Monday, September 2, 2013

2013 3-Day DAY THREE!

Friday morning I awoke to an overcast misty morning.  We got up early knowing that we had to pack up and be ready to go by 7AM.  Packing in the rain is just no fun.  If you have ever camped, you know what I mean.  I tried to pack as much as I could while sitting in my tent so that things stayed dry.  I don't think my girls had that same idea.  Imagine my surprise when I set up our tent only to find the girls' air mattresses soaking wet and covered in black astro-turf pellets.  I am not joking when I tell you that after doing the 3-Day you will find these annoying little black pebbles for months!

Just before 7AM, CJ, his brother, and camera-guy Dylan, showed up.  To refresh your memory, CJ works for Just Live, a lifestyle and fitness apparel company that encourages people to seize the unlimited potential of each day.  TWP has partnered with Just Live, and CJ was filming us during the walk.  CJ was part of the crew that did our documentary, and has become a good friend since.  When he approached us about partnering with Just Live, we knew we just had to.  What is better than a Tough Warrior Princess who wants to just live and embrace all that life has to offer?  Well, as you read on, it will become very clear, as it did to CJ, that the TWP definitely seize the unlimited potential of each and every day.

We gathered just inside the chute for a quick photo op, and were on our way--all of us. 
As we exited camp, we were once again greeted by our stalkers who traveled from Amesbury early in the morning to cheer on each and every walker as they began their third and final day.  There were lots of hugs and cheers.  When starting on the route, we are walking on a very busy road.  For that reason, the 3-Day staff have us walk, single file, inside orange cones.  On each of these cones is stenciled "3 DAY" in black letters.  Well, we were extra rowdy this morning, and thought it might be funny to pick up a cone.  Gretchen took hold of one of the cones and continued walking.  We thought we might borrow it for a while, because stealing is illegal, and then maybe place it back somewhere else, like someone's basement, or a TWP event.  As we came upon a safety monitor, Gretchen decided to place the cone upon her head so as to not be seen--hidden in plain site.  We were prepared to be scolded. 
Luckily for us, he just rode on by.  We thought we might be on to something, so Allison decided to follow suit.  The two of them just plainly walked down Trapelo Road with cones on their heads while the TWP around them could not even stand up due to hysterical laughter.  Ahead we noticed a safety monitor, a different one.  You know how sometimes people try to be funny and light in what they say, but there is always a slight disgruntled undertone to it?  Well, this is how this woman was.  She was volunteering to help out, and I know it is awful to say, but she just rubbed some of us the wrong way.  Unfortunately, for us, she was the safety monitor ahead--Operation Connie Distraction was in full effect.  Connie went up to the "Princess" and obnoxiously danced with her while Melissa ran said cones over to Stalker Sean's car.  Mission successful!  Be sure to look for these cones at a TWP event near you!

As we left Waltham and continued into Watertown, Connie made it her mission that day to dance with EVERY police officer on route.  And she did!  Believe me, there are a ton!  One at every major intersection.  I loved this idea.  Most officers were great about it.  Some even waltzed in the middle of the street with her.  Others, not so much.  But in true Connie fashion, she warned them that if they did not dance with her, she would just bump and grind around them, and she did.  The best thing about this was that every officer who was approached smiled and laughed, even when they were reluctant to dance.  For a few moments, Connie made everyone forget about why we were here, and just made people laugh.  She is truly someone who embraces and appreciates life, and I love her for that!

On Day 3, as we always do, we savored every moment.  Maybe even more so this year.  We had conversations with those around us learning their reasons for walking. 
We continued to find every mode of transportation that Mo could have used for this walk including a shopping cart, which we so aptly put Dylan in.  We chatted with CJ as he walked with us, GoPro on his head.  We laughed hysterically, once again, when Dylan ate gummy bears after putting Icy Hot on and got it in his mouth!  We stopped and hugged our stalkers, re-reading the inspirational Mo signs that they had created.

 At one of the early pit stops, CJ interviewed me and Patty, and some of the other TWP.  Now, the TWP aren't the only people to cause trouble.  As CJ finished interviewing Alexa and Dylan, a 3-Day staff member comes over and starts talking to him.  I can see from the conversation that he is in trouble.  The staff member then picks up her phone and calls someone. We are assuming someone in authority.  The end result was not that they were going to throw CJ off the route, just that he was not allowed to film at the actual pit stop. Lucky for us!

After more interviews at the next stopping point, we entered Boston, my favorite part of the walk.  We were definitely taking it slowly.  As we walked into the Public Gardens, there was another 3-Day staff member there.  It seemed they were all over us today!  She told us that the pit stop after the Public Gardens was closing momentarily and if we chose to go on the Swan Boats, we would need to continue without support.  After careful consideration (we had our own support crew and we knew we could find bathrooms) we decided to go on the Swan Boats.  It was a tradition, and one of our favorite parts of the walk.  We held spots in line for the few people that needed to use the facilities at the pit stop just ahead.  We thought they would be right back.  We knew we were late because the Pink Angels and String of Pearls had just finished, but had no idea how far behind we really were.

As we waited in line, Connie's phone rang.  It was Tina who had gone ahead to the pit stop.  She warned us that they were busing everyone to lunch because the pit was closing.  Our TWP were heading back on the route to avoid the sweep.  She told us that if we didn't want to go directly to lunch, we needed to find another way out of the public gardens and back onto the route.  We said we would figure it out while we were on the boats.  Some of us were fine with sweeping.  We had done the walk before, but for others, this was a personal mission.  Walking 60 miles is no small feat.  Since we are of the "no Princess left behind" motto, we decided to go rogue.  Yes, you heard me right, we went rogue!  Fortunately for us, Kaitlyn (I mentioned her in my last blog) had joined us at the Swan Boats and was very familiar with the Downtown Crossing area, plus she knew the route from year's past.  As soon as our boat docked, we were off.  We knew we had to be fast and sneaky.  If anyone from the 3-Day saw us, they would pull us off the route and bring us to lunch. 

