Sunday, May 08, 2016
The Long Walk
Three years ago on Mother's Day, I walked my first 10K with my parents by my side ~ after my second round of chemo.
That wasn't how I'd planned it.
My mom and I had been talking for some time about walking a race together. Our first attempt got sidelined by a knee injury, and we had to cancel. Then my husband Greg heard about another race scheduled for Mother's Day 2013. What a perfect date for our first mother-daughter race! We signed up in January, before we knew what was coming.
Then February arrived, and cancer struck.
At the first meeting with my oncologist, after my surgery, we talked about my upcoming chemo and all it would entail. I told her about the race I hoped to walk, and she said, "I think you should do it."
Buoyed by her confidence in my abilities, I decided to continue as planned.
My first chemo treatment was on April 15. My second, May 6. Life began to fall into a routine: steroids before treatment to quell the nausea, energy for a few days afterwards, down into "the well" of unnatural exhaustion for a week, slowly returning to "normal" . . . then another round of chemo.
Walking became my therapy. Another cancer survivor had recommended walking every day during treatments. So I tried.
It wasn't always easy. It wasn't often easy. Some days I had to force myself just to walk up the street or around the block. Sometimes my vision was so cloudy and my head so foggy, it was hard to see straight. Someone almost always walked with me.
Two days before the Sporting Life 10K, my mom and dad arrived at our home. The night before the race, I wasn't entirely sure I could do it.
My journal entry for May 12, 2013, begins: "I really did NOT think I could walk the 10K today." We had to leave home at 6:00 a.m. to make it downtown in time. I remember coming to breakfast in the early-morning darkness, seeing my family, and wondering if I should back out. In fact, if anyone else (Mom, Dad, or Greg) had said, "You should stay home," I would have! But no one did, and I just kept putting one foot in front of the other.
A whole group of friends and family joined us in the race. The runners took off first, while we walkers went later. Waiting with Mom and Dad in a crowded Tim Hortons, I was overcome by exhaustion and had to lie down in a booth. Resting too long made us get a late start ~ we were at the back of the pack the entire race.
Walking that 10K was one of the hardest thing I've ever done. My right arm was strangely achy. (I wouldn't know until days later that I had developed a blood clot from the chemo.) I had to fight to keep my nearly-bald head covered. (At one point, the wind blew my baseball cap off, and I raced after it in embarrassment.) Every kilometer became harder than the last. (I'm pretty sure I kept telling myself that I could quit at any time!)
But those signs became what we looked for. 4K . . . 5K . . . 6K . . . over halfway there! Somewhere along the line we realized that a band was playing lively tunes just before every marker. We began training our ears to pick up the music as we approached.
Eventually, I knew I couldn't quit. How could I give up with only 1-2 kilometers to go? And then, just around the 9K mark, my husband and son came running toward us. They had finished their own race, and come back to help us finish ours. I could have cried as we crossed the finish line.
What a feeling of exhilaration! The "walker's high" is an incredible thing. But my biggest takeaway that day was the value of support. As my Facebook post that evening said: "I absolutely would not have been able to do it without my parents walking beside me each step of the way." It's a lot harder to quit when someone is walking beside you. I think we pulled each other through!
My parents walked that race (in support of Camp Ooch, a place where young cancer patients can enjoy being campers while still getting the healthcare they need) with my name written on their tags ~ but I walked with prayers and hope for 6 others who were also battling the disease. That, for me, has been one of the best things about cancer ~ getting to walk beside others in understanding and hope as they fight their own battles.
It reminds me of these words: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:1,2 NIV)
With Jesus as our focus, and faith warriors alongside, we can finish any race. God's mercies are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness!