Together in Teal, An Adventure with a 5k race

“For all the times you reached out to help me, now that I’m better, I want to help you.”

This is what my friend Karen told me about how she started volunteering with the NOCC (National Ovarian Cancer Coalition).

Not all adventures are big, or dangerous, or even extremely exciting.  Some may be as simple as participating in a fundraiser – something you can do just about everywhere.  When you are open to the wonder of what could happen, with no expectations, that’s when adventure happens.  Karen is on the remission side of ovarian cancer, and recently she talked me into an adventure of participating in a 5k fund- and awareness-raiser.  I thought about sharing with you some stats about how ovarian cancer is a silent killer, but when I went to read the booklet I picked up at the race, it was filled with blank pages –I’m taking the hint.  This story isn’t about the downer part of how cancer sucks.  This story is about friendship, gratitude, doing things that might make you uncomfortable but end up inspiring you and sharing lots of laughs.

A commuter friendship grew

I first met Karen years ago, when she was honored on the “Women to Watch” list for being a rising star in the high-pressure advertising industry. While in line for coffee at our commuter rail station, I introduced myself and gushed about the article she was featured in.  From that one compliment, a casual commuter relationship started.  Besides being in the same industry, living in the same town, our kids were about the same age.  As things go, it had been a while since I had seen her when we started bumping into each other again on weekends at Starbucks. It was during one of our chats there that I learned of her intimate, hard news about the discovery of her tumor.  Being Starbucks aficionados, we commiserated over the fact that she was not supposed to have caffeine. With her ever-present smile, she sang the joys of her special-order decaf.  She also confided that sometimes getting out of the house and going to the coffee shop alone was something she had a hard time with – but she turned it into an adventure.  Funny coincidence, there were times I was there at Starbucks…an unexpected reward!  Admittedly, there was one time I didn’t recognize her because she had lost her hair as well as her envy-inducing eyelashes.  I finally figured it out when she smiled, for that is one of her most memorable features.  A few weeks later we laughed as I gave her a crazy blue hair wig to wear!  She is one of the lucky ones, given she is a survivor, and her hair and lashes have returned.

Together in Teal

When she asked me to be a part of her team for the “Together in Teal” 5k on Roosevelt Island, I knew this was an adventure I didn’t want to miss.  I thought it was the best excuse to go explore Roosevelt Island.  The fact that I’d be wearing a teal tutu and hanging with Karen were icing on the cake.  When I registered for the event, I saw a place where to mark what size t-shirt.  I looked around for tutu sizes…not realizing Karen had ordered them for her team.  (Ha! Of course I thought everyone in the race would be in teal tutus…because that image is really fun).

map of NOCC race
When I told my mother about my walk around Roosevelt Island, she gave me a little family history. Seems I have a great, great grandparent (or aunt or something) who once was sent to the Insane Asylum on Roosevelt Island! (The fact that I have ancestors from Queens is something I sometimes forget. This is a funny way to remember!) Now I want to go back and check out that Octagon building (which has been turned into high-priced luxury rentals).
I Pledge to...NOCC
Funny story. I had been given some medical cannabis candy from a friend (who got it legally) to help me with some pains. I never used it. So, when I learned of Karen’s upcoming chemo, I decided to give it to her. I disguised the package, in case she wasn’t open to this alternative pain medication. Turns out, she already had her own prescription card! We both learned something new about the other, and laughed at our own misconceptions. Now it’s our joke about giving Karen more drugs…
Knowing what cancer survivors have been through (and still to go through) make the rainy day nothing by comparison
NOCC showcasing the survivors
This is only the second year of the 5k Fundraiser walk/race. Several survivors told their story. Ovarian cancer is known as a silent killer, because there is no prescreen for it and symptoms often mimic other “female issues”
Team Balik
Group shot of Team Balik. While my poncho was smart, and kept my backpack and me dry – it covered my teal tutu! Karen, with her beaming smile, enjoyed having her team wear the tutus specially obtained for this event.

I was a little nervous about the race, because I’ve never done a 5k before, and I am not currently in runner shape.  This was part of the adventure for me, facing these body-related fears.  Another friend, Steve, said he thinks this could be the start of a new set of adventures…maybe even doing the Burning Man 50k!  (I know, I know, “never say never” but…I don’t think that’s on my list.)  Courage is having fear but doing it anyway.  You never know what the outcome will be.  In this case, it was awesome.  My fears were dispelled when, except for Karen’s hubby, the entire team were walkers.  One teammate ended up coming in second to last, while I came in dead last!  We did because we discovered we both liked stopping and taking photos along the way.

