What Makes Them Amazing

Featured from Left to Right:
Back Row: Stephen Cammarata with a photo of his brother Nick, Sammie Sagnelli, Kassidy Krenzer, Kirstin Hodges,
Marcus & Jaclyn Romano with a photo of  their brother Luke
Front Row: Zach Dymond, Ben Mayo, Nick Bowen, Nick Heald

Two years ago I started interviewing young adults who were either in the midst of battling cancer or had cancer as a child and were still dealing with the physical ramifications. In addition I interviewed the family and friends of Luke Romano who lost his valiant battle with cancer and I wrote about my son Nick who was my link to the world of cancer after he was diagnosed. 

Every young adult featured in this book gave back to the community and other cancer families through fundraising, sharing their experiences, offering a shoulder to cry or lean on, or leaving an inspiring legacy. Their journeys laid the groundwork for my latest book: What Makes Them Amazing: Inspiring Stories of Young Adults Fighting Cancer

From each young adult, I have learned that there is more than one way to get through cancer, to live with loss, to go on, or to give back; laughter and love can get you through almost anything; and there is always HOPE.

My wish is that everyone who reads this book will realize that “Nothing is Impossible,” as Nick told his little brother Stephen and that you will give a copy of this book to anyone battling cancer.  You don’t have to have cancer to appreciate the lessons these young adults share. You only need an open heart and mind.

Proceeds from the sales of this book are donated to Nick’s Fight to be Healed Foundation.  A copy of this book will be given to every pediatric cancer patient being treated at The Melodies Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders at Albany Medical Center as part of our mission to help children heal. 

If you’d like a copy of this book or wish to attend upcoming book events, please go to www.fighttobehealed.org for more information.

These young adults touched my heart and I know you will be amazed.

Clarity Through the Rain

Nick’s Run to be Healed 5K was yesterday, September 30.  All week I fretted over the weather and the number of participants that would come despite the rain. This is Nick’s Fight to be Healed Foundation’s largest fundraiser that determines how much we can grant to The Melodies Center in support of the ever important Child Life Specialist position and how many families we can financially support through the rest of the year.

Yesterday morning, I worried that we wouldn’t get set up in time and then the rain came, people got wet, and I’m sure many decided to stay home.  I was upset that it wouldn’t be enough–that we could have done more. 

But as I walked around talking to people (I could do this because all the fabulous volunteers had everything under control) I heard comments like: the event is well organized, look at all the great food they give, I love the duct tape wallets, the shirts, the carnival. But even better than that, was the fact that participants came up to me thanking us for helping their family or making a difference. The flow of love and support was outstanding.

I saw kids laughing, runners warming up, people hugging, bubbles flopping in the rain. I saw life moving forward and people supporting one another despite the rain. So I relaxed realizing that everyone at the event, everyone who devoted their time and money knows how important it is to fight cancer, raise money, and cause change.  But they also understand or learned that life has to continue, you have to live life, despite the pain that you know children with cancer are dealing with. They have to be able to have those moments of happiness and cherish them as these memories are what carry us all through the really tough times.

Nick’s Dash Participants running for a special cause!

So I thank everyone who made the run a huge success on so many levels and for bringing laughter and hope to families despite the rain.

Healing Kids by Having Fun

Have you ever met a child who didn’t want to have fun?  It’s a known fact that kids like to run around, play games, wrestle, dress up, and be with other kids having a good time.  But what if those kids are young adults and you are a 5-year-old with cancer?

That was the scene yesterday at The Melodies Center’s clinic at Albany Med.  Five young adults, Emily, Alyssia, Brandon, Sarah, and Becca from Nick’s Round Table visited children while they waited for their blood work or to get treatment.  Sweet Chloe, only three years old was very shy, but soon sidled up next to Emily, who helped her color some wooden dolls and decorate them with glitter and jewels.  Sarah and Becca met Piper who they had given a comfort bag to and they gave her a craft to do when she felt like it.  Brandon played some video games with a boy, which is a fantastic distraction. 

Then there was Joshua.  He flew into the clinic playroom like a boy on a mission.  He’s five years old and usually plays video games when he arrives, his mom said. But this time he saw five big kids sitting around a table with various arts and crafts.  Joshua picked a model car and Alyssia quickly set him up.  Joshua painted the car a brilliant blue, mixed with some yellow.  Then he made a necklace. When the nurse called him to get his vitals, Joshua sprinted out of the room and rushed back when he was done. He was having fun with these kids and didn’t want to miss a minute.

Healing Kids by Having Fun.  This concept is not an advanced medical breakthrough or a new chemo drug that will attack a specific cancer.  It’s basic human interaction. It’s about giving these children  something to look forward to–a distraction from the poking and prodding that has taken over their lives.  When you are having fun, you aren’t thinking about cancer and how it has changed your life.

It also opened the young adults’ eyes.  Each one there lost a close friend to cancer. They have experienced the pain and grief.  Now they see how bringing some fun and laughter to a child can help them heal or get them through a particularly difficult day.  It makes a difference and I’m amazed that they put themselves out there every day.

Sometimes it takes a miracle to save a child’s life.  Sometimes it’s laughter with just the right amount of fun.

Special shout out to Zach! It was wonderful seeing you and your mom and to Parker and his mom from Saratoga who I had the pleasure of meeting yesterday. 

Keep Fighting and may laughter and fun get you through each day.

Teens Helping Teens Fight Cancer

Friday, June 8 was the Relay for Life at the Shenendehowa High School’s Track field.  Nick’s Round Table, a teen advisory group, was in charge of the Fight Back segment of the evening at 11:15pm.  25 teens were lined up the steps of the bleachers and one by one they held up a photo of a sibling, a friend, or a classmate who either lost their battle with cancer or was still fighting. The crowd was silent and attentive.

They spoke about what Nick’s Round Table does:
Awareness: Raises awareness about pediatric cancer.
Dignity: Members treat each other and kids with cancer with honor and respect.
Hope: They provide hope through comfort bags, birthday packs and cards to help kids feel special.
Healing: Promote healing by raising money to support families, update DVD’s and videogames to make their hospital stays more comfortable.

They explained what others can do to help someone with cancer:
Courage: Hold their hands, go to appointments with them, share your strength to help them get through each day.
Laughter: The best medicine. It’s a great distraction during treatment.
Respect: Treat kids with cancer like human beings.  Have patience when they are having a hard time.
Strong: Be encouraging, optimistic. Don’t lose it in front of them, but it’s OK to cry.
Friend: Be a friend. Keep in touch. Listen. Be in the present moment when you are with them. Text. Watch a movie. Play a game. Be supportive.

Members of Nick’s Round Table–The Fighting Dragons Team!

Teens ranging from 6th-12th grade came up with these ideas.  They empower other teens to fight against cancer, inspire adults to reach out and make a difference. They ease their own grief by giving to others. 

Teens Helping Teens Fight Cancer.  I am so proud of them and am confident that some day these teens will grow into compassionate adults who will conquer cancer once and for all.