Friday, May 28, 2010


ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA - There are just a handful of things I can say ‘I am passionate about that’; it just takes a lot of work to put your heart into too many things. My God, my family, my mission, my country. Those are the tops, although to round out the list I would have to add ‘history’ as well. This weekend really is a fairly tidy wrap-up of just about all of those things. I KNOW you have no idea how I can link them all together, right? HA! Well, here we go. Keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle while on this ride, my friends, and please – no flash photography.

Arlington was supposed to be a tribute to George Washington at first. His relatives lived in the house (yes, including Robert E. Lee. That is one of those ironies that just tickles me). The house and grounds were appropriated in 1864 to become a military cemetery. There are a staggering number of incredibly brave Americans laid to rest in this location, and I’d love for you to learn more about it if you are interested. In 1929, President Hoover participated in the first Memorial Day event there, marking the first for our nation.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should let you know that my family is military. My dad, my brother, my brother-in-law, my cousins-in-law, my cousin; really, I can’t think of a branch of my family that hasn’t served our country. As a result, I have a healthy respect for people who serve. My children thank uniformed personnel when we see them at the zoo or in the park, and they all can sing the Marine Corps hymn and the National Anthem. And the Ray Charles version of America, just for kicks. I get angry when I hear stories of disrespect, and cry when I see faces of boys who have been lost while serving. This country, MY country, was established and continues to be the very best place on the planet. We have so much that we often times forget and ramble with inconsequential nit-picking – and what a blessing that is to have such freedom and free time. My grandpa (after leaving the country he loved to start over and make a better life) told me to read the Declarationand the Constitution and remember them. Remember that work, respect, honor and family are not rights; they are gifts. We are able to enjoy all of them here in America, he told me, but outside of our borders the world is very, very different.

So to all of you men and women who have done so much for us, thank you. Thank you 3-61 Cav, within your ranks is a family member who made it home – and I grieve for the families who can’t say the same. And to you, Kathryn George Frost, pictured above. She was a two-star general and was a well-respected individual. She stated that her military training gave her a keen advantage when she went on to fight her next battle. Sadly, she lost the last battle – it was against my old nemesis breast cancer. She’s resting at Arlington, too. Thank you, America, for letting me say things like this, and for allowing me to honor these people.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Walking In Her Shoes ... (um, skates)

COLUMBUS, OHIO - For all the right reasons. ALL the right reasons. How many of us can say that we get up every day, leave the ones we love at home and plow through myriad minutia to do something for all the right reasons? Even if your profession is a noble one (oh, say cancer research, oncology nurse, hospice volunteer, kindergarten teacher with endless patience, etc.) how many of you know at the end of the day that everything you have done, no matter how exhausting, everything was for the right reasons?

I’ve found through my travels, both real and virtual, that very often when someone battles cancer, they (or their families) are drawn to do one of two things: write a book or create a foundation in their name. Both, I think, are to help preserve their names in perpetuity and to help others. It is sweet, and will make a lasting impression. My friend Carolyn is a cancer warrior, but has taken a decidedly different version of her life-script. I think you need to know about her.

She was a young woman and brilliant figure skater when she found her breast cancer, and battled it fiercely. After she endured chemo and six surgeries, she decided to make her focus in life a simple one: be a mommy to her precious daughter, a wife to her wonderful husband and raise money for breast cancer. Period. It’s clean, it’s easy to remember and it’s all for the right reasons. Her nonprofit organization is called Skate for Hope, and her commitment is staggering. Go look on her webpage – there are 2 sentences devoted to her struggles. TWO! The rest is focused on getting money to the hands of people trying to take care of this disease. She’s been nominated for awards, has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for this cause, and yet remains one of the most humble and modest friends I have in this world. She is a quiet, gentle soul who is always smiling and calm up front but pedaling like mad in the back to make everything seamless.

