Sunday, April 22, 2012

Love 4 Laiken x 13 x forever

It is four years now since Laiken passed away at the age of 13.

Sending light and love to Laiken's family today.  I know what this feels like.

Four years later, I am still fighting for a world without blood cancer.

It is what I can do to honor Laiken and Kelly, what they fought for, what was important to them.  A commitment I made four years ago to Laiken.

A promise made to Kelly before that.

Smile on pretty girl.  Keeping your smile close to my heart today.

A world without cancer awaits.

If you would like to make a donation today in honor of Laiken, please click the link here.

With Love 4 Laiken x 13 x forever.

Friday, April 20, 2012

We are Columbine

We are Columbine. 

Thirteen years have passed since the world we live in changed forever.

The journey to heal is slow and the need continues.  Read about  the Columbine: Wounded Minds project directed by Samuel J. Granillo a student in the school that morning. 

"I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion then it will start a chain reaction of the same."- Rachel Scott  

Rachel Scott was the first person killed at Columbine that morning. 

Let's start a chain reaction of compassion and kindness today. How wide can we cast that net?

Love echoes! 

Please take a moment to read the names of those that were taken away from their families that day.

Cassie Bernall, 17. Active in church youth programs and Bible study groups. Recently visited Britain. Favorite movie was Mel Gibson's ''Braveheart.''

Steven Curnow, 14. A freshman, dreamed of being a Navy top gun and piloting an F-16. Watched ''Star Wars'' movies so often he could recite dialogue. Played soccer as a boy; learned to referee to earn pocket money.

Corey DePooter, 17. Loved to golf, hunt and fish. Former wrestler. Had taken maintenance job at a golf club to save up for a boat with a friend. Good student.

Kelly Fleming, 16. Aspiring songwriter and author. Wrote scores of poems and short stories based on her life experiences. Was learning to play guitar. Had recently moved from Phoenix. Was eager to get her driver's license and part-time job.

Matthew Kechter, 16. A junior, had hoped to start for the football team. Lifted weights. Maintained A average.

Daniel Mauser, 15. A sophomore, excelled in math and science, and earned straight A's on last report card. Ran cross country and joined debate team.

Daniel Rohrbough, 15. Helped in his father's electronics business and worked on family farms in Kansas during the summer. Enjoyed computer games, stereos and home theater systems.

William ''Dave'' Sanders, 47. Columbine teacher for 24 years, including in business and science. Coached girls' basketball and softball. Married, three daughters and 10 grandchildren. Shot twice in chest while directing students down hallway to safety. Survived at least 3 1/2 hours.

Rachel Scott, 17. Played lead in a student-written play, ''Smoke in the Room.'' Active in Celebration Christian Fellowship church. Liked photography. During rampage, younger brother Craig, 16, played dead in library and helped lead others to safety.

Isaiah Shoels, 18. Due to graduate in May. Suffered health problems as a child and had heart surgery twice. Wanted to attend an arts college and become a music executive. Small in stature but lifted weights and played football and wrestled.

John Tomlin, 16. Enjoyed driving off-road in his beat-up Chevy pickup. Worked after school in gardening store and belonged to a church youth group. Went on missionary trip to Mexico and built a house for the poor. Wanted to enlist in the Army.

Lauren Townsend, 18. Captain of girls' varsity volleyball team, coached by her mother. Member of the National Honor Society and candidate for valedictorian. Wanted to major in biology in college.

Kyle Velasquez, 16. Had attended Columbine only three months. Loved computers, the Denver Broncos and dreamed of joining the Navy, as his father had. Devoted to family. Buried with full military honors at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver. 

We are Columbine ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A wee rant about cancer


I hate reading this, hearing this.

Especially when it comes from people I think should know better, should not use these words.

If I could change one thing, it would be to banish this thought, change this perspective or lack thereof.

I know this is my hangup, it is my judgement at play, the filter of my lens.

I read this in an email on Monday.

Next week(and once a month) I will feature someone who lost their battle, not only to honor their memory but to remind everyone that we still have a long way to go until everyone diagnosed with cancer has a survival story to tell.

