I want to write something about Kelly that is perfect, that honors who she is to me, what she has meant to my life and I know it will fall far short of being perfect.
I began running for Kelly in 1999 when Kelly was 10 years old. My life was changed forever when Kelly was the patient hero assigrned to my small group. It was just an act of serendipity. She could have been assigned to any other group and somehow, we were meant to know one another. She was my connection to someone with a blood cancer, someone to run for, someone who would provide the inspiration to cross the finish line for. My finish line was defined. 26 miles, 385 yards. Kelly's finish line was on a much different path.
Kelly was in remission when I first began running for her. Her cancer returned in April, 1999. One of Don's colleagues sent me an e-mail to let me know that Kelly had relapsed and said they would love to hear from me.
I picked up the phone and called Kelly for the first time and we made an instant connection. We must have talked for 45 minutes that first night. I found out the Eeyore was her favorite Disney character and over the years I always enjoyed shopping for Eeyore trinkets for her ever growing collection.
Later that summer, I flew up to Portland under the pretense of going out to visit my Grandmother who lived in Portland. I borrowed my Uncle's car and Laura and Adam and I drove up to Seattle to meet Kelly and her family.
Later that fall Kelly underwent a full bone marrow transplant only to have her cancer return again in a little over a year.
After Kelly's relapse, she invited my family and me to join her on a trip to Disneyland. Kelly was dying. Her doctors had given her a very short time to live. She was self medicated with Morphine for pain and oh, how she lived on that trip.
It was an amazing four days, filled with joy and love and so much life!
I have so many memories of Kelly, rich memories, extraordinary moments. I am sure I had at least ten once in a lifetime experiences with Kelly and yet some of my most treasured memories come from the quieter moments.
Eating dinner at Milly's Diner in Anaheim on the last night of the Disneyland trip, talking and sharing our favorite memories of the trip. Kelly and I both had Apple Pie and Ice cream. That was our favorite desert.
Watching Kelly drive a bumper car in Tacoma, her hair blowing in the breeze, fearless, loving and living every moment of the ride.
An afternoon at Children's hospital watching Kelly and my kids play a game of HORSE.
A round of minature golf during a day pass from the hospital shortly after her transplant in 2002. Kelly made a hole on one and raised her arms triumphantly. Tiger Woods has nothing on Kelly when it comes to celebrating a success.
An evening walk after dinner, by the water during a trip to Seattle. Kelly grabbing a stick and writing in the sand.
Kelly Grubb was here.
I loved that. How many of us are present to our lives to say, I am here, I matter.
Sitting on the edge of her bed at the Ronald McDonald house where Kelly showed me the scrapbook she was making on the last night I saw her.
Kelly at the age of 12 choosing not to stop her chemo treatments in spite of the doctors predictions. She told her Mom, "I am not ready to give up." I can't even fathom the courage and faith Kelly had. I think about those words often and it still inspires me just as much as the first time I heard them.
Kelly choosing to try a new protocol at the age of 13, following the courage of her convictions to imagine a life without cancer. Kelly made medical history, becoming the first pediatric patient in the nation to have a "mini stem cell transplant".
Consenting to having the doctors run additional tests on her after her transplant in 2002 so others could benefit from the ground breaking procedure she received. Maybe more lives could be saved if the doctors and researches understood how this procdeure was working. That was Kelly, being Kelly and I don't think she thought much of how the impact that could have on others. She was such an amazing young lady.
Choosing her cancer when it returned inexplicably during her senior year in high school, six weeks shy of the five year anniversary of her transplant. I can't imagine how she felt to hear those words again, and when I say she chose her cancer, she was choosing her life.
I think about this a lot. Kelly lived her life while she was dying. She chose to live the life she had. She always chose life. Her cancer did not define her life.
Kelly, I would like to acknowledge you for who you are for me. You are my hero. You have been my North star in this fight against cancer.
You have been my mentor, my guardian angel and you have been my friend. You have made a difference to me in my life and I love you so much.
I looked to you for inspiration in the fight against cancer and you continue to touch and inspire me today. I am so honored every time I am asked to talk about your life and share your story and my love for you. I absolutely love this thought from a friend of Laura's who is running in the Denver Marathon on October 17, 2010 with Team In Training.
I was so blessed by your words and by Kelly's mom's perspective - that the "cancer killed itself." Wow! That just blew up in my spirit and gave me a renewed sense of determination.
It's amazing to me that in the midst of what Kelly's physical body was suffering her spirit was "vibrant and alive", and she still was full of enough life to pass it on. Rather than being sick and draining people, it seems she gave her life away. Know what I mean? I'd just love for you and your family to come and share with our congregation about this phenominal young woman. So many of our youth are self-centered and selfish and forget that there is more to life than their wants. We want them to see that you can be young, have fun, and all that - while at the same time seeing that our lives are the fullest when we give ourselves away.