She has created an event that allows the people to come see Olympic athletes in a tender and beautiful way, not only poignant but also totally accessible for even the most modest of incomes. These skaters donate their time (!! Come on, how often do you get to see that!) and many dedicate their skate to someone they love who has been touched by cancer. Not only are there stunning athletes, but Carolyn has been gracious enough to allow little skaters from across Ohio to enter the show. These little girls have no idea what a gift this really is – I’m sure to most of them it is a chance to display their talents or meet someone cool they’ve seen on TV. What they are really getting is hope. The hope and prayers of everyone attending that they will stay strong and healthy for the rest of their lives without ever having to worry about cancer.

I pray that all those little ones have no worries in their future beyond a Lutz and an Axel. I pray that as they participate in this show, their parents can look at them and instill just a portion of what Carolyn is trying to teach us all: that we are bigger than any show or any presentation. We are here to help each other, to care for one another, to build each other up. Life is far too short to be worried about anything other than being the nicest person in the room. And that if you are going to do anything in this world, be it a big production or just a little task, that we do it for all the right reasons.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Select * from life.time where text = “enough”

FORT WAYNE, INDIANA - When executed, that query will return “never”, just so you know. No matter how you set your variables. I was thinking last week about how I don’t have enough time, and how interesting it might be for me to do a database query on my time. After thinking for about a nanosecond, of course, I realized that I never want to know that information. I would like to say that I will keep working on the valuable bits of my time, if possible. Enhance and expand the good stuff. I was with my children last Saturday and we waited in a pretty long line for balloons, for example. If you have kids, you know that those balloons will typically last about 2.3 minutes, or until you get to the car, whichever comes first. If you have an obsessive child, however, you know they last much longer.

Anyway, so we are waiting in this line and I kept thinking about the mounds (and by mounds I mean Easter Island statue sized mounds) of laundry waiting at home. Dinner has to be prepared, and I don’t even have the ingredients yet. What’s left of the vegetable and flowers we started from seed need to be planted. What’s left after the new puppy found them, I mean. He’s particularly fond of the ones that seem to be the best growers. Naturally. So my check list, my database of unaddressed items, if you will, runs through my head endlessly.

We inch to the front of the line, and the kids are within 6 feet of the man making the balloons. I know for a fact it is six feet, because I am gauging the distance and I know I would fit exactly; my frustration has now rendered me exhausted. Maybe I can take a quick snooze while the kids are outfitted with rubber-and-air renditions of swords, scabbards and flowers. While I eyeball the floor to see if it might be comfy enough for me to lay down on, I am interrupted by one of my daughters. She is so excited she is shaking, delighted with the expectation of a rubber flower. She is so happy that this is happening that she can’t even speak. She just comes over to me and takes both of her hands in mine, and just smiles. A big, happy, nothing else matters right now kind of smile.

So yep, I don’t have enough time. My house will never be clean enough, my plants will always need to be weeded, there will always be dinners unprepared. But I can promise you this, gentle readers, I will always and forever do my utmost to make sure those little balloon moments happen for my family. And then I will try to remember them, as they are so much more important.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Laugh It Off

FORT WAYNE, INDIANA - It’s been a long week, and it’s not even over yet. I think when I travel, the work week that follows a weekend trip just So end of day on Thursday, I get a call I just have to share with you. I could have gone one of two ways with this; overreact and get angry or just laugh it off. I, as is my new pledge, opted for the latter.

Me: Vera Bradley Foundation, this is Heidi! (Smile, because they can tell if you are smiling or not. Really.)

Darling Caller: Oh, man. Really? Foundation? Are you just Breast Cancer, did I call the Breast Cancer?

Me: Yes, ma’am, I guess I, in fact, am just the Breast Cancer. (Ok, now really smiling because this is hysterical. How often are you identified as a disease and nothing else?)

Darling Caller: Do you know how to transfer me? I don’t want Breast Cancer. (Not just smiling now, trying not to choke with laughter. I DON’T WANT BREAST CANCER EITHER, SISTER, AND YET HERE I AM! And do I know how to transfer? Quite some time ago I mastered the manual dexterity thing, but shoot yea, let’s give the old button-pushing a whirl and see if I can actually handle it!)

