Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Always Trust Your Cape...

I have a confession.....I'm afraid to fly. I don't mean "I don't like getting in airplanes" afraid. I mean, "yell out loud, grab perfect strangers, need prescription medication" afraid. My husband jokingly asks if he can get a seat at the other end of the plane when we have to buy plane tickets. I'm pretty sure this isn't a secret because I tell everyone...especially when they start talking about flying. See, I tell them in hopes that they will change the subject. I'm afraid of a lot of things. Wading in the ocean (forget swimming), driving on bridges, failing my children, saying the wrong thing....the list goes on and on. For example, you could say that right now I'm nearly paralyzed with fear about hosting a 5k race for the community in hopes that we can show breast cancer survivors how important they are and how much we want to help them fight the disease.

I remember having tea with Sarah at Starbucks a long time ago and talking about some silly fear I was experiencing with my boys. I asked her how she coped with stress of every day situations. She told me when she started swimming competitively she would get almost physically ill before she competed. She said she started telling herself that whatever is going to happen has already been decided so it was unnecessary to make herself worried sick about it. I think about that conversation a lot. I think about all my fears and thinking of Sarah really puts those things in perspective. She faced the worst possible fear any of us could probably face......every single day. On top of that, she felt physically ill most of the time. Every day, she got up and she faced that fear with the same resolve. She didn't let it paralyze her, grab perfect strangers, yell out (although all those reactions would have been completely acceptable as far as I'm concerned).

I certainly haven't stopped having all those fears, but I think about the level of courage it must have taken Sarah to face the worst possible outcome day in and day out, all the while feeling far from top shape. I can get in a plane, swim in the ocean, take risks with my children, plan the F.A.B. 5k with my wonderful friends. The outcome has already been decided. I might as well relax and enjoy the ride (or the surf).

So....if this your first race (walking or running), do NOT be afraid. You are doing something wonderful to honor people like Sarah who face our worst fears every single day. It's three miles, one morning, one race entry fee, a few hours out of your schedule. This is easy.

"She was just one of those who knows that life is just a leap of faith. Spread your arms and hold your breath and always trust your cape". -- Eric Bibb, The Cape

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Then....and Now....

Wow....we have less than 5 weeks to the starting gun (note: this year we will test it prior to the official start) ;). We thought it would be fun to reflect upon where we are now versus where we were this time last year (plus a little perspective will help keep us motivated!)

For starters, as of today we have a little over 100 registrants for the 2nd Annual F.A.B. 5k. Last year, we knew we had a little over 100 registered the night before the race. That is a big difference! This year we introduced online registration at signmeup.com in an effort to streamline the process on race day and reduce data entry. This has helped immensely allowing us to better plan the race day and understand who our participants are. Any guesses on what the average registrant age is?.....to be revealed at a later date.

We have a wine tasting under our belts this year already. Earlier in April, we hosted a fundraiser at Vintages in Arlington Heights. It was a great success and we hope to do the same event next year. We raised over $1,500 for the F.A.B. 5k and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Last year, a secondary event to the race was no where on our radar screen.

We’ve got T-shirts printed already! This time last year we were still tinkering with our logo. Email us if you would like to purchase one (fab5krun@gmail.com). We will also have them for sale at the packet pickup-up and on race day.

This year the F.A.B. 5k has again received generous corporate sponsorships from our inaugural sponsors --- The John Buck Company, Running Unlimited, Glenview State Bank, Westgate Dental Care and Waltz, Palmer & Dawson LLC. In addition to these sponsors, we are proud to add three more this year: Awesome Design Contracting, Vintages and Wright Socks.

