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,