In It To End It.

This is for Lee Anne, her sister Kathy, and her nieces Megan and Kelly who just finished the San Francisco Avon 2 day Breast Cancer Walk in honor of their mom Dottie and Didi.

Congratulations to you all. I know she was with you every step of the way. Your courageous walk brings back poignant memories from 1999 when I did the Avon 3 Day Walk. I have re-opened my walking journal and would love to share these memories with all of you in honor of Dottie Reilly.
Walking 55 miles for 3 days from Santa Barbara to Malibu and personally raising over $2,500 for breast cancer prevention was only the beginning.

October 1999
Day One.
Santa Barbara, California.
Opening ceremonies.

I found myself standing in the quiet early morning fog with 4 close friends, 3000 new friends, survivors and supporters. It felt somewhat like a dream. Before we walked we were asked to join hands with the person next to us. A prayer was said to remind us of why we were there and to keep us safe and strong on our journey.

The gentleman standing next to me, holding my hand had lost his wife. He was quietly crying and looking up to the sky. After the prayer we smiled and wished each other luck as we turned to walk away. He had a picture of his wife silk-screened on the back of his t-shirt with the words. "I’d walk a million miles for just one more of your smiles." This was definitely not a dream, this was real life happening all around me. It was time to walk…...pure adrenaline and joy to finally be on our way. Figuring out maps, timing, and terrain. This was great fun being out of my box! I was with good friends and the anxiety had passed. I remembered those who had supported me both financially and emotionally and, this is really something big and for such an important cause. As the sun set, we had completed 18 miles and were finally walking into our first nights camp. It was like a huge slumber party on a local high school football field, with great food, entertainment, hot showers and inspiration. I was so glad to be with our small team of four in a sea of 3000 heroes.

 Day Two.
A short but very rewarding 15 mile day.

The entire 3rd grade of Ventura Elementary School came out of their classes to the very front lawn of their school to high five the walkers. It made all of us smile and cheer and miss our own kids. One more reminder of why we were walking. Later that day and what to our wondering eyes did appear...Starbucks!

Ok, so I’m thinking, this is our short day so why not stop for a tall double vanilla latte right? I woke up in a very chilly, damp, two-man tent just hours ago and anyone who knows me, knows, I don’t do tents. Thank goodness my walking partner extraordinaire Jamee, she did tents very well. 45 minutes later, (there were many of us), we had our lattes, we were back on the trail and we were very happy campers . Oh my God, I've never been so thirsty in all of my life! I do not recommend a latte when you are on a 15 mile walk. Oxnard and camp was 10 miles away.

A little ways up the road we were crossing and an elderly gentleman caught my eye. He was sitting behind the wheel of a 1959 Cadillac. He rolled down the window to motion me over, “Where are all of you people going?” I told him. The tears came and he told me he had lost his wife of 40 years to this horrible disease. He asked if it was to late to make a pledge. I told him it was never to late. He handed me $9. I promised him that his pledge would be counted in honor of his wife.

Day Three

I was really starting to feel the physical effects of the whole experience. New blisters on top of yesterday’s blisters,
sore muscles I didn't know that I had and a whole lot of worry. What on earth had I signed myself up for? At 40 had I already lost my mind? Could I really finish this?

The third day was the true test of emotions and endurance. It was the most miles, 22, with the toughest hills. This was where all the hours of training had to kick in. I was really ready to see Malibu and my family. This was also the most beautiful part of the whole walk. Massive cliffs to my left and the big blue Pacific on my right. It was a quiet day. Everyone was quiet. There was a whole lot of thinking going on, and a whole lot of listening too. Listening to my body and to my heart. I remember thinking how incredibly lucky I was to have my good health and the good health of my family and friends. The last 10 miles. It was really, really hot and I was feeling a whole new level of tired. I had a strong Pacific breeze in my face and I was trying my best to ignore bleeding blisters and the fact that my body was screaming at me to just stop. My heart and soul said no.

Suddenly the breeze changed directions and came from behind, almost as if to push me along. Just then a walker came up slowly behind me. She patted me on the shoulder and thanked me for walking. As she walked on, she took off her hat and waved so long, proudly showing her baldness. I didn’t catch her name, or where she was from, but I will never forget her face. Her courage and her smile gave me the strength to finish.

Closing ceremony on the beach.

With Waves crashing, hearts pounding, and incredible music blasting, close to 3000 walkers marched proudly onto the beach to a glorious roar. I had never been filled with such a feeling of power and accomplishment before. Friends and families cheering, adrenaline on high. So happy to be home. So sad that it was over.

This challenge was an overwhelming demonstration of humanity. I am extremely proud to have been a part of it. I could not have done it without the support of my family and friends. Barkley, Taylor, and Collier, they were behind me the whole way and will always be my true inspiration.

Remember, when you walk, let your heart lead the way…
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