Thursday, July 28, 2011

EXTREME 3-DAY 2011--Day 2

Believe it or not, the majority of us woke up at 5AM chilled.  We all left our tents open and were just sleeping with sheets--no sleeping bags this year.  Personally, I didn't sleep great, but what can you expect.  We quickly got dressed and put the fly and tarp over our tent.  It looked like we might get a quick shower, but we figured it was going to be so hot, everything would dry quickly.  They planned to open the route earlier than usual, at 6AM, because the temps were expected to soar once again.  After a yummy meal of eggs, bacon, sausage, hash brown, and banana, we were on our way again.  We arrived at the gate just a little after six, but the route still wasn't open.  Someone said that the ice vendor would not arrive early, and they were fearful that people would arrive at Pit 1, and there would be no ice.  At 6:20 the route was opened and we were on our way.

Every day on the walk we start together, but you've heard me talk about our kamikaze walkers with Connie being the leader.  Well Connie had a partner in crime this day--little Miss Allison.  For those of you who do not know Allison, she is one of the children's librarians in our town.  She also can't be more than 5 feet tall.  We used to joke that it was one step for Connie and two for Allison.  Well, that day, Allison led the pack and arrived back at camp at number 140 out of 2000.

Taking a break waiting for the route to re-open.
What started as a much cooler morning with a slight breeze, began to turn ugly at about mile 3 or 4.  There was one portion of the route where we had to walk up the street a bit, use a crosswalk, then double back on the other side of the street.  When we turned around, the sky was an ominous charcoal gray.  Oh no!  I thought there would be no rain this year.  Then began the rumbles of thunder.  The wind was blowing, and it just felt like a storm.  As we trekked up the "hill that never ends" (you've heard me mention in previous years) it began to sprinkle.  Then the sprinkle turned to a light rain.  Then came the lightning.  Yep--extreme 3-Day!  As a child, I was terrified of thunder and lightning.  I'm over that now, but believe me, the last place I wanted to be was under a bunch of trees, next to a body of water in Winchester.  Seriously?  Being familiar with the route I knew that there was a pit stop ahead.  As we pulled in, we put on our lovely pink ponchos, that Jody had so generously purchased for everyone, and were getting ready to refuel when they looked at us and told us that the route was closed due to lightning. It was me, Nichole, and Dana, and we sat down under a porch and waited.  We found out later in the day that those in front of us were never pulled off the route, they just kept walking, and those behind us were pulled into Arlington High School for a bit.  Unfortunately, that made the gap between all of us even larger.  I knew we wouldn't be able to be together the entire day, but I was missing the rest of my team.

After about 20-30 minutes, the route re-opened.  Ponchos came off and the sun started to try to peak through.  We began walking with Wayne from the Pink Angels.  The Pink Angels, if you don't already know, is the largest team in the Boston 3-Day.  They are simply amazing.  Since their creation, they have raised over 1.5 million dollars!  Very impressive!  Josie, one of their captains, has also been a huge support to the TWPs in our endeavor to become a 501c3, and personally has offered much guidance in how to lead a large team.  Thanks Josie!  Love you!  But, back to Wayne.  Since I have walked, Wayne has always been a member of the Pink Angel Posse.  He always dressed in a pink gown with big angel wings.  You will see the posse everywhere along the route, and they are always wearing something to make us laugh.  This year, Wayne was walking.  His wife is a 14 year survivor, and he had the honor of carrying the "My Wife" flag during Opening and Closing.  It was so interesting to talk with someone who is such a wealth of 3-Day knowledge and is just so passionate about finding a cure.  It was one of my favorite parts of the day.

From Winchester, we headed into Woburn where the TWP cheering station was.  I had decided to hang there and eat lunch with AZ and the kids.  It was motivating to see all of our families there.  The signs were outstanding.  McCue the Florist was super supportive, and even moved stuff around for us.  They provided watermelon, and others brought orange slices, freeze pops, squirt bottles, signs, dunking stations, and we even had photo ops with Big Papi!  My mom provided a camp chair with an awning so I took a few to sit back and relax.  I loved hearing the walkers go by saying, "We love the TWPs!"  "Those girls are the best!"  It really made me feel good.

From there, we bypassed lunch and continued on the route.  It was here that we ran into Dana's husband and her three gorgeous girls.  Every time we turned around, they were there.  And each time her husband had painted something new on the mini-van.  It just cracked us up.  This continued for the remainder of Day 2.  Her girls showed up at a pit stop with face paint, and were even allowed just inside the shoot as we were headed into camp.  What a special moment that was for Dana.

If you have been a reader of my blog, you know my friend Tracy--the woman who has been my rock for the last 5 years.  She's the one who did all crazy stuff for me while I was in treatment, and she also made the outstanding signs that lined the route on Day 2 of last year's walk.  Well, once again, Tracy came to cheer me on!  As I was walking into Lexington center I see this woman walking toward me.  Mind you, I don't have my glasses on, so to me she is just some random woman.  Then I realize my dear friend has returned to the 3-Day to walk with me for a few miles.  I am so disappointed I didn't get a picture of us.  Tracy missed us at the TWP cheering station and decided to walk up and down the route looking for us.  Before she met up with me, she had walked with both Kaitlyn and Patty.  All in all she ended up walking about 3 or 4 miles in a skirt and flip flops.  The funny thing was that she ended up with a blister!  In all her miles of training years ago, she never got one!  Must be those sassy silver sandals.  Seeing her just brightened my day and gave me the strength to keep plugging.  I keep hoping that one day she will walk with me again.  No pressure Trace!

Dana, Nichole, and Sherri with the Minute Men.
After saying good-bye to Tracy, we realized it was starting to get very hot again.  It was around 2:00, and the sun was now blazing.  Where was that lovely cloud cover we had earlier in the day?  I would even take the showers sans lightning.  We knew we only had 5 or 6 miles left, and that we could do it.  As we passed through the Lexington cheering station, we were greeted by the Minute Men.  Of course we had to stop and take a photo.

We arrived at Pit 5, 2 miles outside of camp at 2:55 when we heard rumors of the route closing again.  Hell, no!  I am not getting on another bus when I only have 2 miles left.  I asked one of the crew what was going on, and they said that if you were not back on the route by 3:00, you would be transported back to camp.  My response, "Gatorade, please."  And off we went.

At this point, we were done--not actually, but we were ready to be.  All that was left was a medium-sized hill.  No prob.  We would be back before the buses came in.  No shower lines for us.

