Web Informant #344, 2 October 2003:

We are all survivors




This issue of Web Informant is a little different. While I was in the Far East last week, my sister Carrie Wells (carrie.wells@db.com) was walking around the circumference of Manhattan on the annual Avon Two Day Walk to benefit various cancer causes. She wrote about the experience so beautifully that I wanted to share her thoughts with you. Take it away, Carrie.


I felt like a bride getting ready for the big day. The Avon 2 Day 40-mile Walk on September 20 and 21, 2003.


Maybe it was because I received so many wonderful gifts from friends, family and colleagues. I collected $5,000 from you, and your donations helped two other walkers meet their minimums to participate in the Avon Walk.


First is the "wedding day" -- September 20.

Something old: my outfit, black shorts and a black tank.

I certainly looked like a New Yorker amidst 3,000 walkers from 45 states, dressed in pink, white and gray.

Something new: socks from Jen

Something borrowed: a sleeping bag from my brother.

Something blue: a borrowed fanny pack from "Aunt" Kathy.


The day started off early - 5am - Liz and I headed off for the South Street Seaport to begin the walk.


And we walked through some "interesting" neighborhoods in New York!

The most remarkable memories for me were the bridges. We walked to the foot of the George Washington, and then up a STEEP cliff to the Henry Hudson Bridge, over to Van Cortland Park and then back into Manhattan via the Broadway Bridge. The traffic energized Liz - all the honking and waving and cheering from the cars as the zipped by us. New York is an engaging city to walk, you see all sorts.


We made an overnight stay on Randalls/Ward Island. Thousands of tents were set up under the Triborough Bridge. We slept to the sound of traffic and under the glow of the bridge lights. After 12 hours of walking it was actually very calming. I don't think I could have returned home to a comfy bed -- it was too important to stay and be part of a community of walkers, each and everyone aching and realizing the sacrifices and hurdles we all shared to get to that point. Everyone had a story to share. It was a event about helping others.


The second day of the walk took us along the east side of Manhattan and Brooklyn via the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges. By then we were approaching a state of delirium (aches and pains). But we survived.


And once again we are all survivors. So this question has been running through my head for quite a while.


When did I become a survivor?


Was it in March 2002 when my cancer was removed? (I realized I spent the same amount of time in surgery/recovery that day in March that I spent walking on the first day of the Avon 2 day Walk.)


Was it in September 2002 when I completed my cycles of chemotherapy? (Will it take me those same six months to recover from the 40-mile walk?)


Was it in November 2002 when I finished my daily treatments of radiation? (On the walk I used sunscreen and prevented that wicked sunburn I got during radiation. I NEVER want to get burnt like that again.)


Was it in December 2002 when my hair started to grow back and I tossed out my wig? (NO HATS for me ever again!)


Was it in April 2003 when I finally received a "clean" mammogram?

(I will always remember Dr. Eisen dearly.)


I really think we are all survivors. I don't think it needs a milestone. It is part of all of us.


When I walk with the "survivors" I really don't feel any different than I did two years ago. And that in itself is the point. Breast cancer doesn't have to be the end of something. It was a year of doctor appointments and medicines and learning. I missed having hair, but I'm frustrated now with what to do with all the hair I have on my head! I missed having the energy to walk, but now I have to motivate myself to go the gym and keep in shape. I now have so many causes and volunteer opportunities. I've become a more positive person and lost the ability to say "no" when asked to help. Oh well.


I have joined two clinical trials at New York Presbyterian Hospital. I will be getting two mammograms each year - one digital, one on traditional film. As a photographers wife I figured it was my responsibility to volunteer for the testing of newer, digital technology.


I also go to the hospital each week to participate in a study for cognitive learning and mindfulness. I meditate and focus on my breathing. They take blood and test my stress levels. I have learned about the differences in positive thinking and a positive attitude, how we can control our nervous system and our responses to situations. I really believe that a positive attitude is essential in healing, recovery and the continuation of wellness. I'm not so sure about the meditation, but I am open-minded.


"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science." - Einstein


It's one of my favorite quotations. It makes me think. I used to try to solve my problems by sheer determination only to end up deeper in the muck. But when I changed my tactics and accepted that I could be successful, mentally, physically and spiritually, if I would only reach out to others who had previously gone through the process, and use the tools they shared with me, my life began to move forward.


So I volunteer, and I network, and I read and attend programs and seminars. I'm a fearless fundraiser for breast cancer, and I'm walking 100 miles for breast cancer over the next year.


I'm already registered for the walk next year, so you can join me again and look forward to regular updates on my progress. If you would like to support me, click on my link below:




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David Strom, dstrom@cmp.com, +1 (516) 562-7151

Port Washington NY 11050

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