We briskly took a different exit out of the public gardens.  As we were leaving we could hear this vibrant live Spanish music.  It sounded like one heck of a party.  It kept getting louder and louder.  Then we stumbled upon the Puerto Rican Pride Festival--a huge parade through the streets of Boston.  There were masks, beautiful costumes, and dancers throughout the street directly in front of us.  The street that we needed to cross.  Anyone pick up where this is going?  There was no way to get back on the route unless we crossed the parade.  What would Mo do?  She would dance her way along the parade route to get to the other side.  So, that is exactly what we did.  It was like a scene from Ferris Bueller's Day Off.  At one point a young man came up to Gretchen and attempted to put a giant mask on her head.  We were laughing so hard we could barely walk.

As we did the salsa across the street, we knew Mo was right there with us; however, there was still work to be done.  We needed to find our way back to the route, and quickly.  Our brisk pace had just about turned into a trot when my phone rang.  It was CJ asking where we were.  In our haste to get back on the route, we took off and lost the poor guy.  Maybe he didn't feel comfortable doing the salsa?  Anyway, I told him of our location, and he quickly joined us.

After a few minutes we found our way back onto the route.  Boy, were we relieved.  Now we were on our way to the Whiskey Priest to meet the rest of the team for a celebratory drink.  As we looked around, we realized that something was wrong.  There was nobody else on the route.  Not even Safety.  Were we that far behind?  I guess it would make sense if they had closed the route 20 minutes before.  We looked at our route cards for the closing time of the next pit stop.  If we didn't make it there on time, we were in the same situation.  They would bus us to lunch.  The stop closed at 1:25.  It was already 1:00, and we had 2 miles until we get there!  Remember this is Day 3!  Our bodies are exhausted at this point.  I am not crazy about walking 15 minute miles during training, never mind 12 minute ones.  We had to book it.  Unfortunately, this meant that the Whiskey Priest was out.

After almost 10 minutes, we had still not seen another walker.  I was starting to become nervous.  It appeared that the route had been shut down, and we were left to fend for ourselves in the blazing concrete jungle.  Then a knight in shining orange rides toward us on his bike.  His exact words: "Where the hell did you guys come from?"  Connie's response, "I had to spend some time with my people at the Puerto Rican Festival."  Mind you, Connie has blond hair, blue eyes, and not an inch of Spanish decent in her.  The safety monitor did not seem amused.  For the next mile or so, he followed slowly behind us.  This meant that we were the caboose!  How exciting!  I had always wanted to be the last walker.

We arrived at the next pit stop just around 1:30.  They appeared to be waiting for us, so I think they knew we were coming.  We did our business and were off again, on our way to lunch.  At this point we were able to walk a little slower, but it still seemed a bit rushed for my liking.  Especially on Day 3.

We walked into lunch being cheered on by our stalkers.  Finally, some time to rest.  The only problem was that the group that went ahead was still at the Whiskey Priest.  The route was now closed.  How were they going to get to lunch so we could all walk the last 3 miles together?  Two minutes later a magical sweep van shows up with our lovely, refreshed princesses.  They were able to enjoy a yummy lunch in an air conditioned restaurant and still meet us on time.  I have to admit, I was a bit jealous. 

Just as we were ready to embark on the last segment of our journey, Jeff Hollett asked us to join him in a Circle of Trust. If you check out my ABC's of 2011, Jeff is the "J."  Please do.  His story is very inspiring.  The short version is that Jeff was in the service for many years and at the end of every 3-Day he walks into Closing in pink camouflage fatigues.  He uses the Circle of Trust to change before the last few miles.  The first time we did this with Jeff we sang God Bless America, and it was one of the most moving experiences I have ever had.  This was one of Mo's favorite parts of the 3-Day and Jeff really wanted Dylan to be a part of it.  Once again, it did not disappoint. 

Immediately following, we gathered at the edge of the park to finish our journey together.  I really wanted our entire team to walk the last miles as a group, even those who were not walking this year.  It was the last 3-Day and we all needed to be together, especially to celebrate those we have lost; therefore, I invited all TWP past and present to join us.  Even though some people did not walk this year, they helped mold TWP into what we have become, and the 3-Day was the initial glue that bonded us together.  At first many of these women were apprehensive.  They didn't want to take away from those of us walking, but I strongly felt they should be there. 

The last 3 miles were what they always are--full of laughs, conversations, and songs--my favorite time of the 3-Day.  As we rounded the last bend, we were anticipating the emotion that was to take us over as we walked in, but we had to wait a bit longer.  Closing Ceremonies was moved to a new location, BC High.  They added additional mile to the route.  Ugh!

As we gathered the survivors up front to carry our sign, lead by Nichole and Dylan carrying the In Memory of Mo sign, we walked in.  I have to say it was a bit disappointing.  We usually walk in to a crowd full of people.  Unfortunately for us, and many of the other large teams who wait to walk into Holding together, the spectators were asked to head over the Closing Ceremonies site just moments before we entered.  I have to say, I was very frustrated.  The organizers of this event obviously know who these teams are and what we do.  There were several large groups of women and men that were just about to enter.  These groups were the ones who, hands down, have raised the most money for Komen over the years.  We were all anticipating the excitement of the remaining moments of our last 3-Day, and quite honestly, it was a bit of a let down.   

I quickly moved on from feeling sorry for us, and celebrated us.  I was once again able to stand hand-in-hand with my peeps in the survivor circle, those courageous women I am going to miss, especially when July comes along.  I looked out through the crowd overcome with emotion.  There in the back was my cousin Kimm, jumping up and down trying to get my attention.  She comes to Closing every year.  I don't know if she has any idea how much it truly means to me.  Then I scan the faces closer to the stage searching for my TWP.  There they are, Maurine in their hearts and tears in their eyes, just like me. 

Me and my girls after Closing ceremonies.

So, everyone has asked me if I will travel to another city for the 3-Day.  The answer, for now, is no.  Not next year.  There is talk that in 2015 many of us may reunite for a walk in Philly.  We will have to wait and see. 

