GRATEFUL CHALLENGE 2015

It’s year two of my taking the Grateful Challenge! (For last year’s post, click here.) Inspired by Spin Sucks, the goal is to set a timer for 10 minutes and try to list 99 things you’re grateful for.

GRATEFUL CHALLENGE 2015

This year’s installment:

  1. My parents
  2. A spouse who understands why it is so important to me that my spouse be my friend as well as my lover (Wayne)
  3. My daughter (Tenley)
  4. My son (Wayne Kevin)
  5. Our cat Alice Cooper
  6. Our cat Bella
  7. My father-in-law (also a Wayne!)
  8. The memory of my mother-in-law (Barb)
  9. A roof over my head
  10. A house with a great running route right outside
  11. Running
  12. Running friends
  13. Fitness
  14. My fitness friends
  15. My Fitfluential relationships
  16. Blogging
  17. My #ChevyPlayMiami experience
  18. Having my son with me in Miami Beach while I was doing #ChevyPlayMiami
  19. My NASA Social experience
  20. My Social Good Summit experience
  21. Being a Shot at Life Champion Leader
  22. Toastmasters
  23. That one special friend
  24. Lunch at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel with that one special friend while the crowds streamed in to see Pope Francis in Central Park
  25. My friend Mary Jane
  26. My friend Audrey
  27. My friends’ children
  28. Tenley’s oportunity to do the Disney College Program starting in January 2016
  29. Dairy Queen Blizzards
  30. Reading
  31. Audiobooks
  32. The perpetual influence of The Diary a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  33. Tallahassee
  34. New York City memories
  35. New York City memories to be made
  36. The play Wicked
  37. My son’s new (to him) car
  38. My son teaching me how to drive his new car
  39. A bus option in Florida that gets me from point A to point B affordably, with wi fi
  40. The Spin Sucks community
  41. My work with Weaving Influence
  42. The leaders I work with through the Lead Change Group, a division of Weaving Influence
  43. Chocolate
  44. A nice glass of wine at the end of each day
  45. My Coach, Kristie Cranford
  46. My KR Endurance team
  47. The child I run for via I Run for Michael, Gareth, and his family
  48. Friends who help with my father-in-law
  49. My sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law
  50. My nieces and nephews
  51. My goddaughters
  52. Being free to worship how I want to
  53. The Twitter community (except the jerks!)
  54. People who teach me about WordPress and help me climb other technical learning curves
  55. Patient people
  56. Smiles
  57. The beauty all around us
  58. Sunrises & Sunsets
  59. Learning about weather from people who are more than “forecasters”
  60. A great set of crepuscular rays in the sky
  61. My coworkers at Weaving Influence
  62. Being paid to do social media
  63. Scott Ginsberg (The Nametag Guy) who encouraged me to “make a date with the page”
  64. The potential of the Global Goals
  65. My role as a Florida Prepaid Blogger Believer
  66. Every opportunity I have had to get paid for blogging
  67. Other blogging opportunities which I did not get paid for or paid my own way for which which have paid off in other ways, most notably in the incredible people I’ve met
  68. The two people I have mentored in Toastmasters
  69. Being able to practice my Spanish
  70. The drivers/staff in Miami and Orlando who just start speaking Spanish to me and expect me to follow along
  71. My half brothers
  72. The trails in Tallahassee
  73. My electrophysiologist
  74. Being able to run still (so I guess thanks for beta blockers and that “running through mud feeling”!)
  75. That one friend who said “talks with you are my sanity”
  76. A sense of humor
  77. That my FIL’s cancer appears to have been obliterated
  78. Doing the zoo run in Tampa in August with my friend Diane
  79. Margaritas!
  80. The ability to read
  81. The ability to write
  82. The ability to speak
  83. The HAMP program
  84. Tenley’s employer, Chicken Salad Chick of Valdosta
  85. Everyone in Valdosta who has helped Tenley the last 1.5 years
  86. The teachers who give Wayne Kevin a chance
  87. The teachers who give Wayne Kevin more than worksheets
  88. The freedom of speech fo expres myself during the “Curious Incident” kerfuffle
  89. The ability to see Curious Incident on Broadway the month after the kerfuffle (which reinforced the fact that the kerfuffle was worth making a fuss about)
  90. Journalists here in Tally who have intelligent dialogues with readers
  91. TV journalists here in Tally who support me in giving voice to important issues like World Immunization Week
  92. My involvement with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
  93. My NYC Half Marathon in March 2015
  94. The Light the Night Walk last month
  95. Silvia, the first child we sponsored in Guatemala via Unbound
  96. Estela, the second child we sponsored in Guatemala via Unbound
  97. Stanley, the child we sponsor in  El Salvador via Unbound
  98. Coming home tonight to find the bah humbug spouse had put the lights on the Christmas tree
  99. My Faith

Want to Join?