As I said earlier, we were greeted by Dana's family as we entered camp.  In addition to them, was a member of the Event Staff who said we could not shower until 5:00 or so, and that they would prefer we did not go into our tents.  I just said that I needed to get my flip-flops.  "Okay," was his response.  How could he argue with a woman who just walked 21 miles?  Here is where I got a bit sneaky.  Having done this walk for years, I understand my body, and know how it reacts to these conditions.  I knew I had consumed enough food and Gatorade that I would be fine in the shower, but how could I argue with staff?  People were standing guard at various entrance points to the tents.  All of a sudden, I saw my break.  One staff member walked over to talk to another, and immediately I started zig-zagging through tents, sneakily making my way to the showers.  Not very "Safety Spice" like, but I just couldn't wait to get clean.

We had all agreed that we would sit together at the dining tent on Saturday night.  What the majority of the team did not not realize was that the reason we wanted to do this was because our fearless teammate, Maurine, was chosen out of 2000 people to be the camp show speaker.  Plus, the Saturday night camp show should be experienced as a team.

We didn't need to wait for the show to start, Connie was our entertainment--not just that night, but all weekend long.  I think of anyone on the team, this weekend affected her the most.  To see someone who is always laughing and joking around be turned to tears, really makes an impact on those around.  At this point Connie proceeded to call the good Dr. over to introduce the TWPs to her.  This year, Komen has a new National Spokesperson for the 3-Day for the Cure.  While many of us miss Jenne, Dr. Sheri did a fabulous job.  Connie called her to our table and made sure she knew who we were.  Dr. Sheri said that she had seen our video, and that it was outstanding.  She said  that they gave the youtube link out at some Komen media thing.  I don't know the exact details.  What a great feeling to know that the TWPs are known outside of Boston.

The camp show started with the Bank of America money booth--one of those blow up booths where the money blows everywhere, and you try to get as much as you can in a certain time.  There were two people that were chosen, and wouldn't you know that one of them was Maurine's son Dylan who was participating in Youth Corp once again.  Dylan and another young woman were able to grab almost $250 dollars which Bank of America doubled and donated to the Komen Massachusetts Affiliate.  It was an exciting start to the evening. 

Following that was Maurine's speech.  I really have no words to describe it.  Maurine is simply one of a kind.  She made everyone understand the poignancy of this walk while inspiring, motivating, and laughing along the way.  She had the perfect combination of seriousness and comedy.  I heard someone say after that they didn't know whether to laugh or cry.  It felt like you were just having a conversation with her. If you have not seen it yet, please take the time to view it.  You won't regret it. Her closing had such an impact on a young woman, Samantha, that she took a photo from her 3-Day adventure and embedded Maurine's words into it.   I was thrilled to receive an email from Samantha and immediately forwarded it to the rest of the team.  We now all have it as our profile picture on Facebook in honor of Maurine.  Our hope is that Samantha will decide to join us as a TWP next year in Boston.

After that, Youth Corp stood up and told the crowd why they raise money and volunteer their time to the 3-Day.  These kids are wise beyond their years, and have such a maturity about them.  I guess when faced with cancer, they have to.  It is uplifting to see kids realizing that they too can make a difference, yet sad too, because they want to do this when they should just be kids.  Our team is lucky enough to have 3 kids on Youth Corp.  This was Alexa's second and final year.  Next year she will be old enough to walk with us.  This was Maurine's other son, Tyler's, first year.  Of all the Youth Corp, Dylio, as he has been affectionately named, was the last to speak.  At this point, all the walkers knew who he was.  He had already done the money booth, and was on stage when his mom gave her speech.  Let me tell you--like mother, like son.  He just commanded that stage.  He was absolutely adorable. 

When the camp show ended, we decided to walk over to the Remembrance Tent.  Last year when we went, it was so emotional for all of us.  This year was no different.  In the tent there are photos of walkers that had passed over this past year.  They were such beautiful women.  The most disturbing part was that many of them were younger than me.  In the past I have written about those times when I feel so vulnerable--when I feel like I may not know it, but my cancer could still be wreaking havoc on my body.  This was one of those times.  Why am I here, and they are not?  I think about years down the road.  Will my picture be in this tent?  Then in the next moment I look at those around me and think, "No, it won't.  We will find a cure."  As I walked out of the tent, I saw my friend Mara, a fellow survivor.  Just one year ago, after turning 40, she walked for her best friend, only to be diagnosed herself after completing the walk.  I can't even begin to imagine the emotions running through her.  One year later, and she is here.  I don't think I will ever forget that hug we shared that night.  On the 3-Day you laugh and have loads of fun, but the Remembrance Tent is what it is all about.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

EXTREME 3-DAY 2011--Day 1

Another year, another 3-Day.  Once again, this year's 3-Day was one of a kind.  In the four years I have been doing this event, each one has been so different from the others.  This year's walk is being deemed the "EXTREME 3-DAY" for me because, well that's what it was--extreme.

Anyone who lives in Boston knows that yes, it can be very hot in July.  We were expecting temps in the high 90's with a heat index even higher.  During the week leading up to the event as I ran into friends around town at baseball games or soccer, they were all sending their well wishes, but each one had an edge of concern about the heat.  "Make sure you drink lots!"  "Potato chips are your best friend!"  "Listen to your body!"  "Sunscreen!"  Personally, I was thrilled that there was really no rain predicted in the forecast.  I had walked in high 90's before, but that rain--it gets me every time.  However, as the week wore on and the team kept posting about tent ceiling fans, and how nervous they were about the heat, I, too, began to feel concern.  I did my best to hydrate all week long.  There was nothing else I could do--I had prepared as well as I could.

Allison and Sarah at camp
On Thursday at 5:00PM I had to pick up Allison at the library.  Allison was a newbie (I say "was" because she is now a lifer!) and was planning to spend the night at my house with Sarah, another teammate. Sarah and Allison are best friends. These two young ladies are simply amazing.  They have brought a vitality to this team of 40-somethings. They were definitely extreme walkers, and came in at the front of the pack every day.  On Thursday night, we made pizza, chatted, and finished making bracelets that M & M had planned to give all of the teammates.  (The girls made 23 and then gave up.  I thought 23 was pretty good for 9 year olds.)

