Girlfriend-in-Chief Dawn participated in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in Chicago June 5 – 6 in the company of more than 3,000 “girlfriends.” Here are some of her thoughts on this amazing journey!
Completing the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer is a lot like childbirth: Painful but rewarding. Walking 39.3 miles in two days is, simply, hard. No matter how much you have trained, you can’t totally prepare for your feet repetitively pounding on pavement and Mother Nature dishing up some wet and windy surprises. Bones hurt, blisters pop, chafing appears in (ahem) private places, humidity induces unusual rashes. By the end of Day One, you’re not sure you really want to (or can) get up and walk on Day Two. And yet, the main takeaway from the weekend is a feeling of triumph. In fact, many find this feeling so addictive they choose to do the walk year after year (perhaps, in a phenomenon similar to that of childbirth, selective amnesia sets in).
I spent the Avon Walk weekend with eight other women brought together by our personal trainer, Tracy, a Walk veteran. Training for the walk was a classic example of our philosophy at GirlfriendCelebrations – doing something meaningful together builds friendships! Establishing a walking routine is a great girlfriend-bonding activity. During our training walks, my teammates Liz, Cathy, Robin and I had nothing to do but talk. We’re definitely closer as a result. And during the Walk weekend, I was privileged to get to know my other teammates Teresa, Bonnie, Linsday, and Sherry better as we walked and talked.
Even though our group sentiment was “never again,” after walking 26 miles (a marathon!) the first day of the event, my memory of it now is fond and framed in pink. I’m proud of our accomplishment. We did it, girls! What kept us going? The things that unite women during any bonding experience, whether it’s college rush, child rearing, or working in adjacent cubicles:
Common purpose – We were there for a reason, after all. Every single walker was mindful that we were there to end breast cancer. When we tired, all we needed to do was look around, or read the personalized shirt on the walker in front of us: “I’m walking for my mom. Miss you.” Surrounded by more than 3,000 girlfriends united by a common purpose (and yes, there were some brave men among them), we found it easier to keep walking. More than 300 breast cancer survivors participated in the walk as well, and if they could do it, then we could, too.
Community support - In every neighborhood we walked, residents made signs, cheered, brought out their children, dressed up their dogs, and offered candy, water, and encouragement. “Great job, ladies! You can do it!” I can’t overstate how much this helped, especially when there were only a few painful miles to go.
Each other – Whenever I had doubts about my ability to finish the walk, I remembered my teammates and I knew, from training with them, that they would keep me going. I would not be going it alone. We would have each other, and that would be enough. Literally, just knowing that I was entering this event with a team made it easier to feel I would finish. Isn’t that the way in life? How many events, big and small, have your girlfriends carried you through?
Making it fun – At each city intersection, we were greeted by colorful crossing guards who decorated their motorcycles – and themselves - as outlandishly as possible. I’ve never seen so many men in brassieres. Women piled on pink bracelets, beads, hats, feather boas, and costumes to celebrate the event. Punny team names dominated the day (my favorite team – the Incredi-Boobs – was complete with superhero capes). What a great lesson in finding the humor in a great challenge.
Sheer perseverence. Putting one foot in front of the other. At the end of each day, that’s all we were doing – putting one foot in front of the other. Determined to finish, because we could, and others could not. Because blisters beat chemo any day. Because we wanted to feel a sense of accomplishment in doing what we promised to do. And, because we were together. We crossed the finish line arm in arm, some of us in tears, proud of ourselves and each other.
In Chicago, the 2010 Avon Walk for Breast Cancer raised more than .7 million to advance access to care and finding a cure for breast cancer. The Avon Walk Chicago, the fourth of nine Avon Walks this year, attracted more than 3,400 participants from 45 states, Washington, D.C., and Denmark, including 307 breast cancer survivors, who joined together to raise lifesaving funds and awareness for breast cancer. Carol Kurzig, president of the Avon Foundation for Women, announced during the Closing Ceremony a total of more than .35 million in grants to eight local organizations, ensuring the funds raised immediately benefit the community. More grants are slated to be awarded throughout the year to breast cancer programs nationwide. For more information, visit www.avonwalk.org
Plan a backyard BBQ or a pool party to cool off your friends & family.