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Friday, February 25, 2011

Be the Change

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." ~Ghandi

We all have our "stuff" in our stuff, family stuff, the stuff that bothers you, the stuff you believe in, the stuff that makes a difference. This stuff is all influenced by our life experiences, our interactions, our relationships, our communities. It's different for each of us, and often is the guide for our thinking and our actions. So, this February 25, a day that marks three years since my sister, Molly, died, I ask you to think about your "stuff." What do you believe in? Who is important? What kind of world to you wish to see?

My "stuff" is what has pushed me in the direction of helping to fund cancer research. It's my beliefs, my pain, my history, my desire. I have been forced to recognize what is important in MY life has unfortunately deeply influenced by being a part of a family whose lives have been so deeply affected by cancer. The resulting priorities are abundantly clear, and I've tried to incorporate things I know a little about, like running, into making some changes that I wish to see. It's how I know to help. Because cancer has been forefront of my mind for so many years, I tend to be affected and inspired by examples of others in similar situations and how they have made changes in their lives....changes that affect many, many others.

My friend, Wendy, experienced the devastating loss of her two year old daughter, Emily, five years ago to a cancer called neuroblastoma. In the midst of their pain and recovery, she and her husband started a foundation called "Emily's Power for a Cure" that raises money for research and for making the lives of families affected by this disease easier. This week, a pediatric CT scanner and kid-friendly waiting room was dedicated at TC Thompson Children's Hospital in Chattanooga in honor of Emily. They had been through the testing with Emily when the option for a pediatric scan was not available, and they saw a need for a change. The foundation donated $300,000 to fund this center, and the ribbon cutting was covered by the local news ( There assistance is not only monetary but emotional as well. They reach out with support for local families who receive this diagnosis and try to alleviate the burdens that accompany the medical diagnosis. Their family is the change.

There is a local high school student, who I have never met personally, who lost his father in 2009 to colon cancer. Nolan is a pentathlete and last year, he decided to ask for pledges based on the number of points he scored in the All-State Pentathlon in Boston. He raised $10,000 for the MGH Cancer Center, and he is competing and fundraising again this year. Nolan created his own website ( and is reaching out to the community to support his efforts to honor his father. He is the change.

Two friends in the past week have signed up to run and/or walk the Country Music Half Marathon in Nashville at the end of April to raise money for cancer research at Dana-Farber. Deidre, a former co-worker, registered with Dana-Farber's "Running the Race Against Cancer" program to raise money directly for this wonderful institute in honor of our family. She created a personal website and committed to do this because as she said "words were not enough." She is the change. Gina is also running the same race and has asked that funds be channeled through the DFMC program of which I am a part. She is running because she "learned the death of someone close to you either stalls you or forces you to put one foot in front of the other." She is the change.

My sister, Mary, had hopes of organizing a bike ride in Chattanooga to raise money for cancer research. She believed in it, and although it ultimately did not bring about the results she had hoped, she knew that her participation and support might influence the lives of patients down the road. Many of Mary's friends are working hard to bring her hope of a bike ride to life, and are following through on their promise to her. They are the change.

These examples all have to do with cancer research, but ultimately, that isn't my point. It's just a long, roundabout way to get to my point because it's what I know and where my focus falls. The point is that these people saw a need and they are acting on it. There is plenty of change out there for each of us to make. It doesn't have to be complicated. It doesn't have to be an every day occurrence. I know that the time each of us has to commit is as varied as our interests, but sometimes it only takes a moment to "be the change." It's so easy to wait it out, to hope that change will come on its own somehow. I am as guilty of that as anyone, often believing someone else will take care of it. But we can all walk the walk if we truly recognize our priorities and just take a step

So, today I will try to find some hope in a day that brings sadness. I will try to see the changes we can make out there. I will try to walk the walk, especially for Molly. I will continue on my mission to help bring change in the world of cancer treatment, and will not give up on remembering the people and the things that were important to Molly.

Be good. Be strong.

The beautiful artwork embedded with this post are of Molly's red boots, and it was painted by Kim Clayton, a friend from high school.

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