By Lili MyersThis has been an incredible year! When I was asked by the Susan G. Komen San Diego affiliate to speak at the opening ceremonies of both the Race for the Cure and the Breast Cancer 3-Day, I had no idea how intense and emotional it would be.
The year was filled with activities to help raise awareness about breast cancer and raising funds to help uninsured and underinsured women. There were several television interviews and newspaper interviews, and my team (Babes4Boobs) was there for me, encouraging me every step of the way. When I told my team that I would be speaking at opening ceremonies for the two big events in San Diego, they immediately signed up for both events again, despite the fact that when finishing the walk the last year, we had absolutely and definitely decided we would only be cheerleading along the way for the next walk.
I always have mixed feelings about opening ceremonies and generally try to avoid them, as I hate to start the day crying at 6 a.m.! This year I had no choice as the opening ceremonies could not start without me.
The Race for the Cure was a very emotional event and although I had a few weak moments when I almost began to cry while giving my speech, I did manage to keep it together. I think the most touching moment was when I looked into the crowd and saw all the survivors who had gathered in the front rows pumping their fists. My eyes filled up with tears. I reminded the crowd that breast cancer does not care whether we are young or old, nor does it care about ethnic background or the color of our skin. Breast cancer is not contagious, yet it affects so many of us, directly and indirectly. I applauded them as they had all made a promise and committed their time and energy to be involved in the Race for the Cure, a race we all want to win!
The day before opening ceremonies for the 3-Day walk, I was asked how I wanted to be introduced. Did I want to be introduced as the “Survivor of the Year” or as the “BiCultural Spokesperson” for the San Diego Affiliate. It didn’t take me but half a second to respond. I did not want to be introduced as the survivor of the year as every survivor is the survivor of the year, every year!
The night before the 3-Day walk, my husband and I had a quiet evening because we would be getting up at 4:30 a.m. the next morning. However, that evening became less quiet when I started feeling ill. Food poisoning from raw fish at lunch hit me at about 9:30 p.m. and kept us up the entire night! I had texted my team and the Executive Director that I didn’t think I would be attending. Things settled down around 4 a.m. and so, I got up at 4:30 a.m., called my team and advised that I would in fact be there that morning.
Feeling weak and tired, I got on stage after being introduced and started my speech in Spanish. Although I kept switching from Spanish to English and vice versa, I think this took the audience by surprise and you could hear a pin drop. It is always such an emotional moment when the walkers are reminded why it is we walk.
Once we started the walk, I quietly moved out from the crowd and headed to my car, then home. I slept the remainder of the day. I then joined my team on the second day, still feeling a bit tired and weak. One of my team members who is also a survivor said to me: “I knew it! I told them you would be there to give your speech! If breast cancer didn’t stop you, if chemotherapy didn’t stop you, a little food poisoning was never going to stop you!” She made me cry.
As we walked, I kept looking for Rita who you might remember is one of my favorite survivors. I met Rita in 2006 when I entered camp at the end of Day 1, and I cannot help but look for her every year. She is 84 years old, dressed as a clown and easy to spot as she holds a sign that says “34-year survivor and still clowning around.” I worry when I don’t see her. This year, I hadn’t seen her and I had started to worry when, towards the latter part of the third day I saw two women cheerleading, one of them I thought I recognized as Rita’s daughter. I walked up to her and asked. My heart stopped while I waited for her reply, which seemed to take forever. She smiled and advised that Rita was doing fine and at home taking care of her 90-year-old husband who was not feeling well.
We were all tired as we walked into the holding area before closing ceremonies. The weather cooperated. The closing ceremonies were very emotional, as they are every year. Our hearts felt heavy. We had crossed the finish line together, once again. So as the walkers cheered, Babes4Boobs formed a circle, we hugged, we cried together, once again.
As I have done in the past, I want to remind you to cherish every day and to enjoy each day to its fullest. Life is very fragile and full of uncertainty. We only have the “here and now” so let us not waste it with petty thoughts and shallow feelings.
I wish each and every one of you a very healthy and happy Holiday season, surrounded by those you love.