I feel a little bit like Miss America after her reign, moving slowly down the runway one last time prior to giving up her crown. Except, of course, it wouldn't be a crown but a pink boa, coconut bra and crazy knee socks.
4 years. It's been an amazing 4 years. In those 4 years, I've said my share of words. I've held the mic and the attention of the room probably more than I should have, I've yammered and told stories and repeated jokes and talked and talked and talked. But I'm hoping you'll indulge me one last time to simply say,
Rewind the clock back to December 2006 … I was bald and broken and unable to breathe on my own. I'd been hospitalized due to complications from my lymphoma treatments. I was unable to walk across a room and my skin was a strange ashy color. Anyone who entered that hospital room could plainly see something was very wrong. Every visitor I had -friends, family, doctors, - all had the same look wash over their faces the moment they laid eyes on me. A look of sad compassion. Of realization. Of pity. In those moments, it was so obvious what cancer had taken from me. My health, my hair, my fully-functioning lungs, my strength, my rosy cheeks, my appetite, and my future. But for all those recognizable things chemo and cancer had taken from me, the most precious were the things no one saw.
Years and years ago, when I was in high-school, we had an old push mower with a pull cord. I had a date with that lawnmower every week. And every week, it gave me fits. One particular week, I stood in the barn and pulled and pulled and pulled on that old ratty cord but the mower just wouldn't start. I checked the gas, put in oil, adjusted the choke and kicked the blasted thing repeatedly. Bupkis. No matter how hard I tried, or how many times I pulled, the vurrump, vurrump, vrumump never turned into a varooooom!. Eventually I called my dad at work to break the news. "It's completely dead." I said. "It won't work. It's broken."
"Totally broken?" my dad asked.
"Totally broken." I said, hung up the phone and returned to watching The Young and the Restless.
When my dad came home he went immediately to the barn. I followed. Convinced the lawnmower was a goner, I rattled on beside him as he yanked the cord, checked the gas and adjusted the choke. "Yep," I said, "It's broken. Guess we'll have to get rid of it. Guess we need a brand new one. Probably should get one of those power ones. This one is definitely broken. Definitely useless. Definitely." On and on I went while my dad messed with the mower. And, what do you know, it wasn't too long before that bastard machine sprung to life.
"Spark plug," my dad yelled over the noise of the mower. "She's still good ... just needed the spark. Get to mowing, Kiddo." And I did. And it worked just fine. Of course it did. It wasn't broken. Everything was still there, but without the spark, it was useless.
I hate cancer for a lot of reasons. I hate it for what it does, I hate it for what it causes, I hate it for Jen, and Alison and Bridget and Becky and Daddy and Grandma and Linda and Jackie and Anna. I hate it because it's scary and frightening. I hate it because it's sneaky and ruthless. I hate it because it isn't fair.
And I hate it because it took my spark.
Just a few short months after my hospitalization and through the miracle of modern medicine and despite our fears, I was recovering. My scan was clear. My hair was growing. My lungs were breathing, my stamina was returning and my appetite - well, that homecoming was fast and furious. I was recovering. But I wasn't well. I may have looked okay on the outside but I wasn't okay. And as much as I tried to be okay, something was missing. Everything I once cherished and loved about the real me, the inside me, the me I enjoy the most was gone. Bupkis. I could varrump but I couldn't vroooom. And to be even more honest, I thought I was a goner for good.
Cancer took my spark. And you gave it back.
Thank you. Thank you for everything. For every opportunity. For every laugh. For every mile. For every high five and fist bump. To my partners at the event, thank you for listening to me. Thank you for playing "Greatest American Hero" again and again. Thank you for tolerating my calls to the 1-800 number when I couldn't find the command center. Thank you for shuttling me around the route and thank you for scheduling "emergency media calls" at exactly the right time. Thank you for being my official and unofficial writers and thank you for letting me steal all the good jokes and claim them as my own. Thank you for reminding me over and over again what city we are in and for more than my share of Executive stickers. Thank you for understanding the importance of colored index cards.
To the amazing walkers and crew members of the 3 Day for the Cure, thank you. Thank you for walking with me. Thank you for fixing my back so many times. Thank you for sharing your stories with me. Thank you for letting me cry with you when you told me about your fears and losses and worries about your next scan, next appointment, next test. Thank you for trusting me with your hopes. Thank you for trying to scan my credential again and again and for giving me about 100 route cards per event. Thank you for giving me extra potatoes when I asked and for laughing at the dumb jokes I tell again and again. Thank you for giving me a space to heal and to hope. Thank you for welcoming me to your event each weekend and making every city my favorite city. Thank you for inspiring me. And for truly living the cure, not just walking for it. Thank you for never giving up.
And to the amazing organization I've been honored to represent for the last 4 years. Thank you. Thank you for giving hope. And for providing a place for others to hope and shed the boat anchor of impotence and helplessness. Thank you for the sacrifice you all make to this cause. Thank you for not only doing what you can but for doing what others can't.
The 3 Day has been some of the best moments of my life.
Thank you. I will always be grateful for the spark.