"I had the most incredible experience of my life."
her own words. Loretta Gaegler's Avon Breast Cancer Walk.
I had the most incredible
experience of my life! It was not only overwhelmingly emotional, but it was
also the hardest thing I have ever done. With the support of Derick Associates,
Inc. and others, I was able to personally raise $5,890 towards the fight against
breast cancer. The walk in 2001 raised a total of 6.4 MILLION DOLLARS.
On the first day, we left Frederick, and as we made our way through town, every house had a sign, banner, or people standing on their porches cheering us on our way. Almost every business along Route 355 had employees standing at the curb with buckets of ice, cold water, and words of encouragement. My first "little moment" came on Route 355 when a large group of bus drivers had gathered in a parking lot to wish us well. Friday's walk was brutal (the only word that comes to mind). It was 90 degrees with no shade and the route seemed to be completely uphill. At about mile 13, the heat overcame me. A very kind paramedic approached me to see if I wanted to "bus it" back to camp. At that very moment, a woman passed me wearing a photograph of her mother who passed away in 1993, and her sign said "mom, I would walk a 1,000 miles to spend one more day with you." I politely told the paramedic that there was no way I would "bus it." I was one of the last 200 out of 3,022 to make it back to camp that night, but I did it, and I knew then that I would walk every inch of this event.
Even with a renewed commitment there were still many times when I did not think I could take another step forward, but then I would turn a corner or crest a hill, and out of nowhere there would be a large group of people cheering us on, cars and trucks blowing their horns, or a police officer directing traffic and telling us what a great job we were doing. As a fellow walker said, "Every clap is like a Power Bar."
There was a group of volunteers that we called "The Crew." This group's sole purpose was to see to our safety and well being. They were at every Pit Stop and every intersection, made sure we stayed hydrated, drove up and down the route checking on us, set up camp every day, made sure we ate well, had hot showers, and then got up at 4:30 each morning to do it again. They never stopped encouraging us, and none of us would have made it without them.
On the final day, with blisters between every toe, legs that felt like lead, exhaustion beyond words, we made our way into Washington, D.C. I have never experienced anything like I did when I walked across that finish line. There were at least 2,000 people lined up the hill at the Washington Monument to welcome us home. This was the most overwhelming and emotional experience I ever had, and as any other Walker will tell you, it is something that cannot be described, but only experienced.
As we arrived, we would then join the greeters to cheer on those behind us. This went on for hours, and we never tired of cheering every person who stepped over that finish line. There were so many emotional moments. The woman who came across in a wheel chair and threw her hat to the crowd, exposing what chemotherapy had done to her; the mother (a breast cancer survivor) whose son flew in from California to surprise her by walking with her; the 80 year old man who was walking in memory of his wife and daughter and the thousand of breast cancer survivors who also made the trek.
These are just a few of the hundred of memories from this weekend that I will keep with me forever. Your contribution meant a lot to me and thousands of women. Without your help I would never have been able to experience this incredible journey. I pray that this past weekend brings us closer to finding a cure for this dreadful disease, and I have vowed to participate in this event every year until a cure is found.
Thank you again for your giving heart.