Have you ever read a book that haunted you? Spoke to you and really made you stop and think? I just finished one and I have to say, it felt as if the universe had given me a gift. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, a truly beautiful autobiography of a Stanford trained neurosurgeon who discovers he is dying of cancer.
An extraordinary view of life, from someone who spent his trying to save others. A man who loved literature and found himself pondering the question of what makes a human life meaningful? He writes early on the book, “If the unexamined life was not worth living, was the unlived life worth examining?”
Paul Kalanithi wrote of his experience of both living and dying, and how his perception of both changed through his journey with cancer. One of my favorite quotes from the book was, ““There is a moment, a cusp, when the sum of gathered experience is worn down by the details of living. We are never so wise as when we live in this moment.”
Such wise a beautiful words from a life well lived, and a legacy for all to learn from.
This week is the beginning of Movember. No, this isn’t a typo but rather a movement. I was reminded last week, when my second son asked me to sponsor his fraternity’s fundraiser in support of the cause. You may recall that last November there seemed to be an unusual amount of facial hair and beards. Those beards and unshaven faces were not by accident, but rather a statement for men’s health.
A statement that all began in 2003, when two mates in a bar ( Travis Garone and Luke Slattery) were having a simple conversation about whatever happened to the moustache or the Mo, as they called it, and a joke about bringing it back. These buddies from Melbourne, Australia decided to talk their friends into growing a Mo for a purpose. They were inspired by a friend’s mom who was raising funds for breast cancer and decided to direct their efforts towards men’s health and prostate cancer. They sent an email titled Are you man enough to be my man? The result was 30 guys willing to take up the challenge and pay ten dollars each, towards their cause and the beginning of Movember.
Their goal started small but never wavered. These four friends wanted to recruit men who would support Movember, who by the way are called MoBros. The Mo Bros, would begin by registering at Movember.Com and start Movember 1st clean-shaven, then grow and groom their Mo, for the rest of the month, raising money along the way. In addition, these men become walking, talking billboards for their cause. Not to exclude the girls, they also started Mo Sistas, who champion their Mo by registering and supporting the Mo Bros in their life.
What started as a fun bar conversation in 2003 and 30 MoBros in Melbourne, Australia has morphed into over 4 million participants globally, who have raised more than $649 million to date. Movember, is more than a month, but rather through the power of the moustache, it has truly become a global movement that is changing the face of men’s health.
As you know I have been thinking a lot about dreaming big and continuing on my quest living a life full of purpose. When I think about the combination of these two together, my mind immediately goes to thoughts of my amazing friend, Ann Louden. Ann is a breast cancer survivor who took her diagnosis and turned it into a purpose fueled mission. The result is her non-profit TCU Frogs for the Cure.
Ann has worked at TCU for over twenty years and over a decade ago when she heard the words, “You have cancer” she knew she needed to do something. As the ultimate connector, she engaged her Fort Worth and TCU community in finding a cure, supporting those with breast cancer and partnering to support the cross town organization Susan G. Komen Foundation.
Her organization was the first to engage college football with breast cancer and now today you can’t tun on a game in October (pro or college) without seeing pink, it all started with Ann. However that dream wasn’t big enough, she went further in creating inspiring music videos with thousands of survivors to bring everyone together in support for this cause. When the videos are downloaded from itunes, the proceeds go to fight breast cancer.
This years video will debut at the Thursday, Oct 29th at the TCU football game vs West Virginia and is aptly done to the song,”Ain’t No Mountain HighEnough.“I cannot think of a better song to describe Ann Louden and all breast cancer survivors journey to overcome and fight this disease.
The other day I went to the dentist for my annual appointment. My dental hygienist, who has become my friend over the past decade of having my mouth held captive, did not look like her usual perky self. I only see her twice a year but she somehow feels like a dear friend every time we visit. I asked her about her children who are the same age as mine and as the tears began to flow, she shared that her college age son was just diagnosed with cancer.
I came home devastated and in shock at how quickly lives are altered by the words, “You have cancer.” As I scrolled through Facebook as a distraction, I came across this and felt compelled to share.
