This past weekend marked the NF Walk that took place in Cincinnati. Being my second year attending, it had both similarities and differences: Same park, same 2-mile trail, same purpose–to raise awareness of the disease (NF1, NF2 and Schwannomatosis) and fund raise for The Children’s Tumor Foundation, in order that the research for new treatments may continue. Like the year before, the presence of Storm Troopers resulted in group pictures and rounds of high fives. Except this year, as the Storm Trooper started talking to me, I just looked at him and said nicely, “I have no idea what you are saying, because I can’t read your lips.” Maybe it is because he is used to little children “oohh, Storm Trooper!” responses, I think my comment caught him by surprise as I noted the way that he tilted his head and then looked at my friend, Tasha. haha. Not much he could do there to fix the situation, but he did talk a bit more (I assumed) about this as he was making hand motions around his “still lips.” It was kind of obvious that most people don’t small talk to Storm Troopers in this way. None-the-less, after our many pictures, he ventured to other participants and we got ready to start the walk with the others.
Last year, with my parents gone to Colorado for a conference, my team–“We Walk With Mel,” consisted of my sisters Marcia, Melissa (brother-in-law David) and my aunt/uncle who drove up from NC as a surprise! The Children’s Tumor Foundation hosts many walks throughout the summer in different major cities. Last year, there was a walk in Denver in the early Fall. Unable to physically attend, I was there in spirit as my childhood friend, Tasha, teamed with sister Megan and roommate from college, Calli, to form their own team in my honor to walk. It was very special to see the pictures of friends I grew up with or went to college with there in Denver walking the course for the CTF. I am very humbled and blessed by all the support given both last year and this year for this cause. Thank you.
This year was exciting, because the team, “A Mile in Mel’s Shoes,” had ten people! My parents, Melissa and David, my friend Tracy and her kids–Seth and Lexi–and this year, Tasha joined me here on the walk with our other childhood friend, Chelsea. What a beautiful day it turned out to be, even with my initial plans of pushing the wheelchair until I needed rest flopped. Sitting the whole two miles was not frustrating or embarrassing; for the first time, I did not feel like I was a burden, even though I weigh 150 lbs. and it was HOT and humid. My family and friends took turns pushing me, with the hills and lows of the trail–they led me to the very end of the course and cheered with me upon finishing.
Team “A Mile in Mel’s Shoes” was physical evidence that no matter what you are living through, those who love and support you will see you to the end. Likewise, the team is surrounded by those who were present in spirit…praying and contributing financially. When I think of all those in my life, I am seeing the fullness of how one life reaches to another: Some may have to cheer to you from the side-lines; some may have to walk ahead and when you need them, they call out to you offering advice based on their own journey before yours. And still others may just walk beside you: They cry when you cry, laugh when you laugh, or carry you when you don’t have the strength to do it on your own. In my own journey living with NF2, I have been surrounded by these all in their own ways, in God’s timing. And I am in awe of God’s goodness in this, because I could never in any wildest hopes or dreams, make it on my own.
No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
John 15:15, ESV