At 3:15AM, Friday morning, my alarm goes off.  It really didn't need to, because I honestly didn't sleep much. We quickly dressed and headed out.  As I opened the door, I was hit with a brick wall.  The air was so oppressive and thick.  On any other day like this, I would not even leave my home--A/C all day long!  Instead, we picked up Sandy and headed to Cheryl's house to board the bus.  If you remember, last year we took a small "party bus" to the 3-Day.  Well, this year, it was a Coach bus.  It was so cool driving down the street to Cheryl and Bob's and seeing this huge bus w/all these cars parked around like it was 2 in the afternoon.  We were so efficient loading up that we were on the road by 4:15!

The ride in was pretty uneventful except for the passing out of bracelets, cards, and the cutting of shirts.  Barbara had this ingenious idea of cutting the sleeves off of our NB shirts.  She did it so well, that they looked like they were supposed to be that way.  With the sleeves off our shirts, it only felt like it was 101, not 105!

We arrived on time to be greeted by Patty and Maurine who had spent the night in Framingham.  We loaded our gear bags onto the truck and made the short walk over to Opening Ceremonies. Last year Opening and Closing were so emotional for me because I was in the Survivor Circle.  This year, Maurine was given that opportunity.  I was absolutely thrilled to be able to stand there and watch her walk in with that flag.  She is more than an inspiration.  On top of that, Patty was a flag bearer as well, carrying the "My Daughter" flag in honor of Katie and Alexa.  The most amazing part of the whole thing was that Patty and Maurine stood directly across from each other.  In a sea of people, you could see the connection between these two women.  It almost took my breath away.

After we wiped our tears, it was onto the route.  It was 7AM, and man was it HOT!!!  We started off, and figured it would be slow and steady. That it was.  When you have 2000 participants leaving one place at the same time, it has to take a while to get where you want to go.  We were slow to get on the route as well, so it seemed to take extra long.  By the time we reached the first pit stop, the lines were absolutely out of control.  I hit the porta-potties, grabbed some water and was on my way with the others.  About 7 miles into the walk I started to feel yucky.  I have done this enough to know when I am starting to get dehydrated.  The headache was coming on, and I felt a little nauseous.  I NEEDED Gatorade.  Dana handed me a snack then Connie gave me some peanuts.  It still didn't do the trick.  For the first time in four years, I questioned whether I would be able to complete this walk.  Fortunately, the next pit stop was just ahead.  As we rested for a few, I drank almost 32 ounces of Gatorade and felt much better.  I knew this day was extremely hot,
but thanks to my former friend, Mother Nature (I have since severed ties with her because she never cooperates on my 3-Day), Boston experienced record high temps on Friday--We are talking Africa hot--triple digits!!!

We left the pit stop at the fire station, and were on our way through Wellesley toward the next pit stop and cheering station.  It was about 3 miles.  We trudged on through, but just as we arrived, they announced that the route was closing.  10 miles in, and we were done for the day.  The temperatures were too extreme, and it appeared that it was difficult to keep up with the physical needs of walkers.  Medical was swamped!  I had never seen so many ambulances.  I heard some people complaining saying walkers should be able to make their own decisions, but I believe that Komen made the absolute right decision.  There were more first time walkers than ever in Boston this year.  To me, that is reason enough to close the route in these temperatures.  You really don't know what a toll this takes on your body until you have done it.  Walking 20 miles is difficult enough, but doing it in 105 degree weather is absolutely insane.  That being said, I do feel for those for whom this is a personal journey.  For me, I have been there and done that.  I understand how frustrating it must have been that your goal was just moved out of your reach by no fault of your own.  

So the waiting began.  Half of our group had been on the cooling buses, and were immediately transported to lunch which was moved to Pit 5, 3 miles from camp.  The rest of us had to wait until the people along the route where there was no shade were rallied together and transported to lunch as well.  Meanwhile, I was supposed to be meeting Andy and the kids a half mile up the road at the cheering station.  If you know my stalkarazzi husband, you know that if we can't come to the cheering station, the cheering station will come to us.  Soon after my phone conversation, he arrived with the kids, cherries, and drinks.  It definitely helped to pass the time.

While we waited, texts went back and forth between team members making sure that everyone was accounted for.  The crew came by with candy, ice, and Gatorade.  They were doing their best to keep everyone comfortable.  During this time, someone created a sign and was passing it around to different teams.  I agree, I think we were the champions that day!

We missed several buses, because we didn't stampede everyone, and ended up waiting almost 2 hours before we were picked up.  We had talked to the rest of the group and they had eaten lunch and were waiting for transport back to camp.  When our bus finally arrived, we piled in refreshed by the cool air that greeted us.  Almost immediately after sitting down, many of us dozed off.  It was an eight mile ride to lunch.  We awoke to see a ginormous line waiting to board the exact bus that we are on.  Hell no!  We were not getting off this bus only to wait for two hours for another bus.  We would forgo lunch so that we could arrive at camp at a reasonable hour.  As we looked closely at the line, the 9 missing TWPs were at the front of it.  As several people climbed off heading to lunch, we waited in anticipation for our fellow teammates to board.  As soon as we saw the first one, we started, "TWP!  TWP!  TWP!"  Yes, we were together again!

As we arrived back to camp they had an air-conditioned gymnasium waiting for us.  We were one of the first groups there, so we were the lucky ones with chairs.  The dining tent and 3-Day Main St. were open so we all decided to get our legacy pins.  Legacy pins are earned by doing different things during your 3-Day experience.  There is a team captain pin, a survivor pin, a 5K pin, a Power Team pin (which thanks to our donors, we were able to receive) and many others.  On this day I received a pin I never thought I would--the Sag bus pin!  You hop on the Sag bus if you feel you cannot walk anymore.  Well, this year, I had to get it because they closed the route.  From there we went to the Camp Post Office where we retrieved all of the mail that was sent to us.  Thank you all so much for your kind words of encouragement and support.  It meant the world to me.  I even received letters from fellow walkers that were so moved by our video!  Absolutely unbelievable.  My best letter that I received was from my mom.  Every year she writes me a mushy letter telling me how proud she is of me.  Well, at this point she had been telling me how great I was for 4 years.  She needed to change it up a bit for fear of my head exploding.  She decided to write a song to the tune of Gilligan's Island.  I have included it below for you to see:

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale,
A tale of the TWPs.  
Who would've guessed when two girls met,
That this would come to be.

One day Sherri took a walk,
A walk of 60 miles.
At the end when she looked up,
She saw a great big smile.

Patty said, "I know your beat,
And tired to the bone,
But this day I will promise you,
You'll never walk alone."

