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I haven't felt inspired lately...
and when that happens I just need to step back. During my month or so of stepping back and just figuring things out; I found what I was looking for.
As many of you know, I'm very active in my local Relay for Life which is a huge fundraising event for the American Cancer Society. I spent quite a bit of my time organizing the event, fundraising & then some!
So back in July, I made the decision that I was going to go big for a 2018 fundraiser. I am setting the bar high for myself- higher than I ever have. I'm putting everything I have into this fundraiser with hopes of it working out. Because if it does work out, we could raise potentially up to $20,000 just in one night!
In order to achieve what I am hoping (details are currently under wraps with the nature of the event), I knew that I had to do something big just to get to the next step & secure a meeting. But I had no idea what that something big was. It wasn't until a few weeks ago, something just struck me while I was sitting at my desk & it all clicked. I knew I stumbled on what I needed to do to make the impact I am hoping for.
And thus; the 1,000 stories campaign was born.
The thought behind the campaign is for people, especially in my local community & the communities surrounding us, is to show how cancer has effected our lives. I have been participating in Relay for 5 years now, and I have met SO many people who have either battled cancer or have been caregivers, or who have simply known far too many people who have battled this disease.
While I was thinking about all those people & all those stories, I knew that I wanted their faces to be seen & their stories to be heard. I knew that I wanted to show even just a small percentage of how cancer is actively making its way through our community.
And that's what this campaign is all about. It's bringing us back to our roots, back to our experiences, our losses, our celebrations of life.
For the next six weeks, until September 25, 2017, I'm collecting the faces & stories of cancer in our community. I'm asking everybody to do these few things to help us make the impact.
First- make a list of all the people in your life who have battled cancer. Second, print out your favorite picture of each person. Third, directly on the back of each picture, handwrite their story- in any amount of detail you'd like. Fourth, take all your stories- there's no limit per person- and mail them in. From there, I'm compiling all 1,000 (and hopefully more) stories and sending them out to the people I need to meet with!
Just imagine- opening up a box filled with the faces & the stories of people who have all gone through similar experiences. Who have lost so many people to a horrible disease. Imagine reading about the hopeful stories of those who are in remission. Or the inspirational families & friends who have stepped up to be caregivers. Just picture reading story after story, looking at the faces of each person who has in one way or another- been touched by this disease.
This box of 1,000 stories is going to be filled with every emotion out there. There's going to be hope, inspiration, sadness, anguish, anger, happiness, fear, love & everything else you can think of. This box will be proof that cancer is everywhere & that cancer effects so many. This box though, is going to show that even in the darkest of times, there is hope, there is love and there are fighters in all of us.
The goal of this box of 1,000 stories is to make the people opening it feel all of those things. And to then take all of those emotions & not only connect it back to their lives, but to make the choice to fight back with us. To continue to help us spread awareness & to help us continue to raise funds for the American Cancer Society. Because not all we do is fundraise, but all we do depends on it.
So how can you help?
It's easy! Choose to be a part of this movement by making your list (you can check it twice too), printing your pictures, sharing your stories & mailing them to use. Even better- once you do all that (it doesn't take too long either, I promise), share this campaign. I bet you can name 5 other people in your life who have also been impacted by cancer and who could help us.
If you're able to share your stories- we're looking to have them by September 25, 2017! You can mail them all - remember, there is no limit- to:
1,000 Stories Campaign
PO Box 598
Yorktown Heights, NY 10598
I am looking forward to personally reading each story- no matter how happy or sad. These stories will remind me of why I choose year after year to fight against cancer through Relay. These stories will reignite that fire & my passion. These stories are going to make a difference, they're going to make an impact.
Relay for Life!
I realized a few months ago, that 2017 is my fifth year of fundraising & participating in Relay for Life of Yorktown. I've learned so much about the organization, the fight & myself over this time & I wanted to share some of those bits with you.
I originally began to Relay after my Aunt Carol was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer; it was the only way I could figure out to fight for her at the time. So that year, myself, some family & some friends all signed up & we began to fundraise! Each of us had somebody unique they were fighting for; friends, family or themselves. It was the first time I really realized that cancer really does touch everybody's life somehow, someway.
