Friday, June 8, 2012

Avon Walk Chicago 2012

Nanette Cote, Blogger (left)
Louise Martin (right)
Last weekend, I participated in a life changing experience that I wanted to share with you. It all started 20 weeks ago when by day I worked as a middle school speech therapist, but by night and most weekends, I trained for the Avon walk in Chicago. I chose to be part of this experience because I wanted to do something bold to celebrate my 40th birthday and make a difference in my community. I became a speech therapist to help others, so when the opportunity arose to give back, I took on the challenge. 

From June 2nd through June 3rd, we journeyed across the beautiful, downtown Chicago area with 3000 people in an effort to raise funds and awareness for breast cancer. We walked 26 miles the first day and 13 the next with the Avon foundation and raised over 6.3 million dollars. We learned at the closing ceremony that a good portion of these funds will purchase new machines and equipment for local hospitals, support research projects, and provide tests, treatments and meals for many diagnosed with breast cancer in the Chicagoland area.

Throughout the walk, I dedicated certain miles for those who have supported me both monetarily and emotionally. Many of these supporters were people I have never even met. Along the walk, we saw several woman with shaved heads, walking right alongside us. Early on, we passed a beautiful, young woman sitting in a lawn chair and holding up a sign that said she had just finished her last day of chemotherapy the day before. Both my friend and I tried to open our mouths to say something but could only muster a choked noise. For much of day one, we took turns hitting walls, and then climbing over them. At the end, we could barely move, but we still felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment having gotten through our longest walk together.

The second day was filled with such emotion that seemed to follow me into the week. I found myself feeling sad as we dwindled down to the last couple miles and throughout the week, I felt like something was missing. I couldn't just take a walk when we got home because we had to get back to life and other pressing issues such as treatment for our devastated feet!  Some of the most inspiring moments of the weekend occurred during the 30 minute closing ceremony. After the "walkers" marched onto the field, they announced our crew members who helped us cross streets, poured drinks, and served us our meals in addition to cheering us on every step of the way. The last group to march onto Soldier Field were breast cancer survivors that completed the walk with us. The event that solidified I would participate in the Avon walk next year occurred when a young girl, no more than 10 years old, asked if she could step ahead of me to watch her mom, a survivor, stride onto the field. That was it- that is why I will walk again. 

Before they presented the donations to various groups at the closing ceremony, a woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1975 gave a powerful speech about her experiences. Listening to her moved me to tears from start to finish as she talked about her then radical surgery, followed by her miraculous pregnancy that no one predicted was possible. She continued about her achievements and heartaches over the years, but the one thing that stuck with me was how young she was when she received her diagnosis. In my twenties, my biggest concern was how to get into and then out of graduate school, not cancer treatments. I walked off Soldier Field that day feeling thankful, appreciative, proud, and humbled to be a part of that group of 3000 other people from all walks of life united in one, important cause. See you next year walkers!

To view my Avon profile page, go to the link below!

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