Today is the annual Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes Walkathon. A week ago I pushed myself to sign up when I learned that Fullis and her husband would be walking. Last year I’d just given money and stayed home. But things are changing now.
I have started a last combing through of my manuscript. All week I sat around turning chapter 12 into chapter 1 and scouring the first third of the book for places to improve.
“Your manuscript is never done,” say my writer friends. It is true. I could rewrite the book for the rest of my days. But it’s time to focus on finding an agent.
When I write, I relive my times with my daughter. I feel the tremendous hope we held until the very end. I soar with the small victories. I reach back into the almost three years in and out of hospitals, and Marika is with me once more. Then comes chapter 11. The loss flattens me. Again and again.
The two-mile walk around Cass Park to benefit our local Cancer Resource Center is a good distraction. There are thousands out here on this cold damp day. People wear pinks, reds and turquoise. Some wear photos of their lost ones pinned to their chests. There are children and dogs in costumes. Survivors pose together for pictures, and high school cheerleaders and musicians line the route. A friend of my daughter’s calls out to me. Two people I know only on Facebook say hello.
Fullis, her husband, and I walk our usual fast hikers’ pace and soon we are near the end of the walk. In my head I am already inside of chapter 8. In that chapter, Marika is in remission and we are in a race against time to get her stem cell transplant when she announces that she can’t have the transplant until after her concert. I can hardly wait to get back.
“Do you ever feel like your daughter is with you?” asks Fullis. I look at the dogs in costume, at my feet on the gravel path, at the changing colors of the landscape. I look anywhere but at my friend as I fight back tears.
“Don’t get me started,” I say as my eyes finally find the already fading mackerel sky.