Saturday, February 28, 2009

What calls your heart?

What calls your heart? The closing of the Rocky Mountain News yesterday serves a another reminder that when our heart calls, we should answer. Don't screen the calls from your heart, don't let it go to voice mail. Make sure that is one call you return.

I was very saddened to see the Rocky Mountain News close. I have lived in Colorado my entire life. I have been a loyal reader of the Rocky since I delivered the paper in 1972-1973.

Delivering the newspaper in an era long since gone on an indestructible bike with canvas bags to hold the newspaper. I had to go door to door every month to collect the $2.25 so I could pay the monthly invoice. I think I made around 100.00 a month before tips. Kids today don't even get the chance to have that experience. Papers are delivered by adults in cars, all the billing is done on-line and now today the voice of the Rocky is silent, 55 days short of it's 150 year anniversary.

As I read this article I was struck by the importance of the question, what calls your heart? How many of us are ready to answer that call?

Lance Armstrong is getting back on his bike answering the calling of his heart as he continues his relentless battle against cancer.

I see so many of my friends and colleagues at the Leukemia and Lymphoma society that are called by their hearts to serve. Could they make more money if they weren't working for a non profit? Absolutely, but that is not where their hearts have called them.

I see the changes in my wife as she answers what is calling her heart as she serves as a mentor in the Colorado Youth at Risk program.

My children are both in college. I hope they will know what their hearts call them to do and follow that path.

What calls your heart? Please make sure you answer.

Please take a moment to read the column. here

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

You don't tug on Supermom's cape

If only it was a fair fight.

It isn’t. Yesterday another person who was just getting his toe in the water passed away after a three year battle with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia.

Matthew was diagnosed on my birthday in 2005. What is it with people being diagnosed so close to Christmas? It is strange how that seems to happen so often.

One year and one day later, Kelly’s parents were calling us. Laura came downstairs to tell me excitedly that the Grubb’s were on the phone. By the time I got upstairs, Laura’s face was ashen. Kelly had relapsed. I was stunned, heartbroken. Adam and I had seen Kelly nine months earlier at her high school prom. I would never have believed her cancer could return.

She had such a sparkle in her eye.

No fair.

One of the things I find so amazing as I watch so many of these stories unfold is the unbelievable courage and compassion that the mothers of these children reveal.

There is a bond they all share with one another. Their lives have been changed forever. They have a child that has been touched by cancer.

They don’t back away from this battle. They are tireless advocates for their children, and for others that are in different parts of this journey. They follow these stories on CaringBridge or CarePages websites.

They offer their support, encouragement and prayers. They stand by each other, raising awareness, fighting for these children. These Moms’s are tough. I wouldn’t want to mess with them.

So if I could level the playing field, I would like to put these Moms in a room with cancer and see who comes out on top.

My money is on this elite group of women.

Now that I think about it, that might not be a fair fight.

Cancer, you are so out of your league.

Monday, February 9, 2009

One year ago

Dear Kelly,

One year ago tonight, I hugged you goodbye.

We spent a quiet evening together at the Ronald McDonald house. You showed me your memory scrapbook you were working on.
We talked about some things you hoped to do on our trip to New York in the fall. It was a quiet evening among friends, among family. You and Laura talked together on the phone, another nice moment between friends.

Unremarkable, yet it felt different.

I had a really early flight home the next day. You had to go to the hospital in the morning.

I watched the clock tick by. I knew it was time to go.

It was time to say goodbye like we had done so many times before.

I lingered for as long as I could.

I didn't want to fall apart and make this hard for you. I tried to keep it light, hopeful.

I told you, "I love you, I will see you in New York in the fall. We have a date".

We hugged each other goodbye for what turned out to be the last time.

How I wish I could hug you again one more time, see your sweet smile.

Light and love, forever and always.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Kelly's voice

Ross, Kelly and Emily at Chidren's Hospital

I had the honor today to be Kelly’s voice at the kickoff meeting for Team In Training. Right at the start of the meeting nines stories were read. We stood in various locations in the meeting room, standing on chairs to make our voices heard. Cathie Nicolson, one of the amazing gals on the TNT staff, called it getting into cancers face.
Anisa Robinson e-mailed me on Thursday asking if I could write something about Kelly’s story. It is always hard for me to tell the journey I shared with Kelly in a couple of sentences. I tried as best as I could and sent if off to Anisa. Anisa combined some of my thoughts and I think it was Cathie who gave me the note to read.
I read through it, but when I got to the last line my heart sank. I couldn’t say the last line. I would have to give it to someone else to read.
I agonized over this for the next hour. I stepped outside to clear my head. I walked around the building, saying the words out loud. I knew I had to rehearse this so my emotions wouldn’t completely overwhelm me.
Could I read the last line as written? I tried to say it. I couldn’t. I started over. I got to the last line. I cried softly to myself. I wandered in and out the building waiting for the meeting to start. I tried again.
I can’t do it. I can’t say this.
I happened to see Anisa in the hall and she asked me if I had received Kelly’s story. I asked her if she would mind if I changed the final sentence. I told her I can’t say this. This is not the way Kelly’s parents, her sister Marcy thought about it. It was not how Kelly thought about it. It is not how I view it.
I told her about the note Kelly's Mom had written to me as I was running the Denver marathon last fall, how I wanted to change the last line, how important that was to me. Anisa told me it would be okay, say it exactly that way.
I found a pen and rewrote the ending in a way that would honor Kelly, my love for her and her family. I went back outside and practiced being Kelly’s voice. I knew that there was still a good chance I would completely fall apart.
My story was #7. I made sure I knew who the speaker was just before me so I would be ready when it was my turn.
I think in story #3, I heard the words I hated.
I climbed onto my chair as the 6th speaker began.
It was my turn. My legs were shaking. I was Kelly’s voice.

