A Journey Through the
Atlanta 2 Day Walk for Breast Cancer
The Atlanta 2 Day Walk for Breast Cancer, I did it. I did the 2. I walked the 30 miles, I met the amazing survivors and heard their incredible stories. I was in awe of the strength and courage these women and men have shown and continue to show.
When I started this journey I thought I was walking to raise money for another charity and of course I was, but this walk, this journey is so much more than that. Over the course of 8 months I participated in every training walk and met so many amazing people. Each one with a different story, a reason for walking. They freely shared their stories of personal struggle, family losses and a hope for a better future.
Over the course of those many months I was slowly starting to understand that this was more than a walk, more than raising some money, it was people coming together to enrich the lives of those around them. It was people, strangers for the most part, working together to insure that every year the number of people struck by breast cancer shrinks.
My personal journey took me down a road I never saw coming. It started off with a simple goal, the same simple goal I assume every rookie 2-day walker starts with. Raise a thousand dollars and train hard enough to finish the 30 miles. Several times that financial goal seemed like an impossibility to me but I persevered.
I tried to chronicle and preserve my journey through pictures at all the training walks. I took over a thousand pictures over the course of those training walks and after almost every walk I posted many of them to a blog. It was one of the processes. The June training walk in Roswell was my turning point and I didn’t even recognize it when it happened.
The journey and its purpose snuck up on me in an amazing way. I spent a brief moment that day, talking to a woman as we walked. It was her first walk. She asked about my dog as most walkers do.
You see, as a man, walking with a miniature dachshund, dressed in pink, in a sea of pink clad woman, it’s almost impossible not to say something. We talked about the walk a little and she shared with me that she was a survivor and this was really her first hard challenge after her treatment. The conversation ended and I scurried along to rejoin my team.
As a photographer and especially a candid photographer you tend to focus on the photo more than the actual subject. You compose the image and watch the backgrounds and check the light. Sometimes you don’t really see the core subject until later. That happened to me on that particularly hot day in Roswell. That same survivor I spoke to briefly while walking stepped in front of my camera. She was enamored by my little 4 legged walking companion Scarlett. As she took pictures of Scarlett I snapped pictures of her. A few moments later she was posing with the safety crew and I snapped a few more pictures. On that day I didn’t even get her name. I gave her a card for Scarlett’s blog and told her the pictures would be up there.
That night as I began to recall the walk and write the blog post for Scarlett, I was running through the pictures deciding which ones to use in the post. Suddenly there she was. Her smile was as big as the 2-day walk is long. She just reached out and touched me in a way I didn’t even understand then. As I went through the mechanics of cropping and watermarking the photos for publication I finally took a second to read her t-shirt. It touched me someplace deep in my being. That touch would finally manifest itself as I neared the end of this journey.
I met this amazing woman several more times over the course of the training walks. We chatted and my understanding of the struggles every woman with breast cancer faces began to set in.
Fast forward to October 15, 2016 at about 7:00 am at the Atlanta 2 Day Walk for Breast Cancer, walkers breakfast at the Hard Rock Cafe in downtown Atlanta. Just 30 minutes before the start of this 30 mile walk, as I shared a table with complete strangers, small talk turned to a question that completely turned my reason for being there around.
They simply asked, “So why do you walk”? I started telling my story of working to raise money for many charities over the years and joining the walk team at work, as this year’s chosen charity and the more I tried to make my reasons sound noble the worse it got. I suddenly realized I didn’t know why I was doing this. I looked up from my plate of bacon and eggs and there she was, my lady with the smile, she stood tall in that room full of walkers. I stopped my blabbering, and started blubbering right there at the table. “I’m sorry”, I said through choked back tears and a cracking voice. I pointed to her and told anyone that could hear me through tearful eyes that she was the reason I walked. I walked so no one else would need to endure her pain and struggle.
Right there in that moment, I knew why I walked. It wasn’t about any of those material things. It was about making it better for the next person. It really was about all those words I had designed into our team t-shirts four weeks before. It truly is about courage, support, belief, love, hope, understanding and family.
As luck or fate would have it, on Sunday morning walking through downtown Atlanta in a sea of pink surrounded by nearly 1000 walkers, I found my hero. I found that amazing smile, that strength and that determination like no other. I found Karen. We walked together and I shared my story with her like she had shared hers with me back on that hot June day. We cried, we hugged and we held hands as we walked. Karen you have touched me in ways I have never known before. Thank you for helping me understand the struggle so many have endured. We will walk together again.
PS: I know Karen got a selfie of us, and here it is!!
I also think there might have been a few walkers behind us that might have gotten pictures. If any of you find this post, please add any pictures you have.
edit: 10/19/2016 A picture was taken and special thanks to Anne for sharing it.
My team, Team Agilysys. Thank you Pat and Maryann!
Yes I painted my bear pink, I proudly wore a pink hat
and pink beads and I’ll gladly do it again.
Finally, Thank you, It’s The Journey for keeping hope alive and putting on the Atlanta 2 Day Walk for Breast Cancer. I just can’t say enough good about this organization and the people and I must give a shout out to two very special ladies.
- Kim Goff the executive director of It’s the Journey is its constant cheerleader. She gives tirelessly to this cause. After the whole weekend and all the work that goes into it. This lady was in the parking garage, personally thanking participants as they left, absolute dedication to the cause.
- Ray Roberts was everywhere. She was at sign-in, the sale table, she was guiding us through the hotel and helped everyone. Thank you Ray for taking care of my wife!
#atl2day #dothe2 #itsthejourney
If you’d like to join us for the 2017 Atlanta 2 Day Walk for please consider our team, Save the Peaches. You can signup here https://secure.e2rm.com/registrant/TeamResults.aspx?EventID=204968&LangPref=en-CA&RegistrationID=3628097