Every thing after the words, "someone who lost their battle", I am totally on board with.

I don't understand why it is that it is so common to use those words, to paint the picture that someone lost their battle to cancer.  I hear it over and over again and it makes my heart break and my blood boil.

I will never, never, never accept that.

I don't believe that Kelly lost her battle with cancer at the age of 19.

Kelly and her transplant donor Emily, February 2008
Laiken didn't lose her battle with cancer at the age of 13.

Laiken hanging out with Taylor Swift
Melina didn't lose her battle with cancer at the age of 10 months.

Melina at 7 months
To describe that someone lost their battle to cancer doesn't honor their memory, what they fought for, how they lived their lives.  What does winning look like?  Is it just living and breathing?  There is more to it than that.

I know this is language, the meaning I give to these words.

To say that Kelly, Laiken and Melina lost their battle means that somehow cancer won.

I can't say that.  I don't accept that and I don't believe it.

Didn't Kelly, Laiken and Melina leave us all with a legacy of love, of hope and faith?

Didn't they all outlive their own lives?

Last Monday marked 4 years of Kelly's passing.  In 4 days it will be 4 years since Laiken passed.

Melina's parents are hosting the 6th annual Melina Wachter memorial golf tournament next month  where they will raise over 10 thousand dollars to donate to The Children's Hospital Foundation for the Oncology/Bone Marrow Unit, the PICU(Pediatric Infant Care Unit)  and the Bereavement group.

Laiken's mother is hosting an  online event on Sunday, April 22  where she will donate headband's to the children at Loma Linda hospital where Laiken underwent treatment.

 "If you do not have a child that you can give this beautiful headband or bow to in remembrance of Laiken then please to have it shipped directly to me and when all is said and done and I have received everything I will be making a trip to both Loma Linda Children’s Hospital and Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles to donate all of those I receive, I do ask though that if you are having it shipped to me to take to the hospital that you would consider purchasing a headband, instead of a bow, so those with no hair will still be able to wear it. I will also be donating ALL of my profits from the sales of these headbands and bows which is a minimum of 20% to “Laiken’s Shining Star Fund” at Loma Linda Children’s Hospital"~Stacey

I continue with my volunteer work for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to honor Kelly's life.  I nominated a young woman, Cassandra Perkins to run as a Woman of the Year candidate for the Rocky Mountain chapter.

Cassie and I are working together to raise awareness, raise money to accelerate cures.

These are just three stories, I know there are so many more like this.

What did cancer win?  Nothing!

Let's flip it around.  Cancer lost it's battle with Kelly, Laiken and Melina.  Let's use those words.   Language creates our world.  Let's choose the words that empower us, inspire us.  I want to live in a world where cancer loses and everyone knows it, says it.

Cancer, never wins.  Never, never, never.

This is part of a message that Kelly's mom wrote to me on the morning of the first marathon I ran for Kelly after her passing.

Patti ask this question so well.  "What victory does cancer ever have?"  Cancer never has a victory.  It loses every single time.  Kelly didn't lose.  The cancer lost.  I treasure every word that was written and it still moves me tears whenever I read it.

".we have been praying for you, thinking of you all morning as we know you ran for the first time in memory of Kell. it has been so emotional for me this a.m. to know that - to feel that - running in memory of Kelly not in honor of Kelly, yet also in honor of Kelly. Does that make sense?
Did you know she used to talk about you, a lot, to her nurses. She always told them, "yeah, that's from Ross - he's my runner." Always referred to you as HER runner. What she didn't have the physical ability to do, you did for her, in honor of her, with such resolve and dedication to her and dedication to finding something better, something to get rid of her persistent cancer. Yet it was the cancer itself that finally killed the cancer - how futile is that? It killed itself........what victory does cancer ever have? Kelly did not lose - the cancer lost.......The victory was, is hers - her body finally gave out, couldn't handle anymore chemo, any more treatments, yet her spirit was vibrant, alive to her very last breath.
Thank you Ross, for running for Kelly, in honor of Kelly, in memory of Kelly, but most of all, because of your love for Kelly.

Cancer has no answer to love.  Let's live into that, let's live for that...