It’s never too late to spend ten minutes focusing on gratitude! Let me know if you do the challenge!

Photo Credit: Gratisography

Light the Night FSU 2015!

If you’ve spent any time with me online (or in person!), you know that the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLSUSA) is one of my main causes.

Many of my Charity Miles have been for LLSUSA.

Swamp Forest 2015

I participated in the United NYC Half Marathon in March 2015 as part of Team in Training for LLSUSA. Whereas I originally thought my March half marathon was going to be a “one and done” effort for LLSUSA, I felt differently after completing the race.

I feel differently because I know our fundraising efforts ARE making a difference, as seen in the recent approval of Darzalex for patients with previously treated Multiple Myeloma.

I feel differently because every step I take as part of Team in Training takes me into the orbit of someone else I grow to care about, from whom I simply can’t walk away, like Justin Karpf.

I met Justin, who is the honored hero at the upcoming FSU Light the Night walk, when I went to the Tequila and Tapas fundraiser at Madison Social in October. When I arrived, I noticed a young man in an LLS shirt. We talked about many things, including his law studies, his involvement in children’s health issues (yay!), and his girlfriend in New York. It wasn’t until he turned around and I saw that his shirt said “survivor,” that I realized he wasn’t just another patron there for the tequila and tapas.

Justin agreed to share his story:

Justin is seated to my right in this picture.

My name is Justin Karpf. When I was 20 years old, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  I was about to start my senior year at the University of Central Florida (UCF) in May 2012.  I did not feel particularly ill before being diagnosed, but I felt some soreness under my left arm. During a routine check-up that month, I told my doctor about it, which quickly led to scans, a diagnosis, and biopsies.  Luckily, my doctors caught the cancer early and I was able to start treatment shortly after the diagnosis.  I was involved with several student organizations and planned to spend the summer at UCF, but I ended up taking the summer and fall semesters off for chemotherapy and radiation.

After I was diagnosed, treatment started almost immediately.  I started with 6 rounds of chemotherapy, which started the week after my 21st birthday.  During chemo, I lost my hair and a lot of my strength.  Though I responded well to the treatment, I had to stay home most of the time because of how low my white blood cell count was, which also led to dietary restrictions. After chemo, I had a month of radiation treatment.  By the time I finished radiation, some of my hair had started to come back and I was able to eat and exercise normally again.  My cancer was in remission when I finished treatment, and has been for over 2 years now.

I still need to get scans twice a year and see my oncologists, but I have been able to get my life back on track. I graduated UCF in May 2013 and am now in my second year of law school at Florida State University (FSU).  My strength and hair have returned, but my life will never be the same; there is always the risk of relapse or a secondary cancer looming over me, but I am determined to continue working towards my goals and not living in fear.  I am fortunate that I was able to overcome this disease thanks to the amazing medical professionals that oversaw my treatment, as well as the support from my family, friends, and organizations like the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS).

Last year, I was a Team Captain and Honored Hero for LLS in Tallahassee and am privileged to do the same this year.  Light the Night is a great way to raise money for a great cause; the money we raise at events like Light the Night truly helps to save lives. Thank you to everybody who has walked with us before and welcome to those who are just joining us!

LLS SOLO

Ways You Can Help:

Make a donation to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society here (so Justin gets the credit!).

Join us Thursday, November 19, 2015, at Langford Green at 5:30 at FSU for the Light the Night festivities and walk.

Download the Rock My Run app on iPhone or Android, redeem the code PAULAK, and $1 will go to LLSUSA. Download it and then delete it next week if you really don’t care about the app, but I would appreciate the dollar for LLSUSA. (AND, the app is incredible; I use it almost exclusively for my fitness music needs!).

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Note: Justin’s story also appeared in the Tallahassee Democrat.

There are many great causes out there, and I enjoy supporting lots of different efforts. This one is at the top of my list and will be for the foreseeable future, for Mary Jane, Justin, and all the others for whom leukemia and lymphoma are part of their stories…..