It's this weird feeling knowing that you're not alone in what you're going through but at the same time wishing that you didn't want anybody else feeling that way. Because you don't want anybody else going through a cancer journey of any kind.
That first year for me was a big one for learning. I knew we were raising money for Relay for Life which benefit ted the American Cancer Society, but I didn't know how important those fundraising dollars were. I didn't make the personal connection until 2 years later.
My Aunt didn't lose her hair from treatment the way that so many other cancer patients do even with chemo & radiation. It wasn't until her colon cancer spread to her brain & the type of treatment she went through, that she lost her hair. It was the first time I began to really realize how much your hair effects your confidence & how you feel. I don't think she wanted to necessarily have her physical appearance scream "I have cancer". It wasn't that she felt ashamed, or weak; rather hair provides that extra level of privacy.
When her hair really began to come out, I was asked how to find a wig. I had heard of the program "Look Good, Feel Better" run by the American Cancer Society, but I didn't know too much more. So one afternoon, I gave the ACS free 24/7 hotline a call to learn more. Not only did I speak to the nicest people ever, but I was able right then & there setup a free appointment for my aunt to go get her free wig. Not only was she going to get access to a free wig, but she was also going to get her makeup done too!
When the day arrived, myself, my mom & my cousin all went with my aunt to pick out her wig. I will always remember how I felt when I saw her that afternoon. It was the first time I saw her since her hair began to fall out & I just remember having to force myself to smile. I left the room & ran to the bathroom to cry just for a minute. It wasn't because she didn't look beautiful; because she always radiated beauty, it was just the first time in all the years that I felt like her outer appearance reflected her fight. It made me so angry all over again that she had to go through this. That we were spending the day picking out wigs, that she had already had countless rounds of chemo, numerous surgeries & then some. I was just mad that anybody had to go through this.
The thing that changed though, was at the end of the afternoon, I looked back at the past few hours & how much fun we had. We were having her try on all sorts of wigs- even the ones we knew she'd hate. We laughed, we enjoyed ourselves, we met other families in the session who were going through the same thing. It was one of the last afternoons I spent with my Aunt before she passed. Despite my anger that day over the situation as a whole, I am forever grateful that the Look Good, Feel Program exists. I am thankful I had that afternoon of laughs & memories with my family.
Funds that we raised at Relay, go back into that program & countless others that help give families peace of mind. It was that afternoon that I knew I had to keep Relaying. I had to keep helping fund the programs ACS runs so that other cancer patients can utilize them. I knew then that I was in this fight for the long haul.
After my aunts passing, I realized how my fellow Relayers were this beautiful support system & more importantly; my family. They are this group of humans who all have their own cancer stories & reasons as to why they have chosen to fight. They were there for me after my aunt passed to offer more than just kind words; they offered genuine compassion & understanding.
Five years ago, I would have never imagined that I would have taken on the great responsibility as the event lead volunteer for my Relay. But here I am! I spend countless hours year round with my Relay family not just planning our main event & fundraising, but also educating. Five years ago I really didn't know what my donations to Relay did, but now I do & it makes fundraising so much more valuable. I know that funds go not only toward cancer research or for free wigs, but cancer patients can access free rides to treatment, free lodging when travel is required to treatment, support groups, the 24/7 hotline & SO much more. What the American Cancer Society provides for cancer is immeasurable in the world of cancer.
While I'm celebrating my 5th year anniversary, I am hoping to really succeed with my fundraising goals. I want to continue the fight against cancer! If you are feeling generous today & want to help me reach my goals while providing hope in the world of cancer, please visit my individual fundraising link here:
I also encourage you to learn more about what the American Cancer Society does & joining your own Relay for Life event!
To read other posts about my families cancer journey, visit:
I have loved sharing the "Why I Relay" stories from cancer survivors, caretakers, family members & friends.
I have learned a lot in the past few years, the past few weeks, and especially in the past few hours.
