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Sixty miles never meant so much

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By Jennifer Caldwell

 Sometimes there are simply no words.

In my line of work that can present a problem, but this is precisely where I have found myself for more than a week (although my husband is certain to disagree).

Since I returned home from walking 60 plus miles in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure almost two weeks ago I must have started this column over 100 times in my mind, but I kept coming up short.

I mean is it really possible for me to adequately describe something that impacted my life on so many different levels? Maybe not. But I’m going to give it a whirl.

Breast cancer and the women in my family go way back. The list of Roberts women I call survivors is long and includes my very own mother, Aunt Linda and cousins Cathy and Cora. While I rejoice in the fact that God chose to answer those prayers for healing with a yes there are still those who were taken much too soon like my Aunt Marilyn and my great aunt Marie Roberts Meade, who I never got to meet.

So when two of my very dearest friends got the news earlier this year breast cancer had invaded, it did something to me. I can’t really explain what the “something” was. All I know is I had to get moving. And while I would like to say taking on a 60 mile walk was a completely selfless act to raise awareness for a disease that has taken away far too many mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts and grandmothers, the truth of the matter is some of the reason I did it was to comfort me.

When I firmly decided back in June I was going to do this thing and found someone crazy enough to do it with me, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. 

Don’t ask me why, because I have no explanation really, but somehow it was calming to consider the seemingly unattainable goal of raising $2,300 and getting myself in shape to put in some serious miles.

What I do know is the whole experience from beginning to end held so many lessons that I needed to learn.

The first thing it taught me is to never underestimate the goodness of your fellow man. 

Sounds corny I know, but it is so true. Besides the thought of camping for two nights in a six by six tent raising the $4,600 necessary to participate in the walk was almost a deal breaker for me. My partner in crime, Jill Moore, and I were more scared about this than the actual walking part.  But you know what...we didn’t have a bit of trouble meeting that goal. 

In fact, we went over by nearly $2,000. 

I was not at all surprised by the support we received from our families, church family and friends, but it was not just them. 

This really was a community effort. 

I’m sure the customers at Big O’s are relieved the fundraising is over and that Sheila and the girls there will no longer be hitting them up for a donation. 

And the parents of Christian Academy of Campbell County students can now safely leave their loose change around knowing the war (penny war that is) is over.

And then there was the reminder of what a blessing true friendship is and how much I take it for granted. Again, it came as no shock that we received constant encouragement from people like our friend Cindi, who sent out hundreds of letters asking for support. 

But when we each received a pile of mail, yes I do mean cards and letters, at our campsite I was totally blown away. From the “I’m proud of you’s” to the gifts like the awesome sunglasses from Drs. Andy and Liz our friends really outdid themselves.

This experience also taught me there really are people that are capable of sacrificial giving. Much to my horror I learned that one sweet friend, who shall remain nameless, made a hefty donation out of her hard earned overtime pay because someone else hadn’t followed through with their end of the deal.  Unbelievable! 

But what is even more astonishing is that I learned all of these things before I even got to Atlanta.

The event itself is one of those things you must experience in living color to really get the full effect.

I’m not going to lie, walking 20 miles three days in a row is hard!  Sleeping on the ground on the nights in between and hiking to the portapotty in the middle of the night is even harder. Would I do it again?  Absolutely!

Why? 

It’s simple. When I was standing outside Turner Field among the nearly 3,000 other stinky, sweaty, exhausted walkers with my equally stinky, sweaty running shoe high in the air as a salute to the survivors, those women taking their victory lap were not strangers. Instead, they embodied the spirit of the women I am so proud to call family and friends.

I would do it again because this year’s event in Atlanta alone raised $6.1 million to be used to find cure for breast cancer. 

And that means the odds of my girls, my nieces and others I love may one day be able to avoid the devastation of the disease altogether. 

I would do it again because the mantra of Komen foundation ring so true because “everyone deserves a lifetime.”