The Power of Breast Cancer Awareness Walks
I was idly thumbing through the mail just now, recycling the 11 or 12 catalogs I seem to receive each day and resignedly stacking the bills in a drawer, when something familiar caught my eye.
It was a newsletter from our local cancer center showing lots of pictures of the annual fund-raiser held in July, one I’d participated in for the first time this year. I read the various stories – which team had raised the most money, which had the most members, a vignette on a 9-year-old girl with Hodgkins lymphoma who walked over 6 miles, a sampling of how the $1.2 million raised is being spent.
And suddenly, unexpectedly, I was back there on that hot July day, feet burning, shoulders aching, and once again feeling a lump in my throat at the sight of nearly 2,800 bikers, runners, and walkers joining together in this small, rural river valley for one purpose: to raise money to defeat this killing disease, once and for all.
Why did we all put our regular lives aside on that steamy summer day, don our sneakers, and spend hours traveling along hot concrete sidewalks, or bicycle miles and miles on heat-blasted asphalt roads? Why did so many townspeople forego their usual Saturday errands, put aside their gardening tools or postpone trips to the town pond, and line the streets to cheer and offer lemonade, cookies, and encouragement as we passed?
With all the great causes out there, all the deserving projects looking for funding, why is THIS one – the Prouty, signature event of the Norris Cotton Cancer Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire – so very compelling?
And why does it even now, three months and lots of miles later, still make me feel like crying?
Maybe it’s the bittersweet nature of the event: lots of good feelings intertwined with tears and sorrow. The sight of a laughing 4-year-old riding his crêpe-paper bedecked bike, complete with training wheels, set against the hundreds of yellow ribbons hanging on a fence at the registration area, tributes to loved ones with cancer – many of whom lost the battle.
A team of 20 bikers, pumping like mad up a long, hot hill, and a group of four breast cancer survivors crossing the finish line hand in hand, wiping away tears for a fifth, no longer a survivor.
Joy. Thanks. Sorrow. Regret. All rolled into one intense day. Is it any wonder that thinking of all that, I swallow hard past a sudden lump in my throat?
Cancer is a vicious disease, but it will never defeat the human spirit. For every person who loses the battle, there remains husband or wife, children, parents, friends, and co-workers who pick up the torch on behalf of the fallen and vow to find a cure.
We humans, all of us, want to save one another from pain and sorrow. And I guess that’s why I find events like our local fund-raiser so emotional: with all the bad happening in the world, and Lord knows there’s a lot of it, I can still count on the inherent goodness of people. We look out for one another; we’ve got each other’s backs.
For every suicide bomber and serial killer and pension-eviscerating CEO, there are millions of good folks out there who care about one another. Who rely each day on the power of love.
And that’s what will save us all, in the end.