I’ll never forget the day I heard the words: “It’s leukemia.”  It’s a weird thing – trying to move on from something so life changing yet, respecting the experience so much that you feel guilty ever fully forgetting about it.

The truth is, you never forget about it.  You just choose how to deal with it much like you do with any cards you are dealt in life.

I guess I have chosen to deal with it mostly the same way I have learned to endure all “bad” things that have happened in the course of my life – by forgiving myself.

When we get dealt whatever hand is staring back at us, waiting for us to hedge our bet, we often have no idea how to play it.  The only thing any of us often wonder in those next-move-making moments is how we got there in the first place.  What did I do to deserve this?

The answer is usually nothing, but it takes years to believe it.

After I forgave myself for all the crappy things I did before age twenty-five, I forgave myself again for being the only person to walk out of the hospital alive.  I had a horrible case of “survivor’s guilt,” but finally forgiving myself many years later allowed me to actually live the rest of my life.

While I thought then, and still think to this day, that it sucks the other friends I made in transplant were not afforded the same opportunity, I reconciled it by knowing that I once again had a choice: to honor them to the best of my ability.

Sometimes, that means journaling about the inside jokes we had during those 35 days at University Hospitals of Cleveland’s Ireland Cancer Center, and other times it means kicking cancer’s ass on their behalf.  Because nothing says SCREW YOU, CANCER louder than trying to RID IT FOREVER.

To that end, I am still actively volunteering at The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), this time, as the Chair for the 2019 West Michigan Man and Woman of the Year Campaign. https://www.mwoy.org/mwoy-candidates/1317

When I was asked to run for Woman of the Year five years ago, I immediately said no solely on the basis of the title.  I could already hear it again, as I have so many times in my life: Who does she think SHE is? 

I used to bother trying to answer that in various ways.  Then I realized any of us feeling apologetic about who we are, or wasting time trying to justify it to anyone who asked such a question in the first place, was simply futile.  Worse yet, it rendered me paralyzed from making a difference, helping others, and from authenticity and appreciation…all total deal breakers.

To be sure, I am a CANCER SURVIVOR.

I am also someone who has ZERO tolerance for unfairness, inequality, labels, and “otherness.” Which means, I have ZERO issue asking anyone and everyone for money to cure a disease that screams all of those things.

Seriously, why would anyone who is here breathing air on this very day today, tomorrow, and for ten weeks beginning February 28th say no to helping?

Anybody who has either gone through cancer as a patient, or as a caregiver who is rendered helpless in getting the cancer out of their loved one’s body, immediately understands what I am saying.

There is NO CHOICE but to help. 

I will continue to start ramping up the posts and ways to get involved as we near the official campaign kickoff.  This year, my husband and I are helping one of our close friends, Christian Lahnsteiner (who made the mistake of befriending us last Fall), run for Man of the Year.  He and his awesome wife, Simona, are here living in the States from Austria for the next four years.

Yeah, that’s right – new to this country and already making a difference!  As we like to say in both English and in German: Cancer doesn’t bother with travel plans.  It knows no boundaries or continental divides.

But it’s gonna know what hit it when Christian and at least eleven other candidates in West Michigan raise A TON OF MONEY to advance the research even further!

A cure is something I know we will see in our lifetime.

Please get on board with helping fight this good fight.  It matters.

(Donations can be made here https://pages.mwoy.org/mi/gr19/clahnstein beginning February 28th.)

25 days until kick-off!