Robin Conyers was my friend. This is not an exclusive set; most people who met Robin thought she was their friend. They were right. I don’t remember exactly when we became friends other than it was many years ago when we were work colleagues. Robin and I ended up on several teams together as a result of volunteering or an act of voluntold.
I struggle to introduce you to Robin with grace and brevity. The grace part is easy; the brevity part not so much. Here’s my best shot. Robin was the kind of women you’d want your daughter to grow up to be like. She was whip smart, but you didn’t know that until you got past her charisma and her curiosity. She always wanted to know about you before you knew about her. Robin was determined. Long before we were talking about “Lean In,” Robin was jumping in. As a Black woman in corporate America, in Sales no less, Robin knew she had to work twice as hard to be considered half as good. So she worked three times as hard. She took on the tough assignments, the tough customers, and the tough teams. She moved so frequently I wonder if she ever unpacked. Robin was beautiful; stunningly beautiful. She’d always looked like the “Do” list from the fashion pages. When Robin was in the room, you knew she was there. But she cared more that you were there.
Robin was not perfect. She had a highly sensitive “B.S.” meter that went off like a smoke alarm. Robin didn’t suffer fools. But you had to act a fool to draw her fire. She had high standards for herself and high standards for you. No one got a pass.
One October, Robin invited me to participate in a fund raising walk for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I said “Yes,”knowing somewhere in my heart that she’d ask until I agreed so got it out of the way early. Then I messed up. On the day of the walk, I failed to leave enough time to travel to the start site. Upon arrival, I was stunned to see thousands of people arriving. Finding a place to park was a nightmare because street after street was blocked off (duh, it was a walk).
After I finally parked and got to the launch site, I was well over an hour late. Frantic, I asked the grounds crew cleaning up which way they went. It was like an old “they went thatta way” scene from a Western, as I ran from person to person for help. Some were clueless and others pointed in different directions. I started off, but soon realized how fruitless it was to follow a crowd when they knew where they were going and I didn’t. “Next time,” I told myself. “ I’ll explain what happened to Robin and promise to walk next time.” I always think there is a next time.
Robin told others on the walk that day that her cancer had returned for round three. No one knew then that it would be the round she’d lose. I didn’t know that it would have been the last time I’d see her alive. Robin passed about ten weeks later.
This weekend is my “next time.” I’ll join in the 40 mile Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in Chicago. I’ll resist the temptation to carry a sign reading “Shouldn’t this be a walk against Breast Cancer?,” because that’s what it is.
Other walkers do this for magnificent reasons: research grants, support of the medically underserved with the disease, and family support. (We forget families suffer from this diagnosis, too.) I also walk for those reasons. But the main reason I walk is to keep a promise. I walk for Robin. And for me.
I am walking with a list of people I know who have been affected by breast cancer. They are survivors, currently in a fight or a victim. This list will remind me to keep going when I’m tired. If they can fight, I can fight. If you have anyone you want to add to my list, send it to me on Twitter at @SBKandAssoc using #onemorestep by Saturday morning, June 1. Or, leave the name in the Reply section at the bottom of this post.
Also, I will need inspiration at about mile 20. (Oh, who am I kidding? I need inspiration at mile 5 on.) So, if you can use Twitter to send me encouragement, I will be very grateful. My husband will advise you from his marathon experience with me that I don’t necessarily act gratefully starting at about mile 14. Forgive any grouchiness. I will be grateful. Use @SBKandAssoc and #onemorestep.