Sister Patty and I took this road trip to Maryland together. This one was made special by two things that, in my opinion, make most things “special” in life, family and friends! This walk took place on October 6, 2013 which also happened to be my nephew Sean’s 22nd birthday. Sean lives in Maryland now, and works as an assistant for the University of Maryland Women’s Basketball team. It was great to be able to celebrate his special day in person! Also our special friends Laura, Sharon and Arina live in Maryland and we got to spend time with them. Sean, Laura, Sharon, Arina, Patty and I were Team Walk On Maryland!
This was a big day! A collaboration between the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and the Lustgarten Foundation. We had over 1900 people participate and as of this writing this event has raised over $485,000, and Team Walk On! raised over $15,000 for the second year in a row.
So many family members and friends came from all over to participate with our team for this day, as well as donated to the team. This was a great tribute to Judy as well as others who have fought and lost, and also to those in this battle right now. It is also a testament to our commitment as a group to continue to fight this beast of a disease. We were a PURPLE FORCE. If any group is up to this battle, it is us! A huge thanks to everyone who helped make this day a booming success. There was a sea of purple, and we ARE making a difference!
A special thanks to my friends on the affiliate team, Michele, Nick, Jen, Christine, Yadhav and Toni who, along with over 100 volunteers, (including sister Mary and niece Emily) helped make this day happen.
As I created the recap, I can’t help but feel so grateful for everyone in my life, I am one lucky woman! Love you all.
KEEP ON KEEPING ON! Enjoy the pictures
October 31, 2013: Why is this date so important? It’s Halloween? It’s the day after the Red Sox won the World Series at Fenway Park? These are important, however for me the significance is that this would have been my Mom’s 83rd birthday, so it’s the perfect day to share Lesson #2: Love is the answer! There are so many vital lessons Mom and Dad taught me throughout my life, but the importance of love, unconditional love, is likely the foundation for all good things in my life. I am who I am because you loved me Mom, no doubt about it! I believe the gift of unconditional love gives you the best chance of loving yourself and others and that this is a key to a happy and fulfilled life.
Ever wondered why most songs are written about love? I was listening to some music yesterday, and Wynonna Judd’s song “It All Comes Down to Love” came on and really made me think of Mom. The lyrics say “there is only one answer, it all comes down to love”. This love starts with loving yourself, which can be harder than loving others for many. Mom was my biggest fan, even when I wasn’t a big fan of myself. Her steadfast and unconditional love gave me the basis to learn to love myself and then others unconditionally. Love from and for others, whether it be with your God, family, friends, partners, or pets adds depth and meaning to our existence in ways that are hard to put into words. Love makes the highs higher, helps keep the lows minimal, and makes the unimaginable manageable.
I know some weren’t as blessed as I was to have this unconditional love from my Mom and Dad, but this doesn’t mean you can’t give it to yourself, or find it in others so please don’t give up, it’s worth the effort. There are others who may avoid love to avoid the pain of loss, so listen up. The saying “it is better to have love and lost than not to have loved at all” is so very true, I know this first hand. Losing my Mom and my wife Judy within 6 months of each other will likely be the worst thing that will ever happen to me, however the kind and depth of love I had with each of them I didn’t even know existed until I experienced it. I’m not saying the loss isn’t incredibly painful; I’m saying the benefits outweigh the risks. In addition, they might be gone, but their love continues to enrich my life each day. That can never be taken away.
Love enriches life on it’s own, but it also provides other feelings that make the benefits exponentially better, like a feeling of safety. Quite frankly, I think feeling safe is only second to feeling loved. The importance of feeling safe was highlighted in caring for Judy and Mom towards the end of their lives. Both of these amazingly courageous and gracious women expressed that feeling safe and loved was always important, but now helped them not fear death. If you have a good circle of love around you and you feel safer and with less fear, you just might live life more fully because of that “safety net” of love. See how this works? It’s like this cascading set of feelings that support who you are and what you might be in this earthly life, and that all begins with love.
Happy Birthday Mom! No matter what the question, your love was and is my answer!
Ponder this: Who provides you the most love in your life? What does that love mean for you? Do they know this ? What might be missing in your life? How could love of yourself and from others, change this?
