Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Step by Step

The beauty of my life is something I think about often. It living one foot in front of the other with someone you love. The Head for the Cure’s logo paralleled that well with their idea that they are defeating brain cancer step by step so I was glad when Kiana decided to take the step of trying another 5k with them.
Kiana started her second 5k day ready and full of energy. She seemed very eager to get going at the Head for the Cure, jumping around some of the military bases exercise machines, saying hello to people. The night before we’d kept the tradition of laying out our outfit and bib’s the day before and I threw in a little surprise for her. The little girl whose fascinated by butterflies got a small medal one pinned to her bib where her dad dared to dreamed it would help her take flight for 5000 kilometers.

She wanted to start out near where most of our friends were. Most of them are fast runners near the front and while I talked her into backing up a little we didn’t back up enough. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree and she repeated the rookie mistake her dad usually does, for the first 1/3 to ½ mile we were going way too fast… I reached out to hold her hand oddly enough to get her to slow down at first. But by mile one we were on pace…

She started commenting on the blue bonnets, the planes, and the people we knew and for a few seconds here and there singing… I took that as a good sign that she wasn’t over exerting herself if she had the wind for that. Still when we were enough laps (the way she measures distance) to where we were half way through, she declared that she wanted to get a faster one than before and if I could help. She held hands with me some of the time and there were definitely points where it was questionable who was dragging who to maintain pace. I offered to get her water at the waterstop but Ms. Independent said she’d get it on her own and impressively managed to drink while not changing her step, something she’d never done before.

This course had more downhill and uphill than her previous 5k and it was my privilege to hear her share thoughts about the people who passed us and who we passed on the course. There was a guy in a wheelchair going up a hill and she said, “I think that’s harder than you pushing me in a stroller.”
When there were “2 laps to go,” she asked “where’s the finish line?” the same thought I seem to say when I’m near the end of races that end on a curve.  But once she saw it she bolted it in and beat her previous 5k time by over 40 seconds. How she moved like that on legs that small was impressive.

We checked in with teammates, most of which were people who had run the race but others who had volunteered for it and others who had even come in from out of town to cheer Kiana on and even grandma who had “cheered” by walking her own 5k a few hundred miles away in honor of her granddaughter. 4 teammates had won their age group. One was proud of herself because she had thought about walking at several points but never had. She also has brain cancer and we’ve talked about how her stubbornness to keep going like that has served her well.

Kiana would run and play with the bluebonnets and military displays. There would be people who would share their journey with me. Many, if not most, of the people who were sharing were new to this brain cancer experience either personally or by connection. I remember the loneliness when I found this out of how hard it was to have no one to talk to about it that “understood.” They shared stories of their medical treatment or of someone passing, one as recently as 8 days before from brain cancer. There’s no good way to deal with all this but my experience has certainly been that sharing some of it is better than doing it alone.  Because while I have lots of good friends who have been beside me every step of the way, there is something special about sharing it with those who “understand” because they have taken very similar steps ahead of you or know they are a few similar steps behind you.

The event would raise over 200K and have about 1700 participants. I had been part of a great time and volunteered in packet pick up. And then if those things weren’t enough, they would post the kids results  and Kiana would be ranked at the top of her age group, girls nine and under. As always  keeping in perspective, she was excited to get the medal but was also excited the wind was picking up and that she would get to fly her new kite that day.

There are steps next to Kiana, friends and family that seem to fly with the grace of butterflies. There have been others on this brain cancer journey where it feels like outside forces are pulling you till your strings end and you just enjoy the ride. Head for the Cure says that we are “defeating brain cancer step by step.” I don’t know how far a cure is but I think that 5k event on that day alone took several steps that showed we’re defeating brain cancer.

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