Looking back, while moving forward – The Twin Cities 3-Day

I recently completed my 900th mile upon finishing my first 3-Day this year. As exhilarating as that was, it was the beginning of this event that took me to a familiar place. As I stood on the steps of the opening ceremony stage waiting to appear and honor my Martha with brief yet meaningful words, my legs began to tremble. I felt this wave of loss, and thought back to all that she had been through, all that we had been through and wondered to myself, why. Why did she have be taken, she had paid her dues, fought the fight, and was a winner. I think about her daily, but without a doubt, it is in church, and at each Komen event that I feel her presence the most. I tried to calm my legs so that I could make it up the steps carrying the “Wife” flag and say the words that would help to once again let others know of her presence. Then as it always seems to happen I felt her hand on my shoulder, calming me, giving me strength, and telling me she is OK. She was a winner, no longer in pain, in the presence of a God that she so fervently had faith in, and showing her grace to me always. I had words on paper, but once I started they just came from my heart. I grabbed the hand of my fellow presenter, we made our way down the stairs and I into the waiting hug of my daughter Ally. She knew, she knew that her mom had just touched me, and in her hug I felt her presence. This was the beginning of another beautiful, amazing 3-Day experience. I walked with angels from last year, and met new ones along the way. I was able to reflect on how far I had come and the path that she has led me along. She allowed me to, and taught me to love again. Her grace and unselfishness has allowed me to be happy, while still feeling a permanent sense of loss. She delivered to me a walking angel in Chicago that now walks with me into a brighter future. I am now on my way to Seattle for miles 901 to 960, and a reunion with good friends from Leave it to Cleavage, and Valley Girls and Guys. The next 3 days will once again take me a familiar place, yet it is one that I look forward to visiting the rest of my life. I will never tire of looking back, for it always takes me another step forward.

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Just the first training walk, it’s never “just” a walk

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As I started out on my first training walk of the year with the Twin Cities 3-Day just over a month away, I was immediately met by something so familiar, tears. I had not even gone a half mile of my 8 mile effort when the thoughts of the past year rushed back in. I could not stop the flood as I recalled just where I was at this time last year both physically and mentally. I was just getting started on an incredible journey, one that would take me to 14 cities and begin the most amazing healing process. With each step last night all of the sights, the sounds, and the love from my fellow walking community came rushing back. I had forgotten just how inspiring and spiritual a simple walk can be. The key component is time, many dread the training because of the time involved, not me. I love being able to decompress, open my mind, and allow the thoughts and dreams to invade my space. I still think of Martha and all that she meant to me, my kids, and what she went through with each step. Her presence will be forever felt and reminds me that the battle is still not won, which gives each step purpose. I am still amazed at the resiliency of the human heart. Mine is much larger than I ever imagined, and to be able to have a permanent hole in it while encompassing a new and very special love baffles me. God has truly gifted me with a heart that holds a life I will always treasure, and gives me hope for the life I have ahead me. I look forward to my next walk and what each step will bring. Because it’s never JUST a walk.

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John’s Journey of Love

http://host-39.242.54.159.gannett.com/news/watercooler/article/303596/176/MN-Man-Honors-Wife-By-Walking-Every-Komen-Walk

A story done by Rena Sarigianopoulos of Kare11, the Twin Cites NBC affiliate.

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The big finish, San Diego, saving the best for last!

 