Before I post about this year’s Boston walk, I thought I would post this video/photo diary of our incredible Boston Purple Stride 2012 as a look back to an incredible day with our Judy. Although I am sure this may bring some tears and sadness that Judy no longer walks with us here on earth, focus on her smile in EVERY picture and know she still “walks” with us each and every day. This was such a special day for Judy (and me) and she wanted nothing more than to enjoy this day with family and friends, which she absolutely did!
We also used this day to honor my Mom, Ellen Lavin, as she lost her own battle with cancer just a few weeks before the walk, but wanted us to “Walk On” with and for Judy, despite our grieving for losing her. She was the wind beneath so many people’s wings!
As the saying goes, don’t be sad it’s over, be happy it happened! We love you Judy and Mom!
They showed us how to “Walk On” and continue to KNOW IT FIGHT IT END IT!
Austin Purple Stride took place on Saturday, September 14th. My host and fellow-walker in Austin was Joanne, a college friend of Judy’s, Thanks Jo! I first met Brenda, who was waiting for her sisters to arrive so they could walk in memory of their Mom, Maria, who had passed away in November of 2012. She was also in the process of planning the one year tribute to her Mom, where they would be releasing sky lanterns. Next I met a 3-year survivor Jean, who was busy organizing her team. There was quite a crowd there to support and walk with Jean, all decked out in their purple garb!
I then had the sincere pleasure to meet the sponsorship chair of the Austin Affiliate, Jamie. Jamie volunteers to honor the memory of her Aunt Mary. Jamie’s energy was infectious as she explained to me all she and her fellow volunteers did to prepare or this special day. Ironically, Jamie had moved to Austin just a few months ago from Charlotte where she also was a volunteer for that affiliate. I was happy to let Jamie know I walked in Charlotte the week before, and that they had doubled their attendance in this just their second year running Purple Stride. She was so excited to hear her former group of volunteers did so well this year. Nice work Jamie! One of the most inspiring moments was when Ken, a survivor, gave a pre-walk speech where he encouraged everyone to “push it” when the going get’s tough. If those fighting and surviving cancer can “push it”, so can the rest of us!
Let’s start at the beginning, we were sitting in the hospital lobby after being told that my perfectly healthy and very fit 48 year-old wife had malignant and metastasized pancreatic cancer. We looked at each other and wondered what to do next. When you are hit with something like this you likely are in some form of shock, and you question every move you make. How could this be, should we drive, should we eat, should we call anyone, and what the heck is happening here? We made one decision on the spot that would shape the next 15 months in the most positive way possible given the diagnosis and prognosis; we weren’t willing to “lose today”.
So that is lesson #1; don’t lose today. We live in a world where we move at warp speed through each day. We often pay little attention to the moment we are in because we are planning for, looking forward to or worried about something that may be happening later, or we are replaying and reliving something that happened in the past. When you are faced with the reality that you or someone you love likely has less time to live than anyone ever thought, you get very deliberate about your decisions. If you have every heard Tim McGraw’s song “Live Like You Were Dying”, his lyrics sum up the lesson here. Be more deliberate in your decisions of how you spend your time, and just as important, what thoughts you will give space in your brain to. In good circumstances, this may just improve the quality of your life, in challenging ones, it will help you survive, and in both situations, it will help you thrive.
How did this help us? If you had asked me hypothetically what I would do if I were told I would lose my mother and Judy to cancer within 6 months of each other, and Judy before she turned 50 years old, I would have likely said I would be rendered useless and let my thoughts sink me into despair. However, when this actually happened, I had to be much more deliberate in my thoughts, and there was no time for despair. There were doctor’s appointments to go to, treatment to begin, and most importantly of all, time to spend with Judy, my Mom, our family and friends. Some of these were conscious decisions, and some were automatic. The brain can do amazing things when you are pushed to your limits. The automatic part can ensure surviving, the conscious part ensures thriving.
Ponder this: Make a conscious decision to not lose today, to be even a little more present each day. What will this mean for you? What will you start doing? What will you stop doing? Who do you need to spend more time with? Who do you need to spend less time with? What “I should” will you finally do? Who will you reach out and help? What thoughts do you need to ban from your brain? Don’t look back, only look ahead and as always, KEEP ON KEEPING ON!