Today was The Run For The Cure, a 1 or 5 km run/walk event sponsored by the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. A large number of cities across the country host it on the same day each year. Here, I would bet there were 8 or 10 thousand people out to raise money for breast cancer research.
It was a cold morning. The sun shone briefly during the run, but the wind was wicked. The kids and my mom walked the 1 km route, T and my dad and I ran the 5 k. It was a brisk run, a good pace. At the finish, we saw the kids there waiting for us and ran over and grabbed their hands and we, all four, crossed the line together. All in all, it was a good, wholesome experience of fun, fitness, and a good cause.
The route for the 5 km run went over a bridge and then looped around and under itself before doubling back. The crowd was so massive, that we could still see people streaming over the bridge as we went under it, as thick as at the front of the pack. All for the same purpose. There were people out there who had never run a step in their lives, but came out on a frosty, windy morning, because they knew or loved someone who had breast cancer.
There is something to be said for feeling like you’ve made a contribution to a good cause, and, hey, I also got a run in, too (no, I probably woudn’t swim or cycle for the cure). But I have to say that it is the survivors that have inspired me to come back for three years (and probably more).
It is kind of overwhelming to be part of such a huge crowd of people, all there for the same reason. Thousands of people, each donating or raising money for “a future without breast cancer”. Many participants had signs pinned to their shirts that said “I’m running for”, and each person wrote in the names of the people whose breast cancer experience had touched their lives. I saw many “I’m running for” mom, sister, aunt, grandma. Some had photographs pinned to their bibs, others formed teams in memory of someone. Too many young children were running for their mom. Each of those signs brought a lump to my throat.
I admire each one of those survivors, for what they have endured, and what they live with each day. Survivorship starts with diagnosis, and it changes a person fundamentally. There are experiences that only survivors can have, and although it is a club to which I do not aspire, I see how they are made better people by and for their experiences. Survivors themselves often say that they would never want cancer, but the experience of it ended up being a positive one, for the legacy of strength and “knowing what you’re made of” it leaves behind. Each participant today got a t-shirt for their $35 (or whatever more you could raise) donation; the breast cancer survivors’ shirts were pink, everyone else had white. Their shirts were somehow, to me, and I hope to them, symbolic of their struggle and their triumph: a badge of honour. Even those who didn’t, ultimately, survive, were survivors for a time, and their experience was significant to them and their families.
So when I ran today, I ran for the cause, for the exercise. I ran for the families of cancer, because, in a way, all those kids are survivors too. But mostly, I ran for the survivors themselves, however short their survivorship might be or have been. I ran for their courage and the strength that every one of them found, somewhere, within themselves. I can only hope that if I were thrust into that club, I could find the power to make it into a positive experience, and to Survive.