No Words

I've been composing a post in my head all day. I'm in the Twin Cities for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure--one of my clients. The post was going to be titled "love what you do" and focus on how much I enjoy and value the opportunity to work with this event. I wanted to talk about how, although it's hard, long work--although we work weekends away from friends and family and it's long hours--been up since 3:25 am in fact (and that's sleeping in)--I wouldn't change my job for another job in the world. How I feel like every minute I spend working on this account is making a difference. How I want everyone to be so fulfilled in their profession. I planned to share the moving story about Steven and Gilbert--two male participants I met at the Opening Ceremony this morning. I'll still share Steven and Gilbert's story, but the post overall has taken a turn.

As part of the event's media relations' team, I have the privilege of hearing all sorts of compelling stories. Today I stumbled upon two men with bright pink beards. After simply asking one of the men, "may I ask why you are walking?" my life has been changed forever.

I posed the question to Steven, the taller one. Steven lost his wife Ruth to breast cancer three years ago. Ruth was an oncology nurse.

The irony.

Steven has been walking in the 3-Day ever since. I asked if the two gentlemen were friends. They actually met while walking in Dallas a few years ago. Steven was walking in honor of his late wife. Gilbert was walking because his wife didn't have breast cancer--and he hopes she never does.

Fast forward to this weekend, when these two grown men decide to fly from their hometowns in Dallas to the Twin Cities for a different 3-Day for the Cure experience. When these men spray paint their beards pink and walk 60 miles in the fight against breast cancer. Every time I saw Steven and Gilbert today, I smiled. Their tale warms the heart. It is sad--there was an unnecessary loss to breast cancer--but the action these two gentlemen take is incredible.

My heart is still warmed by Steven and Gilbert.
And I still love my job.
But now I am pissed, now I am upset and this is why the blog post I've been thinking about all day has been derailed.

I may be jumping to conclusions--I am waiting for verification--but I am very troubled by something I saw on Facebook. A dear friend of mine, Lizzie, was tagged in a Facebook album. The album was titled "a tribute to Kelln Zimmer." My heart sank.

I admit I don't know Kelln well. She and Lizzie were Kappa traveling consultants together and that's really the extent of our relationship. But I heard SO much about Kelln from Lizzie's traveling tales and I know we met once or twice over the years.

I also know Kelln had breast cancer.

I don't know what happened to Kelln--but I have a bad feeling that breast cancer took her life. And even if it didn't--her life was still cut too, too short and breast cancer should have NEVER been a part of it. It shouldn't be a part of anyone's life. And it still is.

It's frustrating on so many levels. It's frustrating that given all the time, energy and money put into the disease, people are still getting diagnosed. Survival rates are increasing--and that's good--but that's not enough. No one should EVER have to hear the words, "you have breast cancer."

It's frustrating personally. It's frustrating I lost my aunt to (basically) arthritis one month ago, that my grandpa had a heart attack one week ago and that my grandma has Alzheimer's. THESE are the causes I feel compelled to support since they are my reality now, yet I feel like I must support breast cancer out of the fear I or a friend or family member will be diagnosed with breast cancer. And statistics show one of us will.

In fact, I found out just yesterday that my friend's grandma has breast cancer. It's a fresh diagnosis. She sees her oncologist for the first time Monday.

It's sad.
It's maddening.
It's distracting.
It just plain sucks.

We shouldn't lose people in their 20s to breast cancer.
We shouldn't lose anyone to breast cancer.

I'll do everything I can to support this fight. I'll do everything I can to support the diseases impacting my family currently. And I hope you'll do the same.


July 22

It was business as usual July 22; in fact, it even felt like a busier than normal day at the office in Kansas City. I drafted letters to send to media contacts in Chicago in preparation for the upcoming 3-Day for the Cure. I had productive planning meetings with my team. I completed expense reports. And as afternoon neared, I was getting excited for a night out at Zona Rosa with my cousin and aunt and uncle to hear Ron Cooley (their relative on the other side) play guitar. Little did I know an email I received around 4 pm that day from my dad, with the subject line "call me ASAP," would derail the day's--and following days'--productivity.

