45. “Michigan, You Walk a Long Way”

45. “Michigan, You Walk a Long Way”

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Happily Ever After

“Michigan, You Walk a Long Way”

I was into my first week of training for the Avon Breast Cancer Three-Day Los Angeles event to raise money to benefit underserved women with breast cancer. The walk is sixty miles long — twenty miles each day.

I nearly skipped my walk that day, thinking that I really should get to work an hour early so I could complete a new business proposal I had started the day before. But I decided to walk first, so that it would help clear my head.

According to the training schedule the walk organizers gave me, I was to walk three miles that day. Each week I would progressively walk farther and farther until I worked up to two, twelve-mile back-to-back sessions in one weekend prior to the big event. To prepare for these, I had spent an afternoon mapping out various locations, to determine how far each one was.

I gathered my things, among them my headphones and a book on tape — Chicken Soup for the Soul, tape one, volume one. Because my regular gray sweatshirt was in the wash, I dug out and pulled on a very old sweatshirt, one I hadn’t worn in nearly ten years. It was a gift from one of my ex-husband’s friends, and it had the Michigan logo across the front of it. Off I went, happily listening to my tape, getting weepy now and again at an especially poignant story, and oh so glad I had decided to walk after all.

About three-quarters of the way into it, I spotted a man about a half-mile ahead of me on the same side of the street. I didn’t think much of it. He was going in the same direction, but was way ahead. I didn’t think I’d catch up with or pass him before I reached the park and turned around. I continued at my pace, while the words, Stay alert, stay alive, went through my head — instructions I had received at a walk orientation meeting a month or two earlier.

I soon realized I was gaining on the man, and briefly considered crossing the street. Then I saw a female jogger approach and pass him as she came up the street toward me. He hadn’t even glanced at her, so I decided he was just out exercising like the rest of us, and I needn’t be concerned. I kept walking, listening to my tape, getting closer to him.

I could now see he was an older Asian man, on the stairs about halfway up to the park from the street. He was looking at me. I could tell he wanted to say something, so I stopped, looked up at him, took off my headphones and smiled. He said, “Michigan [referring to the blue and gold logo on my white sweatshirt], you walk a long way. I watch you.”

I said, “Yes, sir, I have,” and kept smiling and waiting. I felt comfortable talking to him.

He said, “When I was thirty-five years old, I was sick. My doctor told me to start walking every day. Doctor said it make me healthier, stronger.”

“Good,” I said.

The man held up his arms in a strongman pose: “See: strong and healthy now! From that day I have walked one hour every day, and today I am sixty-five!”

I smiled, enjoying his story. He went on: “Every day I walk, then go home to my wife and tell her I love her. That keeps me healthy, too.” He added that he tells her he walks for her, because he loves her. Then he said something that made me catch my breath. He simply said, with force and a pointed finger, “You will live a long time if you do the same — walk an hour every day and tell your husband you do it because you love him.”

“...you walk a long way.” That statement could be a metaphor for the last two years of my life, and for the lives of those around me. I am a thirty-six-year-old breast-cancer survivor.

I thought I was doing the Avon Three-Day walk because I had received so much help from so many people and organizations, and because my sister had a passion to do it. That nice man made me realize that I am also walking for the same reason that I endured two mastectomies, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and the removal of my ovaries — because I love my husband, children, family and friends so much that I want to be around for a lot more years.

I will walk every day, and I will go home and tell my husband I walk because I love him.

 

~Donna St. Jean Conti
Chicken Soup to Inspire the Body & Soul

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