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The Cancer Color of October is … (2015 Version)

NOTE: This is an update of a post I originally wrote in October 2014.

The Cancer Color of October is … not always PINK.

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It is October, and pink predominates pretty much everything because October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast Cancer Awareness Month is important to me because I am the daughter of a survivor and have seen countless friends, acquaintances, and fellow humans (women and men) be diagnosed with this disease. Some are (blessedly) still alive and thriving; others have passed away. As a woman, I face a 1:8 chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in my life. Therefore, for selfish reasons research should be supported. However not all “pink” is effective “pink,” and there are many other causes out there of which we need to be aware and for which we need to take action.

When Pink Makes Me See Red

I am wearing a lot of pink this month, and having been a multiple-year captain at Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, I am in full support of many efforts to raise awareness of breast cancer and fundraise toward support and research. Here in Tallahassee, October 2015 is fully in pink bloom, with many of our city’s leaders and brightest lights leading the way. However, it is important to know that not every product robed in pink does much good and to make well-educated purchasing decisions.

When Pink Has Gray Areas

It is also important to respect the connotations all that pink carries for people currently dealing with breast cancer, either for themselves or a relative. Sarah Thebarge writes eloquently of the evolution of her feelings about pink as a color representing breast cancer here.  She also wrote a superbly useful list of 31 Ways to Help a Friend Who Has Breast Cancer (visit it here) which goes beyond wearing pink.

But Paula You Said This Post Wasn’t Just About Breast Cancer!

It’s not. I want to encourage you to add some “blue” to your October observances (I know, now it’s feeling baby shower-ish up in here, isn’t it?). Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the US. It has affected many men I know.

Ed Randall’s Fans for the Cure seeks to “save lives by increasing awareness of prostate cancer and the life-saving value of early detection while providing education and information about cutting-edge research to reduce risk, detect, and treat prostate cancer.”

Fans for the Cure aims to encourage all men over 40 to consult with their doctors and schedule their prostate exams and PSA blood tests today because early detection saves lives.

See Tom Foley, Tampa Bay Rays Bench Coach, discuss prostate cancer and his father’s experience here:

Fans for the Cure envisions a world where all men are aware of their risk and know how to prevent prostate cancer. (Early detection can involve a simple blood test. Read more about detection options here or visit this site to donate.)

Fans for the Cure was present at nearly 175 minor-league games this baseball season. At these games, Fans for the Cure partners with local hospitals to offer prostate cancer screening and provides information. I hope to make one of these games next year.

Got it: PINK, BLUE, and … GRAY?

I had this “pink and blue” post planned for weeks before I wrote the original post in 2014. One individual’s story presented itself to me via friends, though, and it was important to add it. Andy Nichols was the brother-in-law of a friend (as she puts it “the brother of my heart.”). Andy had an aggressive glioblastoma brain tumor, which is in the same family of brain tumors as the one my friend Dustin had. When I learned that Poplar Head Baptist Church would be holding a 5K race in Blountstown on October 11, 2014, in Andy’s honor (to help with expenses not covered by insurance as well as raise awareness), and that his friends wanted help getting the word out and generating as much participation as possible, I knew in a heartbeat that I would be heading west that day.

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Tiffany, Debbie, Paula O’Neill and I had such a fun day at the fun for Andy!

Andy and his family chose the "I have hope" phrase to symbolize hope for a cure for ALL forms of cancer, not only brain cancer.

Andy and his family chose the “I have hope” phrase to symbolize hope for a cure for ALL forms of cancer, not only brain cancer.

NOTE: Andy passed away from complications caused by his brain cancer. He is not forgotten, even by those who did not technically know him.

So Many Causes … Where Do I Go From Here?

I wish I knew! I have only scratched the surface, with a bias toward the fact that it’s October, that my mom (pictured in this post with a pink bird of hope) is a breast cancer survivor, that Ed Randall is doing so much across the country to encourage men to get screened for prostate cancer, and that Andy and his family needed (and got) our support on October 11. My friend Mary Jane, a multiple myeloma survivor, organized a team for the NYC Half Marathon in March via Team in Training and our team ROCKED THAT RACE. As to “where do I go from here?”

cancer colors

This graphic is from www.crochetforcancer.org.