Having spent over a decade at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, supporting families in crisis, this spoke to me on so many levels. Coincidentally, September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Life can change on a dime, one never knows and it is the power of love, compassion and a fight song that makes it all worth the fight.
I have to say that in almost four years of blogging, I have rarely been at a loss for words. I sat down to write the other day and there just wasn’t anything there. I mentioned this challenge at our family dinner table and my sons said, “You don’t have to write Mom, its ok if you take one day off.” A thought that truly had never occurred to me.
I had resigned myself to the fact that with two graduations next week and a very full plate at work, I would take today off. However, the universe had different plans, no sooner had I made that decision, when a friend sent me this video…which of course I needed to share with you.
Tired or not, seeing compassion in action, simply never gets old. It is moments like these that inspire me to do more, give more and use my time showing the world that it is actions not words, that really matter.
Just hearing the words, Let it be I begin to hear the song..speaking words of wisdom, let it be…let it be. Sometimes letting it be is the most difficult thing of all. Those words were the singular wish of a young girl named Karla Rosen who was diagnosed January 7th, 2005 with a rare brain cancer. Her heartfelt desire was to “just be.”
During that year, their community rallied around their family to take care of meals, Karla’s two siblings, yard work, and all of life’s task that shift in the wake of a child’s health. The community support was overwhelming, wrist bands were made and sold to help pay the medical bills. After a year of fighting this horrible disease, Karla Rosen lost her battle with cancer on February 5th, 2006. She was 15 years old.
Her parents, found a letter in her room shortly after her death that said, “I have only known two other people with my condition: one passed away, and one has been struggling for life in the hospital for many months. I now know, because of what I am able to accomplish once again, what miracle God wanted me to pass on – the miracle of life. Thanks to my cancer, I now do not sweat the small things in life and live it to its fullest.”
With the help of the community, within months of Karla’s death, her family decided to celebrate what would have been Karla’s 16th birthday with the creation of the Let it Be Foundation. Their mission is to provide ongoing support and services to families and children diagnosed with life threatening illnesses throughout the child’s treatment, with a focus on the entire family.
The Rosen family has taken their unbearable loss and turned it into a legacy of compassion for others. As the song says, “there will be an answer, let it be…let it be…..”
What would you do if you were told you had just a few months to live? I’m not sure any of us really know that answer. We may think we do but our lives are simply too busy to think about such morbid thoughts, until we are faced with such a moment.
We all rush through life as if it is a race, a place where someone wins and yet life isn’t about any of that. It is the moments with ones we love, the beauty all around us and in finding joy in the things that matter.
That is the choice that Brittany Maynard made when she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. She chose to live and to choose the day of her death as well. Her story and her message is as much about life as it is about death.
There isn’t much to say that hasn’t been said right here but when you see something like this story, it causes you to pause, to cry and to shift. With treatment, the disease’s median survival time is around 14 months, meaning that half of those live for longer than 14, and half live for less. Brittany was given six months. Doctors explained that her death would be slow and painful as her tumor grew — a worsening progression of headaches, nausea, vomiting, weakness, and seizures. Brittany wanted to use this a starting point for a conversation, she did that with The BrittanyFund.org
As she said, “Seize the day, the world is a beautiful place, travel has been my greatest teacher, my close friends and folks are the greatest givers. I even have a ring of support around my bed as I type … Goodbye world. Spread good energy. Pay it forward!”
Brittany chose to live her life on her terms, to use her experience to help others understand and to live like she was dying. Godspeed Brittany.
The main reason that I ended up in Texas last week was because of a remarkable woman named Ann Louden. You may recall that I met Ann through Charity Matters a few months back when she came to Pasadena to film a video at the Rose Bowl for her non-profit, TCU Frogs For a Cure. She is dynamic, compassionate and determined to eradicate breast cancer. She is a woman on a mission and she has the state of Texas cheering her on. It is no wonder that Texas is the home of The Susan G. Komen Foundation because these women make change happen.
