Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A very special 3-year anniversary

October 27, 2006 - Limantour Beach, California

I still have some catching up to do since my last post, but I had to make an exception and jump into the present moment in my blog. Today is October 27, 2009. Three years ago today, mom and I walked our last 1/4 mile (out of somewhere around 4,600) down the shoreline of the Pacific Ocean at Limantour Beach, California, and "dipped our toes" into the water to signify the completion of "Our Hike" Across America for Bone Marrow Disease. Here's a video of us doing just that!

Here is also a link to my journal entry from that day. Look around on the trailjournals website and see more entries from the hike as well as some photos!
When mom and I reached the finish of that huge journey, neither of us really knew what we felt. You think we would have that all figured out... but no...The whole time we were walking the previous 8-1/2 months -- every step, through 13 states, mile after mile, across our entire country, we thought about this very moment. What will it be like? Will we cry? Will we cheer? We had no idea. When we stepped out into the sand and took our first few steps that day toward the finish line, our stomachs were in knots. We were nervous, excited, happy, proud, sad, but overall we were thoroughly confused... but we were smiling the biggest smiles you could ever see. We had a welcoming committee of friendly, loving, supportive faces. Family, friends, patients, representatives from both the AA&MDSIF and the ADT... it was a great group of people to see.
A look back
Back in February that year, we dipped our toes in the Atlantic Ocean and quickly ran away as the chilling waves chased us onward. This was the start of our journey. We weren't sure what adventures were laid out for us in the upcoming months, but while taking those first few heavy steps in the deep sand, we both knew we'd be feeling the water of the Pacific on our toes in the future. We were two women on a mission, and we were going to do what we set out to do, thanks to a little stubborn determination, and strength not only pulled from deep down inside ourselves, but the kind of strength that comes from doing something for others. There were Bone Marrow Disease patients out there suffering... surviving... hoping... praying... and we wanted to somehow touch the lives of each and every one of them. We wanted to give them some hope... we wanted to help in any way we could. It was an amazing feeling each time I pushed on through a hard moment or a hard day with the thought of those truly fighting through the toughest battle -- the fight for life. When we were feeling down or thought it was getting difficult to keep going, we'd think of the patients out there battling Bone Marrow Disease, Cancer, Heart Disease... whatever it may be, and thought, "We just need to keep going."
February 4, 2006 - Our first steps West - Cape Henlopen, Delaware
I've always said - surviving Aplastic Anemia was not something I did alone. I had a support system of family, friends, doctors, nurses, the AA&MDSIF, prayer... God. There were so many people that helped me through that rough time -- each and every person that was in my life helped me survive in some way. Whether it were a distant prayer, or someone sticking by my side every single moment that summer, I survived... with their help. My journey across the country would be no different.
Mom and I walked with the strength of thousands. When things got tough, we'd think of patients fighting their illness, parents grieving at the recent loss of a child, a newly diagnosed patient crunching their face (as I did) and saying, "What the heck is Aplastic Anemia?" or a patient that was just told they were in remission... all those out there that were affected by Bone Marrow Disease in some way gave us strength and gave us hope that we could finish. And in return, we could only pray that we could give back even a fraction of that hope. We would tell everyone we met about Bone Marrow Disease, and we'd raise as many funds as we could to try to even put the slightest dent in the research toward a cure. It was our mission... but it was the "Our Hike" family that pushed us across the country for 4,600 + miles.

Thank you to everyone that was a part of the journey, and thank you to everyone that has become a part of the journey since then.

As many of you know, every year we hold an annual "Our Hike" fundraiser to raise a few more funds to support the Aplastic Anemia & MDS International Foundation and their ongoing dedication to research and patient education. As I mentioned earlier, mom and I were confused at the end of that hike -- we were so happy to be done, but at the same time we wanted to turn around and keep walking... but home was calling sooooo strongly, so with no second thoughts, we happily headed home. But with these confused feelings still lingering, we decided that we weren't going to leave that whole journey at the beach that day - we were going to continue on... that's why we hold our yearly fundraiser.

It was a bittersweet day 3 years ago, and it still is today. I think of something from that journey every day of my life, and it has affected me in so many ways. There are many emotions that bubble to the surface every now and again... everywhere from happy memories, to sadness from a loss, to struggles not mentioned, to shame from not being able to do more. It bounces back and forth constantly, and definitely keeps me on my toes.

