Meaningful chaos at Mush for a Cure
Rhonda Silence, Cook County Star, 3/2009
I thrive on chaos, so watching the “sourdough” start of the Mush for a Cure last Saturday was just my kind of event. It wasn’t that it was unorganized; in fact, everything seemed to be operating as planned. It’s just that the mass start is such a contrast from the intense, tightly structured John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon. I have to say, for a spectator, the Mush for a Cure is a lot more fun. And a lot more meaningful.
There were some tense moments—twice dogs escaped from their harnesses and took off down the ice before the race started. Snowmobiles and fleet footed handlers quickly corralled them and brought them back.
The racket of excited dogs straining to run nearly drowned out the National Anthem and the shotgun fired to signify the start of the race. Then there was a lot of laughter as mushers struggled out of sleeping bags and hooked up their teams. The barking quieted as pink-clad participants and brightly decorated sleds glided across the lake.
After the teams were all gone, the audience moved down the Gunflint Trail in a caravan of vehicles filled with folks in pink. My friends and I joined a group on a hill overlooking the snowmobile trail, enjoying the sun as we waited. We didn’t have to wait long to see the cheerful mushers come out of the woods, across the bridge, swooshing around the corner and back into the woods.
We continued on to Trail Center, pink party headquarters, to see some of the racers finish and to enjoy visiting with friends and neighbors. It was a wonderful, laid-back event that managed to take the serious health crisis of breast cancer and turn it into an amazing celebration of life.
Most of the mushers involved in the Mush for a Cure have lost a loved one to breast cancer. A lot of the people at the Mush for a Cure were there to honor the memory of Shelly Stetson, the 41-year-old musher, mother, and wife, who died in January 2009. Some of the folks at the event wore scarves or caps to disguise loss of hair because of chemotherapy.
Whatever the story; however sad the people at Mush for a Cure may have been, there was an unspoken understanding. The Mush for a Cure is not a time for sorrow, but defiance. It is a day to don pink and to celebrate the strides that have been made in the treatment of breast cancer. It is a day to buoy those who are living with the disease. And it is a day to celebrate the time we have together.
Granted, the celebration got a little silly. There are some outrageous pink costumes and some slightly tacky t-shirts (such as Save Second Base!) that may offend some sensitive souls. However, I lost my grandmother to breast cancer when I was 13-years-old. So I think that anything that stresses the importance of self-care and which helps raise money for research to find a cure is worthwhile. Because I would have liked to have had a little more time to celebrate life with my grandma.
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