I believe things happen for a reason.  I believe that the reason I developed cancer was to make me a better person, to bring so many beautiful people into my life, to make a difference.  Maybe the Boston 3-Day has ended because I am supposed to focus on TWP.  We are growing larger and stronger every day.  Check out Patty's blog to see all the cool things we have been up to.

So my journey for a cure will continue...until one is found.  Now my focus has moved from honoring Mo and Bridget, to honoring Emma.   In a few short days, I, along with many TWP, will walk in the Jimmy Fund Walk on the team Every Step for Emma.  We are hoping to raise $15,000 for Neuroblastoma, a type of cancer that affects the nervous system, and is most often found in children.  I know I have asked before, but I will ask again.  Please think about coming on my journey by donating today. 

Love to all!

Friday, August 9, 2013

2013 3-Day DAY TWO

Saturday morning we awoke to sunny, but very brisk weather.  I remember being completely buried in my sleeping bag, head and all.  I never sleep well on the first night, and I think the cooler temps didn't help. I felt a chill all night long.

We quickly got dressed and walked over to grab some breakfast.  After several years, you know what to expect--eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, pastries, fruit, and a variety of cereals.  I enjoyed breakfast, but Maddie and Mia thought the eggs were too cheesy.

The plan was to be ready to go when the route opened at 7AM.  We always attempt to start when the route opens, but for some reason we never make it out on time.  As we are waiting to gather at the chute, wouldn't you know that "Cure Me, Baby" starts playing.  That silly Mo, she didn't want us to leave without her.

We wanted to start the day as a group, but shortly after we walked out of camp, we got split up.  Sometimes you get chatting and don't even realize that others behind you have stopped.  During the 3-Day we try to have our motto be, "No person left behind," but it can be challenging, especially with so many of us.  In the past we have had a buddy system, but we didn't this year.  People think we are crazy to try and have so many of us walk together, but to me that is what the 3-Day is about.  I say to people all the time, "It is a journey, not a race."  What good does it do you to rush back to camp if you miss out on all the laughs?

Honestly, I was completely dreading Day 2.  I just don't like it.  I am sure that I have said this in previous years.  Mostly because of Belmont Hill.  It just sucks.  Melissa prepared her husband Sean to be close by (most likely because I was whining about the hill the minute we started on the route).  Three miles in, we take a left hand turn, and there it is--one of the most daunting hills I have ever walked.  It really isn't that steep.  It is just long as hell.  You round the corner, thinking that you are done, and it just keeps going.  Melissa and I were going to do this together--slow and steady wins the race, right?  Sean's car would creep up the hill, always offering that supportive, yet annoying, BEEP!  Melissa was in front of me, and I could tell she was in the zone.  Her head was down and eyes were forward.  I told her Sean just drove by.  Her response, a simple thumbs up.  I knew she was good.  At the top you reach the water tower, and there is a spectacular view of Boston.  The next mile or two includes a cheering station (at which Maddie was kicking butt) and is downhill through some residential neighborhoods.  Honestly, that is really the only part of Day 2 that I like.
If you look closely, you can see the Boston skyline in the background.

At the second pit stop, we connected with the rest of our group. Now that we were together, we wanted to stay together as much as we could.  Here I found Mia happily pouring Gatorade for walkers.
She really seemed to be enjoying this new gig.  After a quick hello and a kiss, we were on our way again.  Next stop--Dunkin' Donuts!   On the 3-Day they boast that they give you Starbucks' coffee.  What they don't tell you is that it is instant coffee and they only put about 2 ounces of water in it.  In my opinion it is undrinkable; however, I think Starbucks is strong and can only get the froo-froo drinks when I am there.  I only drink one cup of coffee a day, but I was needing some caffeine.  So were the others.  So once again we stopped. 

The iced hazelnut did the trick and gave me the boost to continue my journey through Woburn.  Along the route, the sweep crew stopped and gave some of us water balloons.  I was so tempted to chuck one at Connie, but ended up getting so hot I broke it over me.  Plus, to be honest, I was a little afraid of the repercussions.  If you know Connie, you will understand!

Around mile 10 we reached Pit 3.  Just after this pit we walk around Horn Pond.   If you have never been there, I suggest you go.  It is a lovely paved trail around the pond.  The best part is that we can all walk abreast and talk.  Get it?  Abreast!  I crack myself up.   Just as we finished walking around the pond, we spotted our walker stalkers.
Some of our walker stalkers and team!
There were a ton of them there, and Cheryl's dog Sampson even had a TWP shirt on!  In addition, they also had a sign for our friend Sharyn and her team String of Pearls.
We will walk until a cure is found!
The best part was that they had a sign that said, "Every Step for Emma" which is the name of our Jimmy Fund team and is in honor of Tina's daughter who lost her battle to Neuroblastoma last August.  Once again, there was the motivation we needed to keep moving forward.

Another two miles down the heat oppressed road was our oasis--the TWP cheering station.  This is just before lunch, so many of us meet our families there, have them bring us yummy food, and then bypass lunch.  This year I have to give the HUGEST shout out to Kaitlyn, former TWP walker, and one of my all-time favorite students, for putting on the BEST TWP cheering station ever!
Me and Kaitlyn
Her mom and dad are awesome as well.  They had an EZ-up with relaxing chairs to sit in, 700 freeze pops, balloons, frozen Peppermint Patties, watermelon, water, and a dunk tank.  You name it, they had it.   It was so refreshing to hang with my family and regroup.  The roast beef sandwich with pickles was pretty awesome too.  I honestly didn't want to leave. As I was sitting there Connie comes running over to me with tears in her eyes. She and Jody were just talking about Emma and a dragonfly came right over and landed on Jody's hand, mid conversation.  We knew that Emma was right there with us and urging us to move forward. 
Leaving the TWP cheering station