As many of you know, my Aunt's battle with cancer has been filled with bumps in the road, mountains to overcome, But through it all, there has always been one of the most important things every journey needs and that's; progress.
My aunt has continued to fight, to progress forward. Our family has supported her, stepped up in the ways we can and know how to. Our knowledge, our support, our ability to fight along side of her, has progressed. We are stronger together today than we were nearly 5 years ago when her diagnosis came in.
I think about all of the other elements where progress comes into play. Years ago, the course of action for cancer patients was non existent because there was no research, no knowledge.
If you fast forward to the present time, the amount of progress that has been made is tremendous. Billions of dollars have gone into research funding and it has saved millions of lives. Knowledge is available to everybody, whether it's how to give yourself a self breast exam or knowing how old you should be to get your first colonoscopy. It's available, it's helpful, and it saves lives.
Over the last 100 years, the American Cancer Society, being one of the top funders for cancer research, has helped make such progress happen. But they have taken progress another step forward.
Their programs that they offer to cancer patients is incredible, truly and utterly incredible. Today, I got to see first hand some of their programs in action!
Over the past few years, my aunt has been one of the few cancer patients who hasn't lost her hair throughout her course of treatment. The past radiation treatment though, has caused her hair to fall out. It's interesting how hair impacts how you feel. When she found out that this round of radiation would cause her hair loss, she told me:, "I was hysterically crying. Here I am, recovering from brain surgery and I'm crying because the doctors are telling me I'm going to lose my hair. And then I started laughing, because I realized I was crying over my hair."
But your hair, I believe now, is a part of your identity. It's a part of how you see yourself, and how others see you. When you think about it, when you see bald women or women wearing scarves around their heads, don't you find yourself assuming they're cancer patients? I have, I'm 100% guilty of it. Looking from the outside of the situation, the loss of your hair is almost as though you're letting the world into your battle. It eliminates a layer of the privacy you have, in some cases it can make people look at you differently. And honestly, who wants that?
But today I got to experience the ACS in action! My aunt participated in their Look Good, Feel Better program before she had her free wig fitting. The Look Good, Feel Better program is all about self confidence. Trained volunteers apply makeup to cancer patients, showing them tips and tricks to make them look better than ever. I can tell you after my aunt got her make up done, you could instantly tell by the smile on her face just how much of a boost it gave her self esteem.
Seeing her smile, my cousin smile and just bask in her beauty was so utterly amazing. It was a wonderful reminder to remember the beauty you have, because it never fades, it only progresses. After her make up was on and she looked stunning, we moved onto finding her a free wig! We tried on different shades, different cuts, styles, real hair, synthetic hair and everything in between! When she tried on the wig that she would call her own, her face lit up. We all knew this was the one. She looked breathtaking.
In our duel session, there were 4 cancer patients, all with their families. It was as though we all knew each other because we could all relate. We all knew what the other was feeling because we have all experienced it. Everybody was helping everybody find wigs, give their opinions and helped one another find their perfect fit.
It was one of those moments that gave me faith in our human race. We spent the afternoon with strangers, with no judgement, only support and love. It was a reminder that great things, great moments can come from such heart wrenching experiences.
It was an afternoon I won't forget, it was an experience I'm glad I got to have with my aunt and cousin through this cancer journey. Even under such circumstances, we are able to smile, to laugh and to love. That's what family is all about.
This experience though has made me want to raise even more for Relay for Life. The funds raised not only go toward research, but it goes towards funding local programs just like the Look Good, Feel Better program. Without such donations, my aunt would have never gotten to participate, she wouldn't of gotten a beautiful, free wig. She would not have had the chance to not worry about such things. Today has fueled me even more to fight, to raise, to be more aware, to learn more, to feel more and to share it all with those around me.
Please consider donating, even $1 will help in the fight against cancer. It's a fight that one day I hope & pray families will never have to endure.
It's scary how fast fear can overcome you, how quickly it can cloud your strength, your courage.
My Aunt Carols battle with cancer has been nothing less than courageous. It's been over 4 years of treatments, surgery, good news, bad news and everything in-between. As a family, I believe it has made us stronger. It has made us appreciate each other more, show our love more often.
