TORONTO, Canada, May 25, 2014 — Today has been a day of reflection, of contemplation and of joy. It is World Partnership Walk day, an event that my family and I have been participating in for more than 25 years. This Walk is one of the largest fundraising events in Canada to support the world’s poorest communities in initiatives that include maternal and childcare services, clean water and sanitation in villages and education of underprivileged girls.
Two years ago on World Partnership Walk day, I was in the hospital with febrile neutropenia. I was connected to an IV to get the antibiotics I needed to get better. My face was swollen from taking dexamethasone. I was too sick to walk. Afzal, Sabrina’s boyfriend, came to visit me at the hospital. He could see that I was very sad not to be part of the Walk. Next thing I know, he spoke with the nurses and got permission to wheel me down, in a wheelchair, to the ground floor of the hospital. He situated me behind the glass inside the foyer so that I could at least watch the walkers pass by.
Two years later, I walked almost the entire route of the World Partnership Walk! I walked with vigour. I walked with family and friends. I walked almost 3.5 km from David Pecaut Square at Metro Hall to Queen’s Park and back!
After the Walk, I visited a friend who was just released from The Princess Margaret Cancer Centre where she is being treated for leukemia. She recently underwent a donor stem cell transplant and has lost all her hair. It was heartwarming to hear her story and to see how strong she is in spite of the adversity and challenge that life has dealt her. We talked about shared experiences and dealing with the havoc of chemotherapy. And then we took time to have fun! I had her try on all my wigs and she did this with gusto! Each wig gave her a new personality. She went from blond to redhead; from straight to curly, from long hair to a stylish bob. I was honored to be a witness to this. And it felt so good to bring a little bit of fun in her day. It was also a cathartic turning point for me as I finally said goodbye to my wigs.
If I could go back in time 2 years ago, sitting in a wheelchair watching the World Partnership walkers go by, I would remind myself to embrace each challenge with faith and to look to the future with immense hope, no matter how difficult our current circumstances may be. That is the best gift we can give to ourselves.