In a sea of choices, the best recommendation I can make is the same one I would make if you were drowning in a literal sea: clear your head, get your bearings, look for the surface, orient yourself toward the shore, and take action. Your action may be donating funds, running in a race, running for a cause (hello, Charity Miles and Stand Up 2 Cancer!), or simply telling someone who has cancer “I am here for you” or asking their family what you can do to help.

Whatever you choose, don’t for a minute let yourself believe that your contribution is too small or won’t matter.

My mom, Ed Randall, Andy, and Mary Jane would surely feel differently …

Great Tunes for a Great Cause!

If you are a runner or walker, have you tried Rock My Run yet?

Rock My Run is a free app for iPhone and Android offering unlimited listening to workout mixes that adapt in real time to your body and are proven to help you enjoy every workout more.

Imagine a workout where your power songs play at just the right time, seamlessly blend together and adapt based on your cadence and heart rate. RockMyRun for iPhone and Android pairs workout mixes from the world’s best DJ’s with awesome technology that personalizes music to your body. The app is proven to increase exercise enjoyment and motivation, so leave your playlist behind and get rocking.

Download Rock My Run Now!

Rock My Run deserves some big huge props for giving back to charity. I am fortunate to be one of 11 #PowerRockers! This means that for every download of the app using my special code (PAULAK), $1.00 will be donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Why Leukemia and Lymphoma Society?

LLSUSA has been a “near and dear” cause to me for several years now, especially since my friend Mary Jane was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. She and I did the NYC Half Marathon together as part of Team in Training, and I hope we have another opportunity in 2016.

Support comes with a price, and these $1.00 earnings will add up, but only if LOTS of people download!!!

How to Do It

This is SO easy. SO VERY EASY!

Go to your App Store or Google Play and follow the prompts!

And please remember the code PAULAK because that generates a DOLLAR to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of America!

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As a special treat for people who use my code and help LLSUSA, you get my three favorite mixes, which are usually reserved for premium members, FREE!

You get:

Born to Run

born to run

Born to Run is a running mix that not only motivates you to get out for a run but also drags you down the street without effort. DJ eL Reynolds has brilliantly assembled an hour’s worth of songs with titles that all relate to running in some way. Plus, you don’t have to worry about being stuck in one particular genre of music. You CAN like Rock, House, and 80s music at the same time.

In the first quarter of the mix alone, you get The Soup Dragons, Slapshock, Pink Floyd, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, Jessie Ware, Amanda Lear, and Flo Rida. It is that type of variety that will have you “Running Wild” from the start as you’re let loose to your own devices. Some of the more popular tracks include Bon Jovi’s “Runaway,” Rush’s “Marathon,” Bruno Mars’ “Runaway Baby,” and of course Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run.” Subliminal messages are no more obvious than with Buchanan’s “Run Faster” at the 45 minute mark. Disturb’s frantic version of “Run” will propel you right to the 60 minute mark.

Fuego

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Fuego will have you saying “Esta mezcla está caliente!” That’s spanish for “this mix is hot!” You’ll feel the fire coming off these tracks during your run. DJ Remise serves up a running mix with a kick! He’s refried (yes like the beans) an hour of the hottest latin running music on this side of the border.

If you’ve never toured the spanish speaking areas of the world now is the time. These tracks will take you on an international party cruise through Mexico, Spain, Miami, Puerto Rico and more! This mix gets you started with the hard hitting latin beat of  “A Mover la Colita” by Artie The One Man Party. Then, Carlos Santana smoothes out the beat, to keep you moving with his hit song “Smooth”.  Now that you’re in the groove, the party anthem “Suavemente” plays and you forget you’re running instead you’re at a fiesta! And you might even pause to do a little salsa or cha cha while you’re out on your run. Right after you finish your dance “El Mariachi” reminds you of the movie, “Desparado” and you find yourself running through the desert with a hot man/woman by your side. It doesn’t get much better than this right? As you travel through the rest of your party cruise you’ll hear tracks from, Marc Anthony, Enrique Iglesias, and even Shakira and Lil’ Wayne with the hit “Give It Up To Me”. Then, the Mighty Dub Katz help you finish up your run with a mix of dub step and latin flare.

Get Your Twerk On

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“Get Your Twerk On” is a ferociously motivating 60 minute mix of twerked-out remixes at a brisk 210 BPM. Song highlights include “L.A. Love (Deville Twerk Edit)” by Fergie, “Problem (DJ Valid Remix)” by Ariana Grande ft. Iggy Azale, and “Show Me (DJ Coco Bootleg)”  by Kid Ink Chris Brown.