While it is safe to say we are ahead of where we were last year in terms of logistics, we are still working very hard on maximizing participation and making this the best neighborhood 5k it can be. Please help us by registering today and telling your friends, family and co-worker’s about our cause.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Why Sarah Chose BCRF

Last year, the race committee asked my wife, Sarah Lopez, which organization she would recommend as the beneficiary of the F.A.B. 5k fundraising efforts. Because she felt that breast cancer awareness was already being covered well in the public, she searched for the best research-focused organization and found the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Research leading to a cure is urgent for so many women out there with metastatic breast cancer - their lives hang in the balance! Although breast cancer claimed the life of my beloved Sarah after a courageous 5 year struggle, she and I both believed that her life was saved several times in that period due to new treatment methods and advances in research. Organizations like BCRF are making a difference. They support science that is giving families more precious, priceless time together - and we are getting closer to curative treatments each year. As I grieve for Sarah, my heart also goes out to the many families with a mother who might still be given the opportunity to see her children grow up if we can keep pushing hard and supporting research for a cure! I invite you to join us in supporting the BCRF through your F.A.B. 5k race registration and additional donations. The BCRF received a 4-Star rating from Charity Navigator for the 9th consecutive year and is the only breast cancer organization to hold an A+ from the American Institute of Philanthropy. It is known for high efficiency with over 90% of donations going straight to funding research. It's mission is to "Find The Cause" and "Find The Cure!"
Let's run the F.A.B. 5k together this year on 11 June. Let's make a difference!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Team Tiffers!!!

My wonderful friend, Tiffany, is an inspiration for those who are close to her and to those who hardly know her. Around this time last year, Tiffany found a small lump under her arm near her breast. Being that she was so young (28) and had no risk factors, she assumed it was most-likely a benign cyst so she didn’t worry too much about it. Then the tests came back and she and her husband received the difficult news that she had breast cancer. Tiffany has always been one of the most caring, funny, intelligent and beautiful women I know and these qualities have stood out even more as she treks courageously through this experience. She has had to make many hard decisions and endure difficult treatment, more than she lets most of us know. Through all of this though, Tiffany has been unbelievably strong and has used her positive attitude and unfaltering humor to make the best of the situation-- from hosting a pre-chemo party and a champagne head-shaving get together, to dishing out “chemo-brain” jokes, just to name a few. Watching Tiffany go through this experience with such grace and humor has made me admire her so much and given me a new perspective on what’s important in life. And seeing her fantastic husband, Dave, support her is also incredibly inspiring. Tiffany completed her treatment a few months ago and is looking forward to her life getting back to a new kind of normal.

When people are faced with life obstacles, it seems there is often talk about everything happening for a reason. Although I have a hard time accepting that there is any explanation to why so many wonderful people have to deal with cancer, I do know with great certainty that one good thing that will come out of this is that the breast cancer cause is going to have an amazing new advocate, and people facing the disease, especially those that are diagnosed at a young age, are going to have an amazing new supporter in Tiffany. She is already making an impact in fact-- her sister organized a team to walk in a Susan G. Koman walk for a cure in Chicago and “Team Tiffers” came in 5th place for the largest fundraisers, raising over $10,000! She has also shared her experience at several conferences to help others learn about and cope with breast cancer.

Tiffany is the toughest person I know and is a hero to me and so many people around her. I am really looking forward to participating in the F.A.B. 5K race with her this summer!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Noreen: A Fighter!!

