saw the mobile shower truck, which I had never seen before, I wondered how I would shower with no towel. The volunteers that were helping me with the tent laughed and said, well use the clothes you wore today, you are not wearing them tomorrow. And that is what I did. When I got back to my tent it had blown a little out of the way due to not being weighted down by nothing but my knapsack. I bought an Avon blanket, and one of the crew was kind enough to let me borrow the liner to their sleeping bag. Everyone that I met was so nice. It was a world of a connection that we all had in some form, CANCER!