So Cheryl turned her hair to pink,
Sue's hubby took the twins.
Theresa and Gretchen put down their books,
And Vicky said, "I"M IN!"

Then Tina joined, and Kaitlyn too,
And pretty soon Maurine.
Ten strong women side by side,
Make an incredible team.

New Balance came a-calling,
The news had spread so far,
You said yes, we'll do your show,
We want to be the stars.
We want to be the stars.

We will walk.
We will run
We'll do a dash, 
With ease.
We'll work for sure.
We'll find a cure...

Cuz we're the TWPs!!!! 

 Isn't that awesome? Thanks Mom!

At around 5:45 they finally allowed us into the showers.  They were fearful that with the heat people would pass out.  Believe me.  You don't want to pass out in the showers.  They will drag your butt out naked.  We weren't even allowed to set up our tents until 7:00.  I guess they figured we would just bake in them.  After we showered, we ate dinner, got ourselves settled and decorated tents.  They looked pretty awesome.  Lots of tiaras, photos, and blinkie lights.  By the way, don't even ask about tent decorating.  I'll fill you on that on Day 2. 

At around 9:00 we tried settling in.  It still had to be in the 90's.  I was happy that I broke down and bought a personal fan.  I climbed onto my air mattress, pointed it directly at my face, and tried my best to rest up for the day ahead.

Stay tuned for Day 2...

Royally yours,

Friday, July 15, 2011


WOW!!!  That just about sums it up.  I am having such difficulty finding words to express the emotions I have experienced today.  I cannot believe that I am part of such an amazing group of people.  If you haven't heard it by now, (those of you on Facebook, please forgive us for our 18 million posts that clogged up your news feed today) the TWPs reached our $100,000 goal!  This morning we still had $3,500 to raise and now we are at $100,292 and have an additional member!!!  Gretchen's brother decided to join our team.  Can you believe it?  I hardly can.  Earlier in the week we just surpassed the $90,000 mark.  When we started getting close, I became so consumed with this goal that my entire day was spent alternating between Facebook, posting how much more we needed and the 3-Day site, checking to see if our thermometer had risen.  In the last two days I have received over $400 in donations.  Simply amazing.  Social networking truly does work!  I have had my mom's high school friends donate to me!  These are women that my mom hadn't seen in over 40 years and just recently reconnected with.  The thing that shocked me the most were the donations that came in today from those who had already donated to other members on our team.  Having such a large interconnected team, people often have to choose who to donate to.  By becoming a non-profit, we will have the ability to divide funds among teammates.  I had two different people donate to me today having already donated to others.  One family has even donated to TWO others on the team already!  When something like that happens, it really makes you think.  I can turn on the news on a daily basis, and 80% of it is so depressing.  Then I can have a day like today, and the world is a wonderful place.  Again, I wish I could find the words to express what this day has meant to me.  All I can simply say is thank you.  My life has been changed because of every one of you.

Royally yours,

What a difference a year makes!

It's is 5AM, and I can't sleep.  One week from now, I will be getting off of a coach bus in Framingham, ready to embark on my fourth 3-Day journey.  Maybe that is why I can't sleep.  I am too excited.  I have already begun to run through my packing list making sure that I have all of the necessities.  This year I purchased a new lightweight bag and am excited to use it.  It has lots of space to hold everything including all of our tent decorations.  If we don't win tent decorating this year, I am done--no more decorations for me.

As I sit here I can't help but think what a difference a year makes.  Last July, Patty and I started on the journey of a lifetime with the filming of our New Balance video--Walk Like a Princess.  It was during this weekend last year when we had the pool party and found out what we were really in for--the cameras, the microphones, the interviews, and the friends that we made.  I recently viewed  it for the first time in a long time the other day.  It was just as amazing.  We have received over 63,000 hits.  It really was pretty incredible to be a part of something like that.  But the thing that has been even more incredible, is the impact that it has made on those around us.  Our little team of 10 is now an army of 31.  30 women and one prince, who have each raised at least $2300 and trained for hundreds of miles.  Yes, I said hundreds.  There are very few people around Amesbury who do not know the Tough Warrior Princesses. We can usually be seen in the early morning hours of the weekend, dressed in pink, walking around Amesbury or Newburyport.  Just this year we have raised $96,500--just $3,500 shy of our $100,000 goal.  However, we have high hopes that in the next week we will surpass that $100,000 mark.  While I am eternally grateful to those of you who have already donated, if you have forgotten, no need to worry.  Believe it or not, you can still donate. Just click on the link to the side of this page. Think of the lives that will be impacted by this money.  Maurine and my friend Bridget, (you have hopefully all read her blog--My Big Girl Pants) are both recipients of Komen grants.  Our money is helping them to live their lives the way that they should be lived.

While the money this year is terribly exciting, I can't help but look at the bigger picture.  As most of you may know, the TWPs have filed to become an official non-profit.  It took lots of work to create Articles of Association and Bylaws, but we did it and are just waiting to hear back from the IRS.  What I am most proud of is our mission statement.  We talked a lot about what we want the TWPs to become and what purpose they should serve, but to put it all on paper was very challenging.  We wanted everything to be perfect--not too specific, but not too broad.  Drum roll....I would like to share with you the TWP mission statement!

The Tough Warrior Princesses are committed to raising funds for breast cancer research, educating and enlightening the public on the need to find a cure, and providing support to local women and their families impacted by cancer.

Pretty good, huh?  In the process of doing this, I just so happened to be reading Promise Me which is Nancy Brinker's story of how she started Susan G. Komen for the Cure.  It is simply amazing to me, that something that started so small, just like the TWPs, has blossomed into an organization that is the global leader in funding breast cancer research.  It definitely makes me think about what we can accomplish.  By no means do we have plans to reach far and wide, but we would like to broaden our scope to include women with all types of cancer.   From experience, we know that being involved in something bigger than you can make a great impact on your life.  Our hope is to expand the TWPs to encompass those who want to make a difference in the lives of a woman diagnosed with cancer.  We want to include people who may not be able to walk 60 miles, but feel that there is a need to do something, whether it is babysitting, making a meal, or driving someone to treatment.  Simply put, we want to help make the lives of women battling cancer just a bit easier.

So while we wait for the IRS, life on the 3-Day continues.  This Saturday is Street Team Day, a day when we canvas businesses along the route and let them know that 1,600 people will be traipsing through their neighborhood in just a few days.  It is a fun day where I get to see my 3-Day family who I have really missed since the Get Started Meetings have ended.  Plus, it gets a walk in.  I know I am ready, but one more walk can't hurt.

