Friday, August 10, 2012

This one's for Emma--Day 2

So I dragged my exhausted butt off of my air mattress and out of my tent.  As I arrived at Medical, everything was dark, and there was a sign written on a clipboard, "If you need medical assistance, wake one of us up.  That is what we are here for. :)"  Really?  I have to wake someone up?  Maybe I'll just turn around and go back to my tent.  I sat there for what felt like ten minutes, but in actuality was more like one.  Across the large tent I saw someone stir.  I guess it was her lucky day!  I walked over and explained that I was feeling dehydrated.  I defend myself and tell her that I am not a newbie, and I did everything that I was supposed to.  I am "Safety Spice" after all.  I described my symptoms and continued to explain that I know my body and that I am dehydrated.  As I am speaking, two more women wake up.  One was Dr. Michelle, and the other was Tigger who was Crew Captain for Medical.  Luckily I knew Tigger from Get Started Meetings, so I already felt better having her in my corner.  As the doctor took my vitals, she saw that my blood pressure was elevated.  Even though I was drinking Vitamin Water, the more I spoke to her, the more my mouth felt like something had died in it.  She determined that fluids would help, and planned to start an iv.  Anyone that knows me, understands that things cannot be that simple.  I had terrible veins even before chemo.  Now they are just shot.  In addition, I only have one arm to use because I had lymph nodes removed.  Dr. Michelle assured me that she found a vein.  It seemed too good to be true.  She poked and prodded my arm.  I thought Tigger was going to have a fit.  She hates needles.  Me, they don't really phase me.  After 4 attempts she decided it would be better to have me go to the hospital.  I honestly thought about telling them I would be okay and to just let me go back to my tent, but I knew they wouldn't have it.  I tried to beg Tigger to drive me to the hospital.  It was a no go.  I said I would go if they could promise me a cute EMT.  Dr. Michelle couldn't guarantee it, but in my heart I knew I had to do it.  She took my credentials out of my lanyard and handed me the dreaded "red card."  I never in a million years thought I would ever get one of those.  She then proceeded to hand me two new pins.  For those of you unfamiliar with the 3-Day, you earn Legacy Pins for all different accomplishments--raising certain amounts of money, being a survivor, being a team captain, and many other things.  These were two pins I had never seen before.  One said, "Got Cot?" and the other said "I got carded."   Okay, so here was something to add to my souvenirs.  It's not all bad.   Before leaving I asked to grab my cell phone, so Tigger walked me back to my tent.  Along the way we giggled as we passed some seriously loud snorers, but as we came closer to my tent, all became quiet as we witnessed the rows of candles for Emma.  Going to the hospital was nothing compared to what that little girl has been thorough. 

I don't know how many of you have ridden in the back of an ambulance before, but it is not like what you see on television.  I was tossed back and forth and side to side.  When they asked if I felt nauseous, I told the tech that I probably would after the ride to the hospital.  They even had the siren on.  Really?  It was 12:30AM, and it wasn't like I was in grave danger. 

I arrived at Newton-Wellesley Hospital around 15 minutes later.  I hadn't been there since I gave birth to the twins.  Luckily they still had all my information.  The crazy thing is that on your 3-Day credential you write your insurance information down on the back; however, when you are red-carded they take your credentials away.  What is the point of writing down this information if you don't have it with you when you are at the hospital?

The staff at Newton-Wellesley was awesome.  I saw Dr. Peterson, and right way she congratulated me on my accomplishment.  She also listened to everything that I had to say, and I think she understood that I know my body.  After lots of blood work and an EKG, they immediately started me on some fluid.  Shortly after, my blood pressure began to come down, and my heart was not racing as frequently.  I looked up at the television and saw that a replay of the Olympic Opening Ceremonies was on.  As much as I wanted to watch it, I knew I needed some sleep.  It was almost 2:30AM.  A while later, I was woken up as they gave me another liter of fluid.  Slowly I felt my mouth becoming less dry.  At 4AM the nurse came in and told me that Dr. Peterson had signed my discharge papers.  My direct instructions were to not drink Nuun.  She said to get me some Gatorade!  She also said that if I wanted to stay and get some sleep, I could.  I knew my team would be worried when they woke in a short while, so I decided to go home.

I took out my 800 number for the 3-Day and before long, Tigger was outside the hospital picking me up.  She drove me back to camp and said to meet her at Medical at 8AM.  She said that I would most likely be cleared to walk after lunch.  I would be spending the morning with her. 

Back at my tent, most of my team was minutes away from getting up to start their day.  As they got up, I had to explain my story time and time again.  No one expected to hear this, I seemed fine when we went to bed.  I was always the one telling everyone to drink, drink, drink!

It was really difficult saying goodbye to the Princesses that morning.  I was in a position I never thought I would be in.  I was exhausted and knew that I should sleep, but there really wasn't time.  I wanted to be part of my team.  I tried to rest for a few before Bridget came around telling everyone that camp would be closing in 20 minutes.  She was shocked when our friend Meredith told her what had happened.   This is generally something that happens to a first time walker, not a veteran.

I exhaustedly got ready preparing for what I thought would be a depressing day.  What if this had been my first 3-Day?  I would have been so disappointed.  I arrived at Medical, and I tell you, there couldn't have been a better person to babysit me than Tigger.  She has the spunkiest personality, and was going to do everything possible to make sure that I had fun and still had the entire 3-Day experience.  We grabbed drinks from Medical and were on our way to the first pit stop.