So there you have it, my afternoon. This follows 4 straight days of new cancer patient/friends in the waiting, one close scare with a sweet friend (good news, Sarah is ok!) and my endless pursuit of research dollars. This poor caller probably had a pretty rough day herself, and was obviously in a big hurry. I needed a little lift, and she provided it and isn’t even aware. Thank you, darling caller. I hope the Heidi you were looking for and had a good rest of the day. And I don’t want you to get Breast Cancer, either. :)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


SHIPSHEWANA, INDIANA -   "Take a picture of my pretty ring, mommy!" said my sweet daughter. I obliged, happily. The kids and I stopped off to visit Sarah Davis in Shipshewana for a quick shopping spree before we headed home after a parade recently, and she fell in love with this sparkler of a bauble. I love her little hand, I spend a great deal of time looking at the hands of all of my children.   

I do so mostly because my children are just stunning to me, so beautiful that it takes my breath away (even the boy, even though I have been told repeatedly that I shouldn’t call him beautiful). I also look to see that they don’t look like me. That sounds a bit strange, doesn’t it? When someone says 'oh, you look just like your mommy' to one of my little ones, my heart just stops. I try not to let anyone see what I am feeling, but someday someone will pick up on it, I'm sure. No, please please please please don’t say that - they are not like me at all! 

In my family, cancer runs like blue eyes. If you are a girl, you have it. That’s why I scan my daughters every chance I can get. Oh, phew, she has her father's sense of humor, maybe she doesn’t have any of my traits. Thank heavens, she has green eyes (green, wow I didn’t even know they made eyes in that color) so surely she isn’t like me at all. I was so much taller than she is at her age, perhaps she will follow on her father's side, too. All of these things I seek because I don't want them to know the kind of gene pool they've inherited. Yes, I’ve been tested for the BRCA gene, no my tumor did not contain one of the known mutations. That doesn’t change the fact that the women in my family battle this disease, now does it?

So I look at my daughter's hand and thank God that it looks nothing at all like mine.  Hers is sweet and perfect and wonderful. Every day I go to work to get money for cancer research. I do this, dear friends, so that I never have to hold that hand while she gets chemo. If you are so inclined today, please consider donating for research. For all the little hands attached to sweet little girls that should never have to worry about their gene pool.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Another Mother

INDIANA AND OHIO - For the past few Mother's Day celebrations, I've shared with you the story of my own mama and how terribly much I miss her. This year, I wanted to tell you about another kind of mama. My friend Lita's mom is a cancer survivor (yay!), and we connected in a pretty big way when she was sick. Lita is fairly spectacular, so I knew her mom would probably be as well.

Spectacular doesn't begin to describe her. She has basically adopted my children. They get Christmas presents from her, our family gets awesome food baskets, we are spoiled by her regularly. For a few years now the biggest present for Noah under the tree has been from her, no question.

That leads me to acknowledge the mamas out there who pick us up and fill a bit of the void that is left when our mamas are gone. Of course my mom is irreplaceable, but there are a few ladies who do anything and everything in their power to make us feel a little better. Big hugs, genuine inquiries into our health and well-being, gifts; these are all mom things that we all need in our lives.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Broken, Broken, Broken

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - Before I even got on the airplane this morning, things were breaking and I was whining. Boo hoo hoo, woe is me. The wheel on my luggag decided that 5:30 am was just far too early and checked out. Done, no more wheel. Did you need that on your rolling luggage? Oh, sorry! Getting out of the car, turn the key and break a fingernail. Well, now I will look like a big dork at my speaking engagement this afternoon, won't I? And no time to spare to go find a nail file. (Yes, Vera Bradley makes a fabulous nail kit.:) I gave mine to a friend!) Finally, I drag myself into seat 5A on a plane made for people who are no taller then 4'9". (I'm 6'0"). Yes, gentle reader, you guessed it. 5A is b.r.o.k.e.n. Can't recline, and my knees are actually jammed into the seat in front of me, I just don't fit. Crack open the laptop; Outlook has decided that it, too, needs a little vacation. "Cannot start Microsoft Outlook. Cannot open the Outlook Window." So I'm sending emails to my office from my yahoo account, and just praying that they don't think I am some crazy spammer inviting them to be a part of my fabulous inheritance from Zimbabwe, should they just be willing to send me their SSN, bank account number and blood type.

