A few months ago, I found myself eavesdropping in the baked goods aisle. I tried not to, honestly—it just kind of happened as I perused the vast selection of new! improved! extra creamy! frostings.
The first woman was small and curly-haired and bubbly. “You look great, Adele,” she said reassuringly. “You really do.”
Adele smoothed the blue silk scarf she’d wrapped around her head. “This gives me away,” she said. Her hand dropped to her little girl’s sleek brown hair. “The chemo isn’t as bad as I thought it would be, Annie. I’m just tired.”
“Well if you need anything,” Annie said. “Please call. I’m happy to watch your girls. It’s no problem at all, and I mean that.” They hugged then, and Annie waved goodbye.
Adele watched her go then pushed her cart forward. As she passed us, she smiled warmly at my boys, then knocked a box of jello off the shelf.
“Oh wait I’ll get it…” I said. I grabbed the box and placed it securely in its spot.
“Thanks so much,” She said.
We looked at each other for a moment. I said, “Your scarf is lovely.”
“Thanks.” She nodded at me and blinked.
I had that moment to say: “I think you’re so brave. I don’t know how you do it. I hope you beat this thing and laugh in its face.” Instead, I said: “Here, let me get out of your way.”
I don’t know why I didn’t say what I wanted to say. I’m 100% sure she would have thought I was craaaaazy. I’m also 100% sure she needed to hear it. Social convention: 1. Humanity: 0.
There are seven women I’m racing for today. Adele is one of them.
“I’m thinking about joining the Race for the Cure this year,” I broadcast to my facebook friends. “Who’s with me?”
“Sign me up,” Cara said. Cara’s one of the best people I know. We’ve been friends since we were children. I saw her through a massive Michael Damian crush (heh. sorry, Cara.) and let’s face it, those are ties that bind! What a great girl.
(Side note: Cara has also agreed to help me carry out another 36×37 mission at the ATP Tennis Tournament this August. It’s going to involve meeting Roger Federer. Or Andy Roddick. Or—dream come true time!—Rafael Nadal. *low whistle, long sigh*)
I have a reason to join the Columbus leg of The Susan G Komen Race for the Cure this year. A dear family friend was diagnosed with breast cancer a few months ago. She’s like an aunt to me, and my mother would definitely say she’s like a sister to her. She has just finished chemo, and her radiation treatments are about to begin. I’ve seen her only once since she was diagnosed, but I think of her and her family every day. She’s the reason I’m here in front of The Palace Theater with 50,000 of my fellow racers.
The Columbus Race for the Cure is a completely different animal than I expected it to be. I guess I’ve always envisioned a somber atmosphere—not much talking, lots of hugs and tears, the swapping of sad stories—and I’ll admit that’s probably why I’ve never participated before.
But believe me, this race is no downer. It’s incredibly upbeat. We’re all here to race for people we love. And some of us race for ourselves. There’s a lot of laughter, and the overarching feeling is one of hope and support. It’s the most massive display of strength and determination I’ve ever seen. I’m just shocked by that.
I’m also shocked by the free food:
The live music at every corner:
The entire city block of bikers and Harleys that came out to show support:
But most of all, the masses and masses of people teeming through my beloved city:
If you think about this event—if you really let yourself think about what it means to pour 50,000 racers through your city, all of whom are there for their own very personal reasons—it will knock you to your knees. I think of the women and men who received their diagnoses—how it must have felt to digest the news, take it home to their families, and begin the battle. I also think of their families and friends—how it must have felt to receive the news and fight alongside their loved ones.
It makes me angry and sad and hopeful and proud of the human spirit.
We’re coming for you, cancer, you b@$t@rd. You’re living on borrowed time.
I’m racing in loving memory of: Pam, Josie, Vicki, Heather and Stefanie.
I’m also racing in celebration of Marjorie and Adele. I think you’re so brave. I don’t know how you do it. I hope you beat this thing and laugh in its face and keep on laughing for years.
Special thanks to Sabrina, Victoria, Darcy and Cara. It was a pleasure racing with such spectacular women. Next year, I think we should play our cards exactly the way we did this year, because sauntering across the finish line dead last is about the funniest thing I can think of. (For my other readers: It’s a long story, but a good one. Another time, perhaps.)
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