About this blog

I was diagnosed with breast cancer on June 11, 2010. As a result of my treatment, I have lymphedema in my left arm. I draw my strength from the Lord, as well as my family's Scots-Irish heritage. Our Graham's were a tough and scrappy bunch of fighters on the Scottish/English border. They came to America and continued to fight when necessary: in the American Revolution; the Civil War; and my brother is a Captain in the U.S. Army. My ancestors settled this country against all odds. My great-grandmothers on both sides of the family were pioneer women who settled the West. Along with that heritage, and the full armor of God, I am walking the walk and fighting the good fight.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Day One

I've been pondering how to blog about my experience on the 3 Day. I knew right away that it deserved more than one post, because if I tried to do it in one post, it would be, as my kids would say, "epic." So I'll just start at the beginning and try to put into words my first day. But I warn you, words really fail to express what it was like. The unity, the camaraderie, the depth of feeling that permeated every step.

My team, "the Pink & Plaid Warriors" consisted of my mom, my friend Carylee, and myself. My dad was also on the team, as part of the crew. He was assigned to the tents and gear area and drove a gear truck between the opening ceremonies and the campsite.

Opening ceremonies were at the fairgrounds in Del Mar. Walkers were to arrive between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. As soon as we got there, mom and I dropped our duffel bags off at the truck labeled "F" which corresponded to our tent assignment of F-63.  I was amazed at how efficient the process was. From there, we followed the dozens of other walkers into the fairgrounds. It was a lively and fun atmosphere. Before we got all the way into the grounds, I ran into someone I met during the commercial shoot up in Hollywood. It was a crazy scene with literally thousands of people waiting to get started on the 60 mile trek, television trucks, loud music and funky costumes.

The opening ceremonies got us going. Crying, that is.  They were talking about who was walking and who they were walking for. They mentioned mothers and daughters, and of course, I started bawling. Not only becuase I was sharing it with my mom, but I thought of Isabelle and how I hoped she would be spared from this disease.  I also started thinking about how I wanted to be around for her growing up and how cancer was a threat to that. But here we were, thousands strong, united to do something about it. It was very moving.

Here are a few minutes of the opening ceremonies to give you a taste of what it was like:

We were ready to get moving after that. We had been told to go into a corral and those closest to the stage would be first on the route. Like good little girls, we did that. As it turned out, that wasn't the case. By the time we were out of the ceremony site, there were only a few dozen people behind us. But even as we filed out, we walked between rows of people cheering us on, giving us high-fives, and saying thank you. I saw one woman holding a sign that said, "Stage 3 and Kicking Cancer's Ass." That one got me, because last year, I was that woman. I saw her several times over the next couple of days. I was so touched by the outpouring of support and love by total strangers. One woman looked at us and reminded us to just stop mentally and take the moment. Remember it.

Day One was a mixture of fun and frustration.  The atmosphere and people were amazing. San Diego PD and San Jose PD officers rode bikes all along the route, sporting pink tutus or other silliness. Many had music players attached to their bikes that would bring us some tunes as we walked.  We got our first glimpse of the sweep vans, that patrolled the route all weekend to pick up weary or hurt walkers and take them to the next pit stop. They each had a theme. One was a hippie van. Mom liked that one because they played 60's era tunes. There was the "Titty taxi" and "Hookers for Hooters."  (Not so sure about the hooker part, but the women inside were funny and the music they blasted put a bounce in my step.). There were the hula girls who wore long t-shirts with a cartoon of a bikini. They would jump out of their van periodically with music blaring and dance. It was pretty funny to see the fake bikini images on the T-shirts shaking their booties.

All along the route, the public came out to cheer us on. I'm going to do a whole post about this aspect of it, because it was truly amazing.  This event brought out the best in everyone: the walkers, the crew, and the public. I'll talk more about this in a future post.

The frustration came because we felt like we were bringing up the rear,and we were!  Our late start put us behind. Even though we all knew it wasn't a "race" we still wanted to be at camp before dark so we could make sure our tents were set up, check out the vendors, and relax before dinner. I also got frustrated at having to wait at all the red lights. There were so many for the first 5 miles or so. I liked it much better when we hit Torrey Pines and were able to walk without interruption. My team and I had trained on hills, so we ended up passing a lot of walkers at that point.

By the time we got to lunch at La Jolla Shores, mom's cappillaritis had begun to flare up. She had this condition while training, especially in the heat.  She went off to the medical tent for some ice. Carylee was having trouble with her ankle, so she also went and got some treatment from the medical staff. The medical staff, by the way was amazing. At every pit stop, there was a medical tent with staff that were able to wrap legs, joints, and take care of whatever issues had arisen for the walkers.

The afternoon went by pretty slowly.  We were still getting used to the whole flow of the event. The sights, the sounds, and just the physical sensation of walking all day. We found ourselves around many of the same walkers most of the day. From time to time, a police officer would ride by with some music and we would all boogie down the road. There were also some awesome volunteer motorcyclists who helped us cross the streets. In one neighborhood in La Jolla, school kids had made signs that were attached to the trees to encourage us.  Many houses in the neighborhood set up tables and were giving goodies out to us. One table even had tequila shots!

20 down, 40 to go!
Dad met us about a mile outside of camp.  He had been waiting for us most of the afternoon. In fact, when we were at lunch, the first walkers were already coming into camp! He was an angel for us and set up our tent, blew up our air mattresses and encased the tent in plastic in case of rain. (The weather reports were threatening rain all week!)  He walked with us into camp where we were met by huge banners, music blaring, and a general party atmosphere.

Coming into camp, you walk through a path lined on both sides with supporters as well as flags that, if you think about it, really bring up some strong emotions. On one side, they would identify people who we were walking for: "My Mother," "My daughter," "My friend," "My sister," and so on.  There was even one that said, "My Self."  On the other side, they expressed traits and events, like "commitment," "love," "adventure," "graduations," "weddings," etc. Things that breast cancer has tried to rob from us. 

What struck me that first day, as well as the entire weekend, was that every single person out there had a story. Had a reason to be putting their bodies through such an extreme testing. It may have been a loved one lost. I saw plenty of shirts with smiling faces, or with names. There was even one team the "T.A.G. Team" that held a sign all 60 miles with the picture of their loved one lost to breast cancer. (Her initials were T.A.G.)  What impacted me about the sign that they held was that it had her birth and death dates. She was born on October 9, 1969.  Just a few weeks before me. And she had been gone for a few years already. Man, breast cancer sucks!

We had dinner at camp, and just tried to recover from the day. We were tired, but glad to have part of the journey behind us.  Mom and I took showers in the shower trucks and I tried to do some manual drainage on my arm. That didn't work too well since it was chilly and I didn't want to expose my skin to the cold air. I just put on my new velcro sleeve and hoped for the best. We went to bed pretty early, hoping to get some rest for the day ahead of us.

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