I may be 50 years old but I love love love running to a good #TwerkMix!

nyc finish with mj

Y’all, I want my friend to survive long into her elder years. I want other people I have met who deal with blood cancers to live long, healthy lives. Take five minutes to download this app and help me make a difference for these people, their children, and all of those who love them.

Are you in with me? If so, tweet this to encourage others to rock it out with us!

I am helping @LLSUSA by downloading @ROCKMYRUN and using code PAULAK! Rock it out with me and @biggreenpen?

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Multiple Myeloma: Saying Thanks and Hanging On

March 15, 2015, was a chilly day to walk 13.1 miles as part of the United Airlines NYC Half. At about 12.5 miles, Mary Jane managed to convince me to take off my red sweatshirt so my purple Team in Training singlet (and race number) would show in the finish line pictures. I had been trying for about a mile to reposition my number from the sweatshirt to my singlet in order to make the change, but my fingers were frozen and uncooperative.

She took things under control and did the pinning duties for me (being at a different angle seemed to be part of the equation of solving this conundrum) and we were able to cross in a unified line of purple!

Half Marathon Thank You

Team SOAR at the finish.

The road to this finish line began in November 2014, when I decided that what I wanted for my 50th birthday was for my family to send me to New York City in March 2015 to be part of Team SOAR. This would mean raising $2,500 for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS). (For more on how, where, and why, click here, here, here, and here.)

The road to March 15 was paved with efforts on several fronts:

Training

A March 15 half-marathon, which I knew I would be walking or doing at a very manageable pace, fit in very well with my training plan. I kept up my training via my team, KR Endurance, which essentially boiled down to two weekday runs per week as planned out in a build/recovery model by my coach Kristie Cranford, a longer run on weekends, cross-training and/or yoga the other three days, and a rest day. (The only bump in the road was the cardiac oddness that happened throughout but I persevered!) I enjoyed representing Team in Training in several races as I prepared, including the Swamp Forest Trail Race in January and the Run for the Cookies in February with my awesome friends Suzanne and Laura.

Half Marathon Thank You

Fundraising

There are so many causes out there deserving of our time, money, and support. I wish I could give to them all. In choosing to fundraise for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, I chose a cause that is personal to  me, because it affects a close friend, as well as acquaintances and people I will never know. Refusing to choose because there are too many options is a not a choice that sits well with me. Therefore, I will pray every deserving cause receives adequate support and I will give every ounce of time, money, and support I can to this one.

I do not find it easy to fundraise. I don’t like being told “no.” Fundraising is not something I consider my strength. However, I do admit to liking the challenge and this is one of those areas in life where I will become a better, stronger person for having ventured outside of my comfort zone. Here is how my fundraising for this event came together:

The Tequila Social

On Saturday, February 7, 2015, Madison Social hosted a Tequila Social for the cause. It was such a fun time and they paid such close attention to small details that enabled every attendee to have a good time. Madison Social donated a generous portion of each ticket sold to LLS, as well as an additional donation.  I am so thankful to this local business with a big heart for its community. They deserve your patronage and enthusiasm. Thank you, Madison Social.

(I also want to thank the Tally Connection for hosting a giveaway of two tickets to The Tequila Social, and for making a donation for every comment that was made on their giveaway post.)

Half Marathon Thank You

The placemats explaining the three tequilas.

Benefit Workout at Badass Fitness

Shannon Colavecchio, owner of Badass Fitness, hosted a “couples workout” and donated the proceeds to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. A fun time was had by all (not that we necessarily would have said that mid-shockwave)!

Half Marathon Thank You

Superbowl Squares

I did a Superbowl Squares event which culminated (of course!) on Superbowl Sunday. A couple of the winners donated at least a portion of their proceeds back to me! How nice was that?

Frequent Asking

I did a lot of asking/reminding/pleading via my blog and my other social media outlets. Thank you to those of you who stuck with this “One Note Paula” throughout that time.

When I was talking with Mary Jane on the way to Central Park for the start of the half marathon the morning of March 15, we were discussing our team goal of $100,000, and the fundraising process, especially how to approach corporate donors. Since her diagnosis of Multiple Myeloma a few years ago, and her subsequent choice to be involved in Team in Training (and her rapid ascendancy to mentor/superstar which surprises no one), she has, she said, learned the following:

“I ask everyone.”

