Every Step a Victory

The first year I participated in the Making Strides Against Cancer Walk was 2010. It was two weeks after I had become a widow at 46, and 4 months after my stage 4 BC diagnosis. I had 4 broken bones in my spine and had spent 3 months hospitalized and unable to walk. I was in a wheel chair for the most part and was physically unable to move unassisted from the car door to my waiting chair less than 2 feet away.  I who had been tall, strong, physically active and athletic was reduced to a frailty I had never known; and frankly hated.

The second year was 2011. It was better this year, but no less full of drama. Just a day before the walk I had a procedure to fix two new fractures in my spine. The procedure was a complete success. I had a complete reduction of the pain I had lived with for two years. I could walk now, just short distances still, but I was walking. This year I walked approximately 500 feet through the start line and then my fatigue and friends made me sit down. But I had made it that far when just a year before I couldn’t walk at all.

My third year was 2012. I was getting stronger every day and I vowed to get further this year than last.  I had never been a goal setter but now I found that I was.  I HAD to finish this walk one day on my own two feet and if it took me years to achieve it so be it. This year, I who had trouble making it 15 minutes at Wal-mart walked to the one mile mark before sitting down and riding the rest of the way.  Upon reaching the finish line, I got up and walked through that too.

Year four was 2013. I made it to the two mile marker.  Before the walk, I wrote about this in my writing class and one man was moved to write that he was inspired by me and my goal and would be at the two mile mark cheering me on. (He wasn’t).  That’s ok, I made it anyway and I felt great. Stronger than I had been in the last few years, surrounded by love and support from friends and family and good wishes from all who knew me.  When it was done I had my photo taken with that sign, for proof of course but also for motivation.

And this year, 2014, is my 5th year of doing the walk. It’s now been four years since my diagnosis, and I did it. Another milestone, another hurdle jumped, (figuratively of course, I can’t jump anything now).  I reached my goal, and in the moment I felt happy and my friends congratulated me and took my photo with the 3 mile sign  Afterwards it was almost anti-climactic. Did I achieve something awesome? Absolutely! In my mind and soul I was flipping “the finger” to this monster that lives in my body, unwelcome and uninvited.  This monster that took my previously healthy and stong body and reduced it to its current fragile existance. So I can’t do some of the things I could do before, and that’s not negativity talking, its just truth.  My new normal is my reality.  And while my friends called for me to sit down lest I hurt myself & be sorry later I kept on going; stubbornly – taking breaks along the way to ease the pain my knee, yes that’s right my knee, not my back where the monster lives but my knee, an old injury from my High School days that has never been right.

The pain in the knee was pretty significant, some might term it excruciating and they’d be right, but after 6 fractures to my spine I have felt excruciating and this wasn’t it. At the 3 mile mark I sat and rode the rest of the way in, not even getting up to walk through the finish line but frankly my knee had nothing more to give. It was only 1/10th of a mile I missed doing and I will get to that point next year.  My dogged pursuit of my goal, with tunnel vision and an unwillingness to give up got me to 3 this year. It felt great to make to this goal, and in the long run does wonders for my psyche – I am strong, stronger than I ever imagined I could be. This monster isn’t beating me…

It also shows that I am as stubborn as a mule – is that a good thing? I don’t know, but it is as they say, what it is. Did I pay for it later? Hell yea.  I had to ice that knee for two days and slept for perhaps 18 hours in full-on recovery mode.  But I made it to 3, limping, tired, and sweating but I made it and so I say, UP YOURS CANCER!! You are NOT the boss of me!

by Norma Pitzer-Kelly

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