Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Giving back

Several years ago, I took part in a marathon, a half-marathon and a triathlon for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team in Training. As many of you know, Team in Training (a.k.a TNT) is a major fund raiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

I've been toying with the idea of participating in another fund raising event for them: a century ride near Asheville, NC next June.

I have also been toying with the idea of NOT doing the ride - primarily for selfish reasons.

I've been pulling out some of my old excuses. The "I'm too busy"or the ol' "What if I can't raise all the money?" ones.

Then, my oldest brother sent me a poem today. It was written by a young lady who did not win her battle with cancer.

It made me cry.

It also stopped my wavering. It's time for me to put my love of crazy endurance events to a good cause. You'll hear more about that later.

For this. Hopefully, when the time comes, you'll make a donation to the cause.

Things I Didn’t Know I Loved
(Jamie Connors)
Fourteen years old
I’m sitting in a wheelchair
Being pushed by a nurse down a stark white corridor
She stops to get my chart

I close my eyes
I’m running
Muscles flexing, adrenaline pumping
Sweat trickling down my forehead as the sun beats down on my back
No one can catch up
Speedy Gonzalez
Pure ecstasy
The best high in the world…

I open my eyes to the cold, harshly-lit hallway before me
My blanket slips
I adjust myself,
It’s extremely difficult
I’m practically out of breath
All seventy five pounds of me ache
Only skin and bones
I knew I loved running
I never knew I loved muscle,
Never knew I loved fat

My nurse comes back
She starts wheeling me again
We’ve been passing so many people
They’re all staring, but I ignore them
My mind is wandering
I never knew I loved daydreaming
I’m everywhere and nowhere all at once

The chair is still moving
But my mind comes to a complete halt
I feel myself flush
Don’t look at me, don’t look at me…
They look at me
I smile and look at something else, anything else.

I close my eyes
I’m walking into a crowded room,
Feeling all eyes upon me
I smile humbly, but it’s a lie,
I’m hot
I know I look good
I open my eyes
People are staring
The boys aren’t smiling back
Children, not knowing any better, point
Like I’m some animal in the zoo…
I never knew I loved blending into anonymity.

I fiddle with my hat
I know I look strