At mile 24 we continued to pound the pavement. After waking up at 4:45am, making our way up and down both the east and west sides of Manhattan, with spectacular views of the New York City skyline and Lady Liberty, after crossing the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, we could finally see Randall’s island, day one’s final destination. I had about three blisters at this point (after reading my favorite tag line: “Every blister saves a sister!”). With my legs wobbling and shin splints burning, I watched my sore feet take one more step, then another step, and knew for sure that I could accomplish the goal: 39.3 miles in two days.
I knew I could finish for two reasons. The first was my team.
Sara: Before my older sister recently moved back East, she said good-bye to ten years teaching first grade at a school she loved and that loved her right back. In lieu of a generous send-off gift, she asked the school to donate toward the Avon Walk. Then, on a recent training walk, she spontaneously said, “Come on sister, I’m going to buy you a new pair of sneakers.” Having her generous and loving self by my side, carb-loading through the city, meant the world to me.
Sherri: The best memory from this walk was watching my sister-in-law twerking (provocative dance) with an Avon volunteer on the sidelines. This happened around 7:30 am on day two when preserving any energy seemed important to the rest of us. Sherri’s vivacious personality and indomitable spirit kept us all going.
Carley: Carley and I reconnected after I was diagnosed. She is a great example of how a life challenge can bring friends together again. In between teaching middle school Science to 7th and 8th graders on Friday and Monday, Carley walked the 39.3 miles with us, on very little sleep, and showed absolutely no signs of any physical discomfort.
Dan: This old and dear friend of Ian’s has now officially reached brotherly status. I have always felt like Dan would do anything for me, but walking 39.3 miles and camping (which involved sleeping in a tent with a stranger) was not something I ever imagined. My only regret is that I didn’t make him wear a pink tutu.
My dream team, four people from different places in my past and present, four people very, very different from one another, came together and made this experience one of the very best of my life. I cherish each of them, the memories I have of them walking by my side, being in the thick of a challenge that very symbolically represents what it feels like to go through cancer treatment. THANK YOU, with all my heart. Thank you!
And about that second reason…the things that I feared the most in the end were the things that kept me going.
In the weeks and days leading up to the Avon Walk, I worried about the pain, the fatigue, and whether or not I could actually carry out this physical and psychological journey. I imagined how it would feel to give up and how I would explain it to everyone. But while in the most challenging stretch between miles 24 and 26, I experienced a kind of euphoria.
I loved the pain. I embraced the blisters, the sore feet, and the muscle aches. It felt so darn good to feel my body walking and walking and walking and walking…and still walking. Every sign of fatigue, every twinge of discomfort was a voice saying loud and clear: YOU ARE ALIVE. Look what your body can do! You haven’t even been out of treatment for one full year and YOU, yes you ADINA SCHECTER, can walk 39.3 fucking miles in two days. You can do this! You are doing this.
After coming back from NY today, I picked the girls up early from school. They were very excited to play with my sleeping bag, especially when they put me in it, zipped me up, and on each side of me, came close to my face to give me a kiss goodnight.
“Let Mommy sleep,” says Yael. They were so close I could feel their breath. I let my body completely relax under their four little hands pushing down on me. I thought about all the names and faces on shirts and pins of mothers who have died from breast cancer. I ached for them in a place so beyond anything I could feel from a long walk.
“Time to get up Mommy,” Yael demands. Each girl reaches in for a hand and pulls me up, out of my cocoon and back into the world. “Let’s go.” Yael is leading the way to our “campsite” in the kitchen, a much better place to look up at the stars. As we walk, I envision the three of us, maybe twenty years from now crossing that finish line together.