Pretty good advice, I’d say.

Charity Miles

I was already a Charity Miles user prior to committing to this event, but between my November decision to do the United Airlines NYC Half and the event itself, I did almost all of my miles for LLS. Twenty-five cents from every walked/run mile went to LLS. It didn’t go to my Team SOAR fund specifically, but it went to the greater goal of research, support, and advocacy. I also hope it raised awareness every time I posted my Charity Miles for LLS to social media.

Half Marathon Thank You

Special Thank-Yous

An analysis of the donations made to LLS as part of my fundraising lists 54 entries. Fifty-four individuals/businesses who gave in order to help me achieve my goal. I appreciate Kellie, my first donor, whose sister had been diagnosed with lymphoma. I thank Jon, whose donation came in while I was out on a training run, after which I came home to an email informing me I had reached my goal. And I thank EVERYONE IN BETWEEN! All of you have a special place in my heart!

Half Marathon Thank You

My fellow Idiots Running Club (IRC) members deserve a shout-out. The number of “Idiots” among the 54 donors is disproportionately high and that’s fine with me!

Speaking of Idiots (as in IRC), Amie of JunieBalloonie went to great lengths to make my effort bloom! Her custom-designed flowers are beautiful, and her creations for Team SOAR, LLS, and Team in Training, from which a portion of proceeds goes back to the cause, were no exception! (To inquire about purchasing a TNT or LLS flower, click here.)

Half Marathon Thank You

I also appreciate Greg Angel and Shannon Colavecchio, who gave me some excellent late-in-the game PR advice when I was making a final push to get the word out about The Tequila Social.

WTXL also helped out tremendously by having me on their noon show the day before The Tequila Social!

Half Marathon Thank You

Max Tsaparis, Me, Kellie Bartoli

Being a Florida-based runner on a Long Island-based team, I had the opportunity to work with two chapters of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Thank you to the Long Island Chapter and the Northern and Central Florida Chapter for your help!

I have been impressed all along with the coaching and mentoring received from Team in Training. In addition to the pre-race communication (emails and encouragement), numerous coaches checked in with Mary Jane and me throughout the race. They gave specific advice about technique, helped us find the best restroom (yay!), and kept us talking as the miles clicked by.

My family also deserves a “thank you.” Each of them sacrificed in different ways, including my husband and son who did the duties of eldercare for my father-in-law with one-third of the team missing, and my daughter who loves going to New York with me but couldn’t make this trip.

Remembering The Reason Why

In the midst of all the running, walking, fundraising, Facebooking, Tweeting, Google+ing, Instagramming, and blogging, I never want to lose sight of the actual individuals behind the efforts. So many people told me their personal stories over the course of this few months. I thank you all for informing me and helping me understand the impact of blood cancers on your lives.

Half Marathon Thank You

Lynne is a survivor who came to The Tequila Social and quickly became a friend.

And of course Mary Jane, who was one of the first people to befriend me when I started working at Fordham University in 1989 and has remained such a treasured friend.

Half Marathon Thank You

What is Next?

When I started this process, I viewed it as a “one and done.” I saw it as an endeavor that would allow me to support Mary Jane, combine an athletic cause with an altruistic one (as I love to do), and go to New York City (which I really, really, REALLY love to do!).

I have come to internalize in a way I did not prior to this event, though, that blood cancers are not a “one and done” for the people living with them, or for their families and  friends.There are people out there “hanging on for a cure,” like Mary Jane…

Half Marathon Thank You

….and I intend to “hang on” with them.

What This Means Exactly

While I have not decided exactly what this means, I know:

1) Team SOAR set a goal for itself of raising $100,000. We accomplished an awesome $64,643.03 and were the second-place fundraisers of the NYC Half Marathon LLS Teams. The team fundraising page will be open for a few more weeks. Feel free to get us closer to $100K!

2) I will be doing the Light the Night Walk here in Tallahassee on November 12, 2015. In the interest of not diluting Team SOAR’s work, I will hold off on posting my fundraising link (but never fear — it will come!!!).

3) I will target a “big” event in 2016 for Team in Training/LLS. I don’t know if I will be fortunate enough to go to New York again, but I will find a way to “hang on” along with Mary Jane and others.