One recent weekday evening our 6 ½ year old son Ben was in his usual rambunctious mode right before bedtime. Ben said, “Mommy, c’mon let’s wrestle!” Never without a quick-witted response, Noreen immediately informed Ben, “Mommy’s a lover not a fighter.” Without hesitation Ben then replied, “But mom you ARE a fighter, you fight cancer every day!”
This is the story of this week’s inspiration, my wife Noreen. In April 2006, our lives were turned upside down with her triple negative breast cancer diagnosis at age 35. With no family history and no apparent risk factors, the diagnosis was truly a lightning strike. However, from Day One Noreen has exemplified a true fighter attitude. Always staying positive, willing to take the most aggressive treatment options presented to her and always keeping her wonderful sense of humor throughout it all. After many rounds of chemo, mastectomy, radiation, surgeries and more chemo over the next couple of years, we thought she had beaten the disease until a small nodule in her lung was detected in 2008 and determined to be metastatic breast cancer. We then decided to engage a new team at Northwestern to help us determine the best course of action and treatment. They recommended a new combination of chemo drugs which proved successful and after an additional several months of chemo, Noreen went into remission for nearly two years.
Then, lightning struck again with a diagnosis last year of metastatic breast cancer that had reappeared in her lungs, as well has her spine and thyroid. Even though the newly detected nodules were small, it was still disheartening to learn of yet a third diagnosis. So the fight continues and Noreen is back into battle enduring weekly rounds of chemo and the gut-wrenching anxiety over periodic scans and subsequent results. Fortunately, we are blessed to have an incredible network of friends in the community that help us in so many ways as well as loving and caring family support. In Ben’s words, Noreen continues to fight cancer every day and we all remain hopeful she will overcome this disease yet again.
We look forward to participating in this year’s FAB 5K and applaud the efforts of all the organizers, contributors and participants. We will also dedicate the race to two very special fighters. My mother Joan who was diagnosed the same year as Noreen and endured a lumpectomy and many radiation treatments and is thankfully doing very well now. She is the primary caregiver of my father who has battled Parkinson’s disease for over two decades. Also, our dear friend Sarah, a FAB 5K Inspiration who lost her battle in December but deeply touched us with her incredible grace and dignity throughout her fight.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spreading the Optimism

Who is your hero? When asked this question, I’m willing to bet that everyone can think of at least one person whom they can call a hero. Maybe your hero is someone you look up to, or someone who is courageous, someone who you go to for advice, or guidance, or someone who is an inspiration to you. Sandy Parr is who I go to for all of the above: courage, advice, guidance, and most of all, an inspiration as she fought and overcame her struggle with breast cancer. For all of this, Sandy (or Mom to me) is my hero.

After her annual mammogram check-up in October 2009, doctors reported an abnormally large lump in her left breast. However even so, the doctors reassured Mom it was “probably fine” due to the preexisting, benign lumps already in her breasts. The saying “Mom knows best” proved to be true when she did not take “probably fine” for a final answer. After weeks of back and forths with doctors and the insurance companies, Mom was finally, officially diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer- the most aggressive of the forms. It was disbelief after disbelief as Mom calmly announced that she would need to remove her left breast and undergo eight rounds of chemotherapy.

However hard the news was, throughout every stage of her battle with cancer, Mom showed her strength, determination, and her inner fighter. She wasted no time as she became proactive about how to overcome cancer in any way that she could. She began reading anything and everything, and implemented the best changes she could in her diet and lifestyle. Now, over a year later from her diagnosis, Mom has finished her treatments and has recovered fully. At times it is scary to me of the cancer’s potential to come back, but this never even seems to be a thought with Mom who maintains her optimism about conquering it.

For now, it is all we can do to keep spreading the optimism in every way we can so that more people will be able to fight and overcome as Mom did. Sandy was an active walker in last year’s F.A.B. 5 K and both her and I are eagerly awaiting June when we can unite with fellow friends, neighbors, and community to remind us of who our real heroes are in the face of cancer.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Her Smile

After 20 years together, we knew each other so well that sometimes one shared smile could contain a whole conversation. But last December, breast cancer took Sarah where I couldn't follow. How do I face a loss so deep? Honestly, my heart aches to see her smile again, and to be able to smile back. but the memory of those shared moments is also a blessing - it's how we faced fear and uncertainty together throughout the course of Sarah's battle with cancer. Sarah was faced with the same choice every day: focus on the past and what you've lost, or focus on living today and hoping for the future. I'm still amazed by her courage to keep looking forward. Even last December when our eyes were often blurry with tears, Sarah refused to give in to fear. Each smile from her felt so precious, like a gift. Now it's my turn to give back and honor the memory of her courage. Despite all the fear and grief surrounding breast cancer, we can focus on taking action today and hoping for the future. I hope you'll join us this year and run the F.A.B. 5k on Sarah's birthday. Together, we can make a difference! Each fund raising event gets us a little closer to that future when breast cancer can't take away our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters anymore.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Julie is Good To Go! An Inspiration!

Survivor: one who copes well with difficulties in their lives; one who survives an event after others have died. These definitions describe my sister Julie today. Almost 3 years ago Julie was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. Shocked is an understatement for what rippled through our family. After dealing for so many years with my oldest sister, Charmaine’s cancer, we found ourselves once again starting a new battle with the “beast.”

