2017 marks my 13th year volunteering at the Avon39 Walk and my tenth at the Massage Team Leader. Each year a group of incredibly talented and dedicated licensed massage therapists comes together to support the walkers and crew members as part of the medical team. This year was no different.
Our team arrives on Saturday morning at 8 am to set up our tent and start massage on crew members around 10 am. By 9 pm, we shut down for the evening, get our second dinner at the dining tent, do some massage work on each other, then we TRY to sleep on our massage tables in our big tent. My traditional on Sunday morning is to wake everyone at 4:45 am to The Beatles – Here’s Come the Sun. Though, honestly, the sun is never up until after we start massages again at 5:30 am.
People often ask me why I do this, why am I so committed to this cause and this event. It’s not just me. This is a largely volunteer-run event with many of the 500 crew members on board for over twenty years. Everyone has their own reason for volunteering and for walking. For some, it’s to honor someone close to them with breast cancer; for others, it’s for themselves. For me, it started well before I was doing massage therapy. It was when my close girlfriend from college called me one night to tell me that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She was 33! She had no family history, no risk factors… how could this be? I remember being so stunned that I sat in my car in a random parking lot and cried. She is an amazing person and started counseling other newly diagnosed women even as she was still going through treatment herself. Thankfully, she is still doing well almost 20 years later. Once I transitioned into a Massage Therapy career, I knew that oncology massage; and in particular, mastectomy massage would be my specialty.
What we do during the Avon39 weekend is easy. We lose a little sleep. Our hands and feet and backs are a little tired and sore. But, within a few days, we have recovered and are back into our routines and daily lives. The reality of women and men going through cancer treatment is much different.
In 2017, as in most of the previous twelve years, a dear client died after a long struggle with breast cancer. A wonderful woman truly dedicated to her profession and helping others, her death has affected many and her work will be greatly missed though the memories will live on in all those she affected including myself and my staff.
I volunteer for Avon 39 every year so someday I won’t have to. I volunteer to honor all those women and men – clients, friends and loved ones that have died away from cancer. I volunteer so that the next generation of women (and men – yes, men can get breast cancer) won’t have to face this diagnosis.
The 2017 NYC Avon 39 walk raised $6.4 million dollars. That’s just in the NYC walk. Much more was raised in the other cities across the country. Much of this money stays locally to help fund programs for uninsured women and men going through treatment. Read more here about the local programs supported by the money raised at the Avon39 Walk. For those interested in walking or crewing for the 2018 walk, registration can be found at www.avon39.org