Yesterday was the Los Angeles National Brain Tumor Society walk. We all do our best to make it to the yearly walk in Jackie’s beloved San Francisco, but once we heard there was a Los Angeles walk we thought it was the perfect opportunity to raise awareness closer to home.

I have to be honest…I hate these walks. I am filled with a lot of emotions at these events. Obviously sadness is a huge one, but bubbling right below that is ugly jealousy. I’m terribly jealous that some preemies survived and mine didn’t. I’m jealous some people have defied the odds against brain cancer when Jackie didn’t. I hate walking for people who are no longer here. I hate seeing families that will soon be living with the pain of losing a loved one. But these walks are important because they raise awareness and money, so if I can do something to prevent another family from feeling like this, I’ll do it. I just don’t have to like it.

The Los Angeles NBTS walk is only three years old, and it’s much smaller than the San Francisco walk. Unfortunately, it will only get bigger with every passing year. The March For Babies is held at the same site and it’s overwhelmingly large at times, so I appreciated the more intimate feel of this walk.

It felt appropriate that the walk was held at Exposition Park, the area immediately south of the USC campus where we’d all met seventeen years ago. Jackie’s motto through her cancer fight was “Fight On” which is also the rally cry of USC. The football stadium overlooked the starting line of the walk.

LA Brain Tumor Walk
Of course I brought Flat Jackie.

Once we were at the walk site, we had the opportunity to write down who we were walking for.

LA Brain Tumor Walk

LA Brain Tumor Walk

LA Brain Tumor Walk

My friend Dana made us all personalized pins to wear:

LA Brain Tumor Walk

Our team photo:

LA Brain Tumor Walk

As the walk started, I looked around at the different teams and survivors. Most of the teams were walking in memory of someone. That is the terrible reality of brain tumors. They can be so devastating.

I did my best to talk to my friends on the walk and not let myself think too much about what was going on around us. It’s the same defense mechanism I use during the March of Dimes walk. If I look too long at the former preemies, my carefully constructed “grief vault” starts to crumble. On this walk, seeing current brain tumor patients walking or being pushed in wheelchairs was a challenge for my emotions. I want them to have the best possible outcomes…I just wish things were different.

After the walk was over, we went to one of Jackie’s favorite restaurants. She would have been angry with us if we hadn’t made the most of our time together, so we did. We also made sure to toast her and eat some of her favorite things.

LA Brain Tumor Walk

At home after the walk, I cried in the shower. I miss her so much it physically hurts.