Thursday, July 16, 2009

Two Roads

Two Roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Why would you walk 60 miles in 3 days? Why would you give up your own free time to raise $2300? Why would to sacrifice your time, money, and energy? Because I have to travel this road.

My sister was everything. I found myself through her. She was an amazing scholar, writer, and strong beautiful woman. Fate, and cancer stole her away from me.

I can clearly remember the day she called to tell me she had cancer. Devastated is not nearly a strong enough word to explain how I felt. In my family, cancer is a death sentence. My uncle died of leukemia less than a month after his diagnosis. My father died of lung cancer, after a long, painful battle. And now, now my healthy beautiful sister was calling me from 1000 miles away to tell me she had sarcoma. I did not dare tell her how afraid I was. The pain I felt knowing she was going to have to call each of my family members and tell them she had cancer sucked the very breath out of my chest. I WOULD NOT CRY to her. She did not need my tears; she had enough of her own. I knew at that very moment she was going to be lost to me forever. Everyone I knew tried to convince me to be positive, and I tried to be. By all outward appearances it looked as though I felt she would overcome this, all the while there was a burning pit in my stomach that nagged at me, and told me otherwise. I was positive for her, knowing that being in a hopeful, healthy environment would improve her chances.

My sister, being the Bolshevik that she was, named her tumor Fred. We hated Fred. Drop dead Fred. They biopsied Fred, they cut Fred out in an operation that would ravage my poor sister’s arm. But Fred left Fredlettes. Fred had moved his rebel colony to her lungs. Not good. Not good at all. Yet, somehow, she still faced this with poise, grace, and an amazingly strong will and determination. She would get the Fredlettes too. The doctors tried to eliminate the hateful things. Chemo, radiation, painful surgery to cut out parts of her lung. But there were just too many, and they grew too fast. No amount of toxic cocktails, and slices with a knife would kill Fred or his minions.

My sister STILL did not feel sorry for herself, nor did she want anyone’s pity. She was so grateful just to have every day, no matter if it was a bad day full of pain, or a good one watching the Kentucky Derby with me all decked out in derby hats.

Over 2 years Fred did his damage, until finally on December 14, 2008 at the young age of 32 she flew up to heaven on the wings of angels. My rock was gone. I suddenly did not know who I was. I stood alone, and afraid to move forward. All of my life stopped. I was suddenly living in limbo. For many years I had contemplated the Breast Cancer 3-Day. And many times, I walked the other way.

I do not remember how I found out the actual date of the event in 2009. But there it was, the last day, November 1. Screaming at me. The last day of the walk in 2009 was my sister’s wedding anniversary. But, not only was the walk on her anniversary, she lived in Tampa for many years.

So there I stood, at a fork in the road, waiting, in limbo. When suddenly, fate dropped this gem in my lap. I knew it was a sign. Some higher power was at work, telling me that the path forward was right there staring me in the face. I could not walk away this time.

Many people do not understand my motive. “Your sister had sarcoma not breast cancer, why are you walking for breast cancer?” Cancer is cancer folks. It sucks, it hurts, it kills, and it takes families and rips them down. If by raising $2300 and walking 60 miles would save one single family from this fate, it would be worth it. This is not to say that facing this road did not scare the holy hell out of me. My initial thought was "I will never be able to raise that much money". I will never be able to walk 60 miles. But one baby step at a time I am traveling that road. Sometimes faltering, and even falling. But at each stumble and step I know my sister is right there beside me, doing what a big sister does best. She has given me courage, determination, and most of all hope. It is no surprise to me that her middle name is Hope. I have raised above and beyond the minimum, and though a few months ago walking 3 miles seemed impossible, I am not walking 7 miles back to back two days a week.

I met an amazing team captain, which could very well be my long lost twin. She graciously changed our team name to Walking for Hope. That small simple gesture was one I cannot thank her enough for, or every show her just how much it meant to me. Where my sister has given me silent support, Michele has held my hand, and kept me motivated, when I was ready to quit. She has praised me, and encouraged me. In only a few weeks she became the best friend I have ever had. I could never repay her for all the light she has brought into the darkness that my life became when I lost my sister. She has taken up some of that empty space left in my heart when my sister left. Of course there will always be a hole where she was, but Michele has filled some of that gap quite nicely. There are others too that have taken up residence in that pit in my heart. Kate, who also inspires me to keep walking, and warms my soul like no one else. And of course Liz, who was able to be there for my sister when distance kept me from her. She held Angie's hand, and did all of the things I would have done had I been able to. I may have lost my sister, but I seem to have gained 3 more in the end.

I walk because it eases my pain. I walk because it brings me closer to what I have left of my sister. I walk because I hate cancer. I walk, because standing there in limbo for the rest of my life is not an option. We must all move forward at some point in our lives, and if we really listen, and look closely we will discover what it is that is nudging us every so gently forward.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
~Robert Frost~


Tri Mommy said...

Anna, that was beautiful. And thank you for your sweet comments about me. I cannot wait to see you in just a few hours!

Angie loved you so very much and I know she will always be with you... every step of the way!

Liz said...

Oh Anna. You made me cry. In a good way of course. I'm so proud of you, and she is too. It's a good think you're doing. A very good thing.

I'll put up a blog link to hopefully send some donations you're way.

Cathy said...

What a great tribute to your sister. If you want to read a west coast blog... check out I have found that after 14 years of survivial have finally been able to actually write about it, because I finally believe I have beaten my FRED. The walk and the blog have been incredibly freeing for me. KEEP walking...

Tatsuama said...

I guess sometimes you need a good cry just to wash out the tear ducts. Thank you for the clean ducts daughter of mine. Ama is so very proud of you! It seems that just when my worry cells are at the bursting point you do something that lets me know that you will be ok in spite of having to go through such terrible trials. The good Lord knows you have paid your dues. At 10 years old when we lost your dad you gave me purpose and a reason to carry on and now, I am strengthen by you. Your heart's river runs deep and fast like no other I have ever had the honor to experience. I find you simply amazing.
Anna. Ama loves you so very much.