On Monday I get to spend some time with my TWP family.  Lisa S. has graciously offered her home for a little TWP party.   Every time our entire group gets together, it is always for a reason, whether it be a meeting where we have to discuss business or a walk.  While walks are entertaining, and can be downright hysterical, we have really had little time to just hang out and talk--no business.  I am looking forward to bonding with my "sole sisters" as we begin this journey.

You, too, can be part of our 3-Day journey.  Be sure to visit Spectator information to find out about all the ways that you can support us.  Consider coming to closing ceremonies Sunday afternoon at UMASS Boston.  It is so amazing,  I can't describe it.  It needs to be experienced.   Or if you would rather join us on Saturday, in addition to the cheering stations listed on the 3-Day site, the TWPs will have their own cheering station at the McCue the Florist parking lot on Saturday July 23 from 10am–2:15pm. It is located at 200 Cambridge Street, Woburn on the corner of Rte. 3 and Lexington St. next to the 99 Restaurant.  Our families will be there, and hopefully you will be too! 

Thank you all again for your continued support.  Many of you have been with me on this journey for 4 years.  For that, I am forever grateful.  I wouldn't be where I am today without all of you! XO

Royally yours,

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Spring has Sprung!

Like so many of you, I really enjoy this time of year.  Spring signifies re-birth, and that is truly the case with me.  It is during this time when I really kick my training into gear by walking several times a week.  I always feel like a healthier me.  I am getting up earlier, eating better, drinking more water, and getting fit.  Sometimes I enjoy the early morning solitude of walking by the farms as the fog hangs low in the field, cows staring as I walk by.  When I say it that way, it sounds kind of creepy, but it really isn't.  Then on the other hand, just as fun, is walking with a group of 10 women laughing and sharing stories of their escapades the evening before.  For this reason, I chose to become a 3-Day Training Walk Leader this year.

My first year I completed the walk, I didn't really participate in any of the Komen events.  Luckily, at the time, I didn't realize what I was missing.  I thought that I knew all I needed to know in order to have a successful event, and I did.  What I did not realize was that I was missing out on so much more--the friendships that blossom during that time.  I have said it before, but it takes a special kind of person to participate in the 3-Day.  I don't mean to sound boastful, or arrogant, but to take the time to train for hundreds of miles, and to raise thousands of dollars, this event has to be of significance to you.  When my friend Meredith runs her Get Started Meetings, she always tells a story about her brother and how he asked her what makes the 3-Day different from other events.  She replies that it is the "community of kindness" that the 3-Day creates.  What exactly is a "community of kindness?"  Simply said, it is bringing your best self to the event.  When you choose to walk 60 miles and raise $2,300, you are being your best self.  When you see someone sitting alone at dinner and you invite them over, you are being your best self.  When you are standing in a parking lot in 100 degree weather cheering your family on, you are being your best self.  When you volunteer to drive in to Boston, pick up your friend's luggage, schlep it a mile back to the car, walk back, and cheer them on as they proceed into Closing Ceremonies, you are being your best self.  Clearly, everyone who, in some way, participates in the 3-Day is bringing their best self.

So I decided to bring my best self and become a Training Walk Leader this year.  You may not think so, but this was a difficult decision for me.  I train with a group of women that really don't fit the training walk profile.  What I mean is that we didn't always follow the rules.  I know that might be a shock to some of you, but it is true.  We weren't blatant offenders, but could incur some minor infractions.  There would be the occasional cell phone conversation while walking, sometimes we would not stretch enough, Connie might not walk on the sidewalk, Connie could have us walking at a 5mph pace, and I believe there was one time when Connie did not bring water on a hot day.  So I guess that it really wasn't all of was just Connie!  JK--xo Connie!  Seriously though, the fact that we were so comfortable with the way we did things, and how we were with each other, I was nervous about including new people and new rules at the same time; however, I figured it was important, so I signed up.

If the TWPs were unhappy about me being a TWL, they didn't show it.  Nine of them signed up for my first official training walk two weeks ago.  I had mapped out a great five mile route around Amesbury which included everything that it needed to--a few hills, a stroll along the river, water, restrooms, and stretching.  I remembered the echoes of Pit Stop volunteers, "HYDRATE, URINATE, STRETCH, STRETCH, STRETCH!!!"  I tried to anticipate everything.  I had waiver forms waiting to be signed, and my cell phone was charged.  I had water, and my safety speech was ready to be recited.  The one thing I didn't anticipate was that even though it was technically Spring, and some flowers have started to sprout, it is still felt like winter in New England.  I was not expecting 25 degrees, with a zero degree windchill.

Sherri the Safety Monitor AKA...Safety Spice!
We arrived at our starting point, the Rail Trail in Amesbury, behind the Stop & Shop.  We all waited in cars for the last of the stragglers.  When everyone was almost there, we began our stretching.  As I am just about to finish, Michele G. shows up with a special present in honor of my first training walk--a reflective vest with the words, "Sherri--AKA Safety Spice" emblazoned on the front.  Yes, I had made it to the big leagues.  I was now one of the Spice Girls.  All I needed was a pink whistle.  Having that vest allowed me to play up the safety role and made for a more entertaining walk.  I was proud of the Princesses for walking despite the freezing temperatures.

Since then, the TWPs also participated in the 3-Day Kick-Off event.  When you sign up to do the 3-Day you have a choice of which training schedule to do--a 24 week one or a 16 week one.  My first year I did the 24 week one.  At the time, I hadn't been doing anything physical and was just a year out of treatment.  I thought I needed that much time to be prepared.  I walked more than I needed to and was very burned out by the time the actual walk came around.  Since then I have opted for the 16 week schedule.  So, the Kick-Off event is a day where participants gather together and celebrate the beginning of the 16 week training schedule.