I knew what the next few miles had in store--no shade and a slight incline.  I didn't want to do it.  I knew I could.  I was feeling fine.  I just didn't want to.  I felt like a little kid trying to assert myself for the first time.  I was stomping my feet and refusing to go.  I guess I was arguing with myself, because there was no one stopping me from getting in Andy's car and driving down the road a few.  So I turned to Sandy, my partner-in-crime, and said, "What if we have Andy take us a few miles down the road to the next Grab and Go, that way we don't need to walk that horrible stretch?"  I didn't need to twist her arm.  She was in.  So walked a bit before our knight in a blue mini-van came to our rescue to carry us up the road two miles.  It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.  Both of my girls were at the Grab and Go, and I got to really see them in action.  Their hair looked different than it had earlier.  (The older girls would try new styles on them.)  They were giggling and laughing, and were all smiles.  Maddie was starting cheers and Mia was right there too.  I was so proud of them.
Youth Corps leading cheers

During the second half of this day, our walker stalkers wanted to make sure that we knew Mo was with us.  Every so often there would be a "Mo says..." sign.  These signs were sometimes inspirational and sometimes funny.  Either way, they made us feel that Mo was with us every step of the way.

From here we had 6 miles left. On a training walk, 6 miles takes about an hour and a half, maybe a touch longer, depending on your pace.  We knew we were taking our time, but we never expected 6 miles to take 3 hours!  However, I have never laughed so hard as I did during those 6 miles.

As we entered Lexington Center we saw Orange Leaf.  Hello!  Of course we had to stop.  OL has the best fro-yo ever.  Just about the entire team went.  We took up almost all of the chairs and actually had difficulty leaving because the A/C was so grand.  This was Alexa's second ice cream of the day.  She just had one about a mile up the road.  Oh, to be 17 again and have ice cream twice in one day.

From there we continued through Lexington walking by some baseball fields.  At this point we were all punch drunk.  You know the feeling, where anything can make you laugh uncontrollably?  Even the smallest or dumbest of things.  In addition we had been hydrating plenty, and there was not a bathroom for 2 more miles.  You get where I am going with this.  The giggles could very easily turn into something ugly.

When you are walking on the 3-Day it is not uncommon to walk by someone's house and just see food or drinks left on the sidewalk for walkers to enjoy.  As walkers, we don't think anything of grabbing random food from people we do not know.  This is just what we do.  As we came closer to the baseball field, we saw some guys practicing and noticed something on the sidewalk.  It appeared to be a large bucket of pretzel rods.  An essential item of the 3-Day buffet.  All of a sudden, the coach swooped in and grabbed them off the sidewalk.  It was as if he knew we were vultures and had been eating our way through every mile.  It struck us all as hysterical the way he clutched the bucket and quickly walked away.  I'm sure he didn't see the humor in it, but we could not stop laughing for at least half a mile.

After that, we ran into a couple members of String of Pearls, Sharyn's team.  We had gone on a training walk with Andrea and Brandy, so we had already started developing a relationship with them.  Connie was chatting with Andrea and telling her our pretzel story; meanwhile, Alexa was walking with them.  Andrea starting telling them how everyone "calls you the gorgeous one."  As she says this, she is looking toward both Connie and Alexa.  She then turns to Connie and says, "Not you, her."  Anyone who has seen Alexa knows they were talking about her.  She is 17 and absolutely beautiful.  Connie, however, took advantage of this situation. I thought she was going to fall on the ground she started laughing so hard.  Poor Andrea, she had not meant it to come out the way it did.  Nor did she realize who she was talking to.  Connie can turn anything into a laughable moment. 

The next few miles were filled with more giggles and lots of,"Stop it! I am going to pee my pants!"  On the last part of Day 2 you walk up yet another hill and through some residential areas of Waltham.  We knew that creepy stalker guy was right by our side, so we decided to forgo our fanny packs.  Totally rebellious, I know.  We threw them in the car, strapped them in, and let them sweep up the hill to camp.

We were coming to the area where there is an annual house party. The owners hang outside and offer free beer and food to walkers.  Every year, I have bypassed this house.  This being the last year, we figured, why not?  So after the ice coffee, ice cream, and other 3-Day munchies, we added a beer to the list.  We actually split one.  With a mile left, I just don't think I could have consumed a whole one. 

On the next corner, we happened to spot a police officer on a bicycle.  You have never seen a group of women so excited.  Why, you might ask?  If you have ever seen our video Walk Like a Princess Maurine says that "next year I'm going to do this walk on a bicycle."  Since then, we have taken every opportunity to take a photo of Mo on a bike.  In honor of Mo, Gretchen wore a different shirt each day with a photo and a Mo-ism.  On Day 2 she had a photo of Maurine on a police motorcycle with the above quotation on her back.  Of course we had to ask the officer if we could please borrow his bike, no we were not going to steal it, to take a photo.  After hearing our story, how could he not.

This bike moment created ideas for the rest of the walk, continuing on to Day 3.  Every time we saw some mode of transportation, as quirky as it may be, we said Mo's phrase..."Next year I am going to do this walk on a dolly, or a wheelbarrow,  or a Vesper."  This continued down the hill toward camp, but became especially funny when we saw a young man mowing his lawn.  The funny part was not the lawnmower, but what the young man was wearing.  The jury is still out on his age.  Some think he was a teenager, others think he might be in his early twenties.  Either way, no guy should be wearing Tinkerbell pajamas that are so small they look like capris.  Again the hysterical laughter ensued.

As we were just recovering from our Tinkerbell experience we came upon another Mo sign.  Just dance.  Mo's love for dancing clearly exhibited her love of life.  So when the sign says "just dance" that's what we did.  Albeit not very well after 40 miles.

After the last mile that took over an hour, we edged our way toward camp.  At this point, it was almost 6 o'clock!  Standing right outside were our ever-supportive stalkers waiting to cheer us on into camp.  Beside them was Jim, Maurine's husband, who stood there thanking every walker as they entered camp.  He stayed there until the last walker entered.  It hurt my heart so much to see him standing there, but I knew he just had to do it.

