Tie Your Laces and Let’s Go!

28 03 2011
Don, ever my cheerleader and best friend, holding the sign he made for Amy's Walking Angels in 2008. Photo by Amy Rauch Neilson.

Don, ever my cheerleader and best friend, holding the sign he made for Amys Walking Angels in 2008. Photo by Amy Rauch Neilson.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time on March 3, 2006. And somewhere amid the flurry of tests and results, surgeries and treatments, my friend Mollie Finch pulled off something pretty extraordinary. She organized the very first team of walkers to represent me in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure: Amy’s Walking Angels.

The walk is a 5k, but there’s also a one-mile option for people who can’t go the distance. I thought I’d be one of those people that June day, as I’d started chemo just a week earlier.

My goal was to simply make it to the end of that first mile, Don and all of my teammates by my side, Theo, who was only nine months old, in the stroller.

But somehow, as I approached the one mile marker, I didn’t feel tired. I felt energized. I kept going. And I made it the whole way. I was elated.

There is something so invigorating about being surrounded by people who love you, who are walking in support of you, united in the effort to halt this disease in its tracks.

Mollie’s doing it again — organizing the team for the Amy’s Walking Angels component of the 2011 Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure on Saturday, May 21. The walk starts and ends at Comerica Park in downtown Detroit — we meet there round about 8 a.m. and we’re home by Noon. Sometimes, we stop in Mexican Town for lunch afterwards. I’d love to see you out there.

I’m even thinking of printing matching ItsInTheGenes.org T-shirts this year. It’d be a first for our team. If you’re interested in a T-shirt, let me know at amy@itsinthegenes.org and I’ll see what I can organize on my end.

Who knows what we might be celebrating that day? My first post-chemo scan is today at 2:30. Within a few days, I should have the results that tell me how effective the first three rounds of chemo have been. Please pray for something miraculous and completely unexpected — something beyond explanation. I hope my lungs and lymph nodes are completely clear and that my chemo regimen will be shorter than originally anticipated.

On the way home from chemo last Friday, this very subject came up between my friend Diane and I. I said, “Maybe my regimen will be shorter than we think!” And at the very same moment we looked at each other and blurted out, ‘June 1’ as an end-date! It was eerie and funny all at the same time.

As soon as I know my scan results, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, get your racing shoes on!

For more information and/or to sign up to be a part of Amy’s Walking Angels, contact Mollie Finch at molliefinch81@yahoo.com.

Copyright 2011, Amy Rauch Neilson

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Support in a Sea of Pink

30 05 2009

friends4race2006
My life was such a whirlwind of doctors’ appointments, tests, prayers, hope, and pure terror that Spring of 2006 that when she called, it took me a minute to catch on. It was my friend, Mollie. “I want to form a team for this year’s Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure,” she said.

And I was thinking, “That’s great, but why is she calling me to tell me this?”

Then it sunk in. Mollie wanted to form a team in my honor, and the team members would run or walk the 5K for me.

I was really touched.

Mollie took charge of the whole event, from naming our team — Amy’s Walking Angels — to spearheading the fund-raising (we raised $1,000!), picking up our registration packets, and getting everyone organized among the thousands of other walkers and runners that June morning in Detroit.

I was not quite eight weeks out from my double-mastectomy/reconstruction surgery, I had just gone through in-vitro so that I could freeze embryos in the hopes of having a baby post-chemo, and I had just endured my first round of chemotherapy.

I didn’t have to be there. Of course everyone would have understood — and they would have gathered, ran, and walked in my honor that morning.

But I wanted to be there. So, when the alarm when off at 6 a.m. that Saturday morning, we threw on our official Race T-shirts, got into the car and headed for downtown Detroit.

I didn’t think I could walk the entire 5K that day, which left me with two options — the One Mile walk or a ride on the Survivors’ Trolley. I opted for the walk. That way, I could hang with my team for at least part of the time.

But something happened along the way — something quite magical. As the starting line faded into the distance, I found myself becoming more and more energized with every step. When our team hit the One Mile marker and everyone expected me to turn around, I surprised them as well as myself when I didn’t. I kept going. And I crossed the 5K finish line with them.

I’ve often pondered about just what gave me that extra surge of energy that day. And I’ve decided that there isn’t one answer — but many.

It was my friends and my family. My spirits were buoyed by their strength and support and selflessness.

It was the thousands of strangers I walked among. The supporters wear white, while pink is reserved for survivors. In my pink T-shirt and baseball cap that day, I was a member of a very special sisterhood. We recognized each other with a nod, a smile, a brief exchange of words, a simple “God Bless You.”

It was the exchanges between me and other team members — brief, private, but telling conversations where one friend revealed details of his father’s battle with cancer that he’d never told me before and another told me how, when he’d learned of my diagnosis, he felt like he’d been kicked in the stomach — and began training for the 5K. Conversations that you’d never imagine could happen amid a crowd of thousands. But they did.

What I saw and experienced that day was so powerful that it keeps me going back every year for my “fix.” This morning — my fourth year of participation in the Race for the Cure — was no exception.

Along the way, I stopped to take a photo of a group of young girls waving hot pink pom-pons who were cheering for the walkers. As I got closer and focused my camera lens, they noticed my pink survivor T-shirt and began cheering very loudly — just for me. I was so taken aback that my rarely-seen shy side came out and I actually blushed.

But, as I rejoined my group and continued the walk, it also served as a reminder that in the battle of breast cancer, we are never alone.








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