Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Hookers & Ferries & Cops in Pink Tutus! Oh My!

At times, the SGK 3Day walk was so fun that it was easy to lose sight of the very real & tragic reason we were all there, hoofing it 60 miles around the bay area---every three minutes another person in this country is diagnosed with breast cancer. One in eight women in the US will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their life time--that's 12% of American women, people. It doesn't take a giant leap of logic to realize that at some point, without a cure, we will all be impacted in some way by this disease. It is sobering and terrifying. But.

The best thing about the SGK walk was that in spite of those seriously Debbie Downer stats, the 3 Day is much more a celebration of life & of the human spirit to fight & survive, and to fight for each other. I mean, really, what could be more celebratory than this, I ask you:

or this?

Its a good day when you get hugs from tutu clad police officers outside a bank of port-a-potties, my friends. A damn good day indeed.

Just as a side note, these fine gentlemen were from the San Jose police department and they were volunteering, using up their own vacation time to patrol the route and keep it safe for us. And I'm also thinking they were kind of keen on the idea of donning pink tutus, fur mukluks and bunny ears. Because you don't see that on COPs often, now, do you?

Oh, and bras on their helmets. Let's not forget that...

They were pure awesomesauce.

Also awesomesauce? My teammies. The picture is missing three of us (me, taking the picture and two others off in the port-a-potty line...) But look at how chipper!! Look at how ready to go! Raring to have at it!! At 5am!

At the Cow Palace!!! WTF is a Cow Palace??!!

But that's where we started out from. The Cow Palace. Home of fancypants cows? Who knows.

But I do know that pink hair at 5am is quite fancy...

After the opening ceremonies at sunrise gave us our first case of the ugly cry...

we headed out into lovely Daly City...

And by "lovely," I mean full of temporary construction fencing, traffic cones and fog.

And the danciest, happiest dude of them all, stopping traffic for us to cross.

Lots of mini-vans of supporters drove by us, honking and cheering us on throughout all three days.

First stop? The Yumi Deli. Natch. Six am & no coffee makes for some silly walkers

And LOOKIE! Hookers for Hooters!!! (note: not real hookers. I think.)

These ladies popped up over & over again during the course of the three days, bullhorns & all, playing music, dancing, singing, high-fiving & cheering us on. Somewhere in the middle of day 2 the sight of them *might* have made me weepy & overwhelmed with how much emotional support & encouragement they were doling out. Hookers with hearts of gold, I tell you.

And then there was all the mother nature-y goodness along the way, too.

Pretty, right? Totally made those blisters that were slowly developing under my pinky toenails totally worth it.

Day 1 drew to a close with us making our way, no longer a swarming sea of pink, but spread out over several miles, more like a slow trickle of pink, to Fisherman's Wharf, where the tourist's marveled at us like we were part of the regular attractions--you know, Boudin's Sourdough, the Pier 39 sea lions, Ghiradelli's Chocolate & the ladies walking 60 miles in pink shirts. We caught a ferry over to Treasure Island and were beyond thrilled to realize it was then another 1.5 miles of walking to the camp ground. There's something about walking 18.5 miles and then getting to sit for 30 minutes as you watch the lovely city sky line and rock gently to the rippling current that makes that last 1.5 miles seem like a particularly horrendous torture for the blisters & muscles. And no shower has ever felt better than the one I took that evening inside an 18-wheeler shower truck, after waiting in line for 40 minutes holding my pajamas & towel and making small talk with the women to either side of me in line.

There was a chipper lady in the dinner tent bouncing up & down on the stage (she clearly had taken one of the vans from the starting point to the camp), telling us what a great job we were doing & letting us know about the dance party that would take place in that very tent on evening 2. Dance party? After walking 40 miles? Oooookay, crazy lady. You have fun with that.

Day 2 found us hobbling walking through Berkeley and Oakland. Where this sign:

could not have come at a better time. Yes, I'm smiling, but look at how I'm leaning on that utility pole. I could have stayed there all day.

So, they don't need chemo & that obviously provides tremendous perspective. But they are going to need to be lanced and disinfected and covered up with blue cushy "newskin" and then sealed with carpet like "moleskin" and then wrapped in a pink sticky tape that looked like the soy paper Ethan gets his avocado rolls made with bc he doesn't like seaweed. mmmmm....sushi feet.

There we go....ready for the next....30 miles. Oy.

While most of day 2 was spent checking my daily schedule to see how. much. farther. there. was. to. go., there were some amazing & memorable moments as well. Right before heading into the medic tent to have my feet tended to, I walked past a girl who was maybe 16, holding a sign that said, "My mother had surgery yesterday. Thank you for walking." Cue the ugly cry, please. And when I started thinking that I wanted to puke with every single foot fall, a woman would walk by me with the pink temporary tattoo "survivor" on her cheek. Some supporters lined the route with poster boards of Frost's poem, "Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening," which ends:

Again with the ugly cry. There were reminders everywhere of why we were doing this & how the pain we were feeling was so insignificant and fleeting compared to that of the people we were walking for. And every time someone stopped us, asked us "what are you doing?" & listened to us explain our goal, it felt like we were doing something. Every time we walked past an outdoor cafe & someone stopped their conversation to give us a thumbs up or to thank us for what we were doing, it was an anesthetic for the pain swelling in our feet.

