Breathe In, Breathe Out

A Walk To Remember July 1, 2013

I was quite content spending this weekend relaxing, and enjoying some quality time with Eamonn. I was happy to not wake up at 2:30am on Saturday morning, to get ready for what I only assumed would be the most physically challenging day of my life, thus far. I was happy to not be on my feet for 14 hours straight.

3:30am, and ready to go!

3:30am, and ready to go!

The Cystic Fibrosis Xtreme Hike 2013 was a 27.5-mile hike through parts of the Taconic Crest Trail, touching 3 states: Vermont (very briefly), Massachusetts, and New York. During the months of training leading up to June 22nd, we learned about the trail and some of its obstacles, but it’s only when you see it face-to-face that you actually begin to understand its fierceness. To give you an idea—the first two miles, beginning at 4am, in the dark, we ascended about 2000 ft. in elevation. Over the course of the 27.5 miles, we continued to ascend a total of over 8500 feet.  It might not sound intimidating but imagine looking ahead, to realize it appears to be straight up, already having hiked 16 miles. It wasn’t easy—but it was all kinds of awesome!

Last year, the first time it was brought to New England, I couldn’t do the hike. Honestly, I was quite relieved, because my dad had mentioned it to me and having a wedding that day was an easy out! This year, I didn’t have any excuses, and neither did my dad—though I think he conveniently forgot that he had contemplated doing it the year prior. So with some thought and consideration for the time we’d be devoting to training and fundraising, we decided to go for it. Our first training hike with other Xtreme hikers was in March, which kicked off 3 months of getting physically and mentally prepared—and we learned quickly that hiking was not the same as walking up Whisper Drive, or running down Beacon Street for a few miles. That initial hike kicked our butts, only to make us more determined.

The many training hikes I went on with my dad and fellow hikers, made the overall experience that much more worth it. Originally I signed-up for the hike to raise money for CF, but what I didn’t realize is how special doing

Mile 13?

Mile 13?

it with my dad would be. First of all, I want to thank him for being easily persuaded. But mostly I want to tell everyone how incredible he is—how many almost 65-year-olds can say that they just hiked 26 miles in one day? But it’s not just that—it’s that he trained so hard, he fundraised like he asked people for money for a living, all while loving every minute. And I got to be a part of it all. Dad, I couldn’t be a prouder daughter. You amaze me.

I also want to thank my mom and Eamonn. On so many Saturdays, you both rearranged your plans to accommodate our training schedule. When we didn’t know how long an 8-mile hike would take us, and we guessed at about 3 hours, and then took an actual 4.5 hours, you both just continued to support us and hope we got home safely. Thank you for your patience through all of it, and most of all thank you for being there on June 22nd. I wish I could explain how your presence, along with Abby’s and Ethan’s, kept me moving onward. Your motivation and positive spirits allowed me to believe in myself over the course of those 14 hours on the trail.

And now to all of you — thank you, thank you, thank you. My dad and I may have put our bodies through significant pain and stress, but it was your donations and generosity that will make the real difference in so many lives. My dad and I had a fundraising goal of $5,000 and thanks to all of you we raised approximately $7,000 to date. Including the money raised for the Great Strides walk, we have raised over $12,000 for continued CF research. CF is on the verge of finding a cure, and because of you I have absolute confidence that we will get there soon. I also want you all to know that during the hike, my dad and I each carried with us a print-out of all of the messages people wrote to us if they donated online. To know we had so many loved ones behind us every step of the way was, and always is, overwhelmingly invaluable.

Eamonn and Kate –I love you both (obviously in different ways!).  When all is said and done, I hiked for the two of you. It’s hard to not sound cliché or like a broken record, but you both inspire me in so many ways. The night before the hike someone reminded us that our experience was about “suffering”, and challenging ourselves in a way that we had never done. It was a reminder to not take our health and lives for granted. A reminder that we were hiking 27.5 miles for those that couldn’t. As we were getting ready to load the vans in the morning someone else saw my look of concern and doubt for what was to come, and asked me whom I was hiking for. I said “My husband and sister-in-law,” and all she said was “and that’s enough to get you through.” I didn’t believe her at the time, but during the 14-hours I found myself thinking of both of you (not creepily), and even a couple of times saying Eamonn’s name out loud. It really did get me through. You are both reminders of hope and positivity each and every day.

At 5am, after about an hour of hiking, watching the sunrise, I thought to myself, “This is awesome.” At about 2pm, after hiking already for about 10 hours, with what would be 4 hours to go, I thought to myself, “Why the hell am I doing this?” But I always knew why I was doing it, and it was unbelievably awesome (aside from the 6 painful blisters I acquired, and not being able to walk properly the next day!). I was told many times by veteran hikers that the experience would get under my skin and I’d be back next year, and I’d shrug and think, “I highly doubt that.” Now that I’m walking, not limping, and able to wear closed-toe shoes, I have to admit that I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m back on the trail next year! Thank you to all my fellow hikers who made the past few months so fun and unforgettable. All of us hiked for different reasons, we got to know one another by sharing our stories, and bonding over a disease that has affected all of us in some way or another, but enough to make us crazy enough to hike 27 miles together. I hope we can all continue to kick CF in the butt.

 

Walkin’ It Out June 4, 2012

Filed under: My posts — elanaalfred @ 2:42 pm
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What would you do with $11,000?

If I’m being honest, I would probably want to buy clothing, accessories, décor for my apartment, and put a large chunk into my savings for future travel. I know it does not seem like much, if only I could tack on a couple more zeroes, but that amount of money can go a long way. In fact, if you google “what can you do with $11,000?” your search will come up with stories of people who live on that amount for an annual income.

I am very proud to share that this amount is also how much my Cystic Fibrosis Great Strides Walk team raised this year—to be precise it was actually $11,675. This was my and Eamonn’s 5th year walking, twice in Chicago and three times in Boston, so we wanted to celebrate this by making an ambitious goal for ourselves to raise $10,000. I knew this would be tough, but I have always been one to enjoy a good challenge, and was prepared to hold a couple fundraising events, send out letters, make phone calls, and of course make good use of everyone’s favorite fundraising tool, facebook.

In March, Eamonn and I sent out a letter or email to our closest friends and families asking them to donate to our walk team and/or join us for the walk in May. We were so touched and appreciative of the contributions that continued coming in for the next few months. We received gifts from childhood friends, my grandmothers’ friends, our parent’s colleagues and friends, and even friend’s friends whom we have never met. I know I have said this a number of times already, but I can’t possibly thank everyone enough who donated to our efforts. The money goes a long way in helping to fund CF research and bring us closer to finding a cure, but it also provides endless encouragement and strength for me and Eamonn.

The Great Strides Walk, and most other walks for causes, is driven by raising funds and awareness. However, for me the CF walk is far more than just that.

Since knowing Eamonn I have obviously gotten to know a significant amount about cystic fibrosis—about the disease, what its doing to Eamonn’s body, the medical treatments, the type of care needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I have grown accustomed to hospital rooms, meeting new doctors, despite my fear of them (no offense, dad), all of the equipment, etc. But there is one thing that I am not sure I will ever get comfortable with, and that is having to sit by and watch Eamonn when he gets sick, or overwhelmed with treatments, and not be able to take any of it off his plate. As his caretaker, my job is to stay strong, maintain my humor, hold his hand, rub his back, listen, and stay supportive. As his caretaker I cannot take his drugs for him, do his therapy, put on oxygen, gain more weight (well, that I can do, but it hasn’t helped him!) or take his place for hospitalizations. And what I really wish, was that I could just give him my more healthy set of lungs, or at least one, so that we could be equally balanced. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

The CF walk is something that I can do—not just for Eamonn, but for the entire CF community. For me, it is about my contribution to all those that live with cystic fibrosis, working everyday to stay alive. The money raised, the awareness to those who know very little about the disease, the unity it brings across the country, exemplifies hope, courage, support, and love. It is a moment for me to show Eamonn how much strength he has behind him and that he is most definitely not fighting CF alone.

The walk is also a reminder that there is an entire community of people just like us. As a wife of a patient, I have moments of weakness when I feel alone, as if nobody truly understands my thoughts and feelings, and not knowing who to turn to when I want to express my frustration and sadness. The day of the walk and seeing faces, looking at the team T-shirts, hearing other’s stories, I realize that I do have a CF family who struggles with my very same emotions. I feel a sense of belonging and comfort.

In 2008, Eamonn and I participated in the Great Strides walk Chicago with 8 close friends and raised maybe $300. A couple weeks ago in Boston, for our 5th walk, we were joined by a team of 25 friends and family members (including the babies) and raised $11,675. We have come a very long way over the past few years, as has the CF community. For those of you who were not able to join us on May 20th, it is important that you know how much we felt your presence. Each dollar contributed was one more push for me and Eamonn to keep striding, knowing that we have all of you as our cheerleaders.

With all the advancements that have been made in CF research and medicine, being able to contribute another $11,000 makes me incredibly hopeful—hopeful for a cure that will benefit Eamonn and my whole CF family. Perhaps next year we will strive to raise $15,000, but no matter what we will continue to walk with the rest of the CF community and invite you all to join us for years to come.