After a quick shower, we made a beeline for dinner to secure seats for the camp show.   This being the last Boston 3-Day, family and friends were invited into camp on Saturday night.  Many people were up in arms about this, but to me I was thrilled.  We could have all our TWP and supporters together to honor Mo.  Before visiting the remembrance tent, we enjoyed some of the camp show.  On this night  the Youth Corps stands up and reads a piece of their essay that they wrote on why they want to participate.  I had hoped to include video of this, but for some reason Mia's wouldn't upload, and having twins, I couldn't post one without the other. This year they had all former YC members join on stage. 
It was very impressive to see all of these kids and young adults who have themselves made a difference.  Since YC started 10 years ago, they have raised over $200,000.  These are just kids!  Absolutely unbelievable!  Some of the speeches are very emotional and some are even heart-wrenching.  This year, there were 4 kids on YC who had lost a parent.  Once again, my girlies impressed me when they stood on stage and spoke.  Mia, being the smallest kid on Youth Corps was the first to speak, and she did an awesome job.  Maddie went a few people later, and did just as well.  They said they weren't even nervous.  I know I would have been. 

After the speakers were over, all of us gathered at the remembrance tent.  It was so moving to look at each person that Maurine had touched in some special way.  We waited for a quiet moment and all went in together.  To look around at the photos of women who had lost their battle has always been difficult, but this year was beyond painful.  To see the pearls hanging from Bridget's picture, a photo of her with a giant smile frolicking in her wedding gown, just broke my heart.  I couldn't help but think of her husband Alex and their life together that was much too short.  Then I looked at Maurine's picture.  It was a gorgeous photo that I took of her holding the Healing flag during one of our 3-Days together.  Looking around at all of us there, many of us with tears, some writing notes to Mo, and others holding tight to one another, Maurine's photo couldn't have been more appropriate.  She was helping all of us to heal. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

2013 3-Day DAY ONE

As I rolled over to shut off the alarm at 4:45AM, all I heard was the pounding rain pelting the hotel window.  This was not going to be good.  I had to put on a brave face for my girls.  They had no idea what they were in for.  I, however, did.  It sucks to walk in the rain, especially pouring rain. I jumped out of bed with a smile, and woke the girls up.  After donning several layers, we were out the door and on our way to Farm Pond.

When we arrived, we dropped off our gear, and I signed the girls in.  At first M & M were resistant to wearing the yellow trashbag-like ponchos the 3-Day provides, but upon looking around, they realized very quickly that they were the way to go.  I found the rest of my team hanging out under a large tent. 
Connie and I waiting for Opening Ceremonies
They had gathered at 3:45 AM to travel down to Framingham by party bus, after being sent off by several Princesses.  That was always one of my favorite parts of the 3-Day, but I felt it was just too early for my girls.

It was freezing cold out, but in a way I almost think that was better.  I was wearing my TWP shirt, a light-weight sweatshirt, my jacket, and a poncho.  I also wore capris which I had never done before.  Because of the cooler temps we didn't have plastic ponchos or jackets sticking to us.  Plus with all the layers, I stayed pretty dry, even my feet.  I avoided puddles at all costs, even if it meant taking many extra steps.

At 6:30 I joined my fellow flagbearers on the stage.  This being the last year of the 3-Day, Komen did it right.  Many of participants on stage were long time 3-Dayers.  Sharyn from String of Pearls, Amanda from Team TuTa's and Kathy from Cup Crusaders among many others were all chosen to carry honor flags.  I can't imagine how much money all of these women have raised for Komen over the years.  If you add it all together, it has to be over $100,000.  In the survivor circle I was joined by 3 of my favorite Pink Angels, Josie, Cathy and Martha. 
Me, Cathy, Josie, Martha, and Sharyn before Opening
I was so excited when I saw them standing there.  That is one of the tough things about the survivor circle.  You are honored to be chosen, but it so difficult to not be with your team.  I couldn't have been more proud to stand among these ladies.  Each one of them has changed my life in some way.

After a crazy zumba warm-up session, Opening Ceremonies was on it's way.  This year some of the flagbearers said a few words about why they walk.  Listening to Dylan speak about carrying on his mother's legacy is something that I will never forget. From that moment on, I knew this was going to be one special 3-Day.

Standing up on the stage, I scanned the crowd looking for my TWP.  Even though there were only 900 walkers, it seemed like so many. There was no way I was going to find my team.  Then in the distance I saw one of our pool noodle princesses bobbing up and down.  Thanks to Cheryl, one of our walker stalker extraordinaires, I was able to be with my girls even across a sea of people.

Survivors and flagbearers lead the walkers onto to the route, so Dylan and I waited for the others to arrive.  The start of the route is always slow and becomes bottlenecked.  We didn't mind.  We wanted to try to stay together as much as we could.

As the morning continued, so did the rain.  It let up from pouring, to a light rain.  It was definitely bearable.  As they say, it was better than chemo.  We walked through Framingham, Natick, and into Wellesley.  In Wellesley center we found our awesome team of TWP walker stalkers.  Cheryl's car was tricked out with it's own giant crown.  You could spot it anywhere. 
At each pit stop I scanned the mass of people hoping to spot my girls.  When we arrived at Pit 2, I saw Robin, one of the YC leaders.  She informed me that several of the YC kids went to the laundromat to dry out some clothes, but that Maddie and Mia were fine and went on to work Grab & Go B. I couldn't wait to see them.  I was hoping that they were enjoying themselves, but with the rain, I just didn't know.

Two miles ahead we entered Grab and Go B only to be greeted by Jim and our walker stalkers.  All weekend long, we would see Jim along the route with his Mo sign.  She was everywhere we turned--in conversations with walkers, in Dylan and Tyler's smiles, and in Jim's heart.  She was just as much a rock star as she always was.  I can't tell you how many people came up to us and had a Mo story to share. 

It was at Grab B that I first saw my girls. They were filling up water bottles.  The rain had stopped, and they had smiles on their faces.  When I asked how it was, their response, "AWESOME!"  I was thrilled.  The best part was that as soon as they saw me, they both gave me a giant hug.  This is not unusual for Mia, but for Maddie to hug in public is a huge deal.  She is usually way too cool for that.  I knew that she was proud of what she was doing.

