2 August 2013

Why join those walks? What’s the point? You’re never going to find a cure by walking for three days. You’re not kicking cancer’s ass. It’s futile; you’re raising money and exhausting yourself for nothing, really.

I wandered into Starbucks today intending to pretend to work on Max’s book while I played on Facebook and Fark; instead I bought my Venti black iced tea, unsweetened (so that I can add an amount of Equal to it that really is shameful), and sat down with another semi-regular who has noted the hair and the tattoo, and with a little additional information from one of the baristas put the pink puzzle together.

She doesn’t get it, though. She’s all for the eradication of cancer, but finds the notion that one can raise money, walk 60 miles, and honestly believe it will cure anything.

Let’s just suppose that you could find a cure by raising money; what’s the point of walking. Or biking, swimming, or any of the things people do in the name of curing a disease. Just donate money and be done with it.

Two years ago I couldn’t have answered that. In my little world friends just did it; they signed up for these multi-day walk events and asked for donations so that they would meet the minimum number of dollars required to participate. It was done For The Cure, so that future generations wouldn’t have to suffer through the long, agonizing fight needed to survive.

If walking could cure anything, it would have been cured by now.

Here’s the thing: I don’t think anyone who participates in these walks honestly thinks that 100% of their money raised goes toward the research that will one day find a cure. I don’t think that every walker, crew member, and volunteer is there with the belief that their efforts will be the difference in finding a cure in the near future or not. Not everyone involved has expectations beyond getting through the miles and collecting a t-shirt at the end.

And not every person participating is completely on board with the organization’s overall mission.

I doubt that there are many people in general who don’t want a cure for cancer, or MS, or heart disease, or any of the other myriad of causes some people raise money for. You’d have to be a particular kind of messed up to enjoy the idea that disease impacts harshly on some and destroys lives for others. If you polled 1000 people, I’m guessing that 999 would say they are most definitely not in favor of potentially fatal diseases. The remaining 1 probably mis-heard the question.

If you poll 1000 people who participate in walk events and asked them if they honestly expect this to be the year their efforts find the cure, I’m guessing 999 will say no, and the remaining 1 is simply hopeful.

So why bother?

Ask those walkers the same question and you’ll get as many different answers as there are people, but it probably boils down to one fundamental thing.

Why not?

We’re not naïve people, those of us who get involved in walk events. We understand that while we’re decked out in pink, training mile after mile, then putting one foot in front of the other while we sweat through three days and sixty miles of hills and broken sidewalks, all with the hope of finding a cure for breast cancer that there are so many kinds of breast cancer that even if a cure is found for one, we’ll be back next year to raise money and walk against all the other forms of the disease.

We’ll walk because it’s not JUST the disease we’re trying to stomp down.

All that money raised every year, the pinkwashing that annoys so many, the effort made to train to be able to walk that far…it really isn’t just about finding a cure. It’s also about raising money so that the 40-something year old without insurance can get a mammogram. It’s about funding programs that participate in community outreach, getting rides to appointments for women and men who are battling on their own without family support. It’s about putting food on the table for kids whose mothers are out of work because they need to focus every ounce of their energy on not dying.

It’s about drug trials, medications that might not work and might break a woman willing to go through the trial down to the very fibers of what makes her want to live.

It’s about walking with strands of pearls worn around the necks of people who have lost someone they cared about deeply, even if they never met her.

It’s about hope.

And more than hope, I think, it’s about being proactive. I will never be the person in the research lab, figuring out how to combine chemicals that will attack cancer cells and hopefully leave healthy ones alone. I will never have that kind of brain; I will never be that smart.

I can’t cure anything. I can’t do anything for the friends I have lost to breast cancer; I can’t do much for anyone I don’t personally know who is fighting for their own life.

But I can raise money; I can dye my hair pink because it makes my friends laugh; I can wear pink spandex even though I feel sorry for anyone who has to see that; I can put up with the sneers of the cold-hearted who think my pink is disgusting.

And I can walk.

Yes, I could just donate money. We do; the Spouse Thingy makes and sells pink ribbon pens and I wrote a book on doing a walk, and every penny made from those gets donated. We could end it there, reap the benefits of the tax deductions and be perfectly content with that. Donating alone is worth contentment. It’s doing something. It’s contributing, and I celebrate those who are willing to dig into their pockets and do just that.

I need people who do that. I need people who want to donate money. I need them because I need to sign up for these walks, and I need to reach a minimum to participate.

I cannot find a cure. I cannot do a million things I wish I could do, but I can walk in honor of my friends who didn’t make it, and I can walk in support of those who are gutting it out in chemotherapy. I can drive the sweep van and support others who are walking, because whatever their reasons are, it matters to them.

No. In September, when I walk for Avon, my fundraising won’t find a cure. My walking won’t find a cure. Every step taken over 40 miles will not mean that any particular person will get an injection of a wonder drug and their fight will then be over.

I know that.

But every dollar I raise might mean that a clinic tucked away into a run down neighborhood gets a mammography machine. Nickels and dimes might mean someone doesn’t have to pick between rent and food. The collection of pennies could very well mean someone without insurance gets to see a doctor about that tiny little lump and get it taken care of before it becomes the big lump that becomes the Big Bad. That money doesn’t line the pockets of the organizations; it goes somewhere, and most of it goes somewhere that matters.

And I walk because it’s the one thing I can do, even though the money is raised and donated. It’s the effort I can expend, something tangible that deep down, while I do it in the names of the people I care about, is only for me.

Why walk? For the hope, for the possibilities, and for ourselves.


Mighty Kitty said...

Very well said and extremely wellthought out. I am honored to call you "friend".

Carolina Cats said...

The dollars *are* going to find a cure. And when they do, everyone who walked, ran, rode, danced, wore the colors and collected the pennies can take pride in the fact that they were part of the solution.

So much more I am trying to say, but I can't put into the right string of words. Too much running around in my head right now.

We have to keep rocking the pink and the orange and every other color, because when we do, it shows others our commitment and gets them to share their pennies too. And it helps those living with the diseases know that they are not alone in the fight.

I hope you asked that woman for a donation - because that's the way we're going to make it happen!!


Nurse Kathy said...

Walkers are the one who motivate many people to donate. All that pink, purple etc. and the feather boas and tu-tus help draw attention to the need for funding research and supporting the people who are fighting "the fight".