Tuesday, September 30, 2014

My First Run for the Cure in British Columbia: Part I

I was late and in a frenzy, looking for my matching shoe under my bed. Crouching on the floor, I beat back a crash of dust rhinos (I’m rather proud I know that collective noun), and lo and behold what did I discover but my first Run for the Cure T-shirt.  It was new in1993.  Now it's faded and a little stretched out of its original shape, like me, but still hanging together and useful. 

Sitting on the floor I had to laugh remembering my amateur attempts to be helpful at the first Run in the Lower Mainland.  I had loads of electrifying ideas but those who knew me best tactfully ignored most of my suggestions and put my talents to organizing balloons and cheering our volunteers on. Yes, someone blabbed that I was a high school cheerleader and I was thoroughly mocked.   But there was one brilliant request of mine I desperately wanted to be implemented.  I pleaded and begged on bended knee to have the very first route go past the BC Cancer Agency treatment centre and the BC Cancer Agency Research Centre. I hoped that patients, caregivers and researchers would look out of their windows and know that we were raising awareness and money to help them deal with their cancers. After all, we were and still are working for them. 

I know now that my brilliant request had way more heart than brains supporting it. However, acknowledging the spirit behind the idea, our team agreed and our first route was drawn up.  It's important to note that the BC Cancer Agency sits on the top of a very steep hill from where patients' windows look out onto panoramic views of the Vancouver cityscape, the ocean waters of English Bay and the North Shore mountains. 

Indeed, on that very first Run day, we had spectacular weather and the crowds took off in bright sunshine at the blast of the starter's gun.  There were runners and walkers including children and babies being pushed in strollers. It was cheerful chaos with dogs, a few wheelchairs, rollerbladers, men and women, old and young, doctors and nurses, experienced athletes and total novices trundling along together.  Each of those hearty souls, some even with shiny new running shoes, had to struggle up and down the hills for five kilometres.  Approaching the finish line, they were sweaty, panting, totally tuckered out, yet miraculously smiling at the cheers of the spectators at the finish line. Each and every person deserved a medal for sticking it out. Saner heads have ensured that that my ill-conceived route was never used again.  Phew!

At that first Run, for the first time we mounted a huge Wall of Hope. It was soon covered with photos, cards, notes and messages honouring survivors of the disease and remembering those who passed away.  Heart rending and joyful messages were posted side by side. Some people stood silently with heads bowed before the Wall.  Happy team photos were taken in front of it. 

We made the news on TV and in the papers. The speeches and stories of survivors and families were part of the evening reports. Breast cancer issues were coming out of the shadows. Awareness and money were raised. It was an encouraging success for breast cancer research support. We knew how to distribute the money that was raised wisely and transparently and a successful public profile was important as part of that process. 

Today, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation CIBC Run for the Cure (as it’s now known) has come a long way.  On that sunny, first Run day my backpack held registration money and last minute donations while I stumbled along backwards up and down those wretched hills taking pictures of the runners and walkers.  Imagine the change from backpack to on line registration and donations, and from bulky cameras to cell phones which are now everywhere. 

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