Ain’t No Stairway to Heaven

On Thursday I dragged my family with me to do the “Climb for a Cure” – a Cystic Fibrosis fundraiser that my son’s high school was participating in. I saw it advertised on Facebook and on some foolish whim, decided it was something I wanted to do. I don’t know what I was thinking. “Oh hey, let’s go climb a bajillion steps, it’ll be fun!” Honestly, I thought I was gonna die! And that was just on the bus ride down there! Bam, bam, bam, pow, pow, rattle! I had forgotten just how bad a school bus ride could be. My night wasn’t going to get much better.

We arrived and did the traditional group photo shoot thing and then proceeded to check in. We were assigned our race numbers, timing chips and given free T-shirts and backpacks, along with a coupon good for a free meal after the climb. We then descended by escalator to the basement where the climb was to begin.

The climb up Milwaukee’s US Bank building was 42 stories, and there are conflicting accounts as to how many steps. Anywhere from 984 to 1,034 and I wasn’t about to count them. What I do remember, was that by the 7th floor I wanted to quit. Not from fatigue but from the heat. It was so hot, coupled with the climbing, it had me gasping for air. My throat was so dry. Floor 10 brought a water station and every 10 floors thereafter. I drank deeply.

The next 10 floors were the worst. I only kept going because someone said you can quit at floor 30 if you want. Heck, I’d quit at any floor if I wanted. Plod, plod, plod, stop for deep breaths. Plod, plod, plod… I arrived at the next water station, 20th floor. They had cheerleaders at each water station, amusingly enough. I drank deeply again and immediately felt like vomiting. My throat was terribly sore from gasping for air. I was hot and sweaty and the cutsey cheerleaders were going “Yayyyyy! You’re doing grrrreat!” Me? I’m like “Bite m… oh, thank you.”

After the 20th floor something marvelous happened. The heat dissipated and there was some sort of wind-tunnel-breeze-ventilation action going on. I felt it swirl around me as I marched. Cool air at last, I was going to make it. Had the heat persisted I don’t think I would have. It was a challenge, yes, but after much effort, I finally made it to the 42nd floor! Time to enjoy the marvelous view of the Milwaukee city lights.

So how long did it take me? About 27 minutes. My youngest son did it in 10 and the fastest time was somewhere around 5 minutes. WOW! The longest time came in at 45 minutes, I give them credit for persisting. So, would I do it again? Yes!

What made this climb meaningful, was that they had some of the people suffering from CF present and we got to hear their stories over dinner. Their average life span is only 36 years old. Thirty-six!! It made me realize that what was just a silly whim to me, is a life or death matter to them. These funds we raised, help them get much needed equipment for breathing treatments and they fund research for a cure. Although climbing 42 stories felt like a long way to me, they have even further to go. My gasping for air was temporary, theirs is a lifelong battle.

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