Thursday, June 17, 2010

Paying It Forward by Danielle Howard

“It is not the magnitude of our actions but the amount of love that is put into them that matters.” ~Mother Teresa

It is seldom in life that we are able to give back to the people that have given to us. Often, when we give back it is by paying it forward to another person. Yes, we have reciprocal friendships and familiar relationships, but returning kindness given to you from a stranger is rare.

This weekend, I was given the opportunity to do just this. Many months ago, I wrote of a wonderful group of men and women who were racing in a triathlon to raise money for Leukemia and Lymphoma. They have taken the time to get to know me, cheer me on as a move through the different phases of treatment, threw me a baby shower after Collins was born and have raised over 50,000 dollars towards research to find a cure for this horrible disease. Well, this was THEIR weekend! The triathlon was in Charlotte and I was able to attend. I was able to listen to THEIR stories of how they got involved with this wonderful cause, as they had been listening to my stories for the last six months.

The night before race day, I sat with them as they were given instructions for the following day. I saw expressions of fear, worry, self-doubt and I was able to place my hand on THEIR shoulder to say they can do this, as they had written to me so many times previously. I traveled with them to the track in the morning and watched as they prepared for their upcoming day. I listened to the prayers and pep talks. I watched this TEAM take their places as they began their swim. As each teammate surfaced from the water, I cheered. We cheered and cheered until the LAST teammate came from the water. It was at that point that the lump in my throat began to take form. I was the last one of my cancer friends to come out of the water. I cheered as each of them finished chemo and radiation, wondering if it would ever be my turn. As that last teammate made their way up the shore, I screamed and cheered as these teammates had done for me.

They biked, they ran, and as they did I was there to cheer them on. Each teammate passed with a smile. I watched as coaches ran along side their team to cheer them on. I made my way to the finish line to be present as Susan crossed the finish line. I watched as the ENTIRE team waited for their last member to cross the finish line. This team member has a special place in my heart. She is a fellow non-Hodgkiner whose cancer has recently relapsed. She raced knowing that in July she will begin treatment again. As she rounded the corner towards the finish line, to find a mass of her teammates waiting for her, she smiled huge and shouted “GO” to which the “TEAM!” was quickly given back to her.

It was this moment where the lump that had been slowly growing in my throat, grew wings and became tears. I stepped back from the crowd, took a quick stock of all that had transpired over the last nine months, six months, week and day. I smiled, raised my arms in the air, screamed out loud and let my tears flow.

This was an amazing experience. I am so grateful to the TEAM for loving me and letting me be a part of this. When this journey began I wanted nothing to do with this process. The thought of being called a “hero” was entirely too self-serving for me. However, as I sat in chemo and watched the number of people that were treated I realized that a cure needed to be found. From my chemo chair there was little that I could do, but I could lend my face and my story to a cause that could potentially keep another from enduring the torture of my last nine months.

I have undoubtedly strengthened the bond between my self and Susan, who I now consider Momma Bear, as she is always thinking of others before herself. She took amazing care of me this weekend and is a remarkable woman. I have made friends with people on the team I would have never met if cancer had not been placed in my life. Jo, one of the coaches, and my sister from another mister, said it best – I hate the way I met you but I’m glad you’re in my life. To everyone on the team, I love you! I have images from this weekend that will travel with me for my entire life! You have each made a mark on my heart and are amazing people, you will help find a cure, of that I have no doubt. And to my fellow and hero Jill – see ya in 2012!

This post is published here with permission by Danielle Howard and taken from her blog Thank you for sharing and inspiring us Dani!

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