The official video will be debuted later this month at the TCU Frogs for a Cure benefit with Former First Lady, Laura Bush. I wanted to share a little piece of Ann’s story and passion because it is the story of thousands of women across this country.
Ann is a role model of what being Brave is all about and her passion is contagious. She has taken adversity and turned it into inspiration. As TCU Frogs for a Cure celebrates their 10 year anniversary, I am inspired by the continuing message of hope they bring to so many truly brave women.
I never ceased to be amazed by the way that the right people always enter my life at just the right time. As you all know, this week I have been prepping for my first-born to leave the nest and head off to Texas and TCU. In all the craziness I received a phone call from a friend who wanted to introduce me to an incredible woman named Ann Louden, who helped start and drive a non-profit at TCU.
The organization is called TCU Frogs for the Cure and is dedicated to supporting those with breast cancer and helping to find a cure. Ann, a breast cancer survivor, called to chat about her organization’s new video that is being filmed this weekend at Pasadena’s Rose Bowl. She said the organization began in 2005 when TCU athletics partnered with the Susan G. Komen® Greater Fort Worth to sponsor a first-ever pink out halftime presentation at a university….which has now become a national trend.
A few years later they created a music video that combined inspirational music and hundreds of survivors and supporters. Each year since, the music video has gotten more elaborate and included more students, survivors and community leaders. This year, the video is being filmed in 5 cities, including my own hometown Pasadena, this Saturday August 16th from 1-5pm.
So grab your friends and register here to be a part of this epic celebrity filled music video to inspire others to find a cure. It is events like this, started at TCU, that have influenced and inspired thousands to adopt a cause and come together to make a difference.
I know I’m inspired and so grateful my son is heading to TCU. Whether pink or purple is your color, it doesn’t really matter but what does, is that you care to give of yourself to help another.
I have to admit that I have spent a little time lately being nostalgic and looking back, which includes looking at past Charity Matters post. The post below was one of my very first and probably not seen by too many at the time so I thought it was worth sharing with each of you. Enjoy!
Just the other day my 10-year-old son and his friend asked if they could set up a lemonade stand. It was a hot day and he and his pal worked hard to get business up and running. I was so touched that many of his “customers” stopped and asked my son if he was doing this for a cause.
He wasn’t, but at the end of the day we decided to see what causes there were involving lemonade stands and this is one that we came across. It may not be a “small non-profit” but it is a perfect example of small ideas that create big change.
We simply could not end the month of June without some sort of wedding post. All those beautiful June brides, who are just returning from their honeymoons and now wondering what do I with their big white dress? Chances are pretty good that you won’t be wearing it again anytime soon.
Here are a few suggestions whether you are a bride new or old, know a bride or happen to have a big white dress stashed somewhere in your closet. That special dress that made your day will brighten someone else’s and help support these amazing causes.
1. The Bride ProjectWedding dresses are donated to The Brides Project from all across the country. Some are “pre-loved” donated by brides who want to see them dance another day. Many are donated directly from bridal salons, so they are brand new. The best part of all is that the money raised from the sale of gowns supports families touched by cancer through the Cancer Support Community in Ann Arbor, MI.
2. Brides Against CancerWedding gown sales are an important fund-raising event for Brides Against Breast Cancer. The thousands of generous donations received from designers, manufactures, bridal shops, and individuals worldwide, enables Brides Against Breast Cancer to contribute to wellness and educational services to those impacted by cancer.
3. The Bridal GardenThe Bridal Garden, has a collection of one-of-a-kind wedding gowns for sale at up to 75% off the original retail price. Their vast network includes; couture designers, exclusive retailers, and individuals who generously donate their gowns. The Bridal Garden is not only a bridal boutique, but also a not-for-profit charitable organization whose proceeds benefit education for disadvantaged children.
4. Brides for a Causea bridal store that raises funds for charity. Brides for a Cause is partnered with Wish Upon a Wedding, a non-profit organization dedicated to granting weddings and vow renewals for couples facing terminal illness and serious life-altering situations. Brides for a Cause will accept your wedding dress on their behalf, sell it and send 50% of the proceeds to the charity.
