I made it all the way to the top in just 34 minutes! Today I’m still in disbelief. Participating in the Hustle up the Hancock was so meaningful considering my health struggles and the fact that just two short years ago, my only goal each day was to get out of bed to use the portable toilet in the hospital. My life plan is much different now, as you can see from this picture of me, standing on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Center in Chicago. Getting there was half of the fun. The rest of the fun involved getting wrapped up in the other stories of hope, like the Firefighters from across the country who climb in honor the 343 fallen firefighters who gave their lives in the 9/11 World Trade Center Disaster. Or the foam boards filled with thousands of names and the words, “Climbing in Memory Of….”
Our team was one of the largest proving how Kari has touched so many through Steve and his efforts to honor her in this climb (the photo here is just 1/3 of our team). Steve and I met for the first time on Sunday and someone said, “I can’t believe you two haven’t met yet” and I responded by saying, “No we haven’t but we are connected” with my hand resting on my chest. With Steve I shared a hug or two, or three and if I had to describe him with just one word, I'd probably use the word ‘warm.’ Laura is the same way.
Over 4,000 people participated but the most important people to me were Kari’s friends. After meeting me in the holding area before the start line, they climbed the entire way with me. I’m sure they could have hiked it a lot faster if they weren’t waiting around for me, but these good people from Iowa wanted “No Woman Left Behind” as Katie called it. They are being too nice if they tell you that I was keeping up with them, instead, I think they were sticking by my side. When we made it, I told them that Kari was so very lucky to have them to call friends. Here they were, cheering me on and helping me the whole way when we had only met ten minutes ago…and they knew Kari for a lifetime. She was a lucky girl. We had an absolute ball!
Many of my doctors wanted a picture of me at the top so I ran from the finish line to the first open spot I could find in the sea of people. A few photos were snapped and as soon as I turned around to find out what direction I was facing and what part of the skyline was in my background I saw it. Northwestern Memorial Hospital, the place where I almost lost my life was there staring back at me, probably smiling. I thought about all of the people inside of there, waiting for organs or sick from Cancer and I imagined that if I could make it this far and look back at the building from this view, then they could too. I closed my eyes and hoped that each of them, by some miracle, would have the good fortune that I’ve been so blessed with.
There is so much more that I could say but those words will come in time so stay tuned. For now, I’m still soaking it all in and remembering that I did accomplish the athletic event of a lifetime. Now onto the transplant games and maybe running a 5K…I hope.