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Glimmer of hope

I attended the second annual Rocky Mountain Blood Cancer Conference yesterday at the University of Colorado Denver Anschutz medical campus.

I sat in on a presentation given by Doctor Nathan Fowler from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center on NHL(Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma).

At the beginning of his presentation Doctor Fowler talked about a process where cancer cells become immortal.   Basically, damage occurs to a cell and the instructions that tell the cell to stop growing or to die is broken.  You can read more about this by clicking here.

Fascinating information, much of it way over my head.

Doctor Fowler shared in interesting story about a chemotherapy drug(Bendamustine) that was developed in East Germany in 1964 and was ignored for almost 40 years because of a belief that nothing good could come from East Germany.

At the end of presentation Doctor Fowler began a Q&A session with the audience in the hall.  This is what really struck me.  There were so many people in the hall that were aching for answers.  Am I following the correct protocol, should I continue with my maintenance protocol.   What other options could I pursue.

I was scheduled to take Doctor Fowler back to the airport at 12:00.  He patiently answered every question, talked to every survivor and their family members.  They asked him hard questions, looking for confirmation, looking for a glimmer of hope.  

Some of the questions were not easy to hear.  "Am I going to die?", "What will happen if I stop my treatment?"

These people are fighting for their lives and they want answers.  They want to be heard and understood.

We finally left for the airport at 12:35.  Doctor Fowler talked to every person that had a question that needed an answer.  I think they felt heard and understood.  Don't we all yearn for that?

In between trips to the airport, I talked with the executive director of the Rocky Mountain chapter.  Rebecca told me, "We have to do more than what we are doing.  These people are fighting for their lives."

Every person on staff for the Rocky Mountain chapter and the board members are committed to this fight.  We are "relentless for a cure" and yet we are all left with a void to fill.  We have so much more to do.  There is so much at stake.  These are real people, with hopes and dreams and they need our help.

For me in this moment my glimmer of hope rests in the arms and the hearts of the men and women who are raising awareness and money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society as candidates for the Man and Woman of the year.  Standing for possibility, a world without cancer.  

Fighting for a world without cancer for Jack and Taylor

Being told no, when asking people to give and being unstoppable in the face of that no.  People's lives are at stake.

At the Light the Night walk's one of the theme's is:  Hope doesn't flicker, it floats.

The biggest glimmer of hope that I have is when I see young people step forward and stand for something in the world.  Determined to make a difference, touch a life, change a life.

Cassandra standing for Taylor and Jackr
Cassandra is 15-years old, determined to make one person's life better.   This young woman inspires me and gives me hope every day.   She is a champion for hope, for change, for a better world.

Far beyond a glimmer of hope, what else is possible?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Dream Big

I was shocked and deeply saddened to hear yesterday that Sean O'Malley of Cardio Coach had passed unexpectedly on March 25, 2012.

Laura had given me a series of workouts from the Cardio Coach website for Christmas last year so Sean and I have spent a lot of time together over the last 3 plus months.

I had just done a workout with Sean's voice in my ear on Saturday morning.  I really felt sad.  I only knew Sean through a voice in my headphones, encouraging me to give my best.  

"Put pride in your back pocket because the sprint at the top of this hill cares nothing for your pride, and neither do the remaining hills in this challenge.  They just want to break you, but they won't do that today.  You will not be broken."~Sean O'Malley Volume 6, Challenge 1. 

 His message was always so uplifting.  He had an inspiring message to deliver and he shared his voice, his gift. 

I hoped that maybe Sean had passed during a workout, on a long run, pushing himself, doing something he loved.   You hear about that from time to time. 

I searched the internet for some news.  I saw something on Facebook that hinted that Sean may have taken his own life. 

I found this on a forum chat that was written by Sean's sister. 

Thank you Sean for your inspiring messages, for being the whispered voice in my hear to live my life with the energy of my true potential, to dream and live big. 

This is my favorite quote from Sean on Volume 2 of the Cardio Coach workout. 

"Dream big because the only thing that can hold you back is a life without dreams"~Sean O'Malley

Rest in peace Sean, you will be missed. 

In the meantime, dream big!