The intent of all these words is to say, in as sincere and heart-felt a way as possible:

THANK YOU

Half Marathon Thank You

Why I Am Gettin’ Dirty**

**This is definitely a G-Rated post. I just love the catchy title!

I had one attendant at my wedding on August 8, 1992, on the Brooklyn Promenade in New York City, Mary Jane. Mary Jane and I had worked together at Fordham University for almost three years. We had shared many laughs, a few tears, and quite a few conversations about our mutual love of figure skating. I do have a serious picture of us taken that day:

Multiple Myeloma Advocacy

Photo Credit: Dan Carubia

But it is pictures like this that most capture Mary Jane’s enthusiasm (I wonder what she, my friend Audrey, and my friend Jennie were reacting to):

Multiple Myeloma Advocacy

Photo Credit: Dan Carubia

Although my return to Florida from New York and the busy nature of our lives as we each pursued our careers and grew our families kept us from seeing each other very much, we have always been there for one another, and especially enjoyed meeting up twice for the National Figure Skating Championships (we were in Detroit when the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding situation went down).

A few years ago, Mary Jane called me with very serious news: she had been diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma (I didn’t know what it was and had to ask). After a demanding, grueling course of treatment, she is in an excellent place, all things considered. However, there is no cure for Multiple Myeloma and true to her enthusiastic nature (see picture above), she has gone “all in” for participating with Team in Training to help fund research, support, and advocacy for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

I have lost track of the number of Team in Training events Mary Jane has already done, the number of people she has mentored, and the amount of money she has raised. I can be certain, though, that it is a lot and that she brought fun and encouragement to every single event. (The 13 minutes it takes to watch her Inspiration Speech is worth it, I PROMISE.) 

For my 50th birthday in November, I asked my family to send me back to my favorite place (New York City). I am always ecstatic to be in New York City but this trip has a purpose: I will be participating in the 2015 New York City Half Marathon with Mary Jane and Team SOAR (Spirited Optimistic And Relentless) For A Cure.

I was thinking about my participation with Team SOAR this Saturday when I ran the Swamp Forest Trail Race. Although race day wasn’t as frigid as it was in 2014, a surplus of rain in Tallahassee had made the trail muddy and treacherous. In addition, the heart rate issues I have been struggling with cropped up at a point in the race when I was feeling incredible and forced me to switch to a run/walk strategy 2/3 of the way in. Even though the race wasn’t easy, and my body did not cooperate with my race plan, I was thrilled to be making my debut as a member of Team in Training, wearing my TnT shirt. I don’t figure anyone who has dealt with leukemia, lymphoma, or other blood cancers really felt that their body was cooperating with them, either, so it’s time to stop spinning around in circles of frustration and direct my energies toward making a difference.

I have committed to raise $2,500 for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society as part of my participation in the New York City Half Marathon. Here is my plan as it stands now:

1) I am accepting donations via this link. Seriously, no amount is too small.

2) There will be a “pairs” workout on Saturday, February 7 at Badass Fitness at 10 a.m. This is the first “gettin’ dirty (by gettin’ sweaty) opportunity. In a pre-Valentines Day workout, couples (it can be spouses, friends, siblings, whatever) can partake in pairs-based exercises. A portion of proceeds will benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Sign-up is OPEN. Visit Badass Fitness, click “Sign Up For A Badass Fitness Class” and follow the prompts for the 2/7 class at 10 am!

3) Please join my Gettin’ Dirty Benefit at Madison Social. The date is 2/7 (you know, work out in the morning, drink in the evening!) and one featured bevvie is Dirty Tequila. A generous portion of the proceeds will go to the Leukemia and Lymphoma society. Here’s the link for tickets ($25 per person and a portion to goes to LLS).

I raised $500 for Autism Speaks in 2012 for my Boston Half Marathon. That was hard. $2,500 will be harder. But when it comes to a priceless friendship, I’m all in to do the work.

Multiple Myeloma Advocacy

Photo Credit: Fred Deckert

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The Cancer Color of October Is …

The Cancer Color of October is … not always PINK.

SONY DSC

It is October, and pink predominates pretty much everything because October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast Cancer Awareness Month is important to me because I am the daughter of a survivor and have seen countless friends, acquaintances, and fellow humans (women and men) be diagnosed with this disease. Some are (blessedly) still alive and thriving; others have passed away. As a woman, I face a 1:8 chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in my life. Therefore, for selfish reasons research should be supported. However not all “pink” is effective “pink,” and there are many other causes out there of which we need to be aware and for which we need to take action.