When I found out yesterday that her cancer had spread yet again, I honestly was really pissed off and really terrified. All I could think was, why must this keep happening? Why can't, with all she's been through and overcome can she catch a break and be done with this evil disease? How much more can one person, one family take?
And then I thought of what my Aunt would tell me. I know, in my deepest of hearts, that no matter how frustrated she would be with the bad news, that all the good news, all the positives you can muster up, are the things you must focus on. That in any situation, you go in with high spirits, with prayers, with love & you'll come out of it better than you were before.
It made me feel better knowing that's always been her attitude. I tried my hardest to roll the anger off my shoulders & replace it with all of my faith. I have always had faith in her and her ability to overcome anything and everything. Am I still mad that she has been on such a long cancer journey? Heck yes! And honestly, there will always be a part of me that is mad about that.
But I'll take that anger against cancer with me. I'll use it to continue to be active in Relay for Life, in sharing all they do, in all the American Cancer Society does. I'll continue to support them, to fundraise, to encourage others & myself to get into a healthier lifestyle in hopes that it'll decrease any of our chances of cancer in our futures.
I'll continue to Relay because I truly, 100% believe that it matters.
My aunt had surgery this morning and the surgery was completed a little while ago. Right now, everything went well but that still doesn't mean she's out of the woods. But I'm hopeful, and I know she'll continue to fight through! With love, with prayers, with all that the ACS has done to help us get here, she will overcome this all!
To donate to the cause, please visit:
Random night sweats, fatigue, cloudiness.
Last summer these symptoms were a common occurrence for me with no explanation. And for a while, I thought they were happening for no apparent reason. People have weird symptoms all the time; I did not think much of it, I wasn’t worried. Everything changed on my ride back up to college. On the way up, I felt a strange “twinge” right above my ollarbone. When I went to examine the feeling, I felt an odd, hard, out of place lump. Now I was beginning to worry.
Upon arriving at school I decided it wouldn’t be a bad idea to check out the health center. At these early visits, like many that would follow, I heard the same response many times, “Hmm, interesting, people get swollen lymph nodes all the time, I’m sure it’s nothing.” And for the next couple weeks I sort of believed them. Things changed when on our first school break, my parents and pediatrician decided it would be a good idea to look further into the issue. Cancer was in the back of everyone’s mind, but no one wanted to say it. My doctor suggested getting a needle biopsy taken just to be safe.
I remember getting the call while I was in the library. My doctor
casually telling me “so we noticed some abnormal cell growth in the biopsy”. he rest of the day was a blur. Finding out that it was Hodgkin’s
lymphoma was almost a godsend. I had been doing a little research and I was well aware that Hodgkin’s had one of the highest survival rates of all cancers (at around 90% cure rate).
But by no means did it mean that what would come
next would be easy.
In early October I was diagnosed with stage 2b (the b because I had symptoms) Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Treatment for Hodgkin’s almost always involves 8-12 treatments, broken up in two-week doses, of a drug called ABVD. In many cases, radiation follows treatment. The drug seems like a harmless abbreviation, but each letter represents a different drug with its own set of fun side effects. The first three are what they call, “pushes”, administered by hand through an IV. The last one (Dicarbozene), a painfully slow hour to two hour IV drip. All in all, each treatment was a grueling 5-8 hour day between traffic and wait time.
For my first couple of treatments, I followed a pretty similar cycle. I
would leave Binghamton on Thursday night, get my treatment on a Friday, feel like complete crap the next three days (nausea, fatigue, cloudiness, etc.) and then slowly get better. The best way to describe it was getting the flu, every other week.
And for my first 5 treatments (two and a half months), I had no problem coming home every other week getting my treatment, and then returning to school the following Monday night. My professors were great at making special accommodations, which let me stay in school during my treatments. Sure I had issues in between such as colds that wouldn’t go away, bruises that wouldn’t heal, my veins becoming rock hard, days that I couldn’t get out of bed and the day I thought playing soccer would be a good idea, until I passed out. But all in all it wasn’t too bad. My sixth treatment hit me like a train.