As my son would say "mercible heaben." Well, twitter works. Thank you, Lord. Let's see whats happening in that world. Ah, the Blackhawks fans are still ready to grab that cup and bring it home. People were elected for this position or that yesterday, nice. They might be able to find a stop to that scary oil leak in Lousiana. Oh wait, what's this? A direct message from someone who thinks I need to see something, sure I'll click that link. Lady with breast cancer, always sad, always makes me angry at stupid cancer.

The twist is this. This lady isn't your standard cancer patient. When she goes for her treatment, she has a special guest that comes with her. Her son Braden comes as well. Not for support or encouragement, mind you. Braden is 5 and he has neuroblastoma cancer. They go for chemo together.

I know we have struggles, my friends. They are hard, they are scary, they seem endless. All I hope is that we can all learn that no matter how broken we feel, no matter how bad today is, there is always someone out there who has it even harder then we do. When I was in treatment, all I kept praying for was the well-being of my unborn baby. I was so thankful that my other children were strong and healthy. raden's mommy doesn't have that, sadly. This is a message more to me than it is to you, but feel free to embrace it as well. Snap out of it. Big deal, it's a fingernail. A piece of luggage. You are too tall and have to be smooshed for an hour. Shake it off. Visit sweet little Braden's page and tell me that his darling little face won't help you to realize what is really most important in life; and how important life really is.

Monday, May 3, 2010


PLANET EARTH, 2010 - NED, he’s the guy. He’s the one that every cancer patient longs to dance with, to have near them – quite frankly, we want him to stalk us. NED is the name we want to hear the second after we hear the oncologist say ‘Yep, it’s cancer, all right!'

His name is whispered among fellow patients as if he’s the dreamiest man you’ve ever seen – hence the photo above. Suave, cool, calm, witty and debonair. Just everything you want in a life partner. We patients think of him at 2 am when we can’t sleep, and we pray that someday he will come to visit us. When our friends tell us of yet another PET scan or MRI, we stop what we are doing and say ‘Please, God, let her see NED this time.'

Oh, NED. I better meet you face to face this August. If I don’t see you there, you handsome devil, I will track you down and find you. You will be with me, sir, better believe it.

NED. To those of you blessed enough to be totally unfamiliar, goes by the given name of ‘NO EVIDENCE OF DISEASE.'

Saturday, May 1, 2010

In Her Shoes

ZIONSVILLE, INDIANA - Here on this blog I’ve introduced you to several people who have gone above and beyond to help breast cancer patients across the world. They do so for many reasons; some because they have had a loved one who has suffered, some because they have friends or co-workers struggling with the disease, some just because they never want their children to be the ones to "walk in our shoes." The shoes of a cancer patient are tough to step into, believe me.

This particular group of shoes belongs to some amazing ladies. They have pledged to work as hard as they can to raise funds for research. These gals are active fundraisers, working many months to encourage others to help them with their mission. Last year, they raised over $4,000 in just a few short months. This year, they are on track to surpass that number.

Pretty impressive, isn’t it? Let me tell you the best part. They are all in high school. They are the young, amazing women of the Zionsville High School tennis team, and their lovely coach. They are young enough to not think things like "Oh, I’m just too busy. I’m too tired. I don’t really want to think about cancer research." They just say "We know what is happening right now, and we want to get involved. We want to make a positive change – IN OUR LIFETIME." Thank you, my remarkable ladies, from breast cancer patients worldwide. I hope you never have to walk in our shoes. :)