Shortly after, we traveled into Newton where we enjoyed each others company over lunch.  I usually don't eat much on the 3-Day, partly because I am snacking so much, but this year, I was famished by lunch.  The Panera turkey and cheese didn't even taste too bad.  Again, I got to see my girls meandering through the crowd carrying 2 gallon containers of Gatorade asking each walker if they would like a refill.  I didn't even know little Mia could lift 2 gallons!

After lunch we continued through Newton.  It was here that we came up with our quote of the weekend.  Those of you who know us, and know TWP well, realize that we try to make the most of every situation.  This is usually done by laughing, and even though I hate to admit it, sometimes by laughing at others.  Along the walk there are many places where you can purchase buttons to place on your lanyard. 
At many of these stops there are also bandaids, mole skin, hand sanitizer, deodorant, and the like.  Well, our dear friend Nichole felt as if she could be a little fresher smelling, so she opted for the spray deodorant.  As she began to spray, a large woman in some seriously hideous compression pants, snidely responded with, "May I make a suggestion?  You should really move away from everyone when you do that."  Yes, she was probably right, but her tone just rubbed us the wrong way.  Our response, "May we make a suggestion?  You really should not wear those pants in public."  Well, not really, but we were all thinking it inside.  Needless to say, "may I make a suggestion" became the quote of the weekend.

As we entered Waltham, we were greeted once again by our walker stalkers at the boat launch.  As we arrived, we met a young woman, her husband, and their two small children.  They were an adorable family with an interesting story.  When they arrived to cheer walkers on, they noticed our Tough Warrior Princess banner.  The mother, immediately came over and started talking to Cheryl and Patty.  She knew us and was extremely grateful for what we did.  You may remember that around the holidays Maurine had met a young woman at Dana Farber who was also battling breast cancer.  The family had fallen on hard times, and TWP decided to help provide an extra special Christmas.  Well, this was that woman and her family.  We knew this was no chance meeting.  Maurine had brought her to us so that we could meet.  Unfortunately, we had to be the ones to tell her that Mo had passed.

By mid-afternoon there were only about 5 miles left.  We were at that "I am done" point.  If you have ever participated in an activity for a long length of time, you know what I am talking about.  Everyone seems to get in the zone, and all conversation stops.  You just want to "get 'er done!"  It was here that we first started to appreciate "creepy stalker guy."
"Creepy Stalker Guy" is not so creepy at all.  He is actually Princess Melissa's husband, Sean.  Melissa had walked the 3-Day last year with a friend.  Like so many others, she, too, had conversations with Maurine, and was moved by her zest for life.  Earlier this spring, Melissa asked if she could join our team, thinking she would be walking with Mo.  She was heartbroken to hear that Mo had passed.  However, Melissa fit right in.  So did her husband.  Sean followed us along the ENTIRE route, every day, from start to finish.  He was nicknamed "creepy stalker guy" because every time we would turn a corner he was there.  He was often known to beep his horn and scare us to pieces. But, he also had everything that a 3-Dayer would need, from snacks, to chairs, to paper towels.  He was there as we took that last hill up toward Bentley College just in case someone needed some extra support.  Knowing he was there motivated all of us to move forward.  There was no way we were getting in that car.

As we walked into camp we received another sign from Mo.  Last year during the 3-Day Maurine made up her own words to Carly Rae Jepsen's Call Me, Maybe.  Her words were "Cure Me, Baby!"  You could hear her singing it everywhere we went.  We always said TWP needed a theme song, and Mo was going to make it her mission to have this song be it.  Wouldn't you know that as we walked into camp that was the song that was playing.  Of course Mo was with us every step of the way.

After setting up the tents, and taking a quick shower, we headed to the dining tent.  On my way there I bumped into M & M who had just eaten dinner and picked up their mail.  Thanks so much to all of our friends and family who sent mail.  The girls received a TON!  They thought they would just be getting letters from me.  Boy were they wrong.  They were super excited and could not stop talking.  Mia told me I just had to have the mac and cheese, and Maddie told me that the "sweet treat" was delicious.  Seeing them as happy as they were, I felt okay that I had only seen them about a total of 15 minutes that day.

Dinner was the usual--pasta.  Mia was right, the mac and cheese was yummy.  The slide show was fabulous too.  Especially the first photo which was of Maddie and Mia, ponchos on, standing in the pouring rain, cheering walkers on.  As dinner ended and the camp show started we looked toward the pink sky and there was a double rainbow.   Yes, our friends above were with us and had blessed us with a beautiful day. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

2013 Crew Day--Boston

Here we are.  The final Boston 3-Day.  I really hope that it is not canceled for long.  I have my fingers crossed that some time in the near future, it will return.  Each year I say that the 3-Day is different, and it always is--new people, new experiences.  Well, not only was this year going to be different, it was going to be difficult.  We were missing Maurine and Bridget.  As you read on over the next few days, you will see that while Mo and B were not directly by our sides, they were sitting right over our shoulders along side Emma.  I believe that their spirit made this year's 3-Day the most special yet.  

This year's 3-Day was actually a bit like a 4-Day because where Maddie and Mia were participating in the Youth Corps, they needed to attend Crew Day.  We left our house on a cool overcast Thursday around 10:30AM to pick up the Turcotte boys.  Tyler was participating in YC with the girls, and Dylan was a flagbearer. We arrived in Framingham to even cooler temperatures--low 60's.  It was almost raw out.  I was concerned that the girls would be miserable, especially Mia.  She hates the cold.  After checking in, and bundling up, they were off.  Andy and I were left standing there, free for the afternoon.  It felt a bit like dropping my children off at preschool for the first time, anxious and nervous that they might coming running back to me at any moment.  

