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Friday, October 19, 2012

Walking for a cause close to home.

The first year I did the Terry Fox Run, I didn't know my dad was sick. The next year, he had just found out he was terminal. And as I rounded the bend on the last stretch, I could see him standing near the finish line, waiting for me. By the next Terry Fox Run, Dad was gone.

I tend to daydream, and fall behind on these walks. So I'm usually on my own after the pack leaves me behind. That last year I did the Terry Fox Run, I was left alone with my thoughts, walking through the streets I grew up on. With my Dad. I cried the whole way.

The big fundraising walk to end women's cancers was cancelled in Ottawa this year. So Kemptville planned their own. And even better, the money stays here, in our hospital. I liked the idea of raising money so that women in North Grenville can get their mammograms here, with state-of-the-art equipment, in a comfortable environment. We all have to get these tests done when we reach a certain age. We might as well make the best of it. Kemptville District Hospital has gone one step further: when you come here to get your mammogram done, you will be wrapped in a plush, fluffy robe. It sounds more like a spa than a hospital. I love it.

I was ready to pledge support to the walkers but I had no intention of walking myself - not after that last teary episode. And then Tracy contacted me. I have known Tracy Gourdine-Campagna for as long as I can remember, because our parents used to double-date when they were young and they remained good friends as they raised families. I remember visits to her family farm in Richmond, where they had horses. After high school I lost track of Tracy. But I know that at the age of 19 she lost her Dad, to cancer. He was sick just three months. We have that in common now. Four years ago I lost my Dad to cancer, after just four months of illness. Tracy's mother and sister are also undergoing treatment for cancer now. Tracy told me she would walk with me in the Kemptville fundraiser, and so we signed up for the 10k.
My dog trains me almost daily on our 4k walk so I was pretty sure I could handle the 10k. On Saturday I showed up at the hospital start line and there was Tracy, decked out head-to-toe in pink. Note to self for next year: collect crazy pink stuff to wear. I never quite understood why people would want to form teams, train for weeks and then walk 30 clicks in one punishing day. I get it now. It's all about moral support, the sisterhood, girl power. Save the Boobies! Yes, you are quite welcome to do your fundraising and write a check to the hospital at any time. But doing the walk as part of the group is quite an experience.

Tracy and I did our stretches with the other fifty walkers, motivating dance music pulsating behind us, and we burst out of the starting gate with the others as the screaming horn was sounded. As we rounded the bend on the first stretch through the college grounds and headed into the forest, deep in conversation, we fell behind. Thank goodness for road signs and helpful guides at every major turn. We walked up to the North end of town, grabbed some water at the halfway point and continued through the Ferguson Forest Centre. The sun shone down on us and it was a beautiful day for a walk, and a talk.

As we crossed the finish line back at the hospital, the host from In Stride events announced our names over the speakers and everyone cheered. Well that was fun. The Manotick Village Butcher treated us to burgers, sausages and pulled pork sandwiches. Prizes were awarded for top fundraisers, and the girls wearing the most pink. Masseurs had their tables out to offer massages to the walkers. Everyone took photos, compared notes and said goodbye til next year.

Tracy and I stretched out our tired legs and then headed to the pub for a beer. The only complaint I have about the whole afternoon is that it just wasn't long enough. Next year we are doing the 30k.

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