Funny that I learn so late in life how important people are. There is no better illustration of this than the recent CIBC Run for the Cure 2021. Billed as virtual this year I didn't expect it to be much about people but it is.
This story actually begins back in June. I got an email calling for sign-ups for the CIBC Run For The Cure on Oct 3rd, 2021. I enjoyed the Run last year so I signed up. Might as well put all that running that I do to some kind of good use.
When I told the mentors group on cancerconnection.ca, there were a few more people interested in joining me. Since the run was virtual we had the opportunity to do it by forming a team from across Canada. Another mentor (Gayle Sillito) took leadership and got us wrangled into a group. She found us a logo, wrestled through the bureaucracy of registering a team, and we were off to the race. And for that leadership I am extremely grateful.
Nothing much happened through July and August. I did have one interesting call from the CCS fundraising support team. The caller introduced herself and said "Is this really Angus Pratt?" She proceeded to relate how she had seen my "Complexity" video and how it had touched her. In fact shed tears over it. (That still surprises me - that ability to evoke emotion.) We commiserated over the arbitrary decisions the health care system makes sometimes. Then she helped me with some issues I had with different parts of the fundraising platform.
I have always struggled with fund raising. It isn't in my nature to go around with my hand out, asking for money. Chatting with some friends about it, they suggested that I up the ante from the tutu last year. They wanted me to wear a pink wig if donors met my fundraising goal. I came up with the pink bra idea all on my own. But set the funds at a level I didn't think donors would reach. A bit of fun is all well and good but I still liked the idea of putting something concrete in people's hands.
Bake sales are off the table so the brainstorm of a watercolour painting hit me. I was pretty sure that I was setting fairly high goals. But people amazed me as I watched the donation soar up and up over the top in the next few days.
The tutu was easy. Despite the Scotsman in me contemplating returning it when I finished racing last year, on a whim I kept it. The wig was a bit harder. I asked for suggestions on where to find a neon pink one. Though Halloween was coming up, that would depend on what costume is popular. Sure enough the crew came through. Another mentor had one that she sent me. A few days later I had a neon pink wig in my hands. Postage was twice as much the wig was worth but I didn't have to go through the embarrassment of tracking a wig down.
That left the bra. I have friends in high places (or low depending on your perspective.) She pointed me to a discrete store selling men's lingerie. I found a lovely pink number with black lace for $18 and I was in business. It wasn't till I was checking out that I realized it was coming from Australia. Surely four weeks was enough time for a light package to come from Australia.
As I started watching the tracking I realized this might be close thing. It took almost a week to start the shipping process. Another week went by as it went by slow camel train from northern Queensland to the airport in Brisbane. Another week to get on an airplane. Still a week seemed adequate to land in Vancouver, clear customs, and then make its way to my mailbox.
Thursday, September 30, I got an email that said Customs had handed the package over to Canada Post. "Arrived at facility." So Saturday before run day on Sunday, I went down to my post office - nothing. I had them check the back but still nothing. (For the record, it arrived in my PO Box on Monday morning.)
Ah well plan B. Walmart. Bra shopping in a large very public box store is not my idea of fun. Still a promise is a promise and I needed a bra. I finally found the bra section which mercifully was empty. I was looking for something that isn't going to cost me an arm and a leg. After all it doesn't need to support anything (cause I don't have boobs to support.) I was only going to wear it once. My eye lit on a neon pink number that looked kind of stretchy and simple. I have since learned that it is a "sports bra."
I looked for the XXL and held it up against my chest. I did have the sense to wear my pink "Run for the Cure" T shirt so I had a built in excuse. Still I looked up and there were two ladies looking at me like I had two heads. I would call them your "typical Walmart shoppers." I'll leave it to your imagination about what they looked like. So I grinned, "Funny what we'll wear for money." At which they burst into gales of laughter. I escaped toward the checkout.
Thinking self checkout was a good bet so I wouldn't have to deal with a snarky clerk, I stood in line. As I looked at the item, I realized that there was no bar code or price tag to scan. Not going to work. As I left the line, one wag laughed and said, "Change your mind? Wrong color?" I ignored him.
I joined another line where there was a lady organizing a pile of children's clothes in a shopping cart. The lady in front was finishing paying.
