It’s me, Virginia. I finally gave Vicki a break from her long nights of sweating it out over the computer to help bring my message and story to life. It’s her turn to sit back and read an entry – her turn to take a break – her turn to enjoy the beauty of the past 2 weeks. Heck, she certainly deserves it!
As a math teacher, I can not promise this blog will be anywhere near as beautifully written as what my sister was able to express via her amazing writing abilities, but I will do my best. After all, our best is what we all are capable of and it should always be good enough 🙂 SO all you English teachers out there try hard not to correct my mistakes and let them just be a further extension of who I am – no where near perfect but good just the way I am. 🙂
I wanted to write one last blog to let you all know I am alive and still kicking. What a ride. As my sister Velma and I drive home from Niagra an hour after I crossed the finish line, I turned to her and started to giggle. I said, “Velma I can’t believe how naive I was going into this. I truly had no idea what running 900km of Bruce Trail really meant. That was nuts!” Both of us were laughing as we drove down the highway, not quite sure what just had unfolded.
I keep saying WE DID THIS because there is no way I would ever of completed Day 2 without everyone stepping in to help. I can’t possibly list all the names – there was just too many other people running with me either on the trail, cheering me on from their homes or watching over me from above (bethsbootsahiking.com). Every morning I woke up at 4:30am and grabbed my phone to read messages and my sister’s blog. Each time I was not disappointed as the message was loud and clear that people would wait for me to finish when I did – not when I should. No pressure – just support. No judgement – only guidance. No stigmas – only voices sharing their own stories of depression, eating disorders and other mental health issues. How could I not get out of bed and start moving? So I did. Left foot, right foot, repeat.
Once Chris told me I had 5km to go, I became very excited. I was longing to reach the end. But – something made me slow down a bit. I remembered how in life we are always so quick to try to get to the “end”. Striving so hard to reach our goals but often missing the journey along the way. Instead of picking up my pace (cause I had lots still in the tank) I started to slow down. I did not really talk to anyone the last 5km, but instead watched my feet and tried hard to soak up this moment. The closer I got to the finish the more I was terrified of tripping -wanting to complete this so badly that I was scared of something stepping in my way. Then came Barb’s smiling face with 3 km to go. She came back! What a beautiful face beaming down at me and giving me play by play of what was upcoming. What an incredible lady – constantly giving to others. She came back! 🙂 She read a message from Vicki who was texting her – she said something about it feeling like being pregnant, 10cm dilated and ready to pop. Yup – leave it to Vicki, a labour and delivery nurse, to give those words of encouragement with 2 km to go! Gotta love my family – unique in many ways! Barb was just kinda confused by the whole text. 🙂 I don’t blame her!
With the finish line less then a km to go – my only thought was Cathy. I needed to be beside her – run in with her – share this moment with her. Cathy, as most of you know, is the most unselfish, giving, hard working girl I know. Just being around her brings other people up. Everyone gravitates towards Cathy for a reason as she is just that type of person (people reading this knowing her totally get what I am saying). Together, we ran side my side. Taking in the cheers. Then, I saw the monument – the FINISH.
We grabbed hands (as I was crying like a loud screaming baby and could not see). She gently guided me in, just like she guided me all these days. And then she let go. I touched the monument and felt a huge sense of relief (ok Vicki -it was a bit like birth – that feeling of pure joy when the baby is placed in your arms and your pain is suddenly gone instantly). But within seconds I felt lost without Cathy. I looked up and there she was waiting patiently for our final hug. Next Ray’s hug and finally Velma’s hug. A perfect moment that would not of been possible without everyone. Thank you for giving that moment to me.
Instantly we celebrated! I – no WE – had completed the Bruce End to End and secured the fasted women’s time. WOW. Cathy sure knew what she was doing in her sneaky little plans (often giving just the right amount of pressure and support when needed – sometimes telling me there was no aid stations available to make me go a few km’s longer when she knew I could).
BUT – within minutes of the celebration, I quickly came back to reality when I spoke to a teacher who just happened to be at the finish. He shared his story of the loss of his son to suicide this past June. It certainly snapped me back to reality and made me remember the true reason for this adventure. Not for some “record” but to end the stigma attached to mental health issues. The pure courage it took this man to share his story with me out of the blue was humbling. His face and tears in his eyes showed me his pain – pain I could not even begin to imagine. What struck me the most was even though this pain was only 2 months raw, he was able to speak of how already his son’s death had saved a couple of other students. A father – being able to think of others at such a time of loss for himself. This father is my hero. I don’t have his name but if you are reading this I want you to know I will never forget our conversation – and the strength you showed me. Never.