While I was sad, it was great to see the walk from a whole new perspective.  I was able to really watch the walkers come in and help motivate them to continue further.  After the first pit, we drove up Belmont Hill (definitely a part of the walk I did not miss!)  toward the next cheering station.  As we started to drive by, I yelled to Tigger to stop, and she did!  Right in the middle of the road!  Across the street were Michele G. and Gretchen, who walked last year.  They had beach chairs set up with large signs on them asking people to pray for Emma.  In addition, there were tea lights lining the walkway along the chairs.  It was really cool.  So many people stopped and told us that they were following Emma on facebook.

From there Tigger and I drove to the next pit stop, but needed to make a quick stop at Stop & Shop.  Here I got a phone call from Andy.  I was hoping Tigger would give me the okay to hang with AZ for the rest of the day.  She was resistant because she knows me well.  She told me that she wouldn't release me until she saw Andy.  She thought the minute she turned her back I would be on the route.  Believe me, I did entertain the idea, but I thought better of it.  After some serious coaxing, she allowed me to meet up with him.

AZ drove me to the TWP cheering station, but not before grabbing me a hazelnut iced coffee--my fav!  When we arrived, Kaitlyn, my former student and TWP was there to greet me and the rest of the team.  She is always so thoughtful and brought me gifts--completely unnecessary, but appreciated nonetheless.  One was a Komen Christmas tree ornament, (She has decorated the majority of my tree!) and the other was a breast cancer wine glass!  She totally knows me.  Christmas and wine, two of my favorite things!  With Kaitlyn's help, we began setting up.  Our stop was at McCue's Garden Center, and they are so incredible.  They had watermelon, chocolate, and drinks for the walkers.  Once again, AZ brought Big Papi to help "save second base."  Many walkers took advantage of some great photo ops.  I want to give a big shout-out to Judy Dodier and Rita Keil, two of our TWP who came in to cheer us on.  (Remember, you don't have to walk to be a member of TWP!)  It meant a lot to everyone to have them there.

Shortly after, my teammates started to arrive, some looking a bit better than others.  Blisters and knee injuries were already making an appearance. The heat that day had started to take its toll.  It made me question whether I should walk after lunch.  The stretch between Woburn and Lexington is just BRUTAL!  It is all gradual hills, up and down, none of them seem too big, but it always feels like you are walking at a slight incline.  Also, there is NO shade.  It has always been my least favorite part of the walk. 

After chatting a bit with all the TWP relaxing in their lawn chairs eating lunch, I asked AZ to drive me the mile to lunch so that I  could check in at Medical to get my credential back.  I had already decided that I would not be walking the rest of the day.  I wanted to make sure that I was good to go on Day 3.  It was super hot, and I had only gotten the smallest amount of sleep.  I figured if I got back to camp early, I could take a shower and catch a few zzzzz's under a tree.  When I checked in with Dr. Michelle she told me that I looked much better.  She checked my blood pressure, my heart rate, and then handed me back my coveted credentials.  I asked if I could keep the "red card" for my scrap book, but she said if I kept it I couldn't have my credentials back.  No thank you!

AZ then drove me and Sandy back to camp.  (Her knee was shot.)  I quickly showered and tried to take a little snooze under a tree.  I would just start to fall asleep only to be woken up by small little ants tickling my arms and legs.  Totally gross!  It was not very restful.  When I decided that I had enough, I got up, and turned around to face the most ominous of skies.  Holy cow!  We were in for a doozie of a storm.  The next thing I know is that I see numerous volunteers running around securing tents for the impending storm.  Sandy comes running back saying that Bridget says we may need to be relocated.  All I can think of is 2008, my first walk, when we ended up inside Stoughton High School for the night because of horrific thunderstorms.  I quickly threw some necessities in a bag in case we were told to go inside, and then walked over to the dining tent to await further instructions.

They ended up opening dinner early.  Fearful of a relocation, we all ate.  There were still a few people on route, and there was talk that they would be closing it.  Little by little we were seeing more of our friends come in.  Then the rain came, and I mean came.  It was torrential.  We were still missing Maurine and her sister.  Maurine was such a trooper.  It was Day 2, and I think she had already walked more miles than she had all of last year! Someone got a text from her saying she was being transported back to camp.  In the meantime, we decided to make the best of the conditions.  Of course, our resident free-spirit, Alexa, went running around in the rain until her mom made her stop.  Oh, to be young again.  There were also several men who decided this was a great opportunity to strip down in front of a thousand women and use the yoga mats as a "slip and slide."  It was pretty funny. 

Luckily for us, we didn't end up getting relocated.  It continued to pour, and they opened up the school for a bit.  They even offered to move tents over to the turf, but most of us didn't take them up on it.  Our tent was dry, and the rain actually soothed us to sleep.  By midnight, it was over.  I think it was the best I have ever slept on the 3-Day.  I actually know so because I didn't even hear everyone packing up around me.  I rolled over and looked at my phone.  It was 6:00AM!  Yikes!  I need to get packing!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

This one's for Emma--Day 1

Another year, another 3-Day.  Different than each year before, but as exciting as ever.  There were new Princesses and new experiences.  There was even some improvement in the weather; however, it wouldn't be the Boston 3-Day without thunder, lightning, and pouring rain.  From Opening to Closing with friends and family it will be a weekend that will always be remembered.

Okay, so I am actually starting a bit before Day 1.  All day on Thursday I anxiously awaited the arrival of Keri and her friend Allison, the New York Princesses. I have known Keri for over 15 years.  Her husband Wayne was Andy's college roommate.  They used to play baseball together; actually, Wayne was Andy's catcher when he pitched.  Unfortunately, because of the distance, we don't get to see each other often, so I was very excited to be spending these 3 days with her.  Meeting her friend Allison was just an added bonus.  I first heard of her when Keri called me shortly after Allison was diagnosed with breast cancer.  At the time she was only 33--so young.  Years later, Allison was ready to take on her second journey of a lifetime.