Julie had always been “the caregiver” for Charmaine. They were closer than two sisters, they were best friends. Julie went with Charmaine to the doctor took notes and listened when maybe Charmaine would not. As the dynamic duo they were, Charmaine & Julie endured their chemotherapy & radiation together. They were their own support group, their own angels. Through her own battles she continued to be an advocate for my sister Charmaine.

March 8th of last year, Charmaine’s battle ended but Julie’s forged on. She began her reconstructive process and last FAB 5k found her recovering from the final stages of reconstructive surgery. My sister Julie is stronger than she knows and a force to be reckoned with and she has proven to be the “Superhero” we all knew she could be. I am inspired by Julie’s strength, tenacity and unwavering loyalty. My sister has taken her experience with breast cancer and gained a new sense of self. She is challenging herself in small and big ways. Julie, her three boys and her husband will join us on race day to Fight Against Breast cancer (F.A.B.) As Charmaine always said, Julie is getting ready to be GOOD TO GO! Are you?

Friday, March 4, 2011

The true meaning of generosity.....

We are awe struck from the amount of generosity we have received throughout this F.A.B. 5K experience. I always knew people were generous, just not to this extent. These people are not just our wonderful friends and families, but strangers as well. This race holds a special place in all of our hearts in so many ways it's hard to put into words. My Mom would have been amazed by what this race has been able to accomplish and the support it has received. She was the most generous person I know; her generosity was about giving her time and herself. She would have helped anyone who needed it, even if it was a stranger. I think generosity comes is so many forms, it's monumental, it's time selflessness, and much more. Not only has my Mom taught me this, but all of the people who helped us through this race, YOU have reminded us of the meaning of generosity. Thank you so much for a great life lesson that we will always treasure!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Why show up and do it?

I don't think one blog entry will be able to adequately summarize what's been going on in "FAB 5K world" over the past 6 months. Unfortunately, the beginning of 2011 started similarly to the early months of 2010 for many of us. Sarah, who was a huge inspiration to us all, passed away at the end of December. Sarah and her family inspired us by fighting this beast we call Breast Cancer with a fervor that I can't even begin to imagine myself doing. She and her husband's acceptance and courage through this most recent part of their journey is no different.

I spent the first month of this year too sad and angry to even begin thinking about planning the second FAB 5K. My mind has been peppered with the never ending question, "Why"? Why did this happen to Sarah? Her husband and beautiful boys? Charmaine? Barb? So many others? Why can't they find a cure already? Why organize a race if we can't make a huge enough dent...save just one person?

Then, a lovely person (who, at 16, lost her mom to Breast Cancer) gave me a book to read; Promise Me by Nancy G. Brinker. Only 25 pages into the book, I know why. To quote Nancy, "....moment meets messenger, information becomes action. Hearts and minds shift to a new paradigm, money happens, and it all comes together".

Our inaugural race served it's purpose on so many levels. First and foremost, it lifted the spirits of Sarah, Alan, Ben, Sam and Sarah's brother, Thomas. I will never forget her huge smile on that day. Our gathering showed Christine as well as Charmaine's and Barb's family how much they mean to us and our community. The event raised a great deal of money within a small amount of time for Breast Cancer Research; the only thing that's really going to get rid of this disease. Breast Cancer survivors and people affected by breast cancer came together to show one another love and support. Finally, it brought beauty in the face of something so horrible.

There are a lot of Breast Cancer organizations and events out there. It's not a competition - it's a coalition. From a grassroots level, our race shows our community how much we cherish and appreciate one another. We demonstrated that when someone needs us, we'll show up and do what needs to be done. That's WHY.

This year's race will take place (very poignantly) on Sarah's 40th birthday: June 11, 2011 at Patton Elementary School in Arlington Heights. Sarah, Charmaine, Barb, Christine and Janet were our catalysts. It was when, "moment met messenger" and we're going to keep doing it. We all need to keep at it because it needs to be done. That's why.