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I love participating in charitable walks. I love the idea of masses of people coming together, donating their time and money for a cause that is important to them. I have walked for Huntington’s Disease in honor of my oldest sister’s in-laws who are suffering with the neurological disease that is unfortunately hereditary. I have walked for childhood cancer in honor of one of my student’s baby sister who was diagnosed with kidney cancer at the age of one after an x-ray was looking for pneumonia. I have walked for lung cancer in memory of my mom.

The way I stumbled across the Free to Breathe walk was a Google search one late evening in bed. My mom had been diagnosed a couple of weeks and the idea hit me; I need to form a team in her honor and get people together for lung cancer research and awareness. In two hours, Clan Diane was born. We had our own webpage through Free to Breathe that people could donate and sign up for the team. I couldn’t wait to tell my mom because I knew she would be flattered. I wanted her to see the good out of the ugly cancer that had started to shave time off her life. Due to her illness, we were given an opportunity to raise awareness of lung cancer by telling my mom’s story.

My mom’s boyfriend was able to network with his company co-workers and friends to bring in a lot of money. It was thrilling to log in and check the donation page every day. I became addicted and started to get a little rush, sort of like gambling, every time the number went up. I was a little occupied with my mom’s situation, which took all of my concentration, so I couldn’t really focus on raising money. I was too worried about when her next doctor’s appointment was, where it was, who we were seeing, what floor of the hospital it was on, what time did we need to get there, whether or not she could eat. My mind became numb to everything else except my mom and her needs. It was kind of like a mind vacation from all of my personal needs and it actually felt nice to only focus on my mom, her needs, and our relationship as mother and daughter. Plus, I really loved seeing her every day. It had been seven years since we did that.

The walk was scheduled for end of September so I told myself not to worry about the walk until August. I just couldn’t donate any more of my energy; I was starting to run low. August quickly approached after a long tiresome July in the hospital involving my mom’s emergency surgery on her heart.

During the first week in August, my mom and I sat on the hunter green and maroon floral couch in the sunny living room, mom a little lethargic, I a little wore out. By that time, I quit working a 9-5 job and worked solely on my mom. I was also trying to mentally prepare myself for student teaching which would be starting mid-August. I had no idea how I was going to take care of her, student teach, and advocate for the walk all at the same time; but I knew it would all work out somehow. While we sat there on the couch, heads on each others’ shoulders, my mom picked her head up, looked at me with slatted eyes.
“Are you still doing the walk?”
“Oh yes” I said.
“When is it?”
“September.”
“Hmm” was all she said. I knew she was wondering the same thing, would she make it?

She didn’t make it. My walking in honor of my mom turned into walking in memory of my mom. Now I am the chairman of the Free to Breathe event in Kansas City planning the race/walk for 2012, still in memory of my mom. And yes, Clan Diane will be there with bells on.

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