Around 5PM, their minivan pulled up.  I could tell right away that Allison was not feeling well.  She had a fever, chills, and a sore throat.  Uh oh, this could prove to be a challenging few days.  After a pasta dinner, it was time for bed.  After all, we needed to be at Cheryl's at 3:45AM!  Yikes!
Some of our most faithful fans at 4AM!
After picking up Nicole K., Sandy, and Allison S., the 6 of us were headed to Cheryl's to meet the bus.  As soon as we arrived, I was taken aback by our 4AM cheering station.  Patty's dad, George, and his girlfriend, Tucky, were there of course--they are our biggest fans.  In addition to them we had Julie, Danielle, and Sue, all Princesses who were not going to be joining us on the 3-Day this year.  How awesome is that?  The best part was that Danielle brought a candle for Emma, and it sat there as we loaded up the bus.  As we pulled away, Danielle picked it up and held it high.  This was definitely going to be an emotional 3-Day. 

Shortly after we started out, we stopped to get food and coffee. Some of us chatted, and some of us tried to get some more sleep.  Before we knew it, we were almost there.  Right before we reached Framingham, Vicky got a message from Tina saying that she was at Opening Ceremonies.  She was determined to carry that flag.   

 Arriving at Opening was typical of any other year.  There were a few sprinkles and we were excited to see friends we had been missing since last year.  Our first task was to find Tina.  Barbara had blown up and laminated a picture of Tina kissing Emma that we could all wear around our necks so that Tina would be with us the entire walk.  Up until that morning, we were unsure if Tina would be joining us at all.  Well, seeing Tina was indescribable.  After all, she is why we were there.  Emma was why we were there.  Finding a cure for breast cancer will lead to a cure for all cancers.

The TWP surrounding Emma's ICU nurses, the most special ladies around!
When we saw Tina, she was surrounded by three of the cutest young women dressed in hot pink shirts stating, "Kiss my Sass!"   These young women were Emma's ICU nurses from MGH.  Seriously!  They drove her in from the hospital because they knew it was important for Tina to be there.  They knew she would need them as the team walked away.  They knew what it meant to be a good nurse.  How amazing are they?  I overheard one of them talking to a Princess wondering if they had overstepped their boundaries by doing such a thing.  To me, it is completely the opposite.  How do you not assist someone like Tina in her time of need?  These girls are the symbol of all that is good in the world, and I thank them for that. 

Well, we hadn't even started Opening Ceremonies and there was not a dry eye among the TWP.  We knew where Tina would be standing with the flag, so we gathered there awaiting her arrival.  Words cannot describe the feelings we all had as she walked down that stage.  Her face was so full of hope and love.  She was the embodiment of grace and dignity combined with a courage that I could never muster.  I would have just collapsed right there, a blubbering mess.  But Tina didn't.  That is not Tina.  She held her head high and walked to honor her Emma, right into the arms of the TWP. 

Sharyn honoring Bridget
Some of Team TuTas
I remember looking across the way and seeing two of my friends also bearing flags.  Sharyn was carrying the "my friend" flag in honor of our friend Bridget, who many of you have read about.  It was so great to have her right across from Tina.  Next to Sharyn was my friend Amanda who carried the "my mother-in-law" flag in honor of her MIL, Kathey, who was in the Survivor Circle.  Amanda and Kathey are members of  "Team TuTas", a young growing team that so reminds me of TWP.  Be sure to like their page on facebook!

The rest of the ceremony was a complete blur.  Every one of us had the "ugly cry" working.  It was just a sobbing mess.  I have never felt what I felt that morning. Leaving Tina behind as we walked off was one of the hardest things I have ever done.  It sounds crazy, but it felt like leaving a soldier behind.  We were the last ones to leave Opening--honestly, there was no one behind us.  It didn't matter though, we just needed that time together.

The first 10 miles or so were typical of years past--pretty slow and uneventful.  It is difficult to walk at a quick pace when there are so many people in front of you.   We spotted some of our fans along the route and were thrilled to see Helen (the elementary school secretary) and her daughter, Lisa, both Michigan 3-Day walkers, on the side of the road in Wellesley cheering us on. This year we had a large group walking together for most of the day.  I think it was 15 of us.  There was one pit stop that was at a park in Wellesley.  They had the most amazing playground equipment with two giant slides.  Alexa, Patty's 16 year old daughter, thought it would be fun to go down the slide.  I did too; however I could only imagine my sweaty body sticking to the slide, so I opted to take the video.  My favorite part is listening to the girls voices in the background.  It was one of the highlights of the day. 

Cheryl, Patty, Ben, me, and Maurine at lunch
As I walked into lunch, a few paces in front of some of the group, I heard several of my teammates hollering to come back.  I was fearful that something happened.  You never yell to someone to turn around and come back.  That is more miles added onto the 60!  Well, this was definitely worth it.  When I turned around, there was Ben.  Ben was one of the producers of our video, Walk Like A Princess.  He hopped on his bike in hopes of finding us, and within two minutes was riding beside Patty.  It was great to catch up with him for a few.  Being a part of that video was one of the most memorable moments of my life.  Every July that comes around I can't help but think of Nadesha, Rachel, CJ, Doug, Steph, Matthew, Paul, and of course Ben.  That 3-Day will be like no other. 

