Shen Goes Gold

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L-R: Ron Agostinoni, Sarah Olsen, Kaitlyn Gilbert, Brittney Decker, Don Flynt, Amanda Hayes, Janine Cammarata

Today many at the Shenendehowa Central High School wore gold for September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Gold ribbons were handed to hundreds of students and Brittney Decker, president of Nick’s Round Table, spoke about the importance of raising awareness and the purpose of the garden.

Don Flynt, who was the principal at High School East for 20 years retired last year, and I had the pleasure to meet the new principal, Ron Agostinoni. The first thing Mr. A (as the students call him) mentioned to me is that he knew one of the kids whose picture surrounded the garden–Emily. He is good friends with her family and felt an instant connection to our cause.

He then said that he and Mr. Flynt met a couple times over the summer to help with the transition. He figured Mr. Flynt would start with all it took to run a school. However, one of the first topics mentioned was Nick’s Round Table, the importance of the Memorial Garden, and our mission to help kids fight cancer.

 

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Don Flynt honored because of his commitment to his students.

Today, in addition to raising awareness for kids battling cancer, we dedicated a stone labeled with the word ‘commitment’ to Don Flynt. He recognized that in the midst of tragedy, our young adults needed a way to take action. He provided the space, tools, and platform for them to be empowered to help others.

Don Flynt has always shown compassion and integrity, and I believe Mr. A has the same qualities. We look forward to working with him.

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For all of our children who are in the midst of their cancer battle, we are right beside you. For those who have beaten this disease, we are ecstatic for you. For our children who have gone before us, we will never forget you and keep fighting in your name.

September is Childhood Cancer awareness month, but every day our kids struggle with this disease. Make a difference today.

Creating a Ripple Effect

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Abby and Matt, celebrating life!

As we raise awareness this month about childhood cancer, we show the harsh side of it; the devastation, the heartache and pain that our children go through. The posts about childhood cancer facts are very much appreciated, because facts don’t lie. When we are faced with the truth, we can no longer sit back and be complacent.

There are many ways to create change and face a cancer diagnosis. Abby Sayles and her family have shown us a positive and powerful way to battle cancer that is not only effective (Abby is about a year cancer free), but also has caused a ripple effect across the cancer community.

I first met Abby and her family after she married her nurse, Matt Hickling, in a touching ceremony at The Melodies Center. Just this act alone started by the tremendous support Matt showed Abby, raised awareness around the world about what a child with cancer goes through.

Dance to be Healed began to celebrate that support and is now an annual event where children and their families get dressed up, dance, and take time off from their treatment and worries.

For a few years, Abby has walked in our July 4th parade and jumps right into the activity of handing out candy and bags. She truly teaches us that Nothing is Impossible. She is living proof of that.

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Abby always raises awareness in style.

If that wasn’t enough of a ripple effect, Abby and her family started a lemonade stand where she raises money for The Melodies Center and this year for Nick’s Fight to be Healed. Giving back builds community and provides strength to the families who open their hearts to the support.

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Abby, 100% healed and still giving back!

Community makes a huge difference in healing. I truly believe that Abby’s positive attitude helped her to heal. She learned this from her parents and the amazing staff at the clinic.

Now that Abby is done with treatment, she stays connected to her cancer family, because connection continues that ripple effect. The more people understand what a child goes through, the more they will help. When someone who never knew about childhood cancer sees what Abby and other kids have done, then they move forward to create change. Before we know it that ripple turns into a wave of action.

How will you create a ripple effect? What will you do today to help a child with cancer? Doesn’t have to be huge. One stone can cause a ripple.

Courage

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This is Nick’s band. This morning I felt compelled to take it out of the box I have of his personal items. I usually just look at everything, but today I needed to wear it. Nick wore this band through his entire journey with cancer, and I feel his energy like a cozy blanket.

I think I needed to wear it because no matter where we are in life, it takes courage to live life as we wish. Situations and crises hit us when we least expect it, and when we are forced to change direction, our belief in ourselves can falter.