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It has taken me a long time to come to grips with the fact that my journey is over, well at least for this year. I have wanted to write this post for a while but knew once it was done, so would I be. Well it’s time to move on, and I have say the 3-Day could not have picked a better place to finish their year. San Diego was the most amazing walk of the whole season! First, I had my daughter along for the ride, second, of the first 40 miles at least 75% of it was along the Pacific Ocean, simply beautiful. The energy from everyone was infectious and I had conversations with so many wonderful people along the path. I once again was so humbled by how people treated me for the journey I was on, a constant flow of hugs and tears greeted me everyday. So many called me a hero, or said they were incredibly proud of what I was doing, but to me I was just following a voice inside. Somehow my Martha had guided me towards this 3-day journey, and I had the most amazing opportunity to tell her story to thousands over the summer. I do not see myself as special, only a man that missed his wife and wanted people to know what an angel she was both in life and after.
This was a walk of goodbyes and the blessing of good friends that joined me. Ally and I were joined by five couples from Minnesota that decided to join us on Saturday for a good portion of the walk to support us and to see what this whole 3-day thing was all about. What they saw was an electric community of people that are united in this fight against breast cancer. I know they were there to support us and to honor Martha, but my hope is that they will return of their own volition either to walk or the support of a walkers efforts. One of those couples really put in a special effort this year, Hope and Jamie Scannell were there in Boston, in Philadelphia, and to finish with them in San Diego was very special. Over these three events they walked 60 miles total and have earned the victors shirts that I have provided them. Thank you guys, you are amazing!
Saying goodbye to my Komen family was the toughest though. The love and support that these selfless individuals showed me over the summer helped heal me in ways that I am sure they have no idea of. I would love to name them all but I know I would miss some and I could not live with that. You guys know who you are, from taking care of my stuff, to morning hugs, from front of line treatment to getting a bus to move when it shouldn’t. The favors, the smiles, the honest friendship is something that I will carry with me forever. God bless you all, you will be a part of my heart as long I can breath. There were others as well, the amazing crew, my coach Maggie, and even the folks that sold the buttons, Brij and Brian. A bond was formed with all that I will continue to come back to each year. Brian and I had a little “bromance” that is evident in the attached video, something Brij said was just wrong in so many ways!! Hey, it’s the 3-Day, anything can happen!!
Thank you San Diego for making this such a great finish. I will be back!!!

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Arizona – Stopping to smell the desert flowers!

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It was most definitely time to slow down and take my time. I had the past two walks been running with the rabbits to get done sooner for a myriad of reasons, but the only thing with going fast is you miss some of the wonderful people along the way. Arizona came along at the perfect time. It was the first event this year that I did have at least one person that was going to join me or stalk me along the route. I made the conscious decision to slow my roll and take in the environment and all of those around me. I have often met an angel or two in each city that have provided me with conversation and companionship on my journey, this walk was so different and wonderful. I was so lucky to have the problem of too many angels to count on my walk, each so kind, each with their own story. The flowers are simply a metaphor for the beautiful spirits that helped guide me along the path. To highlight one or two would have been unfair to others that touched me along my way this weekend. The diversity in the desert flowers mirrored the people I encountered, each with its own unique beauty. I am so glad that I slowed down and took more time to meet more of the amazing people that find a passion in helping others. Thank you Arizona for making this walk so memorable and in turn healing. I am also including a couple videos from my walk, first are the male singers from Arizona State, “Priority Male” , they came to the camp show on Friday and wowed the crowd. And then a short excerpt from a bagpipe corp that was on the route early Sunday. This was a little bitter sweet, I have always had an affection for the pipes, it’s a music that really just touches my soul. As I stood listening and recording I was suddenly struck with a wave of emotion, I felt Martha next to me, but I could not reach her. I stopped the recording and quickly walked away listening to the music as I tried to connect with my bride. She then answered back with another walking angel that helped to ease my pain and once again provide me with peace and hope. My finish on Sunday was very special because I was able to finish with two awesome ladies Rachel and Bobbi. I have seen them on other walks and had some small conversations, but had never had the chance to really get to know them. Rachel completed her journey this year of completing a walk in everyone one of the Komen cities. She may not have done it all in one year, but she did it just the same and I applaud her commitment. What a wonderful way to finish! I will never forget this walk, and the people that made it so special. Just one more to go, I cannot believe it is almost done. What an amazing journey.

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Dallas, a good Texas kick in the ass!

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The big “D” reached right up and gave me a good Texas kick in the ass! What a surprise this wonderful city delivered. After living here for 4 years to close out the 80’s, and then making regular business visits for the past 10 years I had become very complacent with what all Dallas had to offer. Well I should have known to never second guess the beauty, warmth, and hospitality that this city and it’s residents can provide. From the first day the community support along the route was so wonderful, we felt welcomed at every turn by true big as Texas kindness. Couple that with the awesome routes that the Komen team put together and you have a walk that I most certainly will return to someday. My added bonus was the stalkers that joined me for part of my journey. First on Friday I was blessed to be able to reconnect with a special friend and old neighbor Ann Maher. She greeted me in the parking lot at opening with a hug that brought about tears of all that has transpired for both of us for the past two years. My journey is well documented, but Ann’s journey was equally troubling. Two years ago her husband and my old golf buddy Bob was already fighting his own battle with cancer when they learned of Martha’s rediagnosis. Ann provided prayers of support from afar, but then just three months before Martha’s passing she learned that she had breast cancer. She wrote during this period so eloquently of the struggles for both her and Bob, but all she could do was pray for a life that she had cherished for years, my Martha. So as we hugged on the lot that early morning it was a release of sadness, joy, and hope. It was so wonderful to see her again. She walked with me till lunch and it helped to make my Friday so special.
But my Friday did not end there. That afternoon Martha delivered my first male walking angel since Chicago, Paul was just what the doctor ordered to lift my spirits with his stories of major animal encounters especially one with a bear that I will not soon forget. Thank you and god bless you sir! You are now an official “Walker Dude”! Just when I thought it could not get better, it did. Good friends from my Houston days were coming up for the night and to walk with me on Saturday. I knew it was a stretch that they may get to the camp show in time to see my video and the incredible response that I receive each week. So as they were getting ready for my part of the show I got a text saying that they were near, I just told them they could still try to get there but it a was a long shot. I then sat and watched the video the same as I do each week, and once again it moved me to tears. As I sat just after acknowledging the warmth of those in the tent that night I get a text saying “we’re here!”, I say “where” and the response is ” to your right”, I quickly turn my head to see my dear old friend Mark rise above all others with a smile that said “Shine, we are here and we saw” I immediately moved to hug these two beautiful Texans that have been a part of my life, our life, for over 30 years. It was never so wonderful to see Mark and Frances Stock. A Friday that I will never forget. The next day they joined me until lunch as we made our way through my old Carrollton stomping grounds. My sincerest thanks to them for making the trip to be a part of my journey, friends for life! I then took off and became the rabbit for most of the afternoon until I met up with Norm and Sheri for the final few miles, a great way to finish a Saturday, I love those guys ❤️. Sunday brought an awesome closing route! The beautiful neighborhoods of University and Highland Park, homes that would knock your socks off, then through downtown Dallas and a trip by the Old Book Depository which in a few weeks will mark a 50th anniversary, hard to believe. I want close out this Dallas blog with a mention and shout out to the amazing Komen staff, these incredibly dedicated caring individuals have woven themselves into the fiber of my heart. They have been so integral in my healing, I will be forever indebted to these amazing people. I still can’t believe it but even at number 12 for the year, it once again was a unique experience all unto itself. And even though I developed Strep throat after Tampa, I could continue to walk in these events each and every week , I am so blessed to have made this journey. Really, only two left….shoot 😢

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Tampa 3-Day, THE best weather, and once again, amazing people!

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I can most certainly kickoff this post of with the fact that weather wise, it does not get any better than Tampa this last weekend. Each day was picture perfect, 80 degrees, no humidity, plenty of sun, just plain awesome! I was an absentee teammate of a great group of folks known as the Pink Pearls. I really appreciated them including me, but I was a little selfish and walked fast each day so that I could be done early to enjoy the weather. Friday I was fortunate enough to walk with Mark Nadolny, the CFO for the entire Komen organization. He I had a little fun trying to be the “rabbit” (fastest finisher) and were doing well until we got caught in our conversation and did not realize there was no one around us, or even arrows to guide us until we were over quarter mile off course. By the time we recovered and found our way we had dropped from the top ten, to the 80’s! So we sucked it up, treated each pit like we were at the Indy 500, and finished number 25 and 26, better yet, it gave us at least 2 hours of beach time! My thanks to Mark for the great conversation and the insight into working in the non profit world. Once again it was the people that that I do not know that kept touching my heart again and again. At almost every pit stop someone on the crew would walk up to me and just give me a hug for what I am doing, the sincerity of it all always humbles me. Then on Sunday I was cleaning up after a porta potty break, to look over to see this petite walker looking at me with tears in her eyes. As I approached she came to me and told me she was a survivor and was so thankful for what I was doing. This is when I reach for the hug , first because of how this moves me, and secondly to let her know that she and all of the survivors are who inspire me everyday. It really is an amazing event that only a participant can understand what it’s about. Finally I want to thank Lisa, my walking angel from the Chicago 3-Day that came down to join me on the trail once again. Having her there helped make this weekend complete. Once again it is the people of the 3-Day community that make this event so special, I cannot ever imagine not doing one of these, but will still hope for a day when it is a reunion walk because the fight has been won!

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