When I called him, he was frazzled. He was looking for my mom; asked which salon she typically visited for pedicures. My grandma had called my dad and said the family had been told to go to the hospital--that my aunt had gone downhill and downhill quickly.

I was shocked. She had been diagnosed with histoplasmosis just four days before. A diagnosis was good--so I thought. We knew it was serious, but at least they knew what she had and how she could be treated. Sure, she had undergone a minor procedure that morning to explore a bile duct leak but as my mom told me via gchat, she wasn't in "imminent danger." I remember laughing at that statement. It sounded so dramatic.

After I talked with my dad and tracked down my mom at Kala Nail Salon (thank goodness for routines), the texts came in. "She's real bad. She coded," was the first. And then another, "They revived her. But they have to breathe for her." As I began to shake, I immediately packed up at the office and headed to my brother's house. I packed up my belongings to hit the road back to Omaha. He and I debated a lot. Does he go or not? Do I go or not? There had been many ups and downs in the three weeks she was in the hospital and was this simply another down. "I could use the time in the office," I remember selfishly saying; still shocked I actually debated that. Once my bro decided to go, would he ride with me and rent a car to come back to KC? After all of these trivial questions, we hit the road in two separate cars; a 180-mile brother/sister caravan.

I, on I29, kept in touch with my dad, in Methodist Hospital, for the beginning of the drive. But when TFitch called around 8 pm, asking where we were and saying that we should go straight to the hospital--that he was heading up there--I knew it was bad. I just knew and even asked TFitch that if he got bad news while we were on the road, to just not call; to wait until we arrived.

It was all I could do for the rest of the drive to not think about the situation at hand. I had gotten a new cell phone the day before which wiped out all of my friends' phone numbers. Luckily, I knew a few off the top of my head and called. I called any number I could remember just to chat and focus on something else.

When we pulled into Omaha, my brother and I talked, trying to figure out the quickest way to get to Methodist. After a three hour car ride, we were worried about minutes.

The caravan from Kansas City pulled into the almost empty parking garage and TFitch got out of the Audi and walked toward me.

"Did she die?" I asked.
"Yeah," my husband somberly told me.

After that, I remember being locked out of the hospital and having to go through the Emergency Room entrance--one of my biggest fears in life normally, the ER, but I was numb to it. I remember Dr. Tarantolo waiting by the door for my brother, husband and I to take us to join the rest of our family and telling us in his most compassionate and sympathetic voice he was sorry for our loss.

Our loss. Our loss. To the three of us, she might have only been our aunt, but she was our aunt. An integral piece to a close-knit family. And my heart continued to break for those whom had lost something even greater. A wife. A mother. A nana.

I remember the hospital resembling a maze and finally getting to the family waiting room on the intensive care floor. I remember someone tapping my mom on the shoulder to point out that we had arrived and I remember my mom sobbing and hugging me so hard that her little midget frame (hey--I need some humor too) was pulling me down. I think we stood like that for 10 minutes. I remember my aunt--whom had also traveled in from Kansas City--telling me "we didn't make it in time, either."

And then I remember the request to go join the rest of the family in my aunt's ICU room. I remember the walk down the hall, I remember the events in that room so vividly. I remember seeing my aunt's body and not even recognizing it as hers. I remember where my uncle and cousins were positioned in the room. I remember looking onto Omaha through the window on the top floor of Methodist hospital, thinking the world was carrying on as normal out there while a group of 15 were inside breaking apart.

Twelve days later, I remember July 22. I remember it as I pull out those expense reports dated 7/22 with my messy signature. I remember as I email off those letters with July 22 in the dateline. I remember as I complete my missing timesheets (a perk of advertising agency life) and I peruse my calendar to see what I did that day. I remember as planning deadlines near and the work that came to a standstill has to be picked back up.

And we'll continue to remember. Today. Tomorrow. For weeks, months and years. We'll remember the day that changed our lives forever. And we'll always remember Aunt Deanna.