After lunch we continued together for the next several miles through Newton and into Waltham.  The sky began to darken, and we knew it wouldn't be a Boston 3-Day without the rain.  Just as it started to sprinkle, I received a text from Connie, saying that our tent was set up!  Awesome!  Up ahead there was a Dunkin' Donuts and several members from our team stopped.  There were about 3 miles left, and I was on autopilot as so many of are when we reach that close to camp.  I trudged on ahead, by myself, hoping to catch up to Keri and Allison.  These two girls were amazing.  They kept up such a quick pace all while Allison was sick.  I eventually caught up to them, but Allison too, was on autopilot and pushed on ahead.  Keri and I chatted and walked up the long hill by Bentley University, knowing that Gann Academy, our camp, was right around the corner.  As we turned into camp, the rain stopped.  Somebody was looking out for us.

We quickly showered and headed over to the dining tent where we spent most of the night.  We watched the entertainment until it was time to turn in.  I was exhausted.  Day 1 was done, and I was happy.  Walking back over to tent city, I was once again overwhelmed with emotion.  There were tons of candles lit in honor of Tina and Emma.  I wish I had pictures of  them all, but it was too dark to get any good ones.  There was one that stood out in my mind.  It was small tea-lights that spelled out "EMMA."  It was breathtaking. 

As I lay in bed that night, I was having difficulty falling asleep.  It was almost 11PM, I was exhausted, and I could not fall asleep.  My heart was racing.  I often have heart palpatations that I take meds for, but these were more frequent than usual.  My stomach began to bother me.  I knew I drank enough because I was using the bathroom frequently, but my mouth felt like cotton.  I felt dehydrated.  I kept drinking more Nuun (the new sponsor of the 3-Day instead of Gatorade) but it didn't seem to help.  Should I go to medical?  No, I can take care of this myself.  45 minutes later I was still no better.  Maybe I should go to medical?  No, I am still okay.  Another 30 minutes and still no improvement.  Yes, I should go to medical.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

All things TWP

So it has been a long while since I have written.  I am not going to make excuses like I usually do, but I am going to say that the TWP have been VERY hard at work trying to find our place in the world.  For many years, we have been known as "those girls who do the walk."  Well, yes, many of us do walk the 3-Day, and that is where we started--Me, Patty, and Cheryl deciding to walk for a cure, but now we are SO much more than that.  Finding a cure for breast cancer is still a priority to me, to us; however, the TWP realizes that cancer doesn't discriminate, so why should we?  We are there to help ALL women! This is our true passion.  So, we are working hard to create our new image.  In doing so we have lots of exciting news!

Recently we have teamed up with Charlene Dolan from Dolan Financial Services.  Why might we team up with Charlene, you ask?  Simply said, she is amazing.  She has a wealth of experience, not just in finance.  She has been on numerous boards, knows lots of people, and fortunately for us, she has taken a liking to the TWP.  The more I get to know her, the more I admire her.  She has met with me and Patty on several occasions, and she has forced us to hone our vision for TWP while striving to strengthen our non-profit.  She recently helped foster what I believe will be one of our greatest partnerships.  Ready for this...The TWP have partnered with the Greater Newburyport YWCA!!!  Part of the YWCA's mission is to empower women.  How perfectly does that blend with the TWP?  In addition, many of you may not be aware, but the YWCA offers an unbelievable service to women who are breast cancer survivors.  It is called the Encore Program.  Encore is a session based program designed specifically for those who have experienced breast cancer at any time in their lives. It incorporates gentle exercises, relaxation techniques, information and peer group support. It is safe, fun and therapeutic.  Ilene Grady, who runs the program, shares similar views to us, in that she believes that health and wellness is essential before, during, and after treatment.  To kick off our partnership, the TWP will be hosting a swim party for Encore members and TWP families.  The event has been affectionately named, "YWCA meets TWP--Embracing Possibilites"  Doesn't that sound great?  It gives me so much hope for the future.

Over the last month we have also met with Deb Chiaravalloti, a local marketing rep.  We wanted her take on our princess logo.  Obviously our logo is pink, and we are not all about breast cancer any more. We had a great meeting, but most  importantly, she loved our princess and what it represents.  We are just trying to figure out how to make her appeal to all forms of cancer.  It might take a bit, because we want her to be just perfect!  Be on the lookout for her debut, I'm sure it will be a smashing one!

We also have another project that is underway for the month of October.  I met with Mayor Keezer about a month ago to discuss it.  I was cautiously optimistic that we would have his support, but it went way beyond that!  He is thrilled with our idea!  During the month of October we plan to "Light the Town Pink!"  Community members will be able to purchase pink lightbulbs, and for one weekend we hope to light up the entire town.  This year it is pink, who knows what color it will be next year!  In addition to that, we will be releasing our "Men of Amesbury Support Cancer Awareness Calendar!"  Ron Mushow from Ron Mushow Photography and Judy Dodier have been hard at work hunting down some special men, both young and old, for our calendar.  We promise to have someone you know donning the pages.  You'll have to visit one of your favorite downtown businesses to purchase one!

Also, I wanted to mention our survivor baskets.  Earlier this year we received a grant  to compile baskets for women newly diagnosed with cancer.  To date, we have made 10 women's days a little bit brighter.  We have gotten requests from all parts of the North Shore!  I would be remiss if I did not mention Coleen Magowan and her business Wicked Cool Seaglass.  Coleen has donated a beautiful cancer ribbon charm made of sea glass and sterling silver to EVERY basket!  If you know of someone who could use a basket, or if you have something that you would like to donate to a basket, just shoot me a message, and we can work out the details.

Now, I assume most of you know what is happening in two days, right?  Yes, I will be participating in my 5th 3-Day starting on Friday!  I cannot wait.  Each year you think that I would anticipate it less, but that is just not the case.  I have so many dear friends, my 3-Day family, that I just can't wait to see.  My favorite part of the 3-Day is walking with "newbies."  I become filled with excitement watching them experience it for the first time.  It brings back that rush that I had that first time I saw those big inflatable columns or the pink flags being marched out on stage.

