Originally this was to take place on October 7, 2017 but due to Hurricane Irma effecting basically the entire peninsula of Florida was postponed until February 17, 2018. The venue went from Albert Whitted Airport to Vinoy Park due to the Indy Car series which utilizes Albert Whitted Airport for their upcoming season opener race. The crews would be working on setting up the course in the area at that time. This meant that there would be no close parking area which we already faced and dealt with in 2015. There are no good parking garages close to either venue, Albert Whitted Airport or Vinoy Park.
On the papers handed out during the package pickup in 2015 handicap parking areas were shown. But when I tried to pull into those areas, I was turned away. We found a parking garage but had to walk almost 2 miles from parking garage to start of the race, then what I walked during the race, then that 2 miles back to the parking garage. That next day I was in so much pain due to my injuries from my crash in 2007. I cannot walk great distances without repercussions.
In 2016 in response to all the complaints of the parking situation, they came up with an idea of parking at Albert Whitted Airport for a $10 parking fee paid in advance upon registration for the event. I was one of the people who made a complainant about the parking situation being that I am handicapped and so is my mother. So we registered early and got a parking pass. That year I was able to park right near the event area and start of the race. That was such a convenient thing to have and made the event much more enjoyable as it was for my first one back in 2014 which was held in the Carillon area which there were parking garages near the start/finish.
With the date change of the event, package pickup locations were changed from what we normally had in the past. Now the locations were not as convenient for me to leave work, head to my parents and drive them to the location which we normally chose to be in front of the New Balance store at Westshore Plaza Mall. We had always made an evening of it by getting our race packets then going out to dinner. Westshore Plaza Mall is just across the Bay from us and not a bad drive for me during the evening rush hour once I picked them up. I had to take off of work early to travel way into Tampa by Hillsborough Ave and Lois Ave. The location was at Crunch. Here I am handicapped and overweight walking into a gym full of young and skinny people. That just made we feel so out of place. My parents felt funny walking into that location as well. At least the location in the mall was in the area outside of the New Balance Store. The area was not in the way of anything. Here at Crunch the pickup was right by the doors and we were in the way of people coming and going. I should have known this was a sign that this was not going to be a good event. But the volunteers there did mention “Survivors Dinner” which I never knew about before. I knew they had a VIP dinner for a donation. I thought since this was my sixth year as a survivor that we should participate. Boy was I wrong.
Prior to the event, I had left my house late to pick up my parents which was my fault. I arrived and my mother wasn’t ready. We had to wait a few minutes before we were ready and loaded in my car to travel. We start on our trek towards downtown St Petersburg, my Mother had forgotten her glasses. So I had to make a quick U-turn to head back to their house to get her glasses. My father was instructed by me to research the parking. Come to find out he did not. He is retired as well as my Mother. I work 40 plus hours a week. Now I can’t drive and look at Google Maps. Suzanne had already arrived down there and parked in the Sun Dial parking lot. I just decided to head there that way we would not be too far from each other once the event was over. This was another sign that this was not going to be a good event. Found parking in the Plaza garage right next to the stairs on the second floor right by an intersection. This would make it easy to remember where we parked. This was across from the Sun Dial Mall itself which was near where Suzanne had parked. I followed my father after I helped my mother down the stairs thinking he knew where we were heading. We walked two blocks to the south before I caught the fact that we needed to head East towards Tampa Bay. I made a mental note that no more will I allow him to just take off walking. I will have to do my own research on things that we plan to do.
We start our trek to Vinoy Park which was almost a mile. We found a bench and I kept Suzanne updated as to where to find us via text. This allowed my Mother to rest. Once we were all together we walked around the vendors tent. We walked near the Survivor Tent. I only saw cookies on trays out. That is not dinner plus sugar feeds cancer. There were not as many vendors. There also weren’t as many water stations in the area which meant water was hard to come by. We headed towards the VIP tent. We got up to the donation station only to have one of the volunteers tell me “This isn’t for you. You need to be over at the survivor’s tent.” I replied, “I am with my family and I only saw cookies over there. I don’t want cookies.” My Father was standing there holding $40 to pay for our entry into the area. Another volunteer said, “No the food should be out there. Wraps and salads.” My Dad put his money back in his wallet where both volunteers could see and said “I guess you don’t want my money then. You just lost $40.” I turned and walked away saying, “This is my last race. I am done.”
I now felt like I was being discriminated against by being a survivor. Again, I was treated as if I do not belong or worthy enough. I get that every day of my life because I am a square box in a circle world. It takes a lot for me to be out amongst crowds due to my social anxiety and PTSD. It truly is huge effort on my part. I used to feel a part of something bigger than myself because there are so many breast cancer fighters and survivors. We sat down on a bench so that my Mother could rest. I was fuming inside. My father was also fuming. Suzanne and myself started making jokes to try and lighten the mood. I knew I had to calm down so that the stress would not consume me. Stress is a trigger for cancer as well as sugar feeds cancer. My mother said, “When something becomes more of a hassle then it is worth, time to ditch it.” My philosophy exactly Mom. From dealing with my crash injuries then cancer, I came to feed off that philosophy quite a bit. Many found themselves on the ditch side.
Eventually as it neared time for the survivor parade, we wondered towards the survivor’s tent. I looked for the signs which are usually held up to designate survivors by the number of years being a cancer survivor. They were handing out stickers instead. I thought to myself, “Hell I can’t even get to stand amongst those that are 5 years plus.” I was looking forward to that since the walk in 2016. Third and finally strike just solidified my decision that this was the fourth and final event. Besides I thought to myself as I stood in line for the sticker, “I have no more room for any more medals. This will fill up my stand where I hold my collection of race cars.” I did spot some mini finger food on a tray next to the mounds of cookies. I shook my head and laughed to myself. I did the survivor walk and looked around feeling totally out of place. We stood for a photo making a ribbon for the aerial photographs. I made sure that I was in the back and out of the way. I really didn’t feel like being there. I was starting to get a migraine.
Dad made his way to the front of the start so he could work on his pace. He always walks the entire 5K. He wanted to best his time from last year. Me, Mom and Suzanne headed to the very back. We just meander along for a bit and then find a spot to sit and wait for him to return. Neither myself or my mother need to be overdoing the walking since we still had the trek back to the parking garage. Once we stop, me, Mom and Suzanne have a blast just chatting about anything and everything. Normally on the old course we would sit at the corner by the Vinoy on a bench facing the marina. On this course, we sat at a picnic table near the dog park. We talked about the “haves” and the “have nots” along with our people watching. I also filled in my Twitter besties about the situation so that they could add their comments to my rant via Twitter. I am so thankful for them. Suffering from social anxiety, they allow me to be social in a way which keeps me comfortable. My besties are the best support anyway can ask for. We chat about anything and everything. Without social media, we would have never met.
Due to social media, I can share my story in hopes of inspiring others by my courage, resolve, and journey. I also can share my experience to possibly save someone else from experiencing what I have experienced. I wish the organization of Susan G Komen Race for the Cure well but I can no longer be a part of it. There are other organizations out there for breast cancer survivors and I can throw my support in that direction along with those that will follow my lead. Cancer sucks for those that are fighting it, have fought it, and those that support the fighters. When one of us gets cancer, the family and friends feel like they have it as well. Cancer has the snowball effect. So me, the lone wolf, will take pinkwarriorbatman elsewhere. I thrive as a lone wolf and I am more than pink.