Friday, August 10, 2012

This one's for Emma--Day 2

So I dragged my exhausted butt off of my air mattress and out of my tent.  As I arrived at Medical, everything was dark, and there was a sign written on a clipboard, "If you need medical assistance, wake one of us up.  That is what we are here for. :)"  Really?  I have to wake someone up?  Maybe I'll just turn around and go back to my tent.  I sat there for what felt like ten minutes, but in actuality was more like one.  Across the large tent I saw someone stir.  I guess it was her lucky day!  I walked over and explained that I was feeling dehydrated.  I defend myself and tell her that I am not a newbie, and I did everything that I was supposed to.  I am "Safety Spice" after all.  I described my symptoms and continued to explain that I know my body and that I am dehydrated.  As I am speaking, two more women wake up.  One was Dr. Michelle, and the other was Tigger who was Crew Captain for Medical.  Luckily I knew Tigger from Get Started Meetings, so I already felt better having her in my corner.  As the doctor took my vitals, she saw that my blood pressure was elevated.  Even though I was drinking Vitamin Water, the more I spoke to her, the more my mouth felt like something had died in it.  She determined that fluids would help, and planned to start an iv.  Anyone that knows me, understands that things cannot be that simple.  I had terrible veins even before chemo.  Now they are just shot.  In addition, I only have one arm to use because I had lymph nodes removed.  Dr. Michelle assured me that she found a vein.  It seemed too good to be true.  She poked and prodded my arm.  I thought Tigger was going to have a fit.  She hates needles.  Me, they don't really phase me.  After 4 attempts she decided it would be better to have me go to the hospital.  I honestly thought about telling them I would be okay and to just let me go back to my tent, but I knew they wouldn't have it.  I tried to beg Tigger to drive me to the hospital.  It was a no go.  I said I would go if they could promise me a cute EMT.  Dr. Michelle couldn't guarantee it, but in my heart I knew I had to do it.  She took my credentials out of my lanyard and handed me the dreaded "red card."  I never in a million years thought I would ever get one of those.  She then proceeded to hand me two new pins.  For those of you unfamiliar with the 3-Day, you earn Legacy Pins for all different accomplishments--raising certain amounts of money, being a survivor, being a team captain, and many other things.  These were two pins I had never seen before.  One said, "Got Cot?" and the other said "I got carded."   Okay, so here was something to add to my souvenirs.  It's not all bad.   Before leaving I asked to grab my cell phone, so Tigger walked me back to my tent.  Along the way we giggled as we passed some seriously loud snorers, but as we came closer to my tent, all became quiet as we witnessed the rows of candles for Emma.  Going to the hospital was nothing compared to what that little girl has been thorough. 

I don't know how many of you have ridden in the back of an ambulance before, but it is not like what you see on television.  I was tossed back and forth and side to side.  When they asked if I felt nauseous, I told the tech that I probably would after the ride to the hospital.  They even had the siren on.  Really?  It was 12:30AM, and it wasn't like I was in grave danger. 

I arrived at Newton-Wellesley Hospital around 15 minutes later.  I hadn't been there since I gave birth to the twins.  Luckily they still had all my information.  The crazy thing is that on your 3-Day credential you write your insurance information down on the back; however, when you are red-carded they take your credentials away.  What is the point of writing down this information if you don't have it with you when you are at the hospital?

The staff at Newton-Wellesley was awesome.  I saw Dr. Peterson, and right way she congratulated me on my accomplishment.  She also listened to everything that I had to say, and I think she understood that I know my body.  After lots of blood work and an EKG, they immediately started me on some fluid.  Shortly after, my blood pressure began to come down, and my heart was not racing as frequently.  I looked up at the television and saw that a replay of the Olympic Opening Ceremonies was on.  As much as I wanted to watch it, I knew I needed some sleep.  It was almost 2:30AM.  A while later, I was woken up as they gave me another liter of fluid.  Slowly I felt my mouth becoming less dry.  At 4AM the nurse came in and told me that Dr. Peterson had signed my discharge papers.  My direct instructions were to not drink Nuun.  She said to get me some Gatorade!  She also said that if I wanted to stay and get some sleep, I could.  I knew my team would be worried when they woke in a short while, so I decided to go home.

I took out my 800 number for the 3-Day and before long, Tigger was outside the hospital picking me up.  She drove me back to camp and said to meet her at Medical at 8AM.  She said that I would most likely be cleared to walk after lunch.  I would be spending the morning with her. 

Back at my tent, most of my team was minutes away from getting up to start their day.  As they got up, I had to explain my story time and time again.  No one expected to hear this, I seemed fine when we went to bed.  I was always the one telling everyone to drink, drink, drink!

