Tuesday, June 30, 2009


WARSAW, INDIANA - We are all, we are total, we are complete. We cancer warriors may have had bits and pieces of us removed, medicated or radiated, but we are still whole people. We are varied; there is not a segment of society that hasn't been touched by cancer, not a race, not a religion, not a height nor weight group that doesn’t wear our badge. We are all totally different and yet have so much in common. Here are my unique bits: I myself like hockey. A lot. Chicago Blackhawks, thank you very much. (Check out my Blackhawks sweater.) I am a mommy and think my children have flawless hearts and souls. I am a wife, and think my husband deserves more than I can ever give him. I am a daughter, and while I have a 'bucket list', I am sad to think that my mom never got to finish her own list. I am an American, and have voted for all major parties. I am an employee, and have fierce loyalty to Vera Bradley because they are American dreamers that actually included compassion in their dreams. I am a Christian, and in honor of that I try to love everyone. You may not be any of those things, but still you have cancer in your life. Doesn’t that just bind us all the more to one another?

So this is me, and I am the cancer everyman. We don’t just wear hospital gowns; so keep in mind that when you sit next to someone on the train, at church, at the ice rink, in the restaurant, in the theatre, at the game. We own the local pottery studio, work at the local insurance company, the local car wash, and in the cubical just down from yours. Thank you, to those that donate to help one or all of us. =We can't all say thank you, but I know we all wish we could!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Purple Mountains Majesty

PORTLAND, OREGON - So there I was, getting ready to speak to the largest crowd I’ve ever addressed - more than 4,000 people (mostly Lutheran ladies) and I don’t think I could have been more nervous. I had asked for a podium because I am a big coward and need a security blanket when I talk. They set me up with some cool futuristic metal lectern that consisted of just a few skinny poles and a little platform. Had I known I would be that exposed, I would have worn a longer skirt:)

Anyway, the crowd was amazing. I didn’t get to see their faces – which is a tricky thing when you are trying to judge crowd reaction. I tried to limit the number of times on stage that I laughed to myself (I always think some things are really funny, but I end up laughing alone. Usually regarding historical references.) This great group of Lutherans met in beautiful Portland and took the time to listen to me and learn my story, but most importantly to share their stories with me. There were so many people who had been touched by cancer, and so many survivors in the crowd. My favorite part was the number of people who had cancer more than 35 years ago; those type of numbers are so hopeful, aren’t they? 

So let’s hear it for the Lutheran Woman's Missionary League ladies and their favorite purple attire. Thanks, ladies, for including me in this amazing event!

A Girl's Best Friend

WARSAW, INDIANA - The company for whom I work, Vera Bradley, likes to be a 'Girl's Best Friend', and those of us that love them know they sure are! This weekend, I met a young lady who sets a beautiful example that we can all follow. When she was 11 years old she and her best friend did everything that 6th grade girls do. They hung out nearly every day, ran to each other's houses, etc. (They lived 27 seconds away from each other.) One day when her friend came to school, she was very upset; her mother had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. This was the first time she had encountered breast cancer, and they were both scared. At 11 years of age, all they knew was that it was extremely scary and dire. So for the next several months, she stayed by the side of her friend. She was there for her friend, and for her friends mom as much as anyone could be; comforting without knowing what this terrible disease really was. Now, years later, she still keeps in touch with this dear friend. Her friend's mom is in remission and is a strong survivor. This young lady is now a magnificent athlete and a beautiful ice dancer. She dedicated her time last weekend – in between tests for school, mind you – for a breast cancer event in Ohio. Thank you, Emily, for being such a compassionate and philanthropic person. You are the total personification of a ‘Girl's Best Friend’!

Monday, June 22, 2009

National Treasures

COLUMBUS, OHIO - So while God was handing out the good stuff to each person, I decided to go back for seconds to the ‘dorky history fanatic’line. The kids you see pictured here were a bit more judicious and went to the ‘beautiful talented smart compassionate’ line. They are all of these things, of course, but what I saw shining through this weekend was the ‘compassionate’ part. These are people who deserve to be admired (daily!) by all of us. Not because they can do more things on ice with knives on their boots than you and I can do in orthopedic shoes on dry pavement, no, not just that. Because they each decided to spend a few days dedicating themselves to raising funds for breast cancer research. The faces you are looking at will be very familiar to you soon, if they aren’t already. The next Olympic games will be a showcase for some of them, and I pray they all achieve their dreams. They stopped their crazy busy schedules to come to Carolyn Bongiorno’s “Skate For Hope” and give everyone who attended a reason to be in AWE. They did it for grandmas with breast cancer, for moms and moms of friends, for coaches, for mentors (hyperlink to the Dorothy Hamill post on the word ‘mentors’), the list is endless. They have all been touched, and they decided to do something about it with their staggering talents. THANK YOU Emily, Rockne & Keauna, Rachel, Evan & Emily, Ben & Brooke and Ryan (please be careful with those flips, man o man) for all that you do, for all you have done, and for all that you will be. Special thanks to Amy – you are the best substitute grandma I know. :) You truly are our National Treasures.

Friday, June 19, 2009

In her shoes

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - This is Catherine Hill. She works for the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer. She is a mommy, a wife, a daughter, a sister. She has a dog named Smokey and a Buddha in her garden. She loves her husband, who writes her poetry and plays songs for her on the guitar. She assembles and directs one of the largest amateur women's golf and tennis tournaments every year in Fort Wayne, Indiana. This week, she will be wearing shoes for all of us when she helps to crew the Vera Bradley team in the Race Across America. She loves bikes, everyone, so this is a really big deal for her. What say you give her a little shout-out and say hi to her on facebook in the comment section - and while you are there, learn a bit more about the rest of the team. Go Catherine! The home team is rooting you on!!!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

For the boys

TIPP CITY, OHIO - So there he was, this tall, handsome fellow with a stunning wife. I walked into the event at Urban Ava and they were just sitting there chatting. You know how you see people sometimes and you just know that they are clever and sophisticated and cool? That’s what Ron and Joanne are like. Just wow. So I am introduced to him like this “Heidi, this is Ron. He is our other breast cancer survivor/speaker”. WHAT? WHAT? This polished gentleman with the jaunty hat, a breast cancer survivor? So I chat with him and learn that he is a high school teacher, varsity basketball coach, proud father of an OSU athlete, and lover of people – both young and old. He is a really great guy who just happens to have also had a mastectomy. This isn’t just a disease that affects women; I say it all the time. Sometimes you can be this amazing and totally masculine person who’s been dealt the ‘beer hand’ in life’s little genetic poker game. Here’s to you, Ron. May you have a happy, long life and continue to tell people about how crucial this research is for all people – both girls and boys.