My name is Kelly. I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia when I was 7 years old.
Over the next four years I went through chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant and relapsed twice during that time.

When I was twelve years old the doctors gave me 3-6 months to live.
At 13, I made medical history becoming the first pediatric patient in the nation to receive a mini-stem cell transplant.

That procedure gave me almost five years of living a normal life. I started thinking about college and I even got to go to prom.
In March 2008, after twelve years, the cancer killed itself. I lived joyfully, vibrant till my least breath.
This was the last sentence as it was originally written.
In March 2008, I lost my twelve year battle with cancer.
I couldn't be Kelly's voice and say that. I just couldn't do it. It wasn't true. Cancer is futile. It never wins.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Kelly's friends at the Surf City marathon expo

This is a neat story of how Dane, Shanya and I are linked together through Kelly.

Dane and I became cyber friends in fall of 2006 while he was running 52 marathons in 52 weekends. We corresponded via e-mail for almost two years before we finally got a chance to meet at the Boulder marathon last September.

Dane knew Kelly was very ill and had kindly sent her a signed picture of him running for her 19th birthday. I saw the picture that Dane had sent her when I went to visit her last February. I was so touched by his kind gesture and words of encouragement he had written to Kelly.

Dane posted an article about Kelly on his blog a week after she died and seeing her name in the title caught Shayna's eye.

Shayna immediately wrote Dane and asked him for my e-mail address and we have since become very good friends. We just haven't had the chance to meet each other yet. I think that when Shayna and I first meet, we will have a good cry and then I suspect we will spend a lot of time laughing.

This weekend, Dane and Shayna were both at the Surf City Marathon in Huntington Beach, California so now I have a picture of two of my favorite people in the world together.

I think it is so neat that the three of us are friends and even neater that we are linked together through Kelly.

Now we just all need to end up at the same marathon. What a reunion that will be!

Being where you are supposed to be

Do you ever feel like you are doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing, that wherever you are at the moment is where you are supposed to be?

I volunteered yesterday at a Team in Training information meeting for the upcoming season.

I had picked this particular meeting a couple of weeks ago when I recognized the names of some of the other volunteers that had signed up.

My cycling coach Gary was going to be there and Desiree(Melina's mother) was going to deliver the mission moment and Sarah who was the mentor for my group last season was also going to be there to help.

Gary is one of those people that you can't help feeling good when you are around him. He is so enthusiastic about his love for the sport of cycling. I haven't seen Gary since last July when we went riding together and we just picked up where we left off.

Desiree did a fabulous job sharing her story about baby Melina. Melina almost died the first day she was diagnosed at 5 months. Her white blood cell count broke the record at Children's hospital. 1.2 million. Normal levels would be 4500-10,000. Melina kept fighting because she had more work to do.

Melina had a blood cord transplant from a donor in Milan, Italy. There was even hope she might be able to come home and then she started having trouble breathing. Melina died at the age of 10 months. Desiree so wants kids to have a chance at life and she continues to be relentless in her efforts to give kids and adults the chance to live.

Later a young gal shared something with Desiree as she was leaving the meeting. She has a friend named Alex that lives in Milan, Italy and he just had a blood cord transplant from a donor in Colorado. She and her husband had come to the meeting at the last moment. She was right where she was supposed to be.

There were 19 people at the meeting. 10 people signed up for the upcoming season. Desiree is quite the closer. She was where she was supposed to be, fighting for kids to have a chance.

I have often wondered since Kelly died if I am being where I am supposed to be. Can I continue to do this?

For now, the answer is yes. I am where I am supposed to be. I should continue to provide support and hope to others that I meet in this journey. I believe that is what Kelly would want me to do.

Part of living abundantly is being where you are supposed to be, with the people you care about, trying to make a difference along the way.

That was how Kelly lived her life. A very dear friend of mine told me that is now my job to live joyfully. That is where I am supposed to be.