Yes, this year will be different.  Every year is, but it doesn't mean it will not be as good.  What I am most excited for this year is something that my daughter Maddie initiated.  By now, you all know of 9 year old Emma, and hopefully have read about the facebook campaign "Light the Way for Emma Journeay" to provide strength and support as Emma battles Stage 4 Neuroblastoma to find her way home from the hospital. (If you don't, you can read more about her story at Emma's Pen Pal Adventure Around the World.)   This year, Tina was asked to carry the "my child" flag at Opening and Closing Ceremonies.  To be asked to carry a flag is such an honor, but for Tina to be asked to carry this particular flag, well, there are no words.  Our hope is that Tina will be able to join the Boston 3-Day, and more importantly, her TWP at some point to celebrate Emma.  However, as any parent understands, this may not be feasible, and luckily for us, we have Tina's BFF Vicky waiting in the wings to do Emma proud!  The next piece is where Maddie comes in.  She thought it would be great to have candles set up outside our tents "lighting the way" for Emma.  How perfect!  I mentioned it to Bridget, the 3-Day Field Coordinator, and she suggested I mention it to other teams.  This morning it has gone viral on facebook and there are requests to light candles at ALL of the 3-Day cities around the country for Emma and Tina!  Absolutely unbelievable!  This is why I will continue to walk the 3-Day.
Obviously, you are aware that this has been a challenging year for many of the TWP.  For some it may feel like this walk is insignificant compared to what is going on in their lives.  I completely agree with that; however, I think the 3-Day is the initial glue that bonded the TWP.  While we have all become close friends, the 3-Day is the one time of the year when we all get together and support each other.  It is a time when we can cry, laugh, or scream together.  It is one weekend when we all join for one purpose. It doesn't matter if it rains.  To quote a friend, "I'd take rain over chemo any day!"  It doesn't matter our feelings toward SGK.  What matters is that we are together trying to make a difference, and holding each other up while doing it.  What matters is that we are a team.  What matters is that 3-Day provides HOPE. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

TWPs off and running...

I have been super emotional lately.  All emotions--excited, fearful, reflective, angry.  I sat down to write a blog several times, but I felt I just needed some time to get my thoughts together.  I am sure that by now all of you have heard about the Komen/Planned Parenthood debacle.  When it first went down, I didn't know what to think.  I was just dumfounded.  Many of us were.  For days my Facebook news feed blew up with comments, both positive and negative.  I had people saying sorry, but they were no longer going to donate to Komen.  I had women that I had walked with for years questioning their commitment to this organization.  Personally, I was hurt.  How was I going to raise money if my donors were no longer going to support me?  I didn't understand how something like breast cancer could become so political.   In addition to that, I had to have a very adult conversation with my 12 year old son.  He overheard me speaking to AZ about the possibility of people not wanting to donate to SGK.  Z point-blank asked me why someone wouldn't want to donate to an organization that was hopefully going to find the cure for breast cancer.   I then had to explain to him about abortion and political views--not a conversation I was expecting to have at this age.  Fortunately, he is a bright kid, and he got it.  His response, "What does breast cancer have to do with politics?"  EXACTLY!!!  Cancer doesn't care whether you are a member of the GOP, the Green Party or if you are a Democrat.  When you take the politics out of it, SGK is the leading private raiser of funds for breast cancer research, second only to the United States Government.  I have friends that are alive because of Komen grants, specifically Bridget and Maurine.  So for me, this isn't political, it's personal.

Last weekend many TWPs and Pink Angels were at a GSM for Komen that was attended by a reporter from NPR.  She was looking for insight into walkers' feelings about the situation for her article.  Many of us were interviewed about our opinion, but Dana hit the nail on the head when she said, "This isn't about politics for me. It's about finding a cure for something that's affecting 1 in 8 women, including myself.  And I have three daughters to worry about."  I think I can say with confidence that many of us echo Dana's sentiment and will continue to support SGK until there is a cure. 

That being said...the TWPs are off and running.  For the last few years, we have always taken a hiatus during the fall, but it appears that there will be no more of that.  Now that we are a non-profit, there are so many people to help and so many things to do.

First of all, we are up to 26 members that will be walking the 3-Day!  I am very excited about my friend Keri and her friend Allison joining us.  Keri is married to Wayne, AZ's college roommate.  In recent years, Keri has thought about participating in the 3-Day, especially after Allison was diagnosed.  Well, this is the year.  The two are making the trek up to Boston from New York to walk with us.  In addition to them, we have another New Yorker, Teri Cox, Dana's BFF.  The TWPs are now making our mark nation-wide.  We also have Rita and Nicole K. joining us.  Rita wanted to be part of a local team when she signed up.  (I don't think she had any idea what she would be in for!)   And Maurine recruited Nicole at a GSM.  Nicole is one of our younger walkers.  She decided to walk after watching a women in treatment while riding the T.  She was so affected by her, she signed up just a few days later.  Maurine has also convinced her sister Deb to join the TWPs, although I don't know how much convincing was involved after she made the journey up from Florida for Mo's 50th.  Once you spend an evening partying with the TWPs there is no turning back. Then we have Barbara's daughter Amelia who is only in college.  Every time she has been home from school she has gotten up early to walk with us.  There aren't too many college kids willing to wake up before 10 o'clock these days.  And of course our last not-so-new newbie--Alexa, Patty's daughter!  Alexa is no stranger to the 3-Day.  She has participated in the Youth Corps for the last two years.  She is now officially old enough to walk, and she couldn't be more excited!