Overall, I miss it and I wish we could do it again. But if we do... Adam... Dad... you're comin' with us!! :)
Prayers go out to my Great Aunt Lois, who has suffered with Myelodysplastic Syndrome for a few years now and just recently has stopped taking transfusions with hopes to let go of this life comfortably. I am thankful that I was given the opportunity to spend some time with her that weekend my mom and I finished our journey... she is definitely one of the patients -- and family -- we kept in our minds and hearts with every step. We love you, Aunt Lois, and we will miss you.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"Our Hike" for Bone Marrow Disease 2009

The 5th Annual "Our Hike" for Bone Marrow Disease!

On September 12, 2009, we held our 5th Annual "Our Hike" for Bone Marrow Disease. It was another great time! My mom and I always get super-stressed out and worry ourselves crazy that nobody will come -- but people always do! And we have quite a few dedicated faces we see year after year, and it's always WONDERFUL to see new friends join the "Our Hike" family, too!

Don't miss out on any fun next year!! Mark your calendars now -- September 11, 2010!

So first - a GREAT BIG THANK YOU to all those that came along and hiked with us! Thanks to all those that joined us at the Corner Connection for the registration, meat raffle, lunch and backpack raffle (congrats to Linda Lou who won the backpack full of camping goodies). It was great to see such a big turnout for our spaghetti dinner and raffles at Lost Vega's, too. We had lots of people come out just to hike, just to get in on the dinner special, just the evening music and raffles, or for all of it! That's what is so fun about this event -- you can kind of choose your adventure! Of course, I recommend getting in on all of the fun... you just never know what you're going to miss (see picture of Keith in the burning boat below! tee-hee)

I will also mention a big THANK YOU to all of our volunteers and helpers... to those like Josh, who showed up at my parents house Friday night and helped load raffle baskets into the car, the local businesses that participated (Corner Connection and Lost Vega's for the start and finish), Adam for MC'ing, Orien (I work with him at 4imprint) for borrowing us his time and equipment to put together some awesome radio ads, Kenny for driving the haywagon, Karen for donating so many huge baskets to raffle, Lee for helping with organizing and money-handling, Sarah for helping sell paddles, all of our outstanding family and friends that helped with odds and ends along the way, all those that donated prizes for raffles... the list could go on! Just know we appreciate each and every one of you -- and on behalf of all Bone Marrow Disease patients, their friends and their families -- we couldn't do all this without you!
"Our Hike" hikers on the new Georgetown ATV trail)
A quick recap of the day --
It turned out to be a really nice day in the Northwoods along the newest section of the Georgetown ATV trail. We had about 30 hikers, I think... and some gorgeous late-summer/early-fall weather. Slightly cool, but still warm enough to wear shorts -- and the only place I ran into skeeters was in the woods when I snuck out to "use the facilities." There were a few leaves starting to turn, so vibrant reds, yellows and oranges JUST started to sprinkle the woods. The trail we hiked was complete this year (last year we had to bushwhack across Carpenter Creek!), so we had a nice huge bridge to walk across.
Participants sporting their "Our Hike" goodies. Bandannas and Sport packs!
This is the new bridge across Carpenter Creek.
Once hikers reached Lost Vega's after a wonderful 7-mile hike, we all rested and rehydrated. Then dinner was served! We all enjoyed some yummy spaghetti and meatballs while Mom, Lee, Adam, Sarah and I started running some raffles! The night fun continued with more and more raffles -- we had huge themed baskets of guy stuff like tools and car kits, girl stuff like holiday-themed decorations and kitchen stuff, kids baskets full of toys, baskets full of baby stuff, and a bunch more! We had grandma's homemade breads, Holly's chocolate pies, a homemade cribbage board, Mom's ginormous crocheted sock monkey, my original monoprints, gift cards... just a whole slew of different stuff! There's always something for everyone!!
Later in the evening, the band Spitfire set up and started to play some music. We had a fun time visiting, dancing and we even ran more raffles during the band's breaks! The fun normally goes late into the night. :)
Jake, me and Pam having a good time at Lost Vega's!
Thank you, volunteers, donors and participants. We hope to see you next year on September 11, 2010! And keep your eyes open -- we might be changing things up a bit! It's going to be a blast!
Oh, did I mention something about Keith (my dad) sitting in a burning boat?! As promised:
If you were there and would like to add any tidbits from the day's events -- funny things that happened, someone you'd like to thank (especially if I missed someone with my memory-less pea brain!), go ahead and add a comment to the bottom of the entry!) Thanks for reading! :)