“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
– Ursula K. Le Guin
There are so many things I want to share about my recent Seattle 3-Day crew experience! Not quite sure where to begin, so I’ll start with how I came to be on the Route Safety crew.
Last year I walked the event, or at least tried to. Halfway through the first day my shin began to hurt, and I thought I might have the beginning of shin splints. Someone from the medical team taped my leg at the lunch stop and I was able to finish the day’s 23 mile route. That night I iced my shin and slept with my foot elevated, and although my leg was a little swollen I felt good enough to continue walking in the morning.
After the first few miles it was pretty clear that I wasn’t going to be able to keep the same pace as the first day, so I told my teammate to go on ahead and I would just take my time. I iced my shin at each pit stop and tried to ignore the swelling that seemed to be spreading to my ankle. I met a couple of great women who were also taking their time, and we completed that day’s 21 mile walk together.
That evening, my lower leg and foot were pretty swollen and a red area was developing on my shin. I went to the medical tent and saw a nurse, then the doctor. They thought maybe I had a bug bite or small wound, but we couldn’t find any evidence of either, so it might be something muscular, but it was hard to tell for sure. We decided that I would take some ibuprofen, and ice and elevate over night and see how it was doing in the morning. It was worse. Putting weight on that leg was extremely painful, and I could just barely put on an unlaced shoe. I made it to the medical tent where they “red carded” me and had a couple of medical transport volunteers take me to be seen at the local hospital. Diagnosis: Soft-tissue infection of unknown origin, treatable with antibiotics and rest. There was no way I could walk without assistance (I opted for a cane over crutches), but I was determined to experience as much of that last day as I could. My wonderful medical transport friends, who had waited for me in the hospital lobby, gave me a ride to a pharmacy for the antibiotics and a cane. They then dropped me off at the Volunteer Park lunch stop so I could watch the walkers and hopefully see my friends as they came through.
As I watched walker after walker stream onto the grassy field, I realized that being forced to stop walking gave me a whole new appreciation for the magnitude of the 3-Day. Obviously, there’s the sheer number of participants who make the physical and emotional push to complete a 60-mile journey. But being able to see each walker as they came through really highlighted how indiscriminate breast cancer is in who it touches. I saw women of all shapes and sizes, ethnicity, and age. I saw women who were bald or had the kind of short hair that grows back after chemo. I saw an elderly woman being pushed in a wheelchair by another woman. Mothers and daughters, friends, and a number of men who were walking for the women in their lives. There were wigs, crazy hats, and more decorated pink bras than you could count. There was pink everywhere.
Maybe it was because I was sitting on the ground, but I also started to notice quite a few calves and ankles that sported pink ribbon tattoos. I started to snap pictures of them, with the thought that I would put them up on Facebook. This eventually led to the Pink Ribbon Tattoo group.
It was during this lunch stop that I decided I would definitely participate in the 2010 Seattle 3-Day, but as a crew member, not a walker. The men and women who helped me with my leg were amazing, from the route safety folks to the medical staff, to the medical transport drivers who spent the morning ensuring I was okay. Their kindness and compassion, not to mention their time, made what could have been a horrible experience a positive one. I knew I wanted to be a part of it in the future, but I was sort of done with walking for a while. Joining the crew just felt right.
My first 3-Day experience ended up being something completely different from what I had expected – it was also much richer than I could have imagined.