Contributed by Julianne Berg
Do you know how on some days you just wake up gloomy? You wash your face and brush your teeth, grab a cup of coffee, and yet there is still a cloud of gray over your head?
That was me back in February. I had recently lost a good friend from my colorectal cancer support group, and I was hurting. I was having myself a spectacular pity party. I felt alone and decided that I didn’t really have any friends. I called my sister, and she wasn’t having any of it. She listed off my friends who would be mighty miffed to hear that I was lumping everyone into the acquaintance category. Clearly, she believed that I had friends, but I wasn’t ready to concede that just yet.
By the next day, I had ended my pity party and set my mind to fundraising for the DC ScopeItOut 5K, which was about a month away at the time. I already knew that a friend of mine, David, would be joining me, so I issued an open-door invite to anyone who wanted to walk with my family and me.
Over the next few weeks, my friends and family donated to my personal fundraiser for ScopeItOut and helped me reach my fundraising goal of $12,000. This is the most money I have ever raised for anything, and I could not have been more excited!
The 5K supports the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, and they support colorectal cancer patients like me, plus caregivers, family members, and researchers. I have used their online resources for research and availed myself of the vibrant support community that they cultivate. This is all to say that I really like this organization and think they do good work. I was delighted to raise this much money for them.
Just ahead of ScopeItOut, as my fundraising leaped skyward, I got more good news: A few friends had said they would join me. I was also asked by the Alliance to be their survivor speaker at the event, so life is good, and I’m super happy. I couldn’t have imagined what would happen next.
Surprises Ahead of ScopeItOut
In the days leading up to ScopeItOut, so many of my friends and family members seemed to just appear in DC from all the different places they call home. Each one was the biggest surprise. There was Debra and Julie from California. My brother and nephews from Florida. Michelle and Chang Hee had traveled from Colorado and Wisconsin, respectively. In the days that followed, there were even more apparitions, and I couldn’t believe it.
My heart was near exploding with joy as I looked around at my friends who had come to support me as a colorectal cancer survivor. We had lovely evenings catching up and reliving days past. I desperately wanted to stay awake, but I knew sleep was needed. Sunday, March 27 -- the day of Scope It Out -- was just ahead.
ScopeItOut … and So Much More
Sunday dawned cold, but not raining. We all met downtown for opening ceremonies, and I gave my speech looking out at all of these beautiful people who gave me their time and their hearts to be here. Somehow I made it through my speech without crying.
I tried to visit with everyone who came – but it was impossible. So I spend the walk like a butterfly – flitting between people, trying to absorb them all and hold on to the magic that is them.
After ScopeItOut, we split up for lunch and then meet at a rental house, where I kicked off my shoes and sunk into a couch to just watch everyone. Truly, I tell you, I was just trying to absorb and hold on to the amazing community that surrounded me.
I thought that my sister told me that the series of amazing surprises I had encountered over the previous few days was all because of my pity party that began this post. It turns out, it wasn’t. It was all because of the magic of each of these special people, my heros. They all came just to support me and walk with me - it was the magic of each of them. It was especially meaningful to me, as I still felt the loss of my friend from the support group.
Finding My Heroes
Over the years, I have watched people come together to say goodbye to a dying loved one. I thought, how lucky am I to have everyone come together while I am healthy, while relationships can still be cultivated and nurtured, and memories made. I know this post seems like it is all about me – but I hope you can see that it is really all about THEM.
Our friends and family are the selfless ones, the giving ones, the heroes of our stories -- and my story. I hope that this weekend is as precious to them as it is to me. I will strive to be more like them, more giving of my time, my money, and my love.
Thank you David, Kathy & Jay, Debra, Julie, Matt and Kay, Michelle, Chang Hee, Laura, Derek, Kate, Chris & Manny & Tray, Lisa, Karen, Anna & Lance & Noah & Adam, Jane, Courtney, Michelle, Lauren, Jo, Mary, Taylor, Audrey, Bruce & Lisa, Jeff, John, Mom and Dad, Bill, Hailey, Samantha and Madeline. I love you.
Also, a PSA for everyone: If you are 45 and over – get screened for colorectal cancer. If you have changes in your bowel habits at any age, talk to your doctor, and push for a colonoscopy. The life you save may be your own.
Julianne (Jules) Berg is a colorectal cancer survivor from Virginia and a volunteer Ally Author with the Colorectal Cancer Alliance.
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