I don't want want to say that I am a 3-Day packing expert, although I have led the packing demonstration at some 3-Day Expos, but after having done the event 7 times, I have a pretty good idea what to pack.  The forecast had predicted "showers" for Friday morning (boy did they get THAT wrong!) and increasing humidity throughout the weekend.  They did not predict it to be FREEZING cold.  My girls only had light sweatshirts and one pair of capris.  They were already wearing both of them, and the 3-Day hadn't even started.  I used that as an excuse to go shopping.  Heck, we were in Natick--the shopping center of the universe! Everything had changed so much since we moved out of Boston 11 years ago.  Andy and I took this opportunity to explore and enjoy each others company.  While it is difficult to find long sleeve shirts in July, we were successful, returning to camp with 2 pair of leggings, a long sleeve t-shirt and a hoodie.  I knew that at the very least, my girls would be warm. 

We returned to Crew Day just in time to see the girls rehearsing for their speeches.  You'll hear more about that later.  At this point, it was pouring.  After they finished, we piled into the car and headed over to Newton for the YC Alumni cookout.  David Bechhofer started the YC ten years ago in Boston.  It has since become a national program and is run at every 3-Day event.  There is also a YC on the Avon walk.  Dave was kind enough to open his home and invite all previous and current YC members to enjoy a BBQ.  While the weather wasn't the best, it was uplifting to see so many young men and women motivated to make a difference.  When I looked at the alumni, some of whom were in their early 20's, I hoped that my girls had made the right decision to join YC. These kids seemed so confident and full of self-esteem.  My babies were just a mere 11 years old.   As we drove back to the hotel, I asked the girls if they had a good time.  They said it was awesome, and they couldn't wait for tomorrow.  I couldn't have been happier.  As a parent, we think we know our kids and what is best for them.  In this case, I was right. 
2013 Boston Youth Corps on Crew Day!

Sunday, March 24, 2013


The Big "C"
The "C" word

No matter how you put it, cancer sucks.  There is no way around it.  It seems that I am reminded of this more and more every day--especially of late.


Is it because I am getting "increasingly more mature" (ie. getting older)?  

I guess it could be.  As we approach our 50's that is when our bodies start to fail.  Why does it seem to me that I feel healthier than I did in my 30's?  I am conscious about what I put in my body, and I exercise.  So do most of those around me.  Doesn't diet and exercise help to prevent cancer?   My hope is that it will prevent a recurrence for me.  So why hasn't it for those around me?

 Is it because I have surrounded myself by those fighting for a cure?  

Well, that makes sense too.  Before I was diagnosed, I only knew of two people who had cancer.  One was my best friend's dad, and the other was a family friend.  Back then, they were both considered "older" to me.  Through my affiliation with Komen and TWP, I often feel surrounded by cancer.  On a daily basis I am either hearing an update on someone's battle, or I am being asked to say an extra prayer for a friend in need.  The more people you know with cancer is relative to the amount of people you know.  I guess I could just know a lot of people.  Because of what I experienced, maybe I am more empathetic to the situations around me.  I wonder if I would be the same way if my life had been different.  I would like to think that I would still be trying to make a difference, but I don't know. 

Is it because years ago we never talked about it?  

Quite possibly so.  As a kid, do you ever remember your parents saying the word "cancer?"  Not in my house, and my parents are young.  It was that someone was very sick.  Never even mind the word "breast."  Maybe it is that cancer was just as rampant, but people couldn't make themselves say the words because the unknown beast was just too scary to them.  

Is it because we have the advanced technology to know that someone has cancer?

I'm sure that is part of it.  The survival rates for all types of cancer have increased over the years, especially in the last five.  If it hadn't been for ultrasound, I may not have known I had cancer when I did.  I was one of the ones whose mammogram came back clear.  Luckily for me, I had a doctor who requested more testing.  If it had been 10-15 years earlier, would I be a seven year survivor?  Maybe not.  When a woman is diagnosed with early stage breast cancer, she has a 90-95% five year survival rate.  When I look at that in teacher terms, that's an "A." Years ago, maybe that person would have died.  Now they are surviving, and many are living life as if nothing ever happened.  They wear their survivorship on their sleeve, like a badge of honor.  They have faced the enemy, and won the battle.   

Looking at the broader picture, I guess that we recognize that there is so much cancer because of all the aforementioned reasons.  Putting all these reasons together does not make it any more bearable.   Each and every time I hear of someone starting their fight against cancer, or having a set back as the result of a chemo regimen not working, I am just as affected as I was the time before; however, there are times when it hits me like a punch in the face.  This is one of those times.  

Then I think about how much more fulfilling my life has become because of cancer.  Part of the cancer battle is remaining positive--mind over matter.  I like to think I am a better person because of cancer.

I look at Tina.  She has shown so much fortitude and courage.  She stayed strong throughout Emma's battle, ensuring that her daughter would too, and never gave up hope.  I know that each day must be a struggle for her.  She has now taken her experience and is giving back to the children of MGH by donating Pillow Pets and Nooks.  She was even named to Mass General's prestigious list--"The One Hundred" as one of the volunteers whose "diligence, philanthropy and passion have helped advance the fight against cancer."  I am so happy that she will be honored at this exclusive event. 

Of course there is Bridget, who is now Komen's face of breast cancer.  She has inspired hope in so many women all around the country with her words and her heart.  I believe that she will continue to make a difference in years to come.  She will be leaving her legacy.  I can't imagine what my 3-Day experience would have been like without meeting her.  Life is so not fair.

But Maurine is in my heart most of all these days.  Like B, she inspires, but I just can't explain Mo to you if you haven't met her.  She is one of a kind.  Her infectious sense of humor brings a chuckle to all those she encounters.  When I think of the funniest moments with TWP, you can bet that Mo is in 90% of them, like when she tells the story of her prosthesis falling out of her bathing suit and floating in the water or when she says, "Next year I'm going to do this walk on a bicycle" in our video.  Her uplifting spirit and zest for life are contagious.  No matter how increasingly difficult her battle is becoming, she continues to bring a smile to those around her.