The TWPs in full force!
Cheryl sporting her new toy!
We met at New Balance in Burlington where we planned to do the first of two 3 mile training walks. Believe me, the TWPs were going to represent!  We had about 20 of our 33 teammates there! After checking in, the store was open just to 3-Day participants, and we got a special 20% discount.  Many of us loaded up on t-shirts, flip flops, and some of us even got sneakers. At 8:00 we began the first of the two walks.  It was a leisurely pace with one stop on the way.  I don't think the TWPs knew what to do!  We rarely walk at a leisurely pace.  After getting back to the store, we shopped some more, ate munchkins and waited for raffles. Lucky Cheryl won a really cool pedometer/heart rate monitor. 
Jenna, Melanie, and Dana
Julie and Lisa
While we were there I thought it was a good time to grab some photos of our new TWPs.  I hope that as the season progresses you will get to know them as well as you did last year.  They are a great group of women who are adding a whole new dynamic to our group.  There will definitely be tons of laughs on this year's walk.  In addition, they have renewed my energy, and once again reminded me why I continue to walk.  What I love most about them is that they all want to be a part of the "team" that we have created.  While some of us stayed in Burlington to do a second 3 mile training walk, another group went out for breakfast.  I have to admit I was a little bit jealous when I received a text from Cheryl with a photo of them sitting around a large table with the caption "Our second training walk."  I'm glad they had the opportunity to hang out a bit.  It is all part of the journey.

Royally yours,

Thursday, March 10, 2011's contagious!

Even though there is still more snow on the ground than us native New Englanders have come to expect, I am sure that if you look out your window you will agree with me that it is finally beginning to melt.  With the promise of spring, comes numerous 3-Day activities.  Over the last month or so I have been volunteering at 3-Day Get Started Meetings--a LOT of them.  To quote my dear friend Sharyn, "I am a 3-Day addict."  These Get Started Meetings are such an important part of your journey as a 3-Day participant.  There are always a bunch of volunteers ready to offer support and encouragement.  Meredith or Mara, the two Boston Field Coordinators, run the meetings explaining just what this 60 miles is all about.

Arriving at these meetings, it is wonderful to see old friends, or those I have affectionately come to know as my "3-Day family."  Just as exciting is meeting the "newbies" who have no idea what to expect.   It is such an inspiring feeling to be surrounded by people who all share the same motivation and desire.  I think about the times in my life when I have been in groups like this.  Of course, there were those clubs I was in when I was in school, and those who shared the same major as me in college, and even my PTA friends, but this is different.  Maybe because we are talking life and death.  Everyone who is there is there for a specific reason.  We all have a story.  It seems that when you get a group of people together to talk about the 3-Day there is an electricity that reverberates through the room.

During some of the meetings, we have been watching our video "Walk Like a Princess."  Mind you, I have seen this video a million times.  My daughter Mia even says it is her favorite movie ever!  (Probably because she is in it, and her sister was too scared to be!)  But watching it in a room full of people who are about to embark on one of the most life changing experiences, adds a whole new level to it.  The first time I saw it in a group like this, I saw the tissues being passed around, and heard muffled sniffles.  I couldn't help but join in.  I hadn't cried watching it since the first month it was posted.  I think about when I say, "We have made a difference,"  and we have.  I looked around at the women in the room, and they were inspired.  My hope is for that chain reaction--for those women to inspire others too with their commitment to finding a cure.

While in a meeting one night, a 3-Day participant, Kathleen, said that she recognized me and Patty from our video.  As the meeting finished I approached her and asked her how she had seen it.  She explained that she had followed a New Balance link.  She had decided to complete the 3-Day because her sister was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.  She said that her sister was having a very difficult time coping with this diagnosis when she happened to stumble upon our video.  During a visit with her sister in Pennsylvania, they viewed it together.  Kathleen told me that when I say, "cancer is not who I am,"  I truly made a difference in her sister's life.  It made her sister realize that cancer does not define her and has since changed her outlook on things.  Immediately the tears started.  To think that my words could have that affect on someone.  How humbling.  Another reason to continue this fight.

Just last night, Patty, Cheryl, and I were attending yet another GSM.   There were so many volunteers there, including Wayne from the "Pink Angel Posse," (he dresses up as a pink angel to cheer the walkers on) and Jeff, who is a one man team, "Baghdad Breast Defense."  Jeff is a Sergeant First Class in the Army and has been overseas many times, most recently returning from Kuwait.  He told us how he became involved in the 3-Day.  His sister had breast cancer, and upon celebrating her 5 year "cancerversary" they agreed to walk the 3-Day together.  Well, Jeff registered, and kept waiting for his sister to do the same.  Then came the conversation with his mother saying that his sister Kim's cancer had metastasized to her bones and brain--she would not be able to walk with him.  While overseas, Jeff began to train.  Fortunately for him, Jeff was able to come home on leave and walked his first 3-Day.  While at closing ceremonies, he scanned the crowd for Kim, but to his disappointment she was too sick to come.  Kim died in December of that year.  He continues to walk each year, now with his sister Jen by his side.  To see him speak of his story with such passion shows what a true hero he is. 

In addition to all of these outstanding volunteers that were at the meeting, we were also blessed with Maurine, TWP Extraordinaire, who arrived with her two sons.  Every time someone who does not know us watches our video, their first question is, "How is Maurine?"  To have her there as a survivor last evening made quite the impact.  If you don't know Maurine, she truly is one of a kind.  She is full of wit, sarcasm, bravery, love, and more hope than one could imagine.  During the walk she insisted on doing everything for herself in the midst of going through treatment.  Last night was the first night I ever caught a glimmer of her fear.  At the end of the meeting she stood up and asked Meredith if she could speak.  She looked at the crowd of potential walkers and implored them to not wait--to sign up today.  She continued saying she was the research and that she did not want to leave us five minutes before the cure was found.  She referenced her two boys, sitting off to the side, saying she wanted to see them graduate from school and have their own children.  Believe me when I say there was not a dry eye in the place.  All I could think of was her boys and how brave they are as well, to stand there and listen to their mom say she might not make it.  As scary as it is for me to think about losing a friend, I can't even fathom how Maurine's family feels.  I don't see how anyone could have walked out of that room without signing up for the walk. 

Today Patty and I are heading to the Haverhill Rotary meeting to discuss our experiences with cancer and the 3-Day.  We again will be showing our video with hopes to inspire those present to make a difference.  I believe we have made it pretty clear that one person can.  I ask you to please think about how you can too.

Royally yours,

Monday, February 28, 2011

What a crazy vacation!

After posting my most recent blog, I sent letters out to co-workers explaining my "cancerversary" and 5 years later asked for their support.  This time I was hoping their support would be in the form of a donation to my 3-Day walk.  Once again, my colleagues did not disappoint.  Donations have been coming in over the last few weeks, and I am on my way.   It makes me feel honored to have such giving people in my life.  If you would like to donate, just click on the link on this page.

