Last weekend my friend, Shruti and I walked 39.3 miles in New York for the Avon Breast Cancer Walk. We kept our promise to you of walking every step for every penny that you donated and for every wish that you sent our way. The event and the journey towards our goal are memories we will cherish forever.
Along the journey and before embarking on it, I learnt from friends and family who had been there before. My cousins and friends who have run the marathon, climbed mountains, walked 60 miles were not only an inspiration, they also gave valuable inputs.
The journey was beautiful, interesting and challenging. What seemed to be “just walking”, was actually a little more complicated in reality. Managing the kids calendar (school, activities, summer camp etc.) and my “training calendar” was not always easy. There were days when I walked in the neighborhood of their school while they were in their class so as to maximize my training time and not lose on the commute home and back. Yet again, there were days when I walked for 5 hours excluding breaks, picked up the kids from school, gave them a snack, hit the walking trail for 2 more miles, took them to their swimming lessons, and walked a mile on returning from there, rushed to their school for the “Back to school night”, returned home to put the kids to bed and went back to wrap up my 20 mile walk for the day. Apart from the calendar challenge, the physical aspect occasionally bothered me as well especially when my hamstrings would ache. But these and other challenges only kept me going forward as with each step I figured I am a step closer to my objective … of chipping in to eradicate this dreadful disease. Also, the faith that so many of you had put in me by supporting me, either with good wishes, donations or both, was the most important factor in keeping my spirits high. So, thank you so much for your support. It means a lot to me.
The actual event was surreal (for the lack of a better word). We were 4,500 walkers in the NY event who had collectively raised $11.5 million, a record in the history of Avon walks for breast cancer. Shruti and I collectively raised $4094. Since Avon started this walk, they have raised a whopping $525 million.
The opening ceremony was exhilarating. Dr. Susan Love (from The Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation) took center stage and urged us to join the Love/Avon Army of Women, an initiative launched on Oct 1st, 2008. The key goal of this revolutionary initiative is to recruit one million healthy women of every age and ethnicity, including breast cancer survivors and women at high-risk for the disease, to partner with breast cancer researchers and directly participate in the research that will eradicate breast cancer once and for all. You can find more details at http://www.armyofwomen.org/The survivor stories were very moving as was the commitment of one particular walker who had participated in 96 walks and had single-handedly raised $1.2 million over the years. The icing on the cake was having my friends who had come to cheer Shruti and me on the event eve and on the opening ceremony. Sighting Tabu (a well-known Indian film personality) at Times Square on the event eve and having a picture taken with her added to the fun. Check out our pictures at:http://picasaweb.google.com/nidhiidnani/AvonWalkForBreastCancer
Our walking path was very well organized with cheering stations and rest stops every few miles. They were well stocked with snacks, water, medical supplies etc. The Volunteers, crew, staff and NY locals were there for every single walker with a constant smile on their face. We were in complete awe of the commitment of the thousands of people--walkers and crew alike--to make a difference. Personally, I was also in awe of Shruti who flew all the way from Atlanta to walk with me.
Walking in NY was charming and exciting. While I have lived in the suburbs for 9 years, I observed things that I had never noticed before. It was exciting to walk through trendy SOHO where one could shop in the hip boutiques, chain stores and even sidewalks all in the backdrop of an outstanding cast iron architecture. Walking across the iconic Brooklyn bridge was thrilling. I couldn’t help wondering what a giant leap of faith it must have been when 125 years ago, this bridge, the largest suspension bridge of its time was built. On a separate note, I must admit that I was half expecting Karan Johar and Shah Rukh Khan to peek from behind the stone towers singing "Har Ghadi Badal Rahi Hai ….Kal Ho Na Ho" (Just proves, you can’t take Bollywood out of me!).
Crossing the finish line was extremely gratifying. I noticed many walkers wearing Avon T-shirts which aptly said “Ready, Set, Hope.” I wanted to cry, look up at the sky and said a silent prayer thanking God for helping me in this journey. My parents, husband and kids were there to cheer me, as they have been doing always. What a blessing! My friend who came all the way from San Francisco pampered us with gorgeous lilies, roses and her infectious exuberance.
What was once a dream is now a part of my life. With your support I made it and I am proud of it. I have made a promise. Since I have discovered a strength that I did not even know existed, a determination that keeps my confidence soaring, a cause that keeps me going, I will try to use it again and again. Who knows I might just discover a walking trail and embark on a new adventure.