As many of us have said, time and time again, yes, cancer truly sucks.  We cannot let it take control.  We cannot just sit back and watch it consume those surrounding us.  We must take a lesson from those fighting this battle.  We need to smile, look cancer in the face, and say, "F-YOU!"  


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

TWP--Making the Most of Each Day

Here in New England you would have no idea that spring is arriving in just a few days.  Fortunately for me, I have taken this 6th snow day to freshen up my blog.  It has been long forgotten.  When I don't write, I really miss it; however, as with many things, I seem to get into a routine, and when I finally do sit down to write, I find everything in my power to procrastinate.  No more delaying.  I have LOTS to share!

Well, the 3-Day season is upon us.  It has taken awhile, but I am finally starting to get excited.  I don't know why.  It could be that it is different without Bridget at the helm of the Boston 3-Day.  This time last year I was getting frequent emails with requests for GSMs or other 3-Day events. I miss hearing from her.  She is such a trooper, still fighting the fight.  I admire her so much, being 29 years old and having more grace and dignity in her pinky than most people have overall.  She will be in my heart every single step of that 60 miles.

Many of you may be aware that this year's TWP 3-Day walkers will look a little different.  A few women in our group have decided to take some time off from walking to focus on our non-profit, which is growing so rapidly that we desperately need them to do this.  I appreciate what a difficult decision this was for them.  They have assured me that they will always be part of the 3-Day, and that the 3-Day will be part of them.  At first I was terribly sad.  I really couldn't imagine doing this walk without Patty and Cheryl, but then I thought about it.  We are going to have the best walker-stalkers ever!!!  Look out Pink Angels!  Cheryl and Michele did such a bang-up job escorting us on the Jimmy Fund Walk that I can't even imagine what the 3-Day will be like.

The most exciting news that I have to share in regard to the 3-Day has to do with Boston's Youth Corps.  Drum roll please...Maddie and Mia are members of the 2013 Boston YC!  Wahoo!  We are all so excited!  For those who don't know, YC is made up of twenty 10-16 year olds who crew the 3-Day.  They work at pit stops, set up tents, help around camp, and, most importantly, cheer on the walkers.  To be selected for YC is no easy task.  The girls had to write several short essays and have a phone interview.  Fortunately, they were selected out of 50 applicants!   It shouldn't be a surprise to me--they have been preparing for this role for seven years!  They have already started fundraising, and are doing better than I am!  Each one of them has to raise $500, but they hope to raise more.  Both girls are almost half way there.  I am such a proud Mama!  If you would like to donate to them, I have included links to their 3-Day pages:  Maddie's page, Mia's page.  If you are feeling generous, I am accepting donations too!  Just click the link on the side of the page.

In addition to all the 3-Day excitement that is building, Tough Warrior Princesses, the non-profit, is growing and reaching more people.  All the members of our Executive Board work full-time.  What was supposed to be a part-time gig has developed into so much more. We have had to evolve and change.  We are not just that group of women who walk for breast cancer.  We donate money to cancer research.  We educate the public.  We provide support to women affected by ANY cancer.  That support has been emotional, physical, and financial.  When I become overwhelmed with what the future holds for TWP, I have to take a step back and relish in all we have done.  So here is the highlight reel...
  1. TWP has raised almost $250,000 for research.
  2. We received our first grant last year!
  3. We had 3 unbelievably successful Silent Auctions
  4. Threw a Princess Tea Party
  5. Provided daily transportation to Dana Farber for a friend in need
  6. Provided daily meals for that friend too!
  7. Gave 20 survivor baskets to women
  8. We "Lit the Town Pink"
  9. Created Amesbury Cancer Awareness calendars
  10. Banded 30 people together 2 weeks before the Jimmy Fund Walk to raise $15,000 in honor of Emma
  11. Partnered with the YWCA in Newburyport
  12. Gave an extra-special Christmas to a young woman and her family
  13. Provided gift cards and financial support to several women 
Personally, I think that list is pretty impressive, especially considering I never thought I would be a part of something so meaningful.

The best part is that this list is growing.  We have two exciting endeavors in the works. First, I recently received an email from the Director of Programs at the Commonwealth Newburyport Cancer Center.  They want to develop a partnership with TWP.  This is exactly what we have been hoping for.  Through this partnership, we hope to assist more women.  Patty and I will be going on a tour of the facility next week and meeting to discuss our future endeavors.  We will be working together to plan a Survivor's Day Celebration scheduled for June 27th at the Firehouse in Newburyport.  We will keep you up to date as details arrive.  In the meantime, there is a great workshop scheduled for this week:

The second piece of exciting news began last week with an email from our friend CJ.  For those that remember our video, yes it feels like forever ago, CJ was a member of the production staff.  You may recall me talking about our film posse who followed us around those 3 memorable days in July.  CJ was our lead guy.  Our crew is honestly one of the main reasons that TWP came to be what it is today.  Without the exposure from that film, we would probably still be struggling to grow our membership and get our name out.  That film showed us that we truly can make a difference.  For that I am forever grateful.  As I sat in Trader Joe's parking lot that afternoon, ready to make the hour trek home from work, I decided to quickly check my email.  It was exciting to hear from CJ, but the reason we were hearing from him was even better.  CJ is working with a Florida based company called Just LiveJust Live is a lifestyle/fitness apparel company.  Their vision is to provide people with the inspiration to make the most of each day.  CJ's email was suggesting that we partner up with Just Live and make another video of the 3-Day!  While I was absolutely thrilled, I felt that TWP had changed in the last few years.  We are much more than walkers.  I believe there is a greater story to tell--many stories.  Who were we to turn down more fame, so we agreed to a conference call with Jared, the owner of Just Live.  A couple hours and another phone call later, we have struck up a partnership.  Both CJ and Jared saw what we see in the TWP.  They, too, recognized there is so much more, and they believe that we embody the mission and ideas of Just Live.  That being said, we are embarking on another new journey and partnership.  CJ hopes to share our story while promoting Just Live.  I have great faith in him and our future together.

So, the future is brimming with opportunity for the TWP.  I look forward to sharing this excitement with all of you!