Bridges Baltimore 2015

Cancer made it impossible for us to attend our favorite eclectic conference, Bridges, in the summer of 2014. Our original plan had been to visit Nathan’s sister and her family in Busan, South Korea, and then attend the conference in Seoul. We were really sad to miss that time with Nathan’s family and with our conference family.

This year, we didn’t really know if we would be able to attend, since we didn’t know how quickly I would recover from reconstructive surgery. But we hoped and planned on attending if at all possible, which was made easier by the location (Baltimore, Maryland) and the flexibility and generosity of the conference organizers.

It was such a great feeling to be back at the conference, and traveling again. Dealing with cancer becomes the “main thing” and robs you of the ability to be who you are. A big part of that for us is travel, and dreaming big dreams.

dream-for-summer-2016

Here I am sitting at a cafe in Baltimore near our lovely Airbnb hosts’ row house, dreaming about the next travel adventure, which will happen approximately on the one year anniversary of reconstructive surgery.  Nathan said the last time I had this look in my eye, we were planning on riding our bikes to Canada.

More soon…

Thank You Part 3: My School

  1. T-shirt campaign: rock star pink shirts reading: “Fight like a girl with Pirate-i-tude”; a sea of pink everywhere on campus.  The assistant principal’s husband printed for free and donated all the profits.  The school secretary coordinated the selling and distribution for the entire school, and their families, and the community.
  2. A few 4th graders started making rubber band loom bracelets and sold them to the students; they split the money between myself and the school nurse who was battling a different illness.  They call themselves the Hope Loomers.
  3. Second graders selling water and drinks.
  4. A student’s mom’s office give to a different cause once a month; they gave me that month’s donation.
  5. I don’t recommend or endorse, but it was so special: one student went door to door in her neighborhood collecting money in an envelope for her teacher who was sick…me.
  6. The health class created a 5K event and the nurse and I split more generosity.
  7. To my students, old and new, I fight for myself, but I fight because you are my encouragement on days when it was hard, when it is hard.  You help me in ways you will never know.  You have more power than you know and just because you are young, doesn’t mean you have to wait to show the world the power and joy that you have and are.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”    

–Margaret Mead

Thank You Part 2: Our (older) Friends

  1. This friend: lovely and reliable through and through, we love her so much. Thank you KK.
  2. We miss these two, but we know you’re still here; you are in our hearts and we’ll be in your lives, especially since my god-daughter lives with you. Thank you S & J.
  3. Having friends who are medical professionals was instrumental in the beginning, thank you for all of our questions. KW, thank you for always staying in touch.  Thank you AH, KW, JW.
  4. Many of our friends have moved away.  It was a year of babies for most of them according to social media.  Thank you still for all of the ways you loved us, even as you were just hanging on.  Thank you B & N, K & M.
  5. Where do you put family? In a separate category?  I think I’ll keep family with old friends because I think I’d be friends with these amazing people even if I wasn’t related to them.
    1. Mom: offered to help as much as she could in between telling her contractor that the roof indeed must be plumb.  I could cry and be held.  Comforter is the word that comes to mind.  Whether it was laying on the couch being held while I cried, or making a run to a Swedish furniture store to make my living room an easy place to heal after my surgery.
    2. Dad: knowing the questions to ask the people when we were at chemo; flying back and forth between the corporate and family worlds; making sure there was a great bottle of wine at the end of it all.
    3. Big brother and sister: friend, your friendship means the world, your life was turned-upside-down and yet we all still walked together in the midst of it.
    4. C & J for encouraging us the whole time.
    5. Younger brothers who know how to warm our hearts and make us laugh.
    6. To my other sister friend on the other side of the planet with her beautiful family, we miss you so much and hope to see you soon.  Thank you, A, D, M, P, A,& C.
  6. Old friend, sharing this crazy reality as you came through town.  Sharing a 6 pack of good dark beer, sitting in hammocks over the water as the sun disappeared.  Not that you should move back here, but Florida does have some amazing sunsets, old friend.  Thank you MJ.

Thank You Part 1: Our (newer) Friends

  1. A couple gave a gift for every chemotherapy which arrived the day before all 16 rounds. Some were useful and came in the chemo bag to the hospital, others just fun or sweet. We didn’t know these two well and maybe I still don’t, but they’re a big part of being able to maintain a positive attitude throughout this process.  We love them very much.  Thank you M & C.
  2. I had only met this person a few times and I had already experienced his generosity, but in the beginning of the online crowd funding campaign, he spurred everyone’s actions with an incredibly generous donation.  We were humbled.  Since then, he’s been a friend, especially to Nathan; taken us out to eat a few times, and just has been awesome. Thank you S.
  3. Another friend is funny and caring, generous and compassionate.  I cannot thank you enough.  We can have deeply spiritual conversations one minute, and raucous irreverence the next.  I like that you hit like a girl.  I’m up for the batting cages any time. Thank you EP.
  4. Almost every Monday this couple would bring us homemade delights and share their lives, hopes, and a lot of laughter. Thank you B & B.
  5. It started as just a meal plan, to ease Nathan’s food-making load.  But it was incredible to see our friends manage this list in the midst of their own family’s turmoil.  Their upside-down story reflected our own, but without cancer.  They are lovely and wise; strong and brave; some of my favorite people to pray with or share well-aged bourbon.  Thank you C & C.
  6. This friend was friends with a wonderful yoga instructor and was able to bring her to our house for private yoga. This friend would come over for long walks and find new and exciting things each time.  This friend set up a secret warehouse with doors and paint and balloons and we made magic.  This friend trusts when someone tells you his name is John Trustworthy, that he isn’t lying.  Turns out he was, but she made me a believer, I’m not sure in what.  Thank you CM.
  7. A stranger who heard about our story sent over 2 giant gift bags filled with incredible goodies.  The card looked like it had a pack of cards shoved in it.  I started bawling a few lines in: her sister was my age last year when she was diagnosed with a similar breast cancer and she had purchased all of the things that had made chemo easier on her sister: special lotion, lemon drops, special mouthwash and toothpaste to get rid of the bitterness, magazines, crossword puzzles, pretzels, etc. On a yellow legal pad note was a list of all of the gifts and what each one had done for her sister.  Then for that deck of cards, it was about $500 worth of gift cards for buying music and movies, to a million different restaurants incase we didn’t want to think about food.  We just cried for a while because it was so special and humbling.  How can I ever repay their kindness? That’s what the brain does.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.
  8. My doctors kept telling me I needed to get up and be active, since I couldn’t do derby, so over the summer I invite social media to meet up and walk.  90% of the time it was just me and one other person, but it was really special that he kept showing up. GoT.
  9. Still getting to know these folk in the last few months, but have appreciated seeing them around.  Witty banter and brotherly love.  B & M
  10. To anyone who brought us a meal or a gift card, it meant the world to us.

Of the Head and the Heart

If you ever find yourself in this bit of trouble, I highly recommend seeing a therapist. Cancer can be a very lonely and confusing time. It is hard on your relationships: with yourself, spouse, friends, family, and anyone else you meet. Both Nathan and I consistently were in therapy over the course of cancer and can attest to how much it freed us up to feel: angry, sad, scared, confused, and a gambit of other things too.

Surround yourself with positive community. I can only say we were so blessed to be engulfed with love from friends, school, roller derby, church, social media, our giant family, the entire city of Orlando, the Bridges Conference, and it felt like the world. We were not alone.

Tomorrow, a thank you of sorts, Part 1.