It was really difficult saying goodbye to the Princesses that morning.  I was in a position I never thought I would be in.  I was exhausted and knew that I should sleep, but there really wasn't time.  I wanted to be part of my team.  I tried to rest for a few before Bridget came around telling everyone that camp would be closing in 20 minutes.  She was shocked when our friend Meredith told her what had happened.   This is generally something that happens to a first time walker, not a veteran.

I exhaustedly got ready preparing for what I thought would be a depressing day.  What if this had been my first 3-Day?  I would have been so disappointed.  I arrived at Medical, and I tell you, there couldn't have been a better person to babysit me than Tigger.  She has the spunkiest personality, and was going to do everything possible to make sure that I had fun and still had the entire 3-Day experience.  We grabbed drinks from Medical and were on our way to the first pit stop.

While I was sad, it was great to see the walk from a whole new perspective.  I was able to really watch the walkers come in and help motivate them to continue further.  After the first pit, we drove up Belmont Hill (definitely a part of the walk I did not miss!)  toward the next cheering station.  As we started to drive by, I yelled to Tigger to stop, and she did!  Right in the middle of the road!  Across the street were Michele G. and Gretchen, who walked last year.  They had beach chairs set up with large signs on them asking people to pray for Emma.  In addition, there were tea lights lining the walkway along the chairs.  It was really cool.  So many people stopped and told us that they were following Emma on facebook.

From there Tigger and I drove to the next pit stop, but needed to make a quick stop at Stop & Shop.  Here I got a phone call from Andy.  I was hoping Tigger would give me the okay to hang with AZ for the rest of the day.  She was resistant because she knows me well.  She told me that she wouldn't release me until she saw Andy.  She thought the minute she turned her back I would be on the route.  Believe me, I did entertain the idea, but I thought better of it.  After some serious coaxing, she allowed me to meet up with him.

AZ drove me to the TWP cheering station, but not before grabbing me a hazelnut iced coffee--my fav!  When we arrived, Kaitlyn, my former student and TWP was there to greet me and the rest of the team.  She is always so thoughtful and brought me gifts--completely unnecessary, but appreciated nonetheless.  One was a Komen Christmas tree ornament, (She has decorated the majority of my tree!) and the other was a breast cancer wine glass!  She totally knows me.  Christmas and wine, two of my favorite things!  With Kaitlyn's help, we began setting up.  Our stop was at McCue's Garden Center, and they are so incredible.  They had watermelon, chocolate, and drinks for the walkers.  Once again, AZ brought Big Papi to help "save second base."  Many walkers took advantage of some great photo ops.  I want to give a big shout-out to Judy Dodier and Rita Keil, two of our TWP who came in to cheer us on.  (Remember, you don't have to walk to be a member of TWP!)  It meant a lot to everyone to have them there.

Shortly after, my teammates started to arrive, some looking a bit better than others.  Blisters and knee injuries were already making an appearance. The heat that day had started to take its toll.  It made me question whether I should walk after lunch.  The stretch between Woburn and Lexington is just BRUTAL!  It is all gradual hills, up and down, none of them seem too big, but it always feels like you are walking at a slight incline.  Also, there is NO shade.  It has always been my least favorite part of the walk. 

After chatting a bit with all the TWP relaxing in their lawn chairs eating lunch, I asked AZ to drive me the mile to lunch so that I  could check in at Medical to get my credential back.  I had already decided that I would not be walking the rest of the day.  I wanted to make sure that I was good to go on Day 3.  It was super hot, and I had only gotten the smallest amount of sleep.  I figured if I got back to camp early, I could take a shower and catch a few zzzzz's under a tree.  When I checked in with Dr. Michelle she told me that I looked much better.  She checked my blood pressure, my heart rate, and then handed me back my coveted credentials.  I asked if I could keep the "red card" for my scrap book, but she said if I kept it I couldn't have my credentials back.  No thank you!

AZ then drove me and Sandy back to camp.  (Her knee was shot.)  I quickly showered and tried to take a little snooze under a tree.  I would just start to fall asleep only to be woken up by small little ants tickling my arms and legs.  Totally gross!  It was not very restful.  When I decided that I had enough, I got up, and turned around to face the most ominous of skies.  Holy cow!  We were in for a doozie of a storm.  The next thing I know is that I see numerous volunteers running around securing tents for the impending storm.  Sandy comes running back saying that Bridget says we may need to be relocated.  All I can think of is 2008, my first walk, when we ended up inside Stoughton High School for the night because of horrific thunderstorms.  I quickly threw some necessities in a bag in case we were told to go inside, and then walked over to the dining tent to await further instructions.

