Monday, June 14, 2010

The “Benefits” of Being a Big Girl

Posted By: Michelle Ashcraft

I have to admit that this was one of my most difficult training weeks yet. Being tired and a little sick, having crazy weather, and adding a few extra miles made me a little less than excited for training for the first time in this journey. However, by the end of my first walk of the week on Tuesday, all that changed …

The Benefits of Being a Big Girl
My steps were a little slower than usual on Tuesday, and I found myself looking at my pedometer quite a bit more often than I usually do, thinking “only [insert #] more miles” along the way. I had a little more than a mile left to go as I rounded a bend in the trail I take home when I stumbled across two young girls. As I approached them from behind, I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation. It went a little something like this:

Girl #1 (with cute braids): My mom is going to come out here soon and tell me I have to go to bed.
Girl #2 (wearing pink!): Mine too. That’s stupid …
Girl #1: Yeah, I can’t wait till I’m a big girl.
Girl #2: Me too. We can stay up as late as we want.
Girl #1: And hang out with our friends …
Girl #2: And do whatever we want …
Girl #1: And drive!
Girl #2: And wear makeup!
Girl #1: AND WEAR A BRA!!!

It was this last statement that made me have to stifle the giggles that were about to burst out of my mouth and hide a huge cheesy smile as I walked by! I couldn’t help but think to myself that the last thing those girls needed to be excited about was wearing a bra! I’d imagine, based on previous experience, that in the next few years their excitement about embracing that new piece of clothing might falter, but for now it was cute to hear such enthusiasm in their voices. It was that enthusiasm and the memories of “becoming a big girl” that caused me to choose my ‘tude and finish out that last mile strong.

(Note: It is no secret what this journey is about: saving breasts/boobs/ta-tas … whatever you want to call them. And what comes along with those? Bras. If you are uncomfortable reading about either … I suggest you just skip past this next section. But if you want some mild entertainment, go right ahead on reading!)

I remember becoming enough of a “big girl” to have to be forced (yes … I considered it forced, not exciting) to wear a bra. (Every female reading this blog right now is likely cringing along with me as they think back to their first bra experience.) I held off as long as I could, layering shirts and wearing darker colors. I had seen some of my classmates go through the “having to wear a bra” phase. I had witnessed the other bra-less girls snicker at them as the boys snuck up behind them to snap their bra straps and run away. (Seriously, guys … was it really THAT fun to torture us this way?) I did not want to be snickered at, and I definitely did not want to be snapped. Alas, if I remember correctly, summer came and it was time to go to summer camp; and I finally realized that it might be a little more embarrassing to show up to camp without a bra than with one, so I reluctantly told my mom that I thought I needed to get the terrible thing.

My thought: have my mom just go buy them for me. Of course that didn’t work - apparently I needed to try them on. WHAT?! You mean I have to walk in a store where I might be seen by someone I know (Seymour is pretty small … it’s VERY likely) to try on these things?!? I distinctly remember being in the store and doing everything possible not to go anywhere near the rack of girlish bras; and when my mom would hold one up to ask, “What about this one?” I am certain that my stare burned holes into her body as I shushed her so she wouldn’t talk so loudly. To make matters worse I had to go to the dressing room to try the dang things on, and having never tried one on before, my mom and the sales lady decided that they better check on me every so often to see if I was ok. NO I WAS NOT OK! Straps were falling off my shoulders. I couldn’t figure out how to get the dang things fastened in the back. Some felt too tight. Some too loose. “Do you want me to take a look?” mom would ask. NO I DIDN’T! I probably yelled something along the lines of “DON’T YOU DARE OPEN THAT DOOR” on more than one occasion. (Poor moms. I am certain that this is one of those occasions that all daughters get paid back for if and when they have daughters of their own. There is no doubt that my sister and I will be paid back at least ten-fold for experiences like this, among hundreds of others. My poor mother …) In the end I went for the best option at the time: sports bra. I figured there was no sense in dealing with some strappy, clasped, and wired piece of material if I didn’t have too.

Of course, eventually I grew out of that awkward stage. At some point throughout middle school and high school I learned to wear normal bras and I stopped feeling like I needed to wear 2-3 shirts over them. (I am certain that this reduced my mother’s stress level by at least 100%. If any of you ever saw the mountains of laundry that my sister and I created … by wearing the equivalent of 20-30 outfits in a week … you would wonder how we are alive today. Then again, perhaps all the women are sympathizing with similar experiences and the men are thinking “laundry?” Too stereotypical? I digress …)

It was during this time that a whole host of other issues develop. Forget having to buy the bra and wear the bra. That’s nothing compared to being judged based on your bra size, learning how to buy clothing to fit your bra size, having to show off your newly developed chest in a cutesy bikini (now it’s the fathers’ turn to cringe …) only to be ranked on the “size of your rack” by the jocks you’re trying to impress. It is for these very experiences that Victoria’s Secret does so well. Now a bra is not just a bra. It’s a push-up, padded-up, water- or gel-enhanced, lace-covered, hard-wired contraption to make what is arguably one of the most awkward aspects of the female anatomy look decent!