I got sick for the first time during this treatment (more annoying than usual when your attached to an IV), and in the following two weeks I never really felt any better like I was used too. The nausea started lingering for two weeks, food started tasting different, almost all my hair (which hadn’t really fallen out yet) was now completely gone, and I started getting this foggy feeling (called chemo brain) that made it feel like I was in a dream most of the time.
The worst part was that it was finals week and there was no way I could just stay home. Luckily for me, I was able to finish my finals and bear the
worst of my treatments at home, during break. Lets just say winter break
was spent on my couch, in a drugged up fog feeling pretty crummy. My last treatment was January 10th. I had already gotten a “clean” scan on my 4th treatment, which meant the last four were there to play it safe.
All I really remember about my last treatment was that it took much longer than usual and that the chemo-nurses sang to me and brought me a cupcake when I was done. I was pretty nice until I looked at the cupcake and then ran, (by ran I mean dragged my IV machine) to the bathroom to get sick for the last time.
Fast forward to the present: I’m about 5-weeks out of my last
treatment and back in school. I had another clean scan, which is a great sign!
I’m scheduled for checkups every 3 months and my life has slowly been getting back to normal. I’ve been playing basketball, going to the gym, and even went skiing (something I didn’t think I was going to be able to do this year). The Chemo Brain I had mentioned before lingered for about a month and has only started to get better in recent weeks. I’m still really tired, and going out is usually a little too much for me. But I’m confident that it will all get better soon and I know that my odds of relapse are very small.
Looking back, the whole thing seems like one big blur. Honestly I never
questioned why it was me who got sick, sure Hodgkin’s only effects about 1 in 100,000 between the ages of 16-19, but someone’s got to be that one
person. And I was extremely lucky that it was Hodgkin’s and not something more life threatening.
For me this experience has opened my eyes to the world of cancer, as before, cancer was just there. Now I know the extent of how serious the issue is. I tell people that the worst part of my treatments wasn’t how I felt, but when I would sit in the waiting room just before treatments, with people who were sad, quiet, and helpless. People, who were not as fortunate as me, people who did not have a 90-95% chance of survival.
For more information on preventative care, staying healthy, support
& more, please visit: http://www.cancer.org/
To join Relay for Life, visit: http://www.relayforlife.org/
Being a long time marathon runner, I have always kept myself in good shape throughout high school, college and middle age. When I started to
experience pain after completing my training runs I realized something was wrong.
Internal pain was coming from below my waist, and was more prominent while sitting down. After 2 years of visiting 4 different doctors, it was finally determined to be cancer related. This cancer which generates from the coccyx bones and into the sacral bones is called Chordoma.
It is very rare and not commonly known by most doctors. Considering my age 46, and because I was in fairly good condition, the odds of a good recovery were in my favor. The operation was performed on October 5th 2004, at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. It consisted of removing the coccyx bones and 3 sacral bones. I was concerned about how this would affect my quality of life after the surgery.
I went into the operation with a positive outlook and waited to see if I would have limitations afterwards. The operation was a complete success, with all of the cancerous tumor being removed along with the bones and severed nerves. My recovery period would only be 3 months since I already was planning to run the upcoming Boston Marathon that April. I was anxious to get back to running again with my friends and running mates from the Taconic Road Runners Club.
Over the next 9 years I have completed another 7 Boston Marathons and 8 NYC Marathons!
Although I have to be careful with my condition, I basically live a normal life and was able to continue with the things in life while I cherish the most. These are my wife Karol and our 2 daughters, Gina and Diana. I learned to adapt to my limitations but also to work harder to achieve my goals. There is no limit to what you can achieve if you are focused and determined to get there. My experience battling cancer was recently passed on to my daughter, Diana, which successfully completed her fight with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
For more information on preventative care, staying healthy, support & more, please visit:
My name is Kristina and I'm the founder of Love Struck. Read about how Love Struck came to be, see how I make it happen or just read a random thought I just might have! Anything can happen at our blog & I wouldn't have it any other way! It's time to get Love Struck, and what better way to start than right here!