After our video last year, we knew the TWPs would grow.  We hoped that our enthusiasm would be contagious, and it was.  Personally, I thought it would be a one year thing.  Well, that is obviously not the case.  We have so many walkers returning!  To do this event once is a decision in itself, but to be a repeat walker knowing what to expect is completely different, especially when we walked in 105 degree temperatures.  I am thrilled to have these women with us.  While we are 26, there is still plenty of room for new walkers.  The 3-Day season is barely upon us.   If you are even entertaining the idea, shoot me an email and we can talk.  I promise I won't bully you into joining!

If you don't feel that walking is right for you, we do have another option for you to be involved in our organization.  For $10, you can now become a TWP!  I know what you are thinking.  Isn't donating enough?  Now they want me to do something else?  No, we only want you to do what you feel comfortable with!  Plus, you get discounted admission to one of our events!  If you would like to do more, we would love your help.  You can offer assistance with fundraising, decorating, making meals for women in treatment, transportation for people in need, or any other service that you feel you could contribute.  Or like I said before, do nothing at all and just support us.  Be sure to visit the TWP webpage to fill out your membership form today!

As you may have heard, we will again be holding our 3rd Annual Dance Like a Princess Silent Auction on Saturday, May 19th at Holy Family Parish Hall in Amesbury.  We are hoping to surpass the $20,000 that we raised last year.  We are looking for donations, so if you, or someone you know has a connection to a business or has a product or service that they would like to donate just let us know.  We like to have a variety of merchandise ranging in price. You can email me, or just go to our website and fill out your contact information.  Tickets will be on sale soon, so save the date!

Another new feature that we have added to our team this year is that our friends now have the ability to make a TEAM donation.  In the past, Komen only allowed us to receive individual donations.  This year our donors have the ability to donate directly to the TEAM!  We are hoping this will help our friends who know numerous people on the TWPs.  Plus a portion of the money donated directly to the team will stay with our organization to help local women which I'm sure many of you will be happy about.

Lastly, I would love to say the sincerest of "thank yous" to my friends and family who have already donated to my walk.  I am on my way with $1145!  That being said...I still need your help.  Remember, you can sign up for a payment plan through the 3-Day where you can choose to have money taken from your account for up to four months.  Talk about enhancing your donation!  Also, if you do decide to donate, check to see if your company offers matching gifts--another way to make your cash go further! 

I am truly looking forward to sharing another 3-Day season with each and every one of you!


Thursday, January 5, 2012

My ABC's of 2011

A new year, a time to reflect and a time to resolve.

I have never been one for resolutions.  I just can't keep them.  I don't know what that says about me, but it is what it is.  This year, I will make one, as I do every year, and I hope to keep it.  I resolve to write more blogs in 2012.  Last year I really dropped the ball and I have heard from many of you that I need to pick it up again.  Duly noted.  I will do my best.

One thing that I do like to do, however, is reflect on the previous year.  2011--was quite a year--filled with some of the brightest moments I can think of, but at the same time filled with times of sadness and anxiety.  Moving on, I am once again filled with hope for the future.  As a teacher, I always find myself learning new things, and I try to relate my experiences to my teaching.  As most of you may know, I transferred out of the Special Education Department and into the English Department this year.  It has been challenging having to develop new curriculum for books I haven't read since college, but it is something that I am pleased that I chose to do.  Thinking about how my life relates to teaching, I have decided to share with you my ABC's of 2011.  Be prepared's a long one.

A:  Anniversary
During this past year I celebrated one of the BEST anniversaries ever!  My five year "cancerversary!"  I know you have all heard that once you reach five years your chances of recurrence go way down.  Hooray for me!  In addition, at the beginning of December I went off of my Tamoxifen!  I am now drug and cancer free.  Here's hoping 2012 stays that way.

B:   Bridget
I am sure that most of you know who she is.  I have written about her in several blogs, and provided links to her blog as well.  She is my stage 4 metastatic breast cancer survivor friend.  She was diagnosed at the age of 21 and was told she had a 16% chance of living to see the age of 30.  She recently turned 28.  Bridget is a brilliant writer who has an uncanny knack of making her readers part of her world.  Throughout this year, Bridget has experienced great highs and also some very scary times.  She has taken over a new job being the Field Coordinator for the Boston 3-Day.  I feel so very blessed to have her as part of my life, and each day she gives me another reason to walk.  Please take the opportunity to read her blog, My Big Girl Pants and you will see just how amazing she is.

C:  C25K  
After our walk in July was completed, many of the TWPs experienced "princess withdrawal"--a condition only known to those who have participated in the intense training that goes along with the 3-Day. Patty came to our rescue organizing a Couch to 5K program for those interested.  The first week had over 50 people, and almost half of them were kids!  It was incredible to see so many people gathered together trying to become healthier.  It was a great 8 weeks even if the Race for the Cure was canceled due to the freak October snow storm.

D:  DC 
This past October Patty, Cheryl, Jody, and I made the journey to Washington, DC to be crew members of the DC 3-Day.  It was an experience that none of us will ever forget.  We were members of the Traffic Team and we literally directed traffic--sometimes in the dark!  Even with reflective vests and light sabers, it was very scary standing in the middle of a busy street.  The four of us were inseparable, and thanks to our fearless leader Jason, we became known as "Boston."  We were one unit.  The first day sucked.  Of course "Boston" brought the rain down to DC because we know it always rains in Boston on the 3-Day.  This rain was torrential--buckets and buckets.  They ended up having to bring yards and yards of mulch into camp because it was a complete mud pit.  We were freezing and soaked to the core, as was our luggage.  Good thing we listened to the 3-Day coaches and packed everything in Ziploc bags.  Day 2 was much better, and so was the weather.  We were relatively comfortable with our duties, and Jason even let us cheer on the walkers coming in--a TWP cheering squad, the perfect job for us.  We did have one minor mishap when we tried to jump into the back of a golf cart for a photo op and spilled mulch all over the route.  Oops! The last day, Day 3, was TOUGH!  We helped pack up camp. We stacked tables and chairs and more tables and chairs.  Don't ever think that Crew is easy—working from 5AM-9PM is hard work.  I would much rather walk 60 miles any day!

