This is a guest blog written by Chad Schrack, a Fight CRC Advocate.
When I asked my boss at FedEx Freight Youngstown, John Murphy, if I could have four months off of work when I turned 50 to walk across the country. He just laughed and said, “if you’re crazy enough to do it, then sure.”
I told my family and friends and they would just shrug and laugh. No one really thought I was being serious. Then time passed, and in 2014 my boss John Murphy passed from colon cancer…I knew I HAD to do it.
My current boss, Andy Yost, was all in for me taking time off work to walk across the country, but he said, “it must be for a cause, that’s the only way I can give you all that time.”
So it was easy, my walk turned from a crazy idea to something inspiring–to raise awareness and donations for colorectal cancer. My wife, Sheila is a stage 3c colon cancer survivor and was diagnosed at age 38.
A year prior to my departure, I went back and forth on how far I wanted to walk each day, and finally decided on 22 miles.
Why 22 miles a day?
I am an Iraq War veteran and served with a good friend who sadly took his own life in 2010. Through a little research, I discovered that 22 war veterans kill themselves each day. So, I thought to myself, “What better way to tie in all the things that have impacted my life.”
May 6, 2018 came around faster than expected. On that day, I celebrated my 50th birthday and left from Arlington National Cemetery for my walk across the United States. My family and friends were there to send me off. At that point, it hadn’t hit me yet that I was actually walking across the country.
The first week was hard for my body to adjust. I eventually realized that I had to take at least one nap every day to get through it. I would start at 7 most mornings.
At first I was nervous about how many nights I would have to sleep outside, but FedEx helped right away. They booked and paid for multiple rooms along my route and at times a regional manager would come out to keep me company, and make sure I was fed and ready to take on the next 22 miles. And at the finish line they donated an additional $5,000 to get me closer to my fundraising goal of $22,000. I already knew I worked for a great company, but to feel the love and support directly was truly humbling and appreciated.
I met multiple people who were affected in some way by colorectal cancer.
A lot of people would stop me on the side of the road and ask me what I was doing. Some people called the police on me.
Then I reached Springfield, Missouri. My wife and daughter flew out to visit me. I spent a few days there keeping busy at the Fight Colorectal Cancer headquarters, volunteering in the office and meeting with local Representatives. It was a great break and a good way to recharge to keep me going.
After I walked through Missouri, to Oklahoma and onto Texas, I had the fortunate opportunity to see the great side of humanity. So many people reached out and donated hotel rooms–whether paid with hotel points or out of pocket, you all kept me going, and I THANK YOU!!
From Texas I flew to Colorado to do the yearly “Climb for a Cure.” Yep, that’s right. In the midst of my trek across the United States, I climbed a fourteener! There I saw a lot of familiar faces including my family and Fight CRC friends. After the hike ended, I flew back to Texas and that’s when things became a little difficult.
I was walking through 100 degree heat every day and having to wake up even earlier than before. The towns became further and further apart and the already long 22 miles started to feel like 50 miles. A long couple of weeks walking through New Mexico wouldn’t have been possible without the help of so many fire stations and my FedEx family.
My spirits were low, but I kept reminding myself of all the cancer survivors and those who I have lost to the disease.
It would be selfish for me not to finish with all the support I was receiving and all the fighters I have met. I did it for them.
My wife flew to Arizona to spend time with me my while I walked through the desert, it was a lifesaver. Once I reached California, adrenaline took over. I was PUMPED…The finish line was right there.
Achieving My Goal
I MADE IT!! When I reached Venice Beach, Calif., I took a moment to reflect on that last few months and all of the incredible people along the way.
Although, I’ve been a colorectal cancer advocate for many years, I discovered while walking across the country, just how many people are affected by this disease and how incredible people are!
I couldn’t believe the kindness that was shown by everyone throughout my journey, and I will cherish the stories that were shared with me along the way. The kindness and generosity were motivating and helped me get through each day.
After ending my stroll, it was time to celebrate. The support and surprise after surprise I received when I reached Venice Beach was pretty awesome. FedEx and Fight CRC teamed up and threw me a party. FedEx surprised me by making sure my wife was there to bring me home, and boy was I glad to see her. It was great to see how proud all those people were, and I felt so accomplished.
Always Keeping Hope
I hope I have inspired you all that no matter how crazy a goal you have, you can accomplish anything you put your mind to. I will continue to share the message of getting screened and bringing attention to veterans suicide.
Always remember to keep moving forward.
Your Fellow Advocate,