Kevin and his baby boy – nothing like getting tongue kissed by a baby!
Juggling a hula hoop, my toddler, my gym bag, my preschooler, an alarm clock/CD player*, an infant in her huge carseat (just babysitting Turbo Jennie’s baby, I did not pop out another one!) AND an umbrella, I cursed under my breath as I was forced to drop all my stuff to open the gym door because the person walking in in front of me didn’t look behind them and let it shut right in front of me. Granted, my pack-mule tendencies are my own darn fault but still, is it too much to ask to just look behind you when you go through a door? Three kids under 4! And a hula hoop! In the rain!! As I continued my mental rant and shuttled everyone and everything (including some random detritus lingering around the doorway) inside – being careful to hold open the door for the person behind me in the most grandiose way possible – I turned around to see… a teen in a wheelchair.
Every day a group of people who are disabled come and hang out at our Y – some of them even hula hoop with us on occasion! – and today this boy was part of a group was selling handmade cards in the front lobby. My face flushed as I realized how very blessed I am to be able to carry three kids and enough workout crap to run my own gym through the rain and still open doors. We went over and said hi – me with my hand firmly over my preschooler’s mouth because this is the same child who said to the Wal-Mart greeter in a wheelchair, “You look really stupid in that chair. Why don’t you just walk?” (Charming!) – and then I continued on, chastened, to check my able-bodied children into the childcare so I could go work out my totally healthy body.
Sometimes it’s a little thing like this morning that reminds me of how blessed I am but sometimes it takes a larger impetus to make me realize how much I truly have and what a responsibility I have to help others.
Last September, Gym Buddy Megan’s brother Kevin was diagnosed with rectal cancer. He’s 32. I’m 32. He’s a father to two boys, 3 and 18 months old. I have boys. Jelly Bean is 18 months old. He’s a husband. I have a husband. He has an ostomy bag. I have never been more grateful for my rectum. (Sentence #437 that I never thought I’d write on this site.) While he’s doing well with his treatments – he’s about halfway through his chemo and radiation – he writes, “I’ll be honest, I’m scared. Had someone asked me 2 weeks ago what I’d be doing right now, taking trips to the Vanderbilt Cancer Clinic would not have been last (that would have been a live taping of Oprah), but it would have been really low on the list.” He’s funny! I’m funny too! Sometimes!
Understandably this has been a really difficult experience for Kevin, his wife and kids and his parents and all four of his siblings. I still remember the day Megan told us the news – she started crying on the treadmill. You know it’s about to get serious when someone is crying and running and they’re not even watching Lifetime on the little treadmill TV. So to help support Megan’s brother and our Gym Buddy Jess who got a bone marrow transplant for Christmas and is now currently in remission from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, the Gym Buddies and I have all joined a Relay For Life team for the American Cancer Society.
I’m going to be honest: I’ve never done anything like this before. I hate asking people for money. I couldn’t even do the door-to-door penny drive in elementary school. But I lost my grandfather and an uncle to cancer and I know what an ugly, terrible disease cancer is and the devastating effect it has on families. And so I’m doing this. The 24-hour overnight relay will be the easy part (heck, it’ll even be the fun part – Gym Buddy campout!), asking for donations is the hard part. But I’m doing this. For Kevin. For Jess. For my grandpa. I’m not going to make a huge deal out of this and pester you guys nonstop – for the record, I have never, ever asked my readers for money before – but I am going to ask: It would really mean a lot to me and to the Gym Buddies if you could make a donation (click link to go to my donation page). Anything at all. Even just a buck or two will help. And if all you can do right now is offer up a silent prayer of gratitude for your healthy rectum, I totally understand. Thank you!
And speaking of helping a stranger out, Reader Carrie recently sent me this e-mail, “I’m trying to adopt a little girl from Columbia. Her name is Julie and she has Down Syndrome. I am a single mother with one child already and a Special Education Teacher. This is going to be a huge expense. Would you consider helping me raise money to bring Julie home? I know I’m a pretty much a stranger asking a huge favor but I really hope you’ll consider it.” Carrie’s note made me all teary – I have a huge soft spot for kids and especially for kids with Down Syndrome. I made a donation to Julie’s adoption fund and I hope you’ll consider it too. (Click on link to go to Julie’s adoption page to make a donation.)
UPDATE: Reader VAMomOf2 posted this comment and I wanted to bump it up here as her brother’s story and her warning are very powerful: “One of my brothers was diagnosed with rectal cancer in his 40s. He opted to not do the bag-thing so now only eats one meal and day, at home, close to a bathroom. I give each year to colon cancer research and will gladly donate to your team. I would also encourage everyone to get a colonoscopy. Because of my brother’s situation, and no family history of this kind of cancer, all his siblings were encouraged to get an immediate colonoscopy. I did and will probably have another before I am even 50. He knew something was not right but waited over 6 months to see a doctor – don’t do what he did!”
Kids, cancer, mouthy preschoolers – heavy stuff today. Do you have a loved one with cancer? Have you ever participated in a fund-raising race/walk-a-thon/relay/whatever? Do you have a hard time asking people for money too? Thank you guys so much! (<—You know you want to click it!)
*Hooping with music is about 200 times more fun! And my alarm clock is the only portable music player I have. Yes, I probably still have a Walkman around here too. Shut up.