E:  Emma 
Emma is a beautiful, vibrant eight year old girl who happens to be Tina, our Treasurer's daughter.  Late in the summer Emma was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma, a type of cancer that affects the adrenal glands and the nervous system.  It usually affects young children, so it was surprising to see that Emma had it.  Being a survivor herself, Tina was devastated.  She had some idea of what was in store for Emma. Since her diagnosis Emma has undergone chemo, which has been a rocky road with numerous hospital stays due to low blood counts and some illnesses.  She will hopefully finish her last round this week and then be on to her next steps--stem cell transplants and surgery.  I can't begin to fathom how difficult this time has been for Tina, Derek, and their two other boys.  I do know that the TWPs will be by her side throughout it all.  While this has been more than a trying time for Tina and her family, once again I feel that cancer has brought out the best in all of us.  I know that Tina and Emma will stay PRINCESS STRONG!

F: Flash Mo 
This past October the TWPs joined forces with The Pink Angels for our first flash mob.  After several practices, we met in Boston on a sultry October afternoon.  Completing one last run-through in the parking garage, everyone casually made their way to the area in front of The Aquarium.  Once the music started, we were led by several talented young dancers. Check out Mia on the left in front.  She gets her great rhythm from her mom!

G: Get Started Meeting  
Last March I told you about a Get Started Meeting where a woman, Kathleen, recognized Patty and me from our video. She told me how she showed it to her sister who was recently diagnosed, and how it made a powerful impact on her and lifted her spirits.  Well, this story gets better.  On Day 3 of the walk, the TWPs were completing the last 3 miles of our 60, together as a team.  (These were by far, the best miles of the walk.)  As the survivors carried our sign, we rounded the corner to enter into holding.  Before us stood a woman clearly just out of treatment.  She yells to me, "Sherri!  I'm Eileen, Kathleen's sister!  When you said, 'Cancer is not who I am' in your video, you changed my life.  Thank you!"  I write that verbatim, because they are words I will never forget.  That moment will be etched in my mind always.

H:  Husbands   
The men who wear pink and don't think twice about it.  Where would the TWPs be without our husbands?  Really they are the glue that hold us together.  Without them who would shuttle the kids to their games and activities while we are walking miles on end?  In addition, who would put up with us when we are exhausted from walking the miles on end?  Seriously, we have some of the greatest men around.  Cheryl's husband Bob was so inspired by his wife he chose to walk with us this year, and Ronnie, Lisa's husband has taken hundreds of pictures for us and put them into slideshows which can be found on this page.  If that wasn't enough, he is donating 5% of the proceeds from Ron Mushow Photography to the TWPs.  Be sure to check him out on Facebook.  Also there is Dana's husband, Jim, who would paint something new on his car every time he rode by us on the route.  And of course, the other Jim, Maurine's husband, who followed us all along the route offering a chauffered ride to his lovely bride. They are all amazing,  but we cannot forget my AZ who organized the TWP cheering station and creates some of the BEST signs ever!  He is my rock! 

I:  Inspiration  
The TWPs have always hoped to be a source of inspiration to others, and I feel we have.  My point was proven at breakfast on Day 3 of last year's walk.  While a group of us were gobbling up eggs and bacon, a young woman, probably in her late 20's came up to us.  She told us of her friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer while she was pregnant.  Like many women, she opted against chemo for the safety of her baby.  When her daughter was born, her friend arrived at the hospital with news that she had decided to walk the 3-Day in her honor.  A few weeks later when the friend visited mom and baby, she decided to show her our video "Walk Like A Princess."  The mother's quality of life had gone drastically downhill and she knew she did not have much time left.  The video seemed to touch her soul.  Two weeks before the walk, as she lay dying, she looked at her best friend and said, "Find the Tough Warrior Princesses at the walk, and tell them I said thank you."  I have told this story many times, and even as I type it here, I have tears streaming down my face.  That moment is what it is all about. 

J:  Jeff Hollett  
I have written about our friend Jeff, whose sister passed away from breast cancer.  He is part of the team Baghdad Breast Defense, and was in the service while he began training for his first walk which he hoped to complete with his sister.  Unfortunately she passed before July, and Jeff walked in her honor, and has ever since.  Jeff is a great character--he dyes his hair hot pink and carries a large flag during the entire walk.  Every year he enters Closing Ceremonies wearing pink army fatigues.  This year one of the highlights of the walk happened with Jeff on Day 3.  About one mile outside of Holding, Jeff asked us to form a "circle of trust."  We all stood shoulder to shoulder facing outward with Jeff in the middle.  He proceeded to change into his pink camo.  As we stood there, someone started singing God Bless America.  Immediately the tears started.  What a memory to have.
K:  Komen  Where our money goes.  Thank you for giving life to many of my friends.

L:  Letters from Santa  
This was the second year that the TWPs conducted this fundraiser, and it was even more successful than last year.  For $10 a child could receive a personalized letter from the Big Guy.  Parents said that their children were ecstatic to receive something from Santa himself.  The best part is that we raised $500!  Way to go!  Let's hope we have even more requests next year.