When Pink Makes Me See Red

I am wearing a lot of pink this month, and having been a multiple-year captain at Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, I am in full support of many efforts to raise awareness of breast cancer and fundraise toward support and research. Here in Tallahassee, October 2014 is fully in pink bloom, with many of our city’s leaders and brightest lights leading the way. However, it is important to know that not every product robed in pink does much good and to make well-educated purchasing decisions.

When Pink Has Gray Areas

It is also important to respect the connotations all that pink carries for people currently dealing with breast cancer, either for themselves or a relative. Sarah Thebarge writes eloquently of the evolution of her feelings about pink as a color representing breast cancer here.  She also wrote a superbly useful list of 31 Ways to Help a Friend Who Has Breast Cancer (visit it here) which goes beyond wearing pink.

But Paula You Said This Post Wasn’t Just About Breast Cancer!

It’s not. I want to encourage you to add some “blue” to your October observances (I know, now it’s feeling baby shower-ish up in here, isn’t it?). My friend and former coach, Jeff Kline, has stage 4 prostate cancer.

jeff running

Jeff Kline of PRS Fit

Jeff has devoted October to running across the United States with a goal of motivating men to get screened (his point is that if he had done a simple screening a few years ago, his cancer would have been caught at a time when treatment would have been simpler and the prognosis would have been much more hopeful). One of Jeff’s initial blogs about his diagnosis and decision to run cross country is here. Jeff and a team of supporters are running the Marine Corps Marathon on October 26, 2014, to raise funds for ZERO (an organization dedicated to ending prostate cancer).

M2EPC

In support, I will be participating in a virtual half marathon on Saturday, October 25, 2014. It occurred to me one day that the drive from my house to my favorite traffic light, The Optimism Light, is roughly half of a half marathon, so my route will either begin or end at the O.L. to symbolize optimism that men will commit to getting themselves screened so they can be around for their families and friends for a long, long time. (Early detection can involve a simple blood test. Read more about detection options here or visit this site to donate.)

Got it: PINK, BLUE, and … GRAY?

I have had this “pink and blue” post planned for weeks. One individual’s story presented itself to me via friends, though, and it is important (and time sensitive) to add it here. Andy Nichols is the brother-in-law of a friend (as she puts it “the brother of my heart.”). Andy has an aggressive glioblastoma brain tumor, which is in the same family of brain tumors as the one my friend Dustin had. When I learned that Poplar Head Baptist Church is holding a 5K race in Blountstown on October 11 in Andy’s honor (to help with expenses not covered by insurance as well as raise awareness), and that his friends wanted help getting the word out and generating as much participation as possible, I knew in a heartbeat that I would be heading west that day. If you are here in North Florida, please consider coming over to Blountstown and participating in the race. You can register via this link.

Andy and his family chose the "I have hope" phrase to symbolize hope for a cure for ALL forms of cancer, not only brain cancer.

Andy and his family chose the “I have hope” phrase to symbolize hope for a cure for ALL forms of cancer, not only brain cancer.

If you are not able to participate in the 5K or mile Fun Run, but would like to show your support by purchasing a t-shirt, sponsoring the event, or making a donation, you can contact Tiffany Nichols at run4andy@gmail.com or Clint White at 850-643-8584.

So Many Causes … Where Do I Go From Here?

I wish I knew! I have only scratched the surface, with a bias toward the fact that it’s October, that my mom (pictured in this post with a pink bird of hope) is a breast cancer survivor, that Jeff is running across the country to encourage men to get screened for prostate cancer, and that Andy and his family need our support on October 11. My friend Mary Jane, a multiple myeloma survivor, is organizing a team for the NYC Half Marathon in March via Team in Training so you’ll be hearing about that, for sure. As to “where do I go from here?”

cancer colors

This graphic is from www.crochetforcancer.org.

In a sea of choices, the best recommendation I can make is the same one I would make if you were drowning in a literal sea: clear your head, get your bearings, look for the surface, orient yourself toward the shore, and take action. Your action may be donating funds, running in a race, running for a cause (hello, Charity Miles and Stand Up 2 Cancer!), or simply telling someone who has cancer “I am here for you” or asking their family what you can do to help.

Whatever you choose, don’t for a minute let yourself believe that your contribution is too small or won’t matter.

My mom, Jeff, and Andy would surely feel differently …