How do you even begin to thank the person who gave you a second chance at life all those years ago? And I feel like she did it again. For those that don’t know her, she has 5 kids (under the age of 15), runs a Dairy Farm in PEI has the same spunk as Cathy and could put the energizer bunny to shame.
She ran a total of 89km’s with me in the last 3 days – not bad for a non runner! Did she have time to come up and help out – HECK NO. But, as always, she made the time. She was only suppose to stay for the first 4 days, but came back for the last 4 just because. I can not even put words to the feeling of her walking through my bedroom door the night she came back. But the next day was tough as again I felt guilty that she dropped everything yet again in her life to help me. How lucky am I? Velma, you saved me all those years ago and your continue to inspire me to be the best that I can. Around you I feel like I can do anything. She never complains, sees the glass half full and is quick to give to others wanting nothing in return. She is still here with me now, cleaning my house, baking for my kids and giving me this time to write my blog. I won the lottery with both my sisters – they are the BOMB. Jonboy (my bother) you are the BOMB too. How you survived in our chatterbox of a family ceases to amaze me! 🙂
I arrived home to beautiful signs and neighbours waiting to say congrats (thank Zoe – you are just the best). I went to bed on a high, knowing that it would eventually diminish. I hibernated for the entire next day – hanging with the boys that evening and just letting my body understand that it no longer had to run. I awoke today to a message from Colleen, my best friend since high school) who flew in from Alberta to help me- what a great way to begin the day.
There are so many moments over these past 2 weeks – I had my 54 year rock star picking me up after down days, visits from Bruce Trail finishers, Sport Chek backing me with the gear, awesome underwear and clothes from Lululemon, veteran Ultra Runners guiding my way and a family of people cheering me on. I am lucky. Very lucky.
But let’s also be honest. There were many lows to (much like life). To not mention them would be a disservice to Positive Mental Health as learning to handle the stresses or lows in life is key to marinating balance. My lowest was Day 7 – the pain in my shin was unmanageable at that point. The worry of my weight gain (9 pounds), bulging compartment syndrome looming and the lack of any energy became huge. I can not lie. When the ER doctor and my Chrio Dr. Julie came to Barry and Cathy’s house that night to see me I was at the lowest point. I sat on the coach and longed so badly for the words, “it is in the best interest of your health to stop.” Those words did not come. I tried hard not to scream – take me out now! But, the doctors told me not to make a decision until the morning. What wise words. Often we make decisions in the mist of chaos and when we are over tired. Making decisions rested is the best advice I can offer. I was about to quit. I didn’t. Was I able to do that on my own. NOPE as if it was just me I would of quit. Instead, my best friend Colleen guided this decision for me gently the next morning. She told me that we would just do 10km and then come back to the pool for Margaritas. No pressure. Off I went – and kept going. Thanks Colleen for knowing what I needed as you often have over the years.
Other lows included feeling like an animal. I ate like one, peed/pooped like one and stunk like one. My legs were harry, my hair matted, my clothes stinky and my mind ravaged with instincts to stay alive and healthy. Thanks Greg for making me really not care about that stuff! Eventually I did not care, often peeing without warning people I was about to do so. Poor pacers, they would turn around to see how I was doing only to be flashed by a bare bum. Always polite, they quickly turned away. I was not embarrassed as at this point survival was my only guide for behaviour.
My final major low was when Velma arrived. That night I worried all night that I would disappoint her. She had flown all they way back for me and I could not fathom letting her down. I cried the entire morning after – tears streaming down my face uncontrollably as I ran. I could not stop them, but tried to get rid of them when I knew an aid station was close. I could not let her see – even though I am sure she knew. Thanks Steve Forrest for not judging but just running with me – giving a little hug when I needed it. Once I stopped the crying I allowed myself to be thankful she was here. I allowed myself to accept her offer of support and jump on this ride with her. She taught me that – to accept kindness and belief you deserve it. With Velma behind me, watch out as nothing was stopping me now!