While this blog appears to be an "everything is wonderful in the world" blog, it is; however, it didn't always start out that way.  Just two days after I distributed letters at work, I was rubbing my leg and I found it...yes, a lump.  Then further down on my leg, another one.  Many of you are probably saying, "I have a lump in my leg.  What is she worried about?"  You are right.  Many people have fatty deposits in their legs.  I have many friends that do.  But, these people have not had cancer.  I have said it before.  If you are a survivor, it is sometimes so difficult to stay away from that evil place.  I feel that I go through my entire life trying to be positive, but there are just times when I want to someone to say its okay that I got dealt a sucky hand.  Again, I have many friends that are battling much more difficult situations, but sometimes I just need, even for a minute, to think why did this happen to ME?  This was one of those times.  It was about 11 o'clock at night, and I tried to self-diagnose online.  Please, please, please don't ever do it!  I thought I had learned my lesson the first time, but obviously I didn't.  I walked upstairs inconsolable, only to wake my sleeping husband.  After 45 minutes of conversation and good old hugs, I finally fell asleep with the promise to call my oncologist in the morning.

The following day was a Friday, and I had to work.  I woke up feeling a bit better and determined to make it through the day.  As I sat in my office waiting to call my doc, I just lost it.  I called Patty on the phone and told her what was happening.  Patty was fabulous.  She knew exactly what I was feeling.  She said I had every right to be scared to death.  That was what I needed.  I needed someone to justify what I was feeling, not someone telling me that everything was going to be alright.  After I hung up the phone, Tracy and Carolyn, two friends from work, picked up where Patty left off.  Within the next 15 minutes I was waiting for a return phone call from my oncologist.  My breathing became less labored, and I made it through the day.  Around 6:30 that night, I heard back from them, and they had scheduled an appointment for me the following Friday.  My mind seemed a bit more at ease when they said that breast cancer doesn't usually manifest itself that way.

So I had to wait a week.  I could do that.  I was feeling a little more at rest after talking to my doctor.  I had Z's basketball game over the weekend, and all the craziness that goes with the week before vacation for a teacher.  As Saturday went on I started to develop a case of sciatica--a debilitating case.  The only time I had ever experienced it before was when I was pregnant with the girls.  Man, does it hurt!  By the end of the day, I was in bed speaking to the on-call doctor at my PCP's office.  She prescribed something, and over the next day or two, I began to feel better.

The waiting game continued.  Early in the week, was business as usual.  My back was feeling better, but I was extremely dehydrated.  The meds I was on were killing me.  I didn't feel like I was taking in enough water, but figured I could bear it for a few more days.

Tuesday night, Patty called and invited the family over for dinner Friday night.  I told her that we would love to and that I would need either celebrating or consoling because I was headed to DFCI that day.  She then told me she had an appointment with our oncologist one hour later.  We decided to make it a date, and go in together.  That way AZ wouldn't have to take off from work, and honestly, Patty is such a huge support.  She truly understands what I am going through.

Wednesday and Thursday evenings were spent volunteering at 3-Day Get Started Meetings--definitely a place to keep my mind occupied.  We all know how much I love speaking about the 3-Day.  I met some wonderful people, and a lot of them signed up.  Yahoo!

I came home Thursday evening ready to relax and watch American Idol which I had dvr'd.  At around 9:45, I started getting heart palpitations.  Those of you who know me, understand that this is something that happens, and has been checked out by my doctor; however, these were different.  They were lasting much longer and were not resolving themselves.  I decided to go to bed.  I figured that I was probably making myself more anxious, therefore making it worse.  As I lay it bed, it did get worse.  My chest started to feel heavy, and I began to have difficulty breathing.  All I could think of was that wouldn't it be just great if I beat cancer and died of a heart attack.  Seriously!  I told AZ we should probably go to the hospital, so we called my mom and dad, who always come to the rescue, to watch our little cherubs.  As we waited for them to arrive, I felt worse.  I made the decision to call 911.  I have heard so many stories of women and heart attacks.  I didn't want to be one of the statistics.  Shortly after, two adorable (of course) EMTs showed up at my house.  Upon the initial monitoring, they noticed something unusual and decided it would be best to take me to the hospital.   

The ride to the hospital was uneventful.  The most fearful part was that the EMT had to put an IV in my hand.  Keep in mind, how smooth Amesbury's roads are when you think of this.  Fortunately, he waited until we were stopped at a light.  He gave me some nitro and I started to feel better.

At the hospital I explained my situation, and told them what meds I was on.  I couldn't remember the name of the anti-inflammatory or the steroid for the sciatica, but they said that was okay.  They ran a bunch of tests, a chest x-ray, an ekg, and a slew of blood work.  The preliminary results looked good--just one more blood test to wait for.  They told me that as far as my palpitations were concerned, they were normal.  That made me feel much better.  While I was there, they gave me 2 liters of fluid and I still felt thirsty.  Weird.

A few moments later, the nurse came in and told me that my d-dimer test was slightly elevated.  This is a test that can determine whether you have a pulmonary embolism otherwise known as a  blood clot in your lung.  The way to rule this out is with a contrast chest CT.  I had one of those when I was first diagnosed.  When they insert the dye you have a rush of heat throughout your entire body, and you feel like you are peeing your pants.  It is truly a bizarre feeling.  The whole test takes about 5 minutes, and then you feel fine.  The down side is that you have to wait about 45 minutes for the results.

AZ and I dozed in and out of sleep in the ER for the next hour.  It was about 3:15AM when the doctor came in and informed us that everything looked good.  There was no blood clot.  Of course my question was why was my test elevated.  I was told that a good thing about this test was that it could rule out blood clots, but if it is elevated, it could be a number of things causing it to present that way.  They sent me home with instructions to follow up with my PCP the next day.

I crawled into bed at 3:30 only to be aroused by the alarm at 5:30.  Patty was picking me up at 6:15.  I again, dozed in and out on my way into DFCI.  Patty and I arrived early enough to navigate our way around the new building.  It is just gorgeous.  The healing garden is definitely something to see.

Our oncologist assured me that the lumps were just fatty deposits--of course they were.  We chatted about our video, which she had not seen yet because it was released after our last appointments.  We shared with her our excitement about the TWPs becoming a non-profit, and she gave us some great advice on ways to help women with the funds we raise.  She even squeezed Patty in earlier, and we were out the door before we knew it.  I would be home in time to call my PCP and get in to see him.

