By Cassandra Hedstrom

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

I have always admired those wise words of Ms. Keller, but they’ve never held more meaning to me than they did on September 18th, 2016. I know I will look back on that Sunday for years to come and recognize it as a pivotal day in my life. This was my first year attending the New England Walk of Hope and my first “infertility” event. I found out about the walk through the RESOLVE New England (RNE) Facebook page, which I have been following for some time. I’ve wanted to get involved with RNE for a while now but wasn’t quite sure how to jump in, so the Walk of Hope seemed like the perfect opportunity.

I was diagnosed with primary unexplained infertility about a year ago. My husband and I have been trying to conceive for over two years. Like many women going through this experience, I ventured into the world of online forums looking for advice and information. Through these online forums I’ve gained so much knowledge and support from people across the country, but I still felt a little alone. While our family and friends are supportive, infertility can be a very lonely road to walk. It is hard to truly understand and relate to someone unless you have been through the experience as well.

To be honest I was not sure what to expect at the Walk of Hope. I have done many other walks for various causes in support of family and friends. Most of these walks are advertised on television and promoted frequently on Facebook or other social media sites. While they sometimes represent sad or difficult scenarios, a lot of people feel comfortable talking about it and sharing their efforts with the world. I have found that is not always the case with infertility, and while tremendous strides have been made, we still have a long way to go in terms of spreading awareness. With these thoughts in the back of my mind on my way to the Walk, I was a little nervous about how the day would go.

I can honestly say in my entire life I have never felt more welcomed or more understood than I did that morning at the New England Walk of Hope. In addition to creating a team and collecting donations, my husband and I also signed up as volunteers. From the moment we arrived it felt like coming home to a place I didn’t even know I belonged to until that moment. We were greeted with warm hugs and introductions, and I immediately felt my nerves dissipate. Meeting everyone involved with RNE and RESOLVE that morning was a wonderful experience. I felt such a sense of community and pride just within that small group of volunteers setting up for the Walk.

I spent the morning at the registration table checking in walkers and handing out t-shirts. I was amazed by how many people came out that morning. Even with a questionable forecast so many showed up to be a part of such an amazing day. It was so comforting to see how many people came out either to walk for themselves or for family and friends. To see a community of people come together and dedicate their morning to show strength in numbers was truly moving. As each person came to sign in, I felt less and less alone in my own journey. It solidified for me that support can be found right here in my own community and not just across a computer screen.

Once we set out on the course, with each step I took, I felt myself feeling more and more assured that even though our infertility struggle seems hopeless there truly is hope. Hope was right there staring me in the face in the eyes of the two little twin boys that were running in between their mother and father excitedly. Hope was there in the heart of everyone who had come out to walk that day. Hope was there when the clouds held in the raindrops that were forecast and the sun managed to peak through a few times. It was so much more than the physical act of taking the steps. It was taking the step mentally and emotionally together as community to support each other in our journeys.

I truly hope there were at least one or two other newbies there at the New England Walk of Hope this year and that they felt the same sense of “finding their people” as I did that morning. While I know the dollars we raised will certainly help make a difference in the infertility community, for me the true difference was the new sense of hope and strength I gained that day. I am already looking forward to next year’s walk. After seeing all the creative team t-shirts and team names this year I’ve been inspired to come up with something great for next year’s event! Most importantly I’m looking forward to becoming even more involved with RNE and helping others find a shoulder to lean on if they need one.

Cassandra lives in Worcester, MA with her husband, their two cats and their pup. When they’re not busy with work she and her husband enjoy spending time with their ten nieces and nephews as well as traveling. Cassandra is serving on the planning committee for this year’s New England Walk of Hope, which will be held on Sunday, September 17, 2017.