Saturday, January 17, 2009

Caregivers LiveStrong

(Note: This is a long post, but it's worth the read, trust me.)

It is easy for me to always stay focused on the battle of cancer...on the patients, warriors and survivors. The past six months has brought people into my lives, like Luine and John, that are caregivers for people with cancer. In Lulu's case, her fiance just received a totally clean pet scan from his very serious battle with lymphoma (we're excited for you, Tim!), and they just settled on their wedding date finally. In John's case, the story is different, which John tells through his own words below. It's a reminder to me that we're not done fighting cancer yet. No matter how hard people fight, there are still those that lose the battle, and we can't give up in speaking our voices, raising money for a cure and helping family members and caregivers support their loved ones through it. My mom was an incredible caregiver for my granddad in his final battle with cancer (he passed away in December 2005), so I know how important that role can be in the fight.

I met John at the LIVESTRONG Summit 2008 in Columbus, OH. He was my first friend of the Summit, as we met up pre-Summit to go for a run around the state capitol before the Presidential Forum on Cancer. He was attending because he was a caregiver for his mom. Their family and his strength in telling her story, completely defines what it means to LIVESTRONG. Through his posts and emails, I was drawn into the world of Vivian (his mom), and her amazing spirit, wonderful family and battle with cancer. Without ever knowing me, she touched my life with inspiration, and I thank John for sharing his story. She fought with grace to the end of her time with us on January 5th.

John kept an online journal about their journey with his mom, which I encourage all of you to take the time to read. Click here. You'll find endless inspiration and strength in the pages, and I assure you that you'll draw more strength from this family that you'll ever be able to give them, even in this difficult time they face. I was truly touched by the eulogies that were posted (see site for all of them), and asked for John's permission to post his about his mom. I've included it here, and I think it speaks for itself:

John’s Eulogy for his Mom (Sat. in NY vers.)
On behalf of my entire family, including my Grandmother back in North Carolina, thank you all for coming today to honor and remember my Mom. It’s obvious to us that she was truly a special lady – someone who touched the lives of many people - in simple every day ways – who always put the needs of others before her own.

The combination of the warm gathering of friends and family these last few days, the comforting words and music of this beautiful service this morning, the glimpse into our family memories through the photos we’ve shared, through my sister’s touching eulogy a moment ago, along with the online journal we’ve been writing to chronicle Mom’s determined and dignified battle with cancer these last 13 months – there’s really nothing more to do or say.

I believe we’ve honored and celebrated her life in a way that she would enjoy and appreciate.
For those of you that have shared our journey through the CaringBridge web site, - we simply can’t thank you enough for that support. For those of you that haven’t been to the site yet, I invite you to consider taking a look at it sometime - to experience my Mom’s courageous and inspirational battle with cancer, - a battle she fought with unwavering strength, dignity and grace until the very end. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. But don’t feel bad if you haven’t seen it yet - because my Mom didn’t either, in fact, she never did. She was old school, - a self-proclaimed dinosaur when it came to computers and the internet…and proud of it. She really had no interest or intention of ever attempting to “log onto” anything - or email” anyone or “surf a web” – as far as she was concerned, - a cordless phone was high tech enough for her - and all she ever needed. She actually preferred a corded phone because she couldn’t misplace one hanging on a wall.

We did manage to print out the guestbook pages for her every few weeks - so she could enjoy reading all the warm wishes and prayers that were coming her way from our friends and family. She was truly touched, comforted and amazed – by the outpouring of love, care and concern that came from virtually everywhere – from as nearby as down the street in Charlotte and from here in New York and from as far as the other side of the world from our family in Australia – and the hundreds of points in between.

Andrea and I originally approached writing the journal on CaringBridge simply as a convenient way to communicate with our family and friends - to quickly and easily keep them up to date on how Mom was doing. But we soon realized that it had the potential to be so much more than that. We saw it as a way to honor and pay tribute to Mom’s spirited cancer fight - and to perhaps provide an honest and candid view into our lives - as we struggled as a family through this difficult time - dealing with something so unwelcomed, unwanted, and extremely evil and heartless.

We thought we could provide a sense of hope, inspiration, and strength to the people we cared about - by showing that an ordinary family like ours - can do extra-ordinary things for the people they love when challenged. I believe we accomplished that goal and it will remain a source of great peace and pride for us.

What we also realized - is that the journal was also serving a more selfish interest. We found that by creating a journal entry on any given day, we would immediately be rewarded with an overwhelming show of support from people near and far. Whenever we needed to feel that support and love, we knew what to do and you never let us down. Your guestbook entries, emails and calls have given us the very same hope, inspiration and strength - that we set out to provide. For this we are forever grateful - because it tangibly helped carry us through this most difficult time of our lives.

In closing, and in the spirit reflecting just how truly selfless my Mom lived her life every day, - I know that she would want you all to know - that her untimely death at the hands of cancer last Monday night - represented only one of more than 1500 other Americans that died of cancer that very day. More than 6000 people in this country alone - have died of cancer in just the 4 days that have passed - and more than 500 have already died this morning.

Cancer takes one American from us every minute, - ripping apart families, friendships and communities without conscience. I’m sure you agree that this is simply unacceptable.
So in honor of my Mom and the millions of other cancer casualties, fighters, caregivers and survivors, - I encourage you all to join the good fight to make this horrible disease a thing of the past - so that good people like my Mom - can be here with us longer - doing good things for their families, their friends and their communities. I’m convinced, - and so was Mom, - that together we can all make a difference. The time is now. LIVESTRONG.

Once again, peace, love, health and happiness to all of you and our heartfelt thanks for your friendship, concern, support and prayers.

Warm regards, the Zeidner’s, Scalise’s and Great-grandma Pierini

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this. It is so important to remember that behind the statistic of 1,500 cancer deaths a day in the USA alone, there are 1,500 individuals with their own lives, hopes, and dreams - and their family members left behind.

    It was so cold at training yesterday and I told my frozen teammates before we started that we were out in the dark and cold to run and walk, but all over, so many others were getting up to go off to radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy.

    Stories like you posted are a reminder to me of why I need to keep racing for a cure! Enjoy the day. Art


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