When a Facebook friend posted the news about Komen cutting its support for Planned Parenthood, I had a quick and visceral reaction. Can’t possibly be true. There’s got to be a lot more to the story. I quickly posted a comment. Only semi-indignant. I held back but I was really disbelieving. There had to be a really good reason why Komen would make such a decision — like maybe Planned Parenthood was siphoning off money to buy Mercedes for top executives or holding flashy parties with male strippers who were getting tipped with Komen cash.
I couldn’t believe Komen would do anything so seriously wrong. After all, I’d walked sixty miles for this organization. Twice. Two 3-Days. And I’m not like 25 years old either so it’s kind of a big deal to go strolling for 20 miles three days in a row with a sea of women who could all be my daughters.
But as the news unfolded, it became oh, so clear what had happened. And it made me sick. It really made me sick. I can’t stand stuff that makes life harder for poor people. It’s a major theme in my life. But a big reason why this Komen thing really hit me and I reacted so incredulously and this isn’t a joke, although you will think it is, had to do with my big toe.
It was my first 3-Day walk. San Diego 2007. The first day — we’ve got our new shirts on, our little pink hats, and our little fanny packs and we start walking. And it’s a sensation like no other because first I’m thinking – wow, this is so amazing to be here with thousands of women setting out on the streets of San Diego, we’re a damn army here — and then within minutes, I’m incredulous at my own misplaced bravado. I thought I could walk 20 miles a day? So after the first brave mile, there was 19 miles of faking it.
That night after a ridiculous Lucille Ball-like episode where I lost and then found our tent (which had been hiding about 6 feet away from us at the time), we settled in. And then it happened. The suitcase dropped on my big toe. And hearing, not hearing, feeling the splitting as the toenail pulled away from the nailbed.
Next morning. A lot of bandages, the sock, the shoe, the walking. I wanted to stop every 20 feet, unwrap it and look at the damage. The car wreck in my shoe. I hobbled into the first aid tent at one stop and asked the nurse what could be done. The nurse told me she could take the nail off right then and there or I could keep wrapping it and icing it and soldier on. I remembered the adage about how you can take your mind off one pain by creating another one so I tried to focus on the blisters on my other foot. And tried not to see the little peek of blood seeping through the top of my shoe.
I will say this. I kept on walking. That day (day #2) and the third day. And I walked into Padre Stadium at the end of the 60 miles with my daughter and a massive herd of sweaty, blistered women and got this shirt. And I was so amazingly glad to be done. So relieved that I hadn’t dropped dead or cried or had to have people carry me or ride in the dreaded sweep van. I walked every stupid step.
I felt pride. And solidarity. And gratitude. I felt like I overcame my damn toe and my wimpiness and my wanting to lay down on someone’s lawn and ask for a blanket. All that pink made me strong, man.
So when I first saw the news about Komen’s crappy decision, I just couldn’t believe it. These were the people who made me a tough girl (if only for three days). So I reacted to the news by immediately defending Komen – reflex. Like somehow being in the 3-Day had made the Komen folks my peeps. I think a lot of women across the country might feel like I do – like the organization they stood up for just took them for a ride.
I’m feeling pretty sad right now. Maybe I’m kind of feeling had. Feeling like the solidarity and the pink and the sea of women were more props than real. I don’t know.
Those were some great days.