“What should we do tomorrow?” “I don’t know, you wanna do a 5K?”

Well, I wondered if it would happen. The goal of posting every single day during the busiest month of our family’s year was more than a little ambitious, but still I committed to it. And I blew it. Honestly, I did not plan for the extra incidents that would happen within the month, but who can ever plan for medical emergencies? In any case, I will be a few days short of a one-a-day June blog, but I still have 13 more days to keep on keepin’ on.

This past Friday Chloe and I made our way back up to Michigan. We had to pick up our B buddies! The boys and Papa had enjoyed a full week together, but it was time for them to come home and Papa to start preparing for Nonnie’s homecoming. It was gloriously easy to pack for just me and Chloe for the weekend, and I think it took me all of ten minutes to throw it both together and in the car. That’s probably the one and only time that will happen! We enjoyed an uneventful–and quiet–trip up I-75 once again. It was good to see the boys and my dad. After we visited for a short while, we had dinner at one of my dad’s favorite places, Little Tony’s, a fantastic burger joint with the best onion rings I think we’ve ever tasted. With full bellies, we drove a couple blocks back to visit my mom for a while. The difference between last week and that night was remarkable. Still very limited in movements and activities, Mom is making fabulous strides in her recovery. It was nice to spend some time just sitting and catching up with her. She had lots to share about physical therapy and life in a rehab center. Thankfully, she’s acclimated well and has been treated properly since that first night’s debacles.

The next day we celebrated Dad (and Nicole’s Dad) with a cookout. Tom, Mike, and Nicole all came over, as well as Nicole’s Dad Terry, and although Mike can grill a mean burger and delicious chicken, we definitely missed Mom. Something just wasn’t the same, and it was her absence that we all noticed to different degrees. After stuffing ourselves with fruit salad, pasta salad, burgers, chicken, and Dad’s favorite cake roll from Hodell’s Cake Shop, we went back to visit Mom again.

It was sometime during the cookout with my brothers and Nicole that talk of a 5k for prostate cancer began. No one had mentioned it before then, and I suspect that Dad was trying to figure out what he was going to do about it since I had told him we’d come up on Friday, but had to leave on Sunday, the same day as the race. The boys all talked about it and lamented the fact that Mom had registered to walk but was obviously going to have to miss it. They discussed the early registration time of 7:30 at the Detroit Zoo and planned to meet at the gates. It was then that I asked if I could walk in Mom’s place–actually, if Ben, Brendan, Chloe, and I could all walk with them. They agreed that would be a fine idea.

And that’s how much planning and preparation went into our first 5k experience.

After the initial shock of hearing that we’d have to leave the house by 6:30 to get to the Zoo (ohhhh, this is what dedicated runners do, right? They get up early to run, right? Hmm.) I wish Brendan hadn’t heard the whole “3 mile” distinction because he groused all evening about his displeasure for walking such a long distance. To be honest, I wasn’t nearly as concerned about his ability to complete the race as I was about Chloe. Remember how I said earlier that we packed in about ten minutes? Part of the ease in packing was that she only brought the shoes she’d worn on Friday morning: flip flops. Mom fail! We decided to participate at such a late hour that I couldn’t buy her shoes (and it may have been worse to wear brand new shoes on a long walk rather than fumble through with her old ones). It concerned me, but we decided to just throw most caution to the wind and try it out. We had no plan B: I couldn’t carry her if she really got tired, but I was hoping that if she got talking, the walking would come along fairly naturally. So, in terms of our first 5k, we definitely didn’t look like we came prepared, mostly because we didn’t.

We all had to drag ourselves out of bed before 6 am the next morning, but it took a sheer miracle to get Brendan dressed and out the door. Upon arrival, it didn’t take long for the boys to scope out the free food. They offered Starbucks coffee (not a draw for the boys) and Panera bagels (a definite draw for my carb-loving B1, who may or may not have eaten his weight in bagels that morning. I really couldn’t be sure.) One other thing we noticed soon after arriving and taking a look around was that there were a lot of other people there! A spokesperson announced that this race, the MIU Run for the Ribbon Race, was the second largest walk for prostate cancer in the country. Suddenly the meaning of the event hit me even more. In our family alone, we’d seen prostate cancer affect my dad, Todd’s dad, an uncle, and now my brother. Everyone there–more than 1600 people–had been touched in some way by the disease. Walking for our family members took on a deeper meaning, and I was so glad that we were there on that day to share in the event.

Here’s a picture of us in our shirts and race bibs! If you don’t recognize him, I’m standing next to my younger brother Mike, and Dad is next to my brother Tom who is currently fighting prostate cancer.

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Once I put on the shirt, I think the 5k bug had bitten me. After I pinned on the race bib, I was all in. I don’t think this will be my only 5k.

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My dad picked out this number, just for me, pointing out the “4-0” for good measure. (Thanks, Dad!)

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The race began with the runners taking off first and quickly (including a character my dad named “Captain America,” a guy who was barely wearing American flag running shorts and a flag bandana, but nothing else besides running shoes), and we newbies filed in behind those participants who looked to know what they were doing. My dad likes to walk for exercise, so he and Ben took off and were quickly ahead of us. Brendan decided before long that his goal for the race was to come in last place. Hmm. As a parent, we hope our children will have goals, but sometimes question the goals they conjure up. I decided to let him play it out the way he wanted as much as I was able. Besides, with Chloe walking three miles in flip flops, I wondered if maybe we’d all be jockeying for last place!

It didn’t take long for Brendan to catch up to us. He announced that after careful observation, it was clear to him that he would not be able to come in last place after all (“There are just SO many people behind us!!”), he thusly changed his goal to be the last person in OUR group. Good enough, I thought. At least he stayed closer to us for the rest of the walk.

About halfway through the route, we started seeing signs that had names on them celebrating cancer survivors. Mike told me that he and Nicole had arranged for a sign for both Dad and Tom, and here is Tom’s. (Notice Brendan’s umpteenth bagel in the picture. Did I mention he liked the bagels?)

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And here’s my dad standing behind his sign. He’s a survivor! Praise God!

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I only heard one peep of complaining out of Chloe, though she took her flip flops off for the last half mile or so and chose that half mile to begin her study of the Barefoot Running Technique. I was thrilled that she made it.

Here she is by the three mile marker sign, with a smile on her face and NO shoes on her feet!

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We did not set any records for the fastest first 5k finish. In fact, by the time our group crossed the finish line, they were conducting the awards ceremony for participants like Captain America and other serious runners. Even so, we victoriously walked across the line and accepted our medals (or “plastics,” as Brendan astutely called them.)

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*Notice those well-worn flip flops…

While it wasn’t anything that we’d planned to do before the night before, having the chance to get up early on the morning of Father’s Day to walk in support of my dad, my brother, and all the other men and families who have walked through the challenge and fight of prostate cancer was quite an honor. It struck me how GOOD it was that my dad was still there on that Father’s Day, able to walk and there to talk about it. I’m exceedingly grateful that we got to share the day with him. My brother will have a fight on his hands that has already begun, but hopefully he remembers that his family has agreed to walk with him through the fight, sort of how we walked with him for those three miles in the morning around the Detroit Zoo. Whatever comes up along with the way, we will be there: to pray for him, to support him, and to help cheer him on when the going gets tough.

I feel so thankful that we got to share this morning together. Maybe next year we can meet there again, with two survivors AND my mom! I think we should plan on it.

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