Usually on Friday nights, I can stay up a little later for several reasons : 1) work starts a little later the next day, 2) I don’t have to work at all (even though Maya still gets up at a quarter after 6…if I’m lucky), or 3) I’m an adult, I just get tired of having to go to bed early, say “Screw it,” and I stay up late anyway.
Tonight is different though. I have to go to bed early because I have to get up really early in order to do something I’ve been doing annually (with only one exception) for just about the past decade – the EIF Revlon Run/Walk for Women.
On Mother’s Day weekend in Los Angeles, thousands of people come together to raise awareness and funds via this Run/Walk to fight women’s cancers. It’s an event that for me, and I’m sure many others is tinged with a bit of sadness, but more than a bit of hope.
The first year I walked was the one right after my Grandma Marilyn (for whom Maya is named) had passed away from ovarian cancer. From diagnosis to her death, it was three hellacious months. She was, for all intents and purposes a very healthy women physically, albeit more than a little controlling over her food intake. She would walk every day to keep fit, she took care of her elders…to a fault sometimes. She read voraciously, loved her movies and her family to pieces, though definitely not in that order. In May of 2004, she started feeling ill. She had insurance through Kaiser Permanente and had been waiting to be assigned a new gynecologist because she had been having some unexplained bleeding. It took too long for them to get her one. By the time they were able to go in and attempt the surgery to remove the offending tumors, it had metastasized. I remember sitting in the waiting room when she went in, expecting to be there for a while, and realizing that when the doctors came out too soon, there was nothing to be done. The term “blinded by anger” comes to mind because I remember being so upset, my heart and head pounding so much so that I could barely see.
The next few months were a virtual blur, spending time with her, getting her affairs in order, attempting to go about our daily lives as if everything was normal, hospice care, and at the very end, watching her slip away. The funny thing about cancer (can I say that? Ah, screw it, I just did…) is that oftentimes, it actually gives you time to prepare for the eventual loss of a loved one. Should make everything better right? Yeah, no. In some ways it’s worse, kind of like taking a band-aid off slowly as opposed to ripping it off clean.
When the Walk rolled around the following year, I got there early, walked around and listened to all the survivors talk about their stories, looked at all the signs on people’s backs letting everyone know who they were walking or running for, and remembered my Grandma. There were times before and during that run, and all the subsequent ones where I found that I had trouble breathing because my emotions were about to get the best of me. I am always sad to have lost her, amazed at the strength of the women and families who have had to face this scourge multiple times, and hopeful because every year there are new advances in treatment that make it easier to bear. When you start to think about how many people have been affected by this disease (myself included…2 tiny skin cancers removed before 37), it can be too much…which is why I try my best to do this every year. It makes me feel like I am doing something about it. Even if I don’t raise a lot of money, I’m still helping people become aware.
So tomorrow morning, I’ll be getting my butt up out of bed at the crack of dawn, driving down to the Coliseum, with my best running clothes on, a hat, some sunscreen and my tunes and I’ll remember all of those that I’ve lost, be thankful for those who have survived, and hope that one day, none of us will ever have to run or walk for this reason ever again.
P.S. Should you be at all interested in donating for the cause, please visit my page. Any amount is helpful if you can…thank you.