Here’s how it’s like the first time: No matter what you’ve been told to expect, your own experience is unique. No matter how often you’re told you will come back a changed person, you will still be yourself. Also, I never actually cried, though I did laugh a lot.
Here’s how it’s just like the training months: No matter how many people are cheering and honking, by 2:30 p.m., you want to be finished. Walking 20 miles is a full day’s work and, as such, represents the full-time jobs needed by researchers, fundraisers, care givers to develop a vaccine, find a cure, raise the money, support the survivors and comfort the bereaved.
Here’s how it’s like it always is: An old friend who rejoices in my dark side just called. “You haven’t blogged yet,” she said. “Was it what you expected? When you first told me you were doing this, I thought: How clichéd.” Well, yes and no. One reason it’s taken me five days to gather my thoughts is because I’m still thinking in a mix of clichéd (but true) emotions: Amazing! Inspiring! Wonderful! Unbelievable – and snarky (but true) Grissy-isms: “By late Day 2, I was mowing down survivors and refusing to wave.” “My God, I’m still a bitch, only now I want be applauded constantly. Non-stop cheering was the heroin I discovered in St. Petersburg. Uh oh, now what?”
Here’s how it’s just like high school: How proud I was that I and my three pacing cohorts came in each day ahead of much thinner and much younger women. But oh, how I wish I’d done a Clinton & Stacy when outfitting myself. It took a candid shot by Channel 10 to show me what a Glamour Don’t knee-length shorts really are. Believe me, if I’d only looked in a 360 mirror, I’d have lived with a little chafing. Ah well, next year.
The unexpected grace: Gratitude. By day 2 I realized just how strong an impact our crew was having on my enjoyment and comfort and, therefore, how much a cancer survivor depends on the kindness and willingness of others to serve their basic needs.
The unexpected souvenir: I picked up every pin, necklace, washable tattoo and pink shoelace offered me. What’s hanging on the corkboard in my cube is this: My 3Day lanyard. Why? Because all I have to do is look at this to know the most important lesson I’ve learned this year. It’s a lesson I’ve had unarticulated in my heart since my friendship with my old friend Lindsay Dirkx Brown (who died of breast cancer in 1991) began back in 1972 but which I saw on a sign at camp and attributed to Paulo Coelho: “When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too.”
How I’m different: I haven’t had a drink since Monday’s after party. I’m quite the post-work wino. No, it’s not that my two glasses a night is such a lot of wine but that it’s so hard for me not to have them. But not this week. A new kind of hangover? Too soon to tell.