So the next time you receive a wedding invitation, think about sharing this info with the future bride. Since weddings are all about love it seems to be a match made in heaven. Who knew that cleaning out your closet could raise funds, change a life and spread the love and joy that you felt on your wedding day to someone else?
Being carefree, something all of us remember in our youth and sadly long for, when our life’s responsibilities get in the way. A new video, from cancer survivor and founder of the Mimi Foundation, Myrian Ullens de Schooten, offers this gift of spontaneity to cancer patients. Myrian founded the Mimi Foundation, “Because of this experience my conviction has grown that cancer must be fought not only on the medical front, but on all fronts. Using this principle I want to ensure that all those who have to face this disease receive support, help and comfort.” This project accomplishes just that.
Just that moment of joy, silliness, freedom and the unpredictable. The video is in French with sub-titles, but the language of joy is universal. Take a moment and treat yourself to a small slice.
It simply doesn’t matter what language you speak or what you look like when you are suffering from cancer. What matters is the smiles, the fun, the joy and the moment that each of these people gave to another.
The other day I received the sad news that a high school class mate of mine had died from cancer at the age of 47. She had battled the disease for almost half of her life. Stephanie, was an only child and a single mother. Upon reflection of her life, I began to wonder what the journey was really like for her and her beautiful daughter.
That lead me to uncover a fact that there are over 700,000 children each year who deal with a parent that has life-threatening cancer. In this discovery, I came across a remarkable woman named Kristen Milligan, who walked a similar path to my friend, as a parent who was ill, and looking for ways to help her family.
In 2003, when Kristen was diagnosed with a rare terminal illness her children were only four, two and seven months. She wanted to find a great book that helped explain her illness, when she couldn’t find it, she wrote her own.The book was called A Train’s Rust, A Toy Maker’s Love, the story of a train family whose mother begins to rust, prompting questions of the toy maker about what will happen next. Kristen and her husband Deric, then expanded their mission to help other families dealing with serious illness and in May 2007 began the non-profit Inheritance of Hope.
Their mission was to improve the well-being in the lives of children and families, dealing with a parent diagnosed with a life threatening illness. They achieved that goal by providing books, family retreats and support that was spiritual, emotional and financial. The Milligans believed that the more the family is helped, the more it helps the ill parent.
Kristen endured her disease for nearly ten years, including six surgeries, twenty-two months of chemotherapy, two rounds of radiation, and two more books. She died on October 26, 2012 and her legacy of hope lives on in every life she continues to touch.
There are so many ways our lives touch others. It seems that the big moments that touch us often come from the littlest people. Last friday night my son’s football team had their first scrimmage. Lined up in crisp new uniforms were 86 big varsity high school football players and in the front of team stood a 9-year-old boy. The 9-year-old is our new team captain. His name is Jeffrey and he is teaching our football team about courage, toughness, perseverance, dedication and overcoming adversity.
Jeffrey knows about these traits because he has cancer. Less than two years ago, he was a typical 8-year-old boy who loved playing baseball and flag football and then everything changed. Jeffrey was diagnosed with DSRCT (Desmoplastic Small Round Cell Tumor), an extremely rare and aggressive cancer. In just over a year he has completed about a dozen rounds of chemotherapy, five surgeries, numerous procedures and five weeks of radiation therapy.
In honor of our mighty new captain, the team will wear Jeffrey’s initials on their helmets this season in honor of his courage and tenacity, as well as to bring much-needed attention to the lack of funding for pediatric cancer research. Jeffrey received the signed game ball and his very own football jersey with the number 11, that represents the date of his diagnosis, 11/11/11.
This little package has already showed our sons how to be strong, courageous, and to face adversity with a smile and can do attitude. Jeffery’s family has a web-site and the quote on the site reads, “Let your dreams be bigger than your fears, your actions louder than your words, and your faith stronger than your feelings.”
We have yet to play our first game but it is already a winning season.