But again, that shower? Felt awesome. And I've never slept more like a rock than I did those two nights on the ground in a little pink tent.

Day 3 is pretty much a blur. The ferry dumped us in Tiburon and we had to be quiet for several miles so as not to wake the rich people. Super. Tax loopholes AND extra beauty sleep. I started to notice that the monster hills actually felt good on my tight muscles; they were like built-in stretches. Go figure. For a lot of the day my feet were well-wrapped and minimally painful, but I was so intent on getting to the end that I can't really tell you a lot about that day. It was very much a one-foot-in-front-of-the-other-to-the-finish kind of a day.

This guy made it possible for me to keep going, after he performed minor surgery on about four different places on my feet. Glamor, thy name is medical tent nurse. How many gnarly nasty feet that man had to tend to over the course of the three days must be endless fodder for blister-related nightmares and flashbacks. I know as a nurse he probably sees far worse on a daily basis, but the sheer volume of nasty feet....::shudder::


And then, we were there:

I will admit that I didn't walk up the giant hill from Fort Baker to the Golden Gate Bridge. We'd stopped for lunch right before the hill & I always found that starting back up again after a break was the most painful part of the walk. I really didn't want to be limping and hobbling over the bridge after climbing a monster hill. So one of my teammates and I hopped on what we *thought* was a SGK bus to take us to the top of the hill & drop us off at the bridge.

Turns out, we really just got into an RV driven by someone named Mimi, who was accompanied by her daughter, Leelee, and a pomeranian. Turns out, they weren't entirely sure where they were going or where to drop us off. See, when trying to navigate the Golden Gate Bridge, you have to be very careful not to take the wrong turn or chose the wrong exit, or you'll end up on an irreversible track over the bridge and then there's money involved and confusion and a lot of "take this exit here!!! Oh, no, not that one!! This one!!!" or you end up heading out of town completely. So my teammate & I spent about 7 minutes in absolute internal panic mode while Mimi & Leelee tried to figure out A.) how to get from Fort Baker to the bridge and B.) how to avoid the aforementioned missteps that would drive us right off the SGK route altogether.

Fortunately it seemed like it wasn't entirely Leelee's first time at the rodeo, so she directed her mother correctly into the parking lot for the Golden Gate Bridge, we gushed our thank you's profusely (both that they got us up the hill in time and that they were not in fact creepy serial killers trolling the route for their next victims--well, we didn't say that part out loud, obviously.) We met the rest of our team up at the top of the hill & walked across the bridge as a team. Very bonding and life-affirming and all that good stuff.

For some reason, my brain kept letting me think that the bridge was the end of the walk. And while it was a highlight for sure, there were still several miles to go before we reached the end. This line of walkers heading off the bridge and down towards Crissy Field kind of bummed me out as we approached the end of the bridge. There were probably vans I could have taken, but there was something so symbolic about the walk--even though all the money had already been raised, and the walking was, in truth, especially at this point in the game, a formality, I couldn't bring myself to give up. I just kept coming back to the reason I was there in the first place.

And then we were at the finish:

Yay, team!!! Still missing some people (it was hard to get us all in one place at the same time).

The crowd of walkers waiting to go into the closing ceremony.

walking in to the closing ceremonies, site of the final ugly cry....

After all the walkers who were not personal survivors of cancer themselves had entered the circle, those people who walked as survivors march in, at which point everyone takes off one shoe and holds in the air to salute them. Its possible that it was simply delerium from the pain in my feet and the overwhelming emotion of the past few days, but given that I'm a sucker for symbolism, I shed some fat weepy tears on this one.

Then the survivors join hands and there's swelling triumphant music playing and TEARS TEARS TEARS!!!

Aaaand then on our bloodied little stumps that once were feet, we danced....

Where do I sign up for 2012?!


Becca said...

What an amazing experience!

Anonymous said...

So glad you wrote about this. Proud of you!!! xo Kita

Vicky said...

Dont worry Mimi and Lili are part of Team Super Troopers and will always help everyone and anyone!! You were in good hands!! p.s. I did the same thing! I jumped on the Pro Transport ambulance and hitched a ride up the hill! (i knew the EMTs)
-Vicky Freeth
(a friend of Nickie's =)

lonek8 said...

um, I think this sounds like tons off fun and kind of want to do it with you next year. Quick - talk about the horrible, painful blisters some more!


Sue said...

You did good!

I'm sitting here with tears streaming down. I lost a good friend to this horrible disease in 2008. She was not even 50 and left 3 boys without a mom.

And there are far too many stories such as this.

Sarah said...

"The ferry dumped us in Tiburon and we had to be quiet for several miles so as not to wake the rich people." HAHAHAHA!

Also, the RV? OMG-- hilarious!

So cool, Sarah-- good for you!