Giving at the Table

First, I want to give thanks to Karen Patchell, one of the original board members of Nick’s Fight, yoga instructor, and pet therapist, for the clinic for making all the arrangements for our Thanksgiving holiday bags. She is such an integral part of this organization that it literally wouldn’t run without her.

Last Friday Karen and I attended a Spring into Health cooking class, which focused on healthy vegetarian options for Thanksgiving. It was in the chef’s house (Anouk) and not only was her kitchen amazing, but she and her cooking partner, Danielle, were warm and welcoming. It was like coming home from a long trip and being wrapped in a warm blanket and given hot chocolate.

When we came to the table, there wasn’t a rush to chomp down the food and get to the next thing. We savored each dish, gave thanks for being together with some people we knew and others who became friends over dinner. It made me think about how I came to the table. Do I give thanks for the food I eat or do I treat it as something to get done?

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Food is an integral part of our life. Having a full stomach and being nourished sustains our mental and physical well being. Eating delicious together can also be healing. When we sit together in a loving, grateful manner and take the time to savor our food, it becomes a happy and wonderful experience.

After I ate dinner with so many fantastic people, I was happy. I ate healthy foods and felt a sense of community.

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Annette Romano, fabulous board member, and amazing volunteers hard at work.
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Brittney Decker, President of Nick’s Round table, her friend Sonya (left), her sister Lindsay (right) volunteered their time to help out!
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Karen Patchell opening her home to organize the assembling.

This is exactly what these wonderful women set out to create and provide for our families at The Melodies Center. They lovingly put together bags of food that will provide satisfying Thanksgiving meals for our families battling cancer. They understand that giving at the table as well as giving of their time is a heartfelt way to make others lives easier. To give is to receive happiness.

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So from our foundation to your table–we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and a month filled with goodness, kindness, and positive steps to a healthy family.

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Muscle Memory

I couldn’t let the day pass without sharing a story about childhood cancer awareness month. Grief is like muscle memory. Your body remembers as easily as the change in seasons. As fall comes, we begin to crave hot apple cider and donuts, the crisp air, and early nights.

This is the time when my most damaged muscle pines for what has been lost. That muscle memory kicks right in at the beginning of September. The first day that Stephen had to go to school by himself without his big brother. Their first birthdays separated, the first Halloween dressing up on his own, the loss of innocence, the pain that seeps back in as stealthily as the leaves begin to change.

Despite all we do to bring about change, it sometimes feels that not enough is being done. No matter how much good I am surrounded with and all the support and love that I am given, my heart still skips and flutters with loss when I think about Nick.

Like so many other families, cancer took away one of my biggest joys, one of my greatest purposes in life. And it just sucks.

There are times when muscle memory is a good thing. For anyone who has lost a child, every season and every anniversary brings the heartache back.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, but every day I don’t have my son. So every day we should work like hell to find a cure, give comfort, show love, and make a difference for a child battling cancer or any type of life threatening illness. That is the kind of muscle memory everyone should have.

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Our family September 2008.

A Little Faith Goes a Long Way

For me, faith is believing in the unknown and that a higher power is guiding me through my life’s journey. For Nick Bowen, faith is knowing that God has a plan for him and that his family will always back him up as he pursues that plan.  It took a huge leap of faith to believe that he would be healed when Nick nearly died from a brain hemorrhage at age 11.  Nick Bowen is featured in Chapter Two of my book What Makes Them Amazing: Inspiring Stories of Young Adults Fighting Cancer.

Many years have passed since that Father’s Day when his family almost lost him.  Today Nick is a successful 24-year-old who lives with inoperable tumors.  Knowing that life can be taken away as quickly as it has been given, Nick lives his life filled with passion, laughter and love for his family and those that need his support.  Looking at Nick you don’t have to ask if he’s angry with his lot in life, with God’s plan for him–it’s plain to see that he has embraced his cancer, his life, his plan.  He doesn’t waste energy on the past, the what if’s, why me, or what will happen tomorrow.  He lives his life today and it’s freeing.

Nick Bowen (center) with his brother Ben speaking to guests at the book launch for What Makes Them Amazing.

Perhaps we can learn something from him. I know that one young lady may have been influenced. For the second time in four years, Brianna Chase is fighting Leukemia. Her family lives in Hudson, NY, but Brianna and her mother have been living in NYC as she received a bone marrow transplant.  Despite continual complications, illnesses, and pain, Brianna has found strength through her family and friends to keep fighting.  She also has looked to her faith to get her through. 

Brianna just recently found out that despite having new cells coursing through her body, she would have to receive 11 more months of chemotherapy.  This news nearly broke her. Of course we all want to live, but how does a 15-year-old find the strength to keep fighting, to feel good about herself, her body, and her time away from her family?  The morning after Brianna told her mom she didn’t want to do this anymore, she woke up revived, renewed, and resisting negativity.  I don’t know what went through Brianna’s mind that night, but I’m sure she did a lot of soul searching, praying, and deciding how she was going to live her life. 

Brianna shines as she takes a walk enjoying the fresh air after a long journey through a bone marrow transplant.

This photo was taken after Brianna decided she wanted to do what was needed to live a full and purposeful life.  It was also the first time she was out in public without a wig.  Her spirit is glowing and her zest for life is apparent.  Having faith in ourselves and a higher power allows us to embrace our purpose. When we can truly embrace our lives and all that comes with it, we are free to enjoy the present moment and heal our lives. 

Brianna and Nick are two precious young adults who have faith that they can beat cancer and live the life they are meant to lead.  So when you are faced with anything in life that threatens to beat you down, have a little faith that you have what it takes to get through.  Both Nick and Brianna will probably add that praying can only help.

To learn more about Brianna’s continued journey go to Support Brianna Chase