The clothes-sorting-shopper glanced up and asked, "Is that all you have?"
Blushing, I replied, "Yes it is." And by way of explanation I went on, "I'm running in the Run for a Cure tomorrow and getting paid a lot of money to wear a pink bra."
She waved me around and said, "I'm not quite organized here, go ahead."
I thanked her and moved up to the waiting cashier.
"Are you sure you want this?" he queried, "As an undergarment a bra is non-returnable."
"I don't want it but I need it. So yeah, go ahead and ring it up. I couldn't find a tag."
He pointed to a little printing on the back strap. "I just have to put this code in."
Sure enough, up popped the price and I lifted my card to swipe. From behind me I heard the sorter's voice, "Let me get this. It's a valuable cause."
I pulled my card back but it was too late the sale was already going through. At which point she pulled out a twenty dollar bill and said "Add this to your donations."
I protested but she insisted and so I accepted as graciously as I could. I'm learning to be grateful for people's kindness and generosity. Hers was inspirational.
On Run day, Sunday October 3rd, I did my normal church duties. (I'm hosting a live stream of the church service on zoom.) Then I pulled on my running shorts and shoes, draped the tutu around my mid section and pulled on the bra. It appears they make these things with a huge amount of spandex. How women wear them all day I will never know. I had been planning to wear it flat but that looked odd so I pulled out a pair of rolled up socks and tucked them in. Perfect fake boobs!
I left the hair off to drive. And I wore the bra down around my middle with the tutu. When I got to Tynehead Park where I was planning to run, I pulled all my gear out and then proceeded to get dressed. Yup more than a few stares. I was trying to figure out how to take a selfie before I started. Between holding the White Ribbon for lung cancer awareness and keeping the pink hair out of my eyes I was having trouble.
A couple who had been watching from across the parking lot grinning finally asked if they could help. I gratefully accepted. Once again, most people don't realize that men can get breast cancer. I explained the Ribbon too. I amazed them with the idea that a Stage 4 lung cancer patient was setting off to run 5K.
As I started out, stretching out slowly, I had to stop to adjust the wig to be comfortable. A couple stopped and asked if I was running for the "CIBC Run for the Cure." When I said yes, they asked for my name so they could donate online when they got home. Another young lady stopped me a kilometre further on with the comment, "Instagram needs to see this."
Some people tried to ignore me and not stare. And in cheeky fashion, I would tease them with "Pretty hard not stare isn't it. I'm getting a lot of donations to do this." At which I would get a smile, sometimes a thumbs up and once a while some questions.
One pair of hikers asked if they could take a picture with me so I had them take a picture of me as well. The young lady seemed to know a bit about the breast cancer theme and run. She asked why I was running with a Ribbon that said "Lung Cancer Awareness." I explained that not only did I have breast cancer but that I had an unrelated lung cancer. "Not enough knowledge of lung cancer," I told them, "and so I do what I can to raise awareness."
A few more conversations and too soon the run was over. I had another person approach me in the parking lot as I was removing my gear and ask how she could donate. I described where to find the website and how to make a general donation. I thanked her for her kindness, interest and generosity. As I drove away, I marvelled at the people I had met.
From being something that I was dreading, the run event turned into something that I enjoyed. It let me feel like I was making a contribution to a wonderful cause. The final total added up across Canada to the Canadian Cancer Society raising nine million dollars. That wouldn't have been possible without your contributions and generosity. The Cancer Connecters as my team called themselves raised just under $8,000. Not bad considering we had set a goal of $3,000.
I have a generous God too. The Psalmist in Psalm 91:14 - 16 (The Message) reports God's promise,
“If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,” says God,
“I’ll get you out of any trouble.
I’ll give you the best of care
if you’ll only get to know and trust me.
Call me and I’ll answer,
be at your side in bad times;
I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party.
I’ll give you a long life,
give you a long drink of salvation!”
Now if you'll excuse me I have a few paintings that I promised to finish up. My plan is to paint 16 to 20 paintings and then post pictures. I'll send out a link and elegible people can choose the painting they desire, and send me a mailing address. I'll pop them in the mail and complete the deal.
Thanks so much for your generous support.