As we arrived at the LLS Board retreat yesterday we were instructed to choose a word tile that reasonated with us and to not reveal our word until the end of the meeting.
I had taken one of my favorite Kelly pictures to the meeting as I wanted the new members of the board to be able to associate her face with her name.
At the beginning of the meeting, I spoke about how I had become involved with LLS back in 1999 and why I was still involved.
I was connected to Kelly through the Team in Training program. I have crossed the finish line of 17 Team in Training events for Kelly, the last two events I have completed since her passing in March, 2008.
I am doing this to honor her life, keep her memory alive. She is my hero.
At the end of the meeting we were all asked to reveal our word choices.
Elly had chosen relentless. Elly has been on the board for five years. She talked passionately about being relentless for a cure. There are still too many Kelly's and Laiken's, and Melina's. We can't lose any more people to cancer...
As I waited for my turn to speak, I could feel the emotion welling up inside me. I wasn't sure I was going to be able to get through this and not fall apart.
My turn came.
The word I had chosen was gratitude.
I am so grateful for Kelly's life. Her life is such a gift to me and I will forever be grateful for all she gave me.
Kelly was more than my team hero.
She was my friend. She was my mentor, a role model.
Kelly was given up for dead at the age of 12. 3 months to live.
Don and Patty were told they could try and treat Kelly with an experimental protocol that included Arsenic(Rat poison). They opted against that treatment and prepared to lose Kelly in a very short period of time.
Because there were others that came before me that were relentless, new treatment protocols were being developed.
A young college student at the University of Notre Dame signed up for the bone marrow registry in support of a classmate that needed a transplant.
Ground breaking research was ongoing, funded by programs like Team in Training and Light the Night.
One year later, Kelly received a mini stem cell transplant. This protocol was not available one year earier.
Emily became Kelly's donor and we all received the greatest gift of all.
More time with Kelly.
Kelly had a remission period that lasted almost 5 years.
I got to see Adam and Kelly walk down the runway of her high school during prom weekend of her junior year.
I got to watch Kelly walk with her classmates and graduate from high school.
I got to watch Emily and Kelly meet for the first time in February 2008.
Every moment, every memory, priceless.
Kelly chose her life. She chose her cancer.
Kelly lived her life joyfully.
Her life was a gift to me.
Knowing Kelly changed my life.
Yes, my word is gratitude.