The last mini low was 9km out. For all you runners out there you know what it feels like to BONK. I felt it coming on (despite the amazing guidance from Brenda and Christina). When I hit the 9km aid station I knew I just had to tell Cathy. She would take care of it – I did not need to worry about it. It is amazing when you trust someone that much that you truly believe they will fix it. She fixed it. Quietly and quickly – Cathy fixed it. The rest is history! Click for Video of finish
In case anyone is wondering. I heard from my coach Ronnie Shaw last night – the coach from high school. What an awesome feeling to be speaking to the guy who inspired me on the second last day – the big day I had to complete high km’s. I wanted to know he saw that video as all I could think of on that day was him. It is amazing how much a teacher or coach can have an impact on your life. He was and always will be an important part of who I am. He helped hold me and find the strength to tackle high pressure situations. Love ya Coach Shaw! Reach out and contact your teacher or coach who may of impacted you. We sometimes just assume they know how much they mean to us – trust me it is important to say it.
As for my kids – sure they missed me but they were taken care of by wonderful people. Brenda and Micheal – the boys just loved being around you and the your “children” and of course Erika, Zoe, Derek and Scotty who also stepped in to provide the support they needed. I do not apologize for putting myself before my kids when it comes to Mental Health. After all, without positive mental health I could not be the MOM I long to be. I feel much too often we focus all our attention on our children and forget that we MOMS must take the necessary time to recharge and destress so we can provide them with the love they so much deserve. Yes, I was away for 2 weeks and yes my training did take me from them at points. BUT – even without this run I would of taken time for me as I made a vow to myself years ago when I left my treatment clinic that POSITIVE MENTAL HEALTH would be the most important thing in my life above all else. Without positive mental health I could not be the Mom, teacher, wife, sister, friend or colleague that I want to be. My husband understood this when me got married. We spoke about my past and what I needed to ensure I stay healthy. I encourage all Moms out there to ensure they take time away with their spouses/partners and recharge. Have a date night, have a week to yourself, be selfish once in a while. Your kids and partner will thank you for it when you return!
What do I do now? The old me years ago would instantly try for another feat (as in my mind I was never good enough). Not the present me. I have learned through the years (therapy and soul searching) that I am good enough without any major event to try to prove it. I will lay low, enjoy the day and not get sucked into a “high” that eventually fades away. All we really have is now – this moment. I will take it in, enjoy my family and go back to being a “mom” – the most important role I have.
As for the future, I plan to continue to give presentations of Mental Health and together hope that one day we will conquer the stigma around mental health issues. My main focus will be putting those funds to good use – ensuring students have a voice in their own practice approach to positive mental health. I know Camerons Help will continue to do an amazing job organizing running programs in schools to end the stigma using the funds all of you donated.
One final note. To my father, Donald Cann. You have and always will be my biggest cheerleader/supporter. You were the one person all my life who in your eyes I could do no wrong. I remember one day coming home from Velma’s to visit you when I was sick. You did not speak of this with me, but instead went on in the car ride rhyming off all the reasons why you think I am so great. I listened to each word you said and at that point in my life I thought – poor Dad if he only really knew who I was he too would also “unlove” me. I have not shared that with anyone until this moment as I type. That moment was so dark because it was like Dad was the last string – the final cut. If he knew this “monster” of me he too would cut me loose. Yet, I still listened to those words – longing to believe in them. My dad has a special place in my heart. He is a good man. He is a kind man. He is a gentle man. He taught me how to be happy for others and take joy in other peoples accomplishment. He always said, “it is so much better helping someone get their goal as it is like you are also getting it too.” He continuously taught us this using the four siblings as examples – bringing us to each other games and cheering for one another. I love you Dad. You stay strong and don’t sweat the small stuff. I know you wanted to be at the finish – but life is not always that easy. Together we understand the struggles that our minds can bring upon us. I understand. I am there with you. Thank you Mom as well for stepping up to the plate again and being behind the scenes to allow Velma to be here for the support I needed.
Dad, the idea of you making your way out here in October is even better. I love you. Forever I will be your little girl – the one who got bucked off the horse, skinned her knee and clutched the wrong one. I remember being embarrassed when you showed up to my high school in the farm clothes smelling like poop and you cheering at all the basketball games, bragging so proudly and equally about all your children. I would take your poopy smelling farm clothes any day as they come with that infectious attitude and smile.
I will leave you all with a final video. I took a shower, smell a bit better and can stop and enjoy the wind blowing in my hair. We did this together. SO let’s keep it going and stop that stigma around mental health issues.