Last Sunday morning, much too early for my liking, I got up and dressed in my warmest running pants, a pink sweatshirt, and my Wake Up Narcolepsy cap. Crossing the national mall by 8am, the area seemed eerily deserted, as in later hours of the day, tourists usually flood these pathways by the hundreds. But I wasn’t alone here either.
Walking towards the Washington Monument, I noticed a few other women walking in the same direction, also wearing pink. In the distance, I heard an inspirational U2 song blasting from a loudspeaker – I walked faster. Finally, I rounded one last corner and saw the stage, the tables, the tents, and the large crowds of people gathered. My throat tightened up, I was overwhelmed with emotion.
Earlier in the week, my friend Gail invited me to join her and some friends in the Breast Cancer Network of Strength’s “Mother’s Day Walk to Empower” here in Washington, D.C. I’d heard so much about different breast cancer walks over the past couple years, but I’d never participated in one. I said yes immediately.
I had no expectations for the morning other than to meet up with friends, make a donation and enjoy a nice 3 mile walk around the mall for a good cause. I hadn’t expected to be so affected, but seeing the large group of men, women and children rallying together to make a difference in the lives of those affected by breast cancer, I must admit – I was very moved.
There were many different “teams” of walkers and a plethora of corporate sponsors. Before the walk started, Ronald McDonald led us in a “warm up” session, which was more of a dance party than anything else! There was even a t-shirt contest for most creative t-shirt design (totally up my alley!).
Also, I learned that the Breast Cancer Network of Strength is a very special organization, with a goal of providing information and support to all those affected by breast cancer. It is their belief that “no one should have to go through breast cancer alone.” What a great mission!
Meeting up with my group of walkers, “Pink and Proud,” we took a few pictures and started our walking. I enjoyed the laid back pace of this event, as the last event I’d participated in for charity was the Boston Marathon… which, needless to say, wasn’t quite as laid back.
All Sunday morning, I was in total awe. There was an aura of fun-loving and supportive energy surrounding the event and I couldn’t help but think of something I’d read recently.
As “research” for my own medical memoir writing, I read Betty Rollin’s breast cancer memoir titled “First, You Cry.” For me, one of the most inspiring parts of Rollin’s book was in her Introduction to the second edition, written 25 years after the book was first published in 1976. Rollin wrote:
“It was 1975, when no one even said the word “cancer” (in obituaries the going phrase was ‘he/she died after a long illness’); not too many people said the word “breast,” and even fewer said the words together. For all I know, I was surrounded by one-breasted women, but we didn’t talk to each other because we were all hiding.
I decided not to hide. I decided to write about it. Breast cancer was bad, I thought, but it’s not boring. The writer in me knew that. I also knew there was no point in writing a book unless I leveled with the reader and, in so doing, leveled with myself.”
This event was very inspiring to me as I continue forward in my efforts to raise awareness about narcolepsy. Narcolepsy has already come so far – a few years ago, the thought of running the Boston Marathon for narcolepsy was a dream for the distant future. And now, thanks to Kevin Cosgrove and Wake Up Narcolepsy, that dream is one of the proudest moments of my life!
Always keeping my eyes on the horizon, it is now my greatest hope that some day, in the not-so-distant future, there will be a large event similar to the “Walk to Empower” in support of narcolepsy. “REM-Walking around DC?” I like the sound of that, I like it a lot!
(Pictures courtesy of Gail — thank you for this wonderful experience and your great photos!)