After a quick nap at home, I went to see my PCP.  While there I was talking with him about my sciatica and how dehydrated the meds were making me.  He didn't understand why until I showed him the pill bottles.  The on-call doctor, not affiliated with my practice, had prescribed the wrong medication for me.  The meds were not even remotely related to anything one would take for sciatica.  No wonder I felt awful.  He immediately told me to stop the meds and get some probiotics.  My whole system was out of whack!  He assumed this contributed to all of the palpitations.  Just to be on the safe side though he wanted to run a full cardiac work-up, but he said I was able to continue with all of my activities.  It was vacation after all!

Even with all of the craziness, vacation was off to a good start--I didn't have cancer, and I didn't have a heart attack.  It would be a week of rest, family visits, some basketball, and ski trips.  Of course my cardiac tests were thrown in there, but that was only one day. 

The highlight of the week (or so we thought) was our Tuesday night skiing trip with friends.  Gunstock has an amazing deal on Tuesday's from 4-9PM it is 2 people for $28!  You can't beat that.  The conditions were a little icy, but the kids had a blast skiing with their friends.  My kids just really started skiing this year, and they have taken off.  They love it, and have become confident skiers.  Little Mia is our daredevil and always wants to go as fast as she can.  She tries to go over jumps, and for being such a quiet girl, is just an aggressive skier; however, on Tuesday night, her daring personality got her into a bit of trouble.  On one of the last runs of the evening, Mia caught a little too much air on a jump and came down on her hand.  Bill, the EMT in First Aid, wasn't sure if she hyper-extended her thumb or broke it.  He immobilized her hand with this really cool cast made of cardboard and foam and advised us to see a doctor in the AM.

Long story short, my entire Wednesday was spent traveling back and forth to Anna Jacques Hospital.  By my third time there, I had forgotten where I had parked and spent 5 minutes looking for my car.  No joke!  I was there first for my cardiac echo, then for x-rays for Mia, back for my cardiac stress test, and back yet again for a hot pink cast for my sweet girl's right hand.  Yes, her thumb was broken.  Being the TWP that she is, of course she chose a hot pink cast.  The little thing handled everything so well until it was time to go to bed.  We all know that time when you are alone with your thoughts.  Well the same happens for kiddos too.  Mimi called to me, sobbing, saying it was all her fault, she never should have skied so hard, now she couldn't do gymnastics and had to wear a "stupid cast" for a month.  It just about broke my heart.  We had just planned more ski trips, and she is so close to getting her "kip" in gymnastics (one of the more difficult moves to get on the uneven bars).  In typical parent fashion, I explained how it could be much worse.  Just imagine if it were summer.  She eventually fell asleep and woke up with that same smile on her face.  A restful night can always make the world appear a little brighter.

Now it is Monday, and I am back to work, thinking about the week ahead.  Thursday night is our second TWP meeting.  I am so looking forward to having everyone together.  We have lots of plans in the works including our Second Annual "Dance Like a Princess" Dance/Silent Auction on Saturday, May 14th!  Be sure to save the date!  It is a night not to be missed.  We have changed the venue to Holy Family Parish Hall in Amesbury so that we can accommodate a larger crowd.  If you or someone you know would like to contribute an item to our auction, just let me know.  We would like to offer a variety of items ranging in price.

I'll keep you updated with the future endeavors of the TWPs.  Keep those donations coming!

Royally yours,

Monday, January 24, 2011

2011--A Big Year

2011--This is a BIG year for me.  There was a time almost 5 years ago when I wondered if I would see this year.  This spring I will celebrate 5 years of survival.  In the world of breast cancer, that is a HUGE anniversary.  Over the last few years there have actually been times when I have forgotten that I had cancer.  They are most always times when I am doing something fun with my family--skiing, sitting on the beach at the Cape, running around Amesbury for M & M's Amazing Race birthday party, and several others. In the beginning, I never thought that would happen.  Mind you, these times are not always frequent, but they are there.  What exactly does that mean?  To me, it means that I am doing everything I can to stop this cancer from invading my body once again.  When I was first diagnosed, no one would have anticipated that I would run a 5K and then actually continue to run after the race.  I also never expected that I personally would raise almost $20,000 for breast cancer research--I had a hard time selling Girl Scout Cookies when I was a kid!  But to me, the most important thing in warding off my cancer is surrounding myself with positive energy--energy from me, my family, my friends, and of course the TWP's!  The people in my life are the ones that have gotten me through these five years.

Over the last few days I have been very nostalgic, reflective, and super emotional.  If I wasn't in menopause, I would think that I was PMSing.  Many of you have heard of my friend Bridget, and hopefully have read her blog My Big Girl Pants through the links I have shared.  If you have not, you really should read it.  Bridget is a 28 year old woman who has been living 6 years with metastatic breast cancer.  If you look in the dictionary, next to the word "hope" you will see Bridget's name.  Every time I read what she has written, I remember how fortunate I am to be surrounded by caring and inspirational people.  That in turn, brings me back to that summer five years ago.  I am sure that everyone of you have been in the situation that my family and friends were in that summer.  What do I say to her?  Can I do anything to help?  Does she want to talk about it, or should I just ignore it and pretend life as usual.  When I was diagnosed, I was very open about my situation--hiding it was not going to make it go away.  I am a high school teacher and a firm believer in teachable moments.  For that reason, I just opened up and let everyone in--family, friends, and students alike.  Because of this, I was lucky enough to have my friends do some really cool things for me.   I would love to list everything that they have done for me over time, but there is absolutely no way I could; however, I will include some of my favorites--a video of faculty and students wishing me well as I started chemo, a pajamagram, my red lipstick on the day of my mastectomy, Dream Dinners from Zach's baseball team, Tracy's picture of her photoshopped bald head, the basket of gift cards and activities for the kids from Zach's kindergarten class, my radiation kit, the hundreds of cards that hung on a bulletin board in my computer room for over a year, my surprise visit on my last day of chemo, and probably one of my personal favorites--house cleaning (something I have continued in the following years!)  Why do I tell you this?  Because it is so important to reach out to friends and family in need.  Most likely, they don't know what to say either.  If they don't want you around, they will let you know.  Nothing is lost by making an effort.

So, making an effort.  That is what I am planning to do.  The other day Patty and I sat at lunch talking about our upcoming speaking engagement.  Yep, we have been asked to speak at the Haverhill Rotary Club in March.  We were discussing the approach we were going to take, and Patty shared her New Year's resolution with me--"BE MORE."  It struck me.  I can do that. I can be a better parent, friend, and teacher.  I can work harder.  I can raise more money.  I can beat cancer.