Grateful Challenge 2016

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Personal Gratitude

For the fourth consecutive year, Gini Dietrich and Spin Sucks have hosted the Grateful Challenge. While the base model is “try to write down everything you’re grateful for and get to 99 items in ten minutes” (as I did in 2014 and 2015), Gini’s 2016 version deviated a bit from that plan and so will mine (I mean, come ON, has 2016 complied with “predictable” in any way whatsoever?). While it will be utterly impossible for me to top Gini’s #10, gratitude is not a competition and I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect on (and share) the places, people, values, and experiences that made the year unique.

Note, the only way this list resembles the “write down as many things as you can in 10 minutes” model in any way is the fact that they are not in any particular order. These are the fifteen items that came to mind, in the order they popped into my head.

My Impromptu Trip to NYC in June

I knew that my friend Mary Jane, with whom I did the 2015 New York City Half Marathon for Team in Training, planned to do the NYC 10K Mini in June 2016, but never planned to join. I had my sights set on doing a Disney race with her in early January 2017.

Less than a week before the 10K Mini, I learned that she would not be doing the Disney race in 2017 because she would be undergoing a stem cell transplant related to her Multiple Myeloma iin Fall 2016. Five days before the 10K race, when we were messaging each other, she said, “come do the 10K. You have a place to stay.” Long story short, I bought a plane ticket, finished up all my work for Weaving Influence, registered for the race,and …….. became an unofficial part of Mary Jane’s team at the New York Mini on June 11.

Any day in NYC is a happy day for me. So grateful that my family made the sacrifice financially for me to fly to NYC on virtually zero notice, that Mary Jane and her family welcomed me with open arms, and that I had an unexpected four days in my happy place. It truly did make me happy. So happy.

Personal Gratitude

Mary Jane, Me, Mary Miner (we all worked together at Fordham University)

Our Michigan Trip in July

My husband, Wayne, had a class reunion in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in July. He and my son drove to Michigan, with stops along the way at places like the Corvette Factory in Bowling Green, Kentucky, Chicago, and Upstate Michigan. I got my father-in-law settled in respite care at an assisted living facility for eight days and flew up to meet them for part of the trip.

I *love* traveling and enjoyed this opportunity to reconnect with family and friends in Michigan, to be part of the class reunion, to take in a Tigers game, and to visit Greenfield Village in Detroit.

As grateful as I am for the travel, having my father-in-law completely dealt with by someone else for eight days was also BIG. I swear as much as I loved the travel, I loved having 24 hours in the house to myself and being able to get all the carpets cleaned before I picked him up. 

Personal Gratitude

At a Tigers Game on 7/17/16.

Journey to Mars NASA Social

On August 17 and 18, I participated in a NASA Social in New Orleans and Mississippi. The social was all about the Journey to Mars. This was my third NASA Social and my first to take place at a space center besides Kennedy Space Center. I loved learning about a new (to me) space center and who doesn’t love an opportunity to go to New Orleans?

So many things about this trip were highlights. The learning about NASA was excellent (including seeing a test firing of one of the engines that will be part of powering the journey to Mars), the food was fantastic, and the opportunity to reunite with my best friend from childhood was such a treat for my heart!

Personal Gratitude

Soooo grateful to spend time with Paula!

Personal Gratitude

At the Aerojet Rocketdyne Facility with one of the engines to be used to propel the Journey to Mars.

Personal Gratitude

Jonathan had never had beignets before (!) so we had to remedy that.

I’m grateful for New Orleans, a city that has overcome so much, for the friends and food there, and for the fact that NASA and its contractors put really big components together there so I had an opportunity to go!!

Harry Was Wrong

Maybe if I was a guy writing this …. I wouldn’t write this. But I believe Harry was wrong when he told Sally men can’t be friends with women because they only have one thing on their mind. It takes respect and discipline to be friends when life could have taken two people other places, but who better to have as a friend than someone who had chosen to respect your choices and still share generously in the journey of life?

Personal Gratitude

My friend and I shared a day visiting my childhood home and elementary school in January.

I’m grateful for another year of a friendship that proves Harry wrong. 

Family, Together

It seemed like time flew between my niece Jessica’s announcement that she and Eric were engaged and the day we were scurrying around, with two men in the house trying to figure out tuxedo pieces, and Tenley and me doing hair and makeup as we prepared to step into long dresses (while getting my father-in-law into a suit). But November 12, 2016 dawned sunny and perfect, and although I can’t say “perfect” often describes the ins and outs that are part of being a family, for a few moments in that day, we were reminded that more often than not we continue to make an effort to be perfectly united.

Personal Gratitude

I am grateful for Wayne (husband), Tenley, and Wayne (son) (and Wayne (father-in-law)).

Flexible Work

Because someone has to be home with my father-in-law, I am grateful that I have flexible work which contributes to the family bottom line. It’s not just the fact that it’s flexible work, though, it’s the fact that Weaving Influence has core values (of which flexibility is one) and strives to live those values daily.

Personal Gratitude

With Whitney Heins, Becky Robinson, Jennifer Kahnweiler, Christy Kirk, and Kylah Frazier, Weaving Influence Team Members and Supporter. July 2016

I am grateful to be able to work and provide care for my father-in-law simultaneously.

Girl Scout Cookies, Friendship, and Advocacy (Not in that Order)

I have been involved with Shot at Life since 2013, and in addition to the rewarding work of advocacy on behalf of children around the world who are vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases, I have made the most wonderful friends.

I also may or may not have been part of a scheme to hide girl scout cookies behind a dumpster at the US Capitol when security would not allow us to bring them in. I won’t say more, but just know there are girl scout cookies being consumed in the picture below and this picture was taken AFTER the Capitol Contraband Cookie Caper.

Personal Gratitude

I am grateful to know smart, caring women (and men) who are doing their part to make the world a better place. I am, of course, grateful for Thin Mints but I figure that goes without saying!

Stumbling Blocks on Fitness Road

Wow, was I ever optimistic way back in 2015 when I thought I could keep running, albeit more slowly, as long as I took my beta blockers before I ran. Without looking it up, I can’t tell you what day I stopped running (for now) but having to be taken back to the finish line of a recent 5K by a golf cart instead of my own two feet was a decision point for me.

Personal Gratitude

At the Stop the Violence 5K, BEFORE the race. Turns out Harper (the dog) and I each had our own struggles that day.

Still, I am grateful for the running community, that medical science (hopefully) will continue to find new answers to challenges like mine, and for the young man I run (walk) for, Gareth, who motivates me to keep moving.  

Reading

I love reading and have enjoyed some fantastic books this year. It would take an entire blog post to discuss favorites but I’ll chose two. A book I enjoyed on paper was The Wright Brothers by David McCullough. I was motivated to pick it up because I was at the Detroit Airport, needed something to read, and had just seen the Wright Brothers home and shop when I had visited Deerfield Village.

On audio, it’s so difficult to choose. I need to give a shout out to Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. Of all the books I have read this year, it’s among the top five at motivating and encouraging me.

Personal Gratitude

I am grateful for reading, for its power to unlock my imagination and ignite my spirit. 

My Parents

My parents have gotten the short end of the gratitude stick from me many times over the decades, but they have responded with grace and generosity. I am beyond appreciative.

I don’t have a picture of the three of us together from this year to share, but I am grateful.

Blogging

Oh blogging, how has it been seven years already? I pulled up a post from 2009 today and flinched a little bit seeing the long unbroken paragraphs, the image I may have pulled off of Google images (that I replaced!), the lack of a meta description, and other signs that I really didn’t know what I was doing back then (not that I know now!). But blogging has given me such a fertile outlet, has connected me to so many incredible people, and has provided opportunities to earn additional income. Thanks, blogging.

I am grateful for blogging, and especially grateful to everyone who reads my blog, comments on it, and shares.

Toastmasters

It has been a fun year at Toastmasters, and I am happy to have closed it out with an opportunity to compete in the District Evaluation Contest and the District Humorous Speech Contest. Coming in 2nd in the evaluation contest was a welcome surprise. Not placing in the humorous speech contest was a humbling experience that inspired me to keep on trying. Now life needs to hand me something hilarious to discuss! (I should probably be careful what I ask for).

Personal Gratitude

I am grateful for the opportunity to learn about speaking, evaluating, and running meetings from Toastmasters.

Eldercare

Eldercare is not easy. I imagine when the perspective is reversed, being the elder isn’t a walk in the park either. I have no rosy “this situation is teaching me lessons I need” kind of takeaway here (although I do believe that is true). But dad is our patriarch on the Kiger side and I am glad to be able to do my part.

I am grateful that despite the many challenges, we have so far figured out a way to care for dad at home and (hopefully) provide him a place where he knows he is cared for.

Interacting With the Most Incredible People

So many people come to mind who are on my “grateful list” for this year. Many of them ended up in my life through blogging, advocacy, or both. I have to conduct phone calls wherever I can since the main tv in our house is usually on VERY LOUD TENNIS, and I will not soon forget sitting on the floor of my bedroom. a couple of sheets of paper in my hand, talking to Mark S. King for our collaboration on a CDC-related blog about encouraging people to get tested for HIV.

It’s too long of a story for this blog, but I believe it is possible that Representative Gwen Graham would go to Costco with me, as we discussed when we met about Shot at Life. I may have been in an office in Washington, D.C., but it felt very much like I was on a front porch in North Florida. She has a gift.

Personal Gratitude

Visiting Rep. Gwen Graham in Washington, DC

Be open to meeting new people and hearing their stories; you will be grateful for what you learn.

Silence

I know ….. silence? I think often of the silent retreat I did in March. It was only six hours but those six hours were probably my longest unplugged period in a while. It was a different experience, one which made me question whether or not I really want to do a multi-day silent retreat somewhere (I do…), but it was a reminder that it’s easy to give in to the world’s distractions and lose touch with the places, people, values, and experiences that really matter.

Personal Gratitude

For the highlights of 2016 I’ve mentioned here, and for the ability to gather more moments in the year to come, I am grateful. 

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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…..

Run LLS Pin

Tequila and Tapas: A Social for Leukemia and Lymphoma!

“You aren’t going up for a blessing?”

I attended mass at Good Shepherd this morning with my good friend, Jacqui, who is visiting from New Hampshire.

When Jacqui returned from receiving Communion, she asked why I had not gone up for a blessing (I am not Catholic).

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In the space of a few seconds, I tried to explain how that really wasn’t so much of a “thing” at Blessed Sacrament, where I have attended numerous times over a span of years due to my in-laws being extremely active members of the parish, how I really do love getting a blessing, but that I was never exactly sure how much that was a custom at Good Shepherd. Eventually, I said “what do I have to lose?” and got in line for a blessing.

You know what?

THE SKY DID NOT FALL!

I received a lovely blessing from Father Foley, a priest I respect very much and who was integral in helping me find a sponsor for Carla back when I took on the responsibility of finding her a sponsor through Unbound.

There’s something else worth getting out of your seat for!

Tequila and Tapas for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS)

Note: Tequila Servings at the Tapas and Tequila Social will be slightly smaller than this!

Ever since I found out that Madison Social will be hosting a Tequila and Tapas social for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) in advance of the November 19 Light the Night Walk, I have been hoping the event will be a success.

If you’ve been around my blog for a while, you might recall that a Tequila Social was the main fundraiser for my campaign to raise $2,500 for LLS so that I could participate in the New York City Half Marathon in March 2015. The event was so much fun (photo evidence here)! Madison Social was the perfect partner. However, I did not manage to sell the number of seats I committed to (or hoped for at least!), despite an effort to get the word out through multiple channels.

It occurs to me that some people out there who actually like tequila and tapas may be “staying in their seats” simply because no one has asked.

Therefore, just like my friend prompted me this morning, here I am asking you, “are you going to go?”

Here are the details!

  • What:      Tapas and Tequila!
  • Where     Madison Social (705 S. Woodward, Tallahassee)
  • When      Thursday, 10/29/15, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
  • Why        To Benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
  • Cost        $29 per ticket (a generous portion benefits LLS!)

This is going to be a Spanish style social gathering, which includes a sampling of different varieties of tequila and a table of tapas! There will be a table of smoky red pepper hummus (and if you haven’t had MadSo’s hummus, you don’t know what you’re missing!), short rib tacos, shrimp lettuce wraps and mussels. The tequila flight includes El Jimador Reposado, Avion Silver and Herradura Anejo.

Tickets are limited, so visit this link to get yours now!

My decision to get up out of my seat this morning resulted in a blessing; your choice to participate in Tapas and Tequila night will be a blessing to your taste buds, your social life, and the cause of LLS.

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If you can’t join us at the Tapas and Tequila Social, we would love for you to join us at Light the Night! It will be on Thursday, November 19, at FSU’s Langford Green. More info available via this link. If you would like to donate, my page is here. I am walking in honor of my awesome friend Mary Jane, a Multiple Myeloma survivor!

nyc finish with mj

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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What Team SOAR Means To Me

As I shared in this post, I am participating in the 2015 United Airlines New York City Half Marathon to benefit The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and honor my friend Mary Jane. I will be a part of Team SOAR. Today I am going to break down that logo as I share my efforts to secure funding to help find a cure, support those currently living with blood cancers, and spread advocacy.

What Team SOAR Means To Me

 

The “SWhat Team SOAR Means To Me” in SOAR stands for “spirited” and we’ve got spirits, yes we do! I am excited that details have been finalized regarding the Tequila Social to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS)! Join me at Madison Social on 2/7/15 at 6 pm or 7:30 pm for tequila flights, tasty food offerings, friendship, and the knowledge that you are helping this awesome cause (Madison Social is generously donating a portion of the proceeds to LLS).

 

What Team SOAR Means To Me

 

As the “voice” of The Optimism Light, you can bet the “O” for “Optimistic” means something to me! While I do not know all of the members of Team SOAR yet (I am one of the few team members who does not live in or around Long Island), I see their training. I see their spirit, I see the fact that despite the challenges that blood cancers bring, they face the future with optimism (as well as a heaping supply of love).

 

 

What Team SOAR Means To MeAre you wondering what I am going to do for AND? Don’t worry, I have a plan!! We have spiritsoptimism, AND other ways to contribute! There are still spaces available in the Be My Valentine Couples Circuit Class at 10 am on 2/7/15 (details at Badass Fitness) $10 will get you a workout and fun! Also, for every $5 donated from now until the sheet is full, you get a square on my Superbowl Squares sheet. Whoever matches the half time score gets $100 and whoever matches the final score gets $100. You can donate here and I’ll confirm that I’ve entered your squares!

What Team SOAR Means To Me

 

Finally, relentless. Mary Jane is not the only friend I have who has had to look cancer squarely in its ugly face and decide whether to succumb or choose to fight, relentlessly. For her, for my mother, for the legions of children, adults, relatives, and strangers who have been affected by cancer, I choose relentless.

 

 

Even though I won’t meet most of these people in person until March, I am proud to be SOARing with this team (and looking at this picture, I’m not so sorry my training is in Florida!). I appreciate any support you can give!

What Team SOAR Means To Me

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 …