Last Saturday, I walked with the wolf. Me and a lot of folks, dressed in purple shirts. We all walked with the wolf named Lupus.
I am speaking of the 16th annual Walk for the Cure for Lupus in Milwaukee. This was my third involvement, my third shirt.
Each year, the event unfolds in a similar manner: we pick up our shirts and don them, wander the tents that house lupus info, awareness and advocacy, listen to the band play oldies, and then line up for opening ceremonies. And then, we’re off!
It is the early portion of this walk that always takes my breath away. As we begin the stroll (and it is a slow stroll), the path is lined with signs calling tribute to some of our assembled compadres who are fighting with all they have to live a somewhat normal existence. And then, I feel as though I am trespassing in a graveyard as the remembrance signs thicken alongside the walkers. I am saddened by this parade. I forget that lupus kills many.
The crowd is more diverse than in past years. Lupus disproportionately attacks women of color. The crowd is heavily African-American as in the past three years, but with the addition of a good number of Hispanic teams. This seemed new to me. I also encountered four men, about my age range, walking with canes. I do not remember men with canes on the trail.
I strode alone this year since Tom had another service obligation to tend to. I zipped along, passing and weaving in and out of the families with strollers and wheelchairs. I was privy to the gossip and tales of medication, babies, boyfriends and lovers. I found myself smiling, tearing up, and praying.
I completed the two miles and returned to my car. Even though I covered myself head to toe and applied sunscreen, the sun still took its toll. I crashed at home for an hour or so, and pondered how my fellow lupies were doing.
I walked with the wolf on Saturday. I will walk with this stranger at many times for the remainder of my life, but I can walk. At a good pace. There will be no tribute signs for me. And that is good.