They ended up opening dinner early.  Fearful of a relocation, we all ate.  There were still a few people on route, and there was talk that they would be closing it.  Little by little we were seeing more of our friends come in.  Then the rain came, and I mean came.  It was torrential.  We were still missing Maurine and her sister.  Maurine was such a trooper.  It was Day 2, and I think she had already walked more miles than she had all of last year! Someone got a text from her saying she was being transported back to camp.  In the meantime, we decided to make the best of the conditions.  Of course, our resident free-spirit, Alexa, went running around in the rain until her mom made her stop.  Oh, to be young again.  There were also several men who decided this was a great opportunity to strip down in front of a thousand women and use the yoga mats as a "slip and slide."  It was pretty funny. 

Luckily for us, we didn't end up getting relocated.  It continued to pour, and they opened up the school for a bit.  They even offered to move tents over to the turf, but most of us didn't take them up on it.  Our tent was dry, and the rain actually soothed us to sleep.  By midnight, it was over.  I think it was the best I have ever slept on the 3-Day.  I actually know so because I didn't even hear everyone packing up around me.  I rolled over and looked at my phone.  It was 6:00AM!  Yikes!  I need to get packing!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

This one's for Emma--Day 1

Another year, another 3-Day.  Different than each year before, but as exciting as ever.  There were new Princesses and new experiences.  There was even some improvement in the weather; however, it wouldn't be the Boston 3-Day without thunder, lightning, and pouring rain.  From Opening to Closing with friends and family it will be a weekend that will always be remembered.

Okay, so I am actually starting a bit before Day 1.  All day on Thursday I anxiously awaited the arrival of Keri and her friend Allison, the New York Princesses. I have known Keri for over 15 years.  Her husband Wayne was Andy's college roommate.  They used to play baseball together; actually, Wayne was Andy's catcher when he pitched.  Unfortunately, because of the distance, we don't get to see each other often, so I was very excited to be spending these 3 days with her.  Meeting her friend Allison was just an added bonus.  I first heard of her when Keri called me shortly after Allison was diagnosed with breast cancer.  At the time she was only 33--so young.  Years later, Allison was ready to take on her second journey of a lifetime.

Around 5PM, their minivan pulled up.  I could tell right away that Allison was not feeling well.  She had a fever, chills, and a sore throat.  Uh oh, this could prove to be a challenging few days.  After a pasta dinner, it was time for bed.  After all, we needed to be at Cheryl's at 3:45AM!  Yikes!
Some of our most faithful fans at 4AM!
After picking up Nicole K., Sandy, and Allison S., the 6 of us were headed to Cheryl's to meet the bus.  As soon as we arrived, I was taken aback by our 4AM cheering station.  Patty's dad, George, and his girlfriend, Tucky, were there of course--they are our biggest fans.  In addition to them we had Julie, Danielle, and Sue, all Princesses who were not going to be joining us on the 3-Day this year.  How awesome is that?  The best part was that Danielle brought a candle for Emma, and it sat there as we loaded up the bus.  As we pulled away, Danielle picked it up and held it high.  This was definitely going to be an emotional 3-Day. 

Shortly after we started out, we stopped to get food and coffee. Some of us chatted, and some of us tried to get some more sleep.  Before we knew it, we were almost there.  Right before we reached Framingham, Vicky got a message from Tina saying that she was at Opening Ceremonies.  She was determined to carry that flag.   

 Arriving at Opening was typical of any other year.  There were a few sprinkles and we were excited to see friends we had been missing since last year.  Our first task was to find Tina.  Barbara had blown up and laminated a picture of Tina kissing Emma that we could all wear around our necks so that Tina would be with us the entire walk.  Up until that morning, we were unsure if Tina would be joining us at all.  Well, seeing Tina was indescribable.  After all, she is why we were there.  Emma was why we were there.  Finding a cure for breast cancer will lead to a cure for all cancers.

The TWP surrounding Emma's ICU nurses, the most special ladies around!
When we saw Tina, she was surrounded by three of the cutest young women dressed in hot pink shirts stating, "Kiss my Sass!"   These young women were Emma's ICU nurses from MGH.  Seriously!  They drove her in from the hospital because they knew it was important for Tina to be there.  They knew she would need them as the team walked away.  They knew what it meant to be a good nurse.  How amazing are they?  I overheard one of them talking to a Princess wondering if they had overstepped their boundaries by doing such a thing.  To me, it is completely the opposite.  How do you not assist someone like Tina in her time of need?  These girls are the symbol of all that is good in the world, and I thank them for that. 