*sigh* Those poor little girls. They have no idea what they are getting themselves into …

So maybe I am being a little overdramatic. But I have to admit that it was fun to reminisce about the awkwardness associated with becoming a big girl. I’d love to run into those two little girls again down the road and overhear a conversation about their experience …

Sometimes Being a Big Girl is Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be
As fun as it was to relive my first bra-buying experience on my way home Tuesday evening, I was also reminded that being a big girl is not always all it’s cracked up to be. Sure we get to stay up later, we get to hang out with friends, we get to wear makeup, we get to drive cars, and, like it or not, we get to wear bras. But we also get to live with the fear that one day we - or women close to us - may have to battle breast cancer. That reality hit a little too close to home for Team NKOTW last week. On Tuesday, the same day that I ran into those little girls, we received word that Caroline Joy White’s Aunt Jean had lost her fight with breast cancer on Monday. You can read about Aunt Jean in Jenn Latino’s blog post here.

I have never met Aunt Jean, but I, like the rest of team NKOTW, dedicated my walk to her that night. I am certain that it was Aunt Jean that guided my path to those little girls on Tuesday evening to add a little humor to my walk and an extra little pep in my step for the final mile to home. Her passing was a startling reminder of why we walk.

Walking for the Future of Big Girls … and little girls … Everywhere
Before I began writing this post tonight I came home to find a card in my mailbox from Mandie.

I hope that she doesn’t mind me sharing her words, but I think that she described our purpose best. She said, “You are CHANGING LIVES through your efforts! Because of you, we WILL know a future free from breast cancer. … Thank you for walking - for my Granny, for me, for our future babies, for all women.”

WE are changing lives. I may be walking hundreds of miles over the next several weeks, but your generosity and support is what will ensure that we succeed. Until then, I will walk … for Aunt Jean, for all of you, and for those two little girls - that they may never have to fear breast cancer in their lives as “big girls.”

Fundraising Update and MANY Thanks
With only 4 weeks of training down and having not even been fundraising for 3 full months, I am overwhelmed and humbled by the support that I have received from friends, family, and colleagues. At this point we collectively have raised $2,173.25, which is 94% of my goal. That means that I am only $126.75 away from my goal! MANY thanks go to the following people for their support this past week:

Matt Price - Matt is my best friend from college and one of the longest -standing friendships I have. He was one of the first friends that I met freshman year at Purdue, and has supported me through every high and low throughout my collegiate career and since. Matt’s generous donation brought me to the $2,000 milestone!

Dave and Ann Windley - Dave and Ann have been great friends of my family for as long as I can remember. Ann was one of my preschool teachers and is one of the few teachers that I have continued to stay in touch with. She’s been one of the constant support systems throughout my life, and she and Dave have always cheered me along in all of my endeavors.

Our team also continues with great success and has reached a major milestone - 25% of our total goal. Together we have raised $5,275.25.

Breast Cancer Fact of the Week
To know your hereditary risk for breast cancer, doctors like to look back at least three generations, so if you do not know the medical history back that far on both sides of your family, start asking questions! Family members are ranked in degrees. Cancer in a first-degree relative (parent, child, or sibling) is more serious than a second-degree relative (grandparent, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew), which is more serious than a third-degree relative (cousin, great-grandparent, great-aunt, or great-uncle). Both men and women should consider the following to talk with your doctor about their hereditary risk:
- Having a relative with breast cancer at age 45 or younger
- Having a relative who has had breast cancer in both breasts at any age
- Having a female relative that has had both breast and ovarian cancer
- Having two or more family members with breast cancer and/or ovarian cancer, especially if the breast cancer was diagnosed before age 50
- Having a male relative with breast cancer
- Having relatives of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage with ovarian cancer at any age or breast cancer before age 60
- Having several relatives on the same side of the family with breast or ovarian cancer and one of these cancers: prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, melanoma

(Adapted from FORCE: Facing Our Risk of Cancer EMPOWERED)

The Numbers
This week completed my 4th week of training, with 17.33 miles and 50,074 steps. That brings my grand total to 74.33 miles and 214,788 steps! Time is flying by and we are getting closer and closer to the 3-Day. I have 20 weeks of training left totaling 529 more training miles, and 131 days until the big event!

To all the "big girls" out there, I hope you celebrate being you this week. And to the men who support us, and put up with us, thank you. Happy walking!



  1. Ok, I read your blogs to LAUGH but you keep making me CRY! :)

  2. This one was funnier than the last few have been. Did the mention of your letter make you cry?! I'm trying to make you laugh, dang it!