Wednesday, December 21, 2011


JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA –  David Garrard, never heard of him. Until this week, of course, and now I know him as “Santa”. 

David’s mama died from breast cancer when he was 16. She was a single mom, struggling to raise her son;  imagine the impact that has on a child. He could have gone in so many different directions, couldn’t he? I think the easiest route might have been one filled with struggles and heartache. Instead, this young man has become a beacon of hope.

He recently had to take a break from his professional football career due to back surgery. During his medical break, he did something astonishing. 

Eleven single mamas with breast cancer (and their children) were his guests for the evening. They were treated to a great dinner out, and then a bit of shopping. All expenses paid, courtesy of David. He spent so much time visiting with the mamas, taking pictures with the kids, hugging and laughing that he completely forgot to eat dinner himself. Can you imagine taking 11 families – families that could really use a helping hand– shopping for Christmas? What joy that must have been.

So I don’t know you, David, but I love you. Because you are exactly what we all need to see – someone who scrapes all the silver lining off of the clouds he finds in his life. Then shares that silver with the people around you.  Have a Merry Christmas, sir. And thank you for your example.

Photo courtesy of The Jacksonville Times-Union

Monday, December 19, 2011

Goodbye, Eva

We are very, very sad to learn of the passing of former Miss Venezuela Eva Ekvall. At age 28, this exceeds the phrase "heartbreaking tragedy" in every conceivable way. I’m certain that her 2-year-old daughter would agree, should she even comprehend what has happened.

Here's more on this amazing woman from a previous blog post

Thursday, December 8, 2011


INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA -  This is Bryan. He’s just a regular fella, if your definition of "regular fella" includes "genius" in the description. He’s an oncologist and a researcher, a combination I have found to be life saving. Just speaking personally, of course.

He's a researcher at IU Simon Cancer Center and also works at the Vera Bradley Foundation Breast Cancer Research Laboratories. He’s made a pretty important discovery about neuropathy which could help countless cancer patients.  (neu*rop*a*thy – noun. Disease or dysfunction of one or more peripheral nerves. ) Older people and African-Americans seem to be most at risk for this development, which is often terrible and debilitating. Genetic biomarkers, for those of you that might not know, are the hot item in cancer research. HOT. Item. :)

I read this article with particular interest. I sit on the Grants Review Board of the American Cancer Society’s  Tumor Biology and Genomics division, so it fascinates me. I liked what it had to say, the potential for the future, the hope that is sandwiched between every line. I do have a favorite part of the article, however, the one that makes me smile the most.

I like that because Bryan is young. For the record, I know several of his patients personally and they refer to him as "adorable." But I digress. Bryan is young, gifted and already finding things that will help us old cancer patients get by. His potential is of a breathtaking scope; and allows us to dream of the biggest things he can accomplish. 

I want my children to know Bryan. To know him as the man that took care of business. That eliminated a big worry from their lives. Go go go, Dr. Schneider. We all love you, are proud of you and are honored to be among the many who help you with our funding. 

Photo: Courtesy of Indiana University Melven and Bren Simon Cancer Center

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA -  I don’t know her. Don’t. I’d love to meet her sometime (after her mastectomy) and just give her a hug and say: "Thanks for putting such a lovely face to this stupid disease. Sorry you had to join the club, honey." But at this juncture, we’ve not met.

She is, of course, Giuliana Rancic, the poised, lovely, glamorous superstar who has breast cancer and is about to go into surgery for said cancer. She and her husband, Bill (don’t know him, either) are on television and I can see why. Look at them for pete’s sake. They are spectacular. Add to their appearance that they are smart, witty and world travelers? Of course they are tv stars .

I find something endlessly amusing about this – NOT that she has cancer; but that I always get calls and emails after a celebrity diagnosis. HEIDI – you should call Giuliana Rancic. She was just diagnosed. Her husband has a house where you used to live. So call her.

We don’t all know each other, we cancer patients. While I think every patient and survivor I meet are spectacular, I can speak for them and say they don’t know movie star cancer patients, either. Nonetheless, however, I would like to say this: we are sorry. Sorry that you have cancer. Sorry you know what it feels like to hear that. So many of us feel for you, want to reach out and hug you, want to make meals for your family, drive you to chemo, hold your hand, read you stories, all those things. We feel like you are part of our family simply because you inhabit our televisions and a bit of our hearts. I’m sorry that we can’t tell you how much we feel the same things you are feeling. 

We are here for you, should you need us. An entire fleet of fans who would do just about anything you ask for help while you go through this. I know this for a fact, because many of the people I meet do this all the time for other patients. It’s a good world out there, Giuliana, and we are just happy you are part of it. You are in our thoughts and prayers. 

Photo Credit: NBC's Today Show

Thursday, December 1, 2011


MILFORD, CONNECTICUT -  Girls of every age need to do all they can to take care of their health.  Sounds like something we already know, right? Simple! Not quite so much. My friend Mary Ann at the Get In Touch Foundation realized that girls all over the planet are totally unaware of the importance of health matters, up to and including breast health. They are almost completely unaware of how to do a self breast exam, although we constantly tell them to do these exams. Talk about a confusing message!

So Mary Ann Daisy Wheel © to show everyone how to do this easy thing. This simple, friendly and totally non-offensive tool is now in the hands of countless young women. Across the entire world, nonetheless! There are nations that have tricky requirements about what can and can’t be mailed, but her new smartphone app has been downloaded in 50 countries so far. Imagine that reach, what an incredible success! 

Just one girl ... imagine if Mary Ann, in her breast cancer journey, was able to reach out to one girl on the other side of the world and give her a fighting chance by finding her disease early enough. Being instrumental in saving the life of another person is the most noble thing, and now Mary Ann can say she’s done that in at least 50 countries. 

Add her to your ‘wicked cool hero’ list today, please.