Well, we hadn't even started Opening Ceremonies and there was not a dry eye among the TWP.  We knew where Tina would be standing with the flag, so we gathered there awaiting her arrival.  Words cannot describe the feelings we all had as she walked down that stage.  Her face was so full of hope and love.  She was the embodiment of grace and dignity combined with a courage that I could never muster.  I would have just collapsed right there, a blubbering mess.  But Tina didn't.  That is not Tina.  She held her head high and walked to honor her Emma, right into the arms of the TWP. 

Sharyn honoring Bridget
Some of Team TuTas
I remember looking across the way and seeing two of my friends also bearing flags.  Sharyn was carrying the "my friend" flag in honor of our friend Bridget, who many of you have read about.  It was so great to have her right across from Tina.  Next to Sharyn was my friend Amanda who carried the "my mother-in-law" flag in honor of her MIL, Kathey, who was in the Survivor Circle.  Amanda and Kathey are members of  "Team TuTas", a young growing team that so reminds me of TWP.  Be sure to like their page on facebook!

The rest of the ceremony was a complete blur.  Every one of us had the "ugly cry" working.  It was just a sobbing mess.  I have never felt what I felt that morning. Leaving Tina behind as we walked off was one of the hardest things I have ever done.  It sounds crazy, but it felt like leaving a soldier behind.  We were the last ones to leave Opening--honestly, there was no one behind us.  It didn't matter though, we just needed that time together.

The first 10 miles or so were typical of years past--pretty slow and uneventful.  It is difficult to walk at a quick pace when there are so many people in front of you.   We spotted some of our fans along the route and were thrilled to see Helen (the elementary school secretary) and her daughter, Lisa, both Michigan 3-Day walkers, on the side of the road in Wellesley cheering us on. This year we had a large group walking together for most of the day.  I think it was 15 of us.  There was one pit stop that was at a park in Wellesley.  They had the most amazing playground equipment with two giant slides.  Alexa, Patty's 16 year old daughter, thought it would be fun to go down the slide.  I did too; however I could only imagine my sweaty body sticking to the slide, so I opted to take the video.  My favorite part is listening to the girls voices in the background.  It was one of the highlights of the day. 

Cheryl, Patty, Ben, me, and Maurine at lunch
As I walked into lunch, a few paces in front of some of the group, I heard several of my teammates hollering to come back.  I was fearful that something happened.  You never yell to someone to turn around and come back.  That is more miles added onto the 60!  Well, this was definitely worth it.  When I turned around, there was Ben.  Ben was one of the producers of our video, Walk Like A Princess.  He hopped on his bike in hopes of finding us, and within two minutes was riding beside Patty.  It was great to catch up with him for a few.  Being a part of that video was one of the most memorable moments of my life.  Every July that comes around I can't help but think of Nadesha, Rachel, CJ, Doug, Steph, Matthew, Paul, and of course Ben.  That 3-Day will be like no other. 

After lunch we continued together for the next several miles through Newton and into Waltham.  The sky began to darken, and we knew it wouldn't be a Boston 3-Day without the rain.  Just as it started to sprinkle, I received a text from Connie, saying that our tent was set up!  Awesome!  Up ahead there was a Dunkin' Donuts and several members from our team stopped.  There were about 3 miles left, and I was on autopilot as so many of are when we reach that close to camp.  I trudged on ahead, by myself, hoping to catch up to Keri and Allison.  These two girls were amazing.  They kept up such a quick pace all while Allison was sick.  I eventually caught up to them, but Allison too, was on autopilot and pushed on ahead.  Keri and I chatted and walked up the long hill by Bentley University, knowing that Gann Academy, our camp, was right around the corner.  As we turned into camp, the rain stopped.  Somebody was looking out for us.

We quickly showered and headed over to the dining tent where we spent most of the night.  We watched the entertainment until it was time to turn in.  I was exhausted.  Day 1 was done, and I was happy.  Walking back over to tent city, I was once again overwhelmed with emotion.  There were tons of candles lit in honor of Tina and Emma.  I wish I had pictures of  them all, but it was too dark to get any good ones.  There was one that stood out in my mind.  It was small tea-lights that spelled out "EMMA."  It was breathtaking. 

As I lay in bed that night, I was having difficulty falling asleep.  It was almost 11PM, I was exhausted, and I could not fall asleep.  My heart was racing.  I often have heart palpatations that I take meds for, but these were more frequent than usual.  My stomach began to bother me.  I knew I drank enough because I was using the bathroom frequently, but my mouth felt like cotton.  I felt dehydrated.  I kept drinking more Nuun (the new sponsor of the 3-Day instead of Gatorade) but it didn't seem to help.  Should I go to medical?  No, I can take care of this myself.  45 minutes later I was still no better.  Maybe I should go to medical?  No, I am still okay.  Another 30 minutes and still no improvement.  Yes, I should go to medical.