Simple enough question. “Why are you doing this?”
Look, I've kind of expected that question all along and have had a pat answer: nothing I've gone through—none of the chronic pain (I'm not proud, I'll list it: Fibromyalgia, Chronic Myofascial Pain, and arthritis in my lower spine and in both hips), the months in the wheelchair, the brain tumor, the marathon peeing and drinking and wondering when the hell my meds will kick in, or worse when they'll wear off—has been half as hard as someone else hearing they have breast cancer, and then what they go through in treatment. The chemo. The radiation.
It sounds like a great answer, right? Doing this long walk because even when you add it onto everything else, it still seems insignificant.
But before I could type out my at answer, I was hit with, “And don't give me any of the typical bullshit. I don't really need to know why you're doing it. YOU need to know why you're doing it.”
Well...fine. Color me stumped and momentarily speechless.
“Don't tell me either that you're doing it because The Grate Jeter Harris Hizself's mom asked you to. Why are YOU doing it?”
The person posing the question? He doesn't really expect an answer. He's the kind of person that asks random crap just to make other people ponder themselves. I imagine he asks himself random crap like this all the time, just for the exercise of self-introspection. I imagine he asks his wife things all the time to just get her to stop in time and in place for a moment, to simply consider.
I had plenty of time over the weekend to ponder the why of it all. I distracted myself from the sheer number of steps required to complete 17 and then 13 miles with a really good audiobook, but that didn't keep my brain from working in the background while I was listening to Joshilyn Jackson read her own work. The last two miles of Saturday's 17 hurt like hell, and I pondered it over and over.
What the hell am I doing to myself?
When I got up Sunday morning and had knee pain that rated an 8 on a 1-10 scale, I briefly considered not walking at all. Why go through the pain? After all, this is the training portion, this isn't the “real walk.”
Except that it is.
I got up and walked, not because I'm a masochist, and not because I'm some wonderful person who said she'd do it, so she's doing it. I got up and walked because all the steps leading up to The Walk count. They're part of the process. They're part of bigger picture. They're just as real as It is.
I'm not kidding anyone; this training is kicking my ass, and it fucking hurts. That pain you feel the first day after starting a new exercise routine? I start from there. My best days start from some version of that. I knew that when I accepted the invitation to sign up for this walk, and I decided to do it in spite of it.
And the truth is that I didn't say I'd do it because getting a diagnoses of cancer is harder than anything I've gone through; I didn't do it because chemo and radiation and mastectomy are more difficult. When it comes down to it, I wanted to do this because what I've gone through has been hard. It's been gut wrenchingly hard, and it's been Phuckit-am-I-going-to-die? hard.
Hearing a bad diagnoses? I've been there. I remember what it felt like to be told I had a tumor clinging to the underside of my brain, and that it was big. I remember the dread of being told that because it was big, and because they just couldn't tell from the MRI exactly what type of tumor it was—something harmless or something insidious—that it had to come out; I know now how fear drips from your fingertips in electric slivers. I will never forget the feeling of checking into the hospital and just not knowing. How badly will this hurt? How long will it take? Will I wake up and hear “Sorry, but it sucks to be you”? Will I wake up at all? I still feel the resignation of knowing that I wasn't getting out of it, that someone was going to reach into my head and cut something out, and if I bolted it just meant more uncertainty.
Will I live, or will I die?
I've done hard.
I don't want other people to do hard.
I don't want some 20-something young woman who hasn't even started her life to have to face anything that hard. Or some 20-something young man. Or 30 or 40-something. 90-something.
This wouldn't even have to be a walk for breast cancer. My mother had lymphoma; I could easily do a walk for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and I may at some point. Hell, I probably will. My father had kidney cancer. I could easily walk for symptom awareness, how to save your own life.
It's all hard. It's all fucking hard.
But this? I can do this. If any or every step I take means there's a small chance that someday someone else won't have to sit there and hear about some wayward thing growing in their body, that's some of the why of it all.
That doesn't make me some Pollyanna tightass halo-glowing wonderdork; I'm not doing anything thousands upon thousands of other people aren't doing and haven't already done this year. Hell, if I hadn't been asked to join a team*, it never would have crossed my mind. And when I was asked, it scared the hell out of me.
Because I knew it would be hard.
I will probably find myself weighed down with more doubts over the next month; the next long walk weekend is 18 miles one day and (I think) 15 the next. It's going to hurt, and I'm going to complain about it. Not whine, but complain, because it's going to hurt, and it's going to be hard.
The thing is, hard isn't fatal.
Why am I doing it? I think the answer is because I need to know that I can. That everything that's been hard hasn't been in vain. So that I can say I damn well did it.
It's a selfish motivation.
I can live with that.
*Blogger Babes for Boobies...if you haven't donated yet, please consider picking one of my kickass teammates to toss a few bucks at.