M:  Maurine  
Just a few short weeks ago, the TWPs gathered to celebrate Mo's 50 Years of Greatness!  What a night!  What was supposed to be a surprise was obviously not--Maurine looked too damn fantastic!  There was good food, good company, and a fabulous roast with notes from friends who were not able to make it.  Maurine's sister Linda even flew up from Florida!  And of course there was lots of dancing.  Whenever the TWPs get together it looks like a scene from "Old Ladies Gone Wild!"  I think our feet were more sore after that night than during the walk.  

N:  Non-Profit  This year the TWPs became official.  Yes, we are a 501c3!  What that means for us is that we can now solicit donations directly from sponsors.  We have our own tax exempt number which will make it easier to receive goods for events.  Businesses can donate food and alcohol directly to the TWPs.  We are hoping this will bring in even more funds this year!  Speaking of funds...

O:  One hundred and nine thousand dollars!  Need I say more?

P:  Princesses (and Princes too!)  These are some of the most important people in my life.  They are who I contact when I am anxious, sad, or thrilled beyond compare.  I know that every single one of them would be there for me no matter what.  Together we make magic.  The only way you will ever understand what I mean is to join us. 

Q:  Quest for a Cure  I am on it.  This is my mission, and I will not stop until there is one.   

R:  Rides 
Two of my favorite moments on this year's 3-Day involved rides.  Both of which happened on the last day of the walk.  On Day 3 I was feeling a bit down.  I was not feeling the magic that I had experienced in previous years.  With a large team it was difficult to get that close-knit camaraderie.  As a large group of us was just about to leave Pit 1, we see Maurine come in.  We made a conscious decision to hang for a bit and savor every moment of the rest of the walk.  I am so happy that we did.  I had it stuck in my mind that I wanted to ride the Swan Boats in The Public Garden.  If The Pink Angels could manage to do it every year with a team of almost 100, then we could definitely do it.  And we did!

The other ride happened a little later that day.  We were walking our last two mile,s singing songs and enjoying everything around us, when we happened to come upon 3 transit police.  Coincidentally, it was one officer's birthday, so of course we serenaded him.  Then good old Maurine proceeded to jump on his motorcycle ready to finish the route.  It was classic Mo, and we all just cracked up.

S:  Silent Auction 
Our second annual Dance Like a Princess Silent Auction was our most successful fundraiser to date.  In one night we raised over $20,000 and had an absolute blast doing it.  We had over 150 auction items.  It was a lot of work, but so worth it.  It is probably the only night, other than the walk, when the entire team was together (minus Melanie because she had already planned a vacation).  If you weren't able to make it this past year, we will be releasing the date soon, so mark it on your calendars for 2012.  It should be even better.  For highlights from our 2011 auction, just click the link to the right.  

T:  Tea Party  
Last spring we held our first Princess Tea Party for girls and their moms, aunts, or any special person in their lives.  The Amesbury Cultural Center was emblazoned in pink and the girls all looked so precious dressed in their finest.  We decorated sugar cookies, made crafts, and even had Princesses Alexa and Kiki available for photo ops.  There were tea sandwiches and sweets to satisfy everyone's pallet.  I am so looking forward to doing this again in 2012.  We plan to have two seatings this time, and I am sure it will be even better!

Where Closing  has been held for the last several years.  Walking along the beach in South Boston and seeing the University in the distance is such an overwhelming feeling.  You know that you have just completed three of the most memorable days of your life.  You feel...

V:  Victorious  Okay, so "v" was really hard to come up with.  But it is true.

W:  Walks  
What else would "w" be?  Lots and lots of them.  And really long ones too.  Heck, we even have one planned for 6:45AM on Saturday.  Want to join us?  It may be a lot, but, you know what?  I wouldn't trade any of them--even those on the hottest of days or the most blustery of mornings.  Why?  Because of the people I am spending my time with.

X:  X-Rays
This was the year of the x-ray.  Last winter I thought I was having a heart attack and was rushed to hospital by ambulance.  There they did a chest x-ray.  Then I sprained my ankle hanging my new drapes--another x-ray.  Then I broke my toe a week after the walk--yet another x-ray.  And the piece de resistance...the brain scan because I thought I had a brain tumor.  I should probably be worried about all the additional radiation exposure, but as a survivor I feel at peace knowing that I have had the majority of my body scanned recently, and everything looks a-okay.

Y:  You 
My readers, my family, my friends.  You are what made my year so very special--your kind words, your laughter, your tears, and your donations!  I wouldn't be able to do this year after year without your generosity and support.  I look back at where I was five years ago, and I was a different person.  Thanks to you I am new and improved.  For this I truly feel humbled. So I must say the sincerest of thank you's to each and every one of you!  xo

Z:  Ziomeks 
For most people "z" would be difficult, but not so much for me.  When I say Ziomeks I mean my family--the hubby and the kiddos.  They never asked for a cancer diagnosis, but they got one too, and I have to say that they have handled it with all the dignity and class one can muster.  When the 12 year old boy doesn't blink an eye if mom hands him a pink shirt, or a shirt with a princess on it, you know that some good has come out of this mess.  The same holds true for the girlies wanting to raise money for your walk, or make bracelets for your team.  AZ holds a sign for me at closing each year and it says, "in sickness and in health."  He is the one who is always there for me, each and every mile along that walk.  I know I can round a corner at any moment and my family will be standing there in the sweltering heat, even when the route is closed down. 

Now, I know my parents' last name is not Ziomek, but I could not let the highlights of 2011 go by without mentioning my parents.  They made me who I am.  They taught me courage and resilience.  They are the ones that encouraged me to never give up and to follow my dreams.  They are the reason I do what I do today.  

So--That was my year.  A little long-winded, I know, but I haven't written in 6 months.  Here's hoping that 2012 is even more dynamic!  

Love to all,