Roosevelt Island tram
The Roosevelt Island tram was in service. I’ve taken it before, but never ventured on the island. I do think of Spiderman when I see it. The Queensborough Bridge passes right over the Island – it is not a way to get on the island!
East River view
A fireboat speeds in front of Gracie Mansion, heading up the East River to the Harlem River (to the left, where you can see the Ward Island Bridge in the distance). The East River continues to the right, and leads you through Hell’s Gate and onward to Long Island Sound.
Tom Otterness sculptures
I was excited to discover the three sculptures by Tom Otterness (you have to look over the railing at the water’s edge to see them). There are a bunch of his sculptures in the 14th St/Eighth Ave subways that used to entertain me during the time I worked at WebMD. This one seems to be saying something about money down the drain, and the US economy going with it… Can you see the engraved words ‘E Purabus Unum’ under the spray paint?
Tom Otterness sculptures
The sign (not shown here) says this is the ‘Marriage of Money and Real Estate’ . These sculptures were made in 1996, but installed in 2005. The high cost of rent is still an issue.
Tom Otterness sculpture
Hmmm. Not that the artist could have known in 1996. But that Real Estate “lady” seems to be getting touched in an intimate spot by a creepy money-bags bug…could parallel certain scandals by someone big in the political scene today, who has a history with big money and property…
walking in the rain
This image sums up the walk/race for me. Cold, rainy day where wearing rubber boots is the smart foot gear. Yet, the bright teal clearly shows our reason for being there! #TogetherinTeal
NOCC race/walk
I wonder how many others sang out the lyric to Beyonce’s song “To the Left”?
This graffiti made me laugh. A monster and a cool juice box.  What do you find along the way that makes you smile?
boat overlook
This fun overlook on the East River is made to represent the prow of a boat. I imagine kids having fun pretending to be pirates sailing…would they plunder the riches of Manhattan across the way?
Lighthouse on Roosevelt Island
Surprise! I’d forgotten there is a lighthouse on the island (makes sense, of course). The Blackwell Island Lighthouse was built in 1872 and in 1972 declared an historic building. I wonder if I could climb up it someday…(an adventure for the future?)
Mile 2 NOCC
The Mile 2 marker. Only 1.1 miles to go, and no one is rushing (we are sure the runners are already done and waiting for us laggards)
Roosevelt Island Bridge
I liked the pattern of the lines in this shot. View of the Roosevelt Island Bridge (which we drove over to get to the island) with the Ravenswood power plant behind it (in Long Island City, part of Queens).
Wall Street/Astoria Ferry
A discovery (for me) – a ferry that goes to Wall Street or to Astoria. Could be a fun summertime adventure for seeing the coast (and not going on the Circle line, seen through the covered dock)
Queensboro Bridge
The last leg of the 5K walk/run with a view of the Queensborough Bridge, from the Queens side of the island

When Karen told me about her desire to help others by volunteering with the NOCC, I was impressed.  Any volunteer organization would be lucky to have her strategic thinking.  But it was her way of expressing gratitude – for all the coalition did, as well as a way of expressing thanks for her life– that really is the message behind her statement of wanting to return the favor of support.

But truly, the biggest message that came out of this adventure?  Going out in the pouring, cold rain to walk around a city island doesn’t sound like much of an adventure.  What it took to get there, is. Those of you who have been through cancer or been a supporter of someone with cancer, you know this can be a really dark time.  The message brought home to me is that laughter, a positive mindset, and supportive friends truly can make the tough times easier.

Karen, surrounded by family & friends, at the finish line

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  1. Harlow

    I love your photo documentation Stacey – it tells the story in itself.

    • Stacey Newman Weldon

      Thank you Harlow! As you know, a photo is worth a thousand words 😉

  2. Kate

    Love the great attitude of sunshine and possibility to overshadow the present overcast weather conditions… much like dealing with cancer.

    • Stacey Newman Weldon

      you are an inspiration too! I am grateful you are a survivor too, so that we could meet that fun, adventurous weekend in Miami!

  3. Nancy

    Great story! Proud of you, as always!

    • Stacey Newman Weldon

      Thanks Nancy! I send you lots of hugs, because I’m grateful you are still in my life and sharing adventures!

  4. Richard Balik

    Great post, thank you so much for coming to the 5k and putting it out there. What you wrote meant a lot to us.


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