Saturday, May 1, 2010

A Walk In The Park

Golden Gate park
Originally uploaded by

The phrase 'A walk in the park' means something is going to be really easy e.g. Passing that test will be a walk in the park means that passing that test will be really easy.

Do we always know what will be an easy undertaking?

Do we sometimes make things more difficult than need be?

I thought a lot about this last night as I was emotionally preparing for today's walk in the park. It was not going to just a simple day in the park, as this was the first year of attending the Bay Area Brain Tumor Walk without Michael. In the last two years of our participation I was always quite mindful of the people participating in memory of a loved one. It always occurred to me that the speakers highlighted at the walk were the few that continue to beat their tumors. As a group we stand there hearing their inspirational words, words of courage, words of strength. Each time I listened to them in the past, with Michael by my side, I wondered if next year I would be standing there with him, or would I be standing there alone? I wondered what it was like for the family members of those that lost their battle with this disease. As is the case with stories of cancer survival, there is always that element of what each survivor is doing right, and how others can learn from them.

I have a hard time with this message. From what I have learned about this disease, and other cancers, is that no two people respond to their cancer alike. You can have many people following the same medication, or supplement regime, and have completely different outcomes. The sad truth about today, is that many of the people we met along this brain tumor journey are no longer here. And for those of us surviving spouses, or parents, it was a very difficult walk to take today.

I know that on days like today, you want to give the crowd hope, and inspiration. Yet I couldn't help but notice that at every Brain Tumor Walk, at every brain tumor conference, it is the same speaker being presented. Not a host of speakers, but one. As far as long term survivors go, there doesn't appear to be a very large pool to choose from. Now that I am on this side of the inspirational speeches, I wonder if it doesn't give others a false sense of hope. What I didn't hear, and not that I was listening very well, was any speakers whose family member had succumbed to this disease. Now I'm sure that some people might worry that having someone like myself speaking about my loss, might bring down the crowd. But I don't know that this is really true. I think that I would have been speaking to the crowd of family members who are so engrossed in the battle, that they wonder quietly how they will deal with all of this when things start moving toward the end.

I truly believe that people should have some perspective that when you find yourself on the other side, what some would say the downward slope, that it becomes a time of appreciation. When Michael was quickly decompensating, and dying, I wasn't worried about what I would feel later. I was grateful for all that we had done with the time that we had. I was also grateful for the many wonderful people that came into our lives along this journey. It is clearly a journey that no one wants to take, but since we were there, it was nice to have met so many loving and supportive people along the way. It is for that reason that I found myself there in the park today.

Now on my own, I had struggled with the idea of participating in the fundraiser this year. Part of me really wantied to put together a team, but the messages I was getting from Michael's family was that they didn't feel ready for such an undertaking. Because their pain is still so raw, and mine as well, they felt like the researchers had failed them. I can completely understand this feeling. Yet for me personally, I never felt that anyone along the way failed us. Michael received such excellent medical care. We had the best doctors, nurses and technicians, who took the time to get to know us, and who really cared about us. Both of us. I can't be angry about that.

And yet, today's time in the park was bittersweet. This year I joined some wonderful people who worked with Michael. They put together a team when I told them that I wasn't sure if I could handle all of this. I drove to Golden Gate Park this morning feeling my heart racing ahead of me. As I parked, and stepped out of my car, I could feel my tears welling up from below the surface. I walked across the street toward the meadow where the crowd was gathering, and I began to cry. I stopped walking, and took some very deep breaths. I told myself that I could do this, and that I wanted to do this. I wanted to honor Michael. I wanted to honor those that continue in their struggle. And most of all, I wanted to honor those that helped us along the way.

After catching my breath I decided to move forward, but at the same time told myself that there would be plenty of time later for any tears that needed to be shed. I wasn't cutting myself off from my emotions, but choosing to put them aside so that I could enjoy the day. I saw the group of people from Michael's office, and slowly approached them. They immediately recognized me, and welcomed me. Everyone had such wonderful things to say about Michael, and such supportive things to say to me. Throughout the walk I was able to spend a little time with each person, who had time to ask me about how the kids and I were doing. We were also able to connect as just people out for a fun walk in the park. I soon found that I was smiling, and truly enjoying the opportunity to be out in the sun, talking, and interacting with a lot of caring people.

As the events were coming to an end, I was scouring through the endless sea of people, trying to find Michael's nurse practitioner. She had left me a phone message saying that she would be there. I was beginning to fear that I would not find her. Just when I was about to give up, there she was, sitting on the grass with a group of people. When she recognized me she got up with a big smile, and gave me the strongest long hug I have had in a very long time. It felt so good to be standing there with her. She was able to share with me how much she loves seeing the many people she has met along the way. She talked about running into Michael and I last year by the pond during the walk. We both smiled as we shared our thoughts about that day. When I stepped back she pointed down to her swollen belly, and said she and her husband were expecting their first baby in November. I know that their own journey toward parenthood has been marked with challenges along the way. Yet there they were, looking ahead with joy.

Today was a good day. I can't say that it was easy, but I can say that it was rewarding. I am so thankful for those who encouraged me to participate. I am so thankful for those who remembered me, and took the time to listen to my stories. I am thankful for the one who shared with me that she reads my blog, and how it helps her understand this side of the journey.

Today was a walk in the park.

1 comment:

  1. It sounds as though you had a good day - one that you'll probably look back on as a milestone in your own journey.