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.


  1. Oh, Ross...

    Love and Light, my dear friend. Love and Light.

    You did good.


  2. Ross,

    You are fantastic. We love you very much!!!

    God Bless,


  3. thanks ross for changing that line - you know how that makes me angry!!! The stupid cancer did not win!!! and as you say, she lived fully and joyfully even to her last day, when she reminded me she was not sick!
    love you ross
    p.s. - we are struggling with what to do on the anniversary of Kelly's passing - don't want to go to Great Falls and do the shopping/movie/dinner thing - just doesn't seem to be right......any ideas what would honor and comfort at the same time?
    thanks....maybe someone else out there has an idea.