It takes courage to do so much:

…to express your truth even if others may condemn you for it.

…to leave the world you’ve always known to walk into a new life of cancer treatment.

…to care for those struggling through any type of illness–mental or physical.

…to redefine who you are in the face of tragedy and loss. It can be a physical part of you lost through surgery or chemo. It can be family and friends who can’t understand what you are going through. It can be anything you may not be able to do right now.

…to move forward without the one you love, whether it’s your child, partner, family member, or friend.

…to reach out and ask for help, when you no longer know how to help yourself.

I think Nick was sending me a message today that he wanted to share with everyone battling cancer or any illness that has turned their life upside down.

Be courageous. And when you feel your bravery slipping, surround yourself with those who will hold you up until you can stand on your feet again.

Revel in the power of love and the knowledge that miracles happen every day. Some of those miracles are our beautiful children who chose us to be their parents and guide us in the most mysterious ways.

 

An Amazing Generation of Cancer Fighters

 
 


There is a whole generation of young adults who are battling cancer.  Some are personally involved with their own diagnosis and fight daily against the raging side effects, the hormonal ups and downs of steroids, the uncertainty of their future, and loneliness.

Madelyn on left, Julia on right.

Today I went to The Melodies Center and visited with two young adults who have dealt with all of the above and more.  It’s only been two weeks since Julia, a 19-year-old who  relapsed, has woken up from being in a sedated state for one month.  None of the doctors thought she would come out of it as her organs began to fail.  But somehow Julia came back to see her mom waiting for her and amazed doctors and nurses welcoming her back.  In remission Julia now has to deal with aphasia which has affected her speech. Madelyn who is currently in treatment for Leukemia was in clinic and had shared a room with Julia a few months ago.  They have the same type of cancer, but lost touch after Madelyn was discharged.  I invited Madelyn to Julia’s room (with Julia’s permission) and both their faces lit up.  Madelyn accepted Julia’s hesitant speech and took off her wig so that they both displayed their beautiful bald heads. They talked about their treatment and how they wished the residents treated them as the young adults they are, not like little children.  In their own way they are raising awareness of how their generation–stuck between being a teen and an adult would like to be treated.  While they educate others, they lean on one another and erase that sense of loneliness that every cancer patient experiences.  They know what the other is going through and there is a sense of unity and healing that comes with that knowledge.  I’m so glad they have each other.

While Julia and Madelyn were reconnecting, another Julia and her friend Sophie were in the oncology clinic spending time with the younger patients as they waited for treatment.  They helped Esther paint a wooden heart with bright glitter paint, guided a sibling named Ryan while she made sand art, and kept 3-year-old Elsa busy painting beautiful birdhouses while I visited with her mom.  These young ladies and many others are part of Nick’s Round Table and they share the vision and goal to help these children heal.  They aren’t medical doctors (although some are indeed entering that field because of their experiences), but they spend time doing crafts, distracting children from their pain, and give each child a reason to smile while they are getting treatment. This generation of young adults know about loss, grief, heartache, and they are doing something about it so the next generation can have a more positive experience.

Raising awareness and educating the public about what children with cancer go through and what can be done is a major part of the foundation’s mission. Through a recommendation and references, my son, Stephen, was chosen to be a News Channel 13 Kids Who Care, because of his dedication to Nick’s Round Table and helping other children with cancer.  With help from fellow Round Table members PK, Alyssia, and Tyler, he told his story and why he fought against cancer.  Stephen, every member of Nick’s Round Table, and every young adult who raises money, awareness, holds a friend’s hand, comforts others, and fights cancer are making a difference in their own lives and the lives of children. 

See Stephen’s video below:

http://www.clipsyndicate.com/video/playlist/17571/4001330

They are the Amazing Generation, because they aren’t standing back and letting life take over. They are taking on life and living it fully, with intention, and dedication.  Whether these young adults are fighting for their lives, spending time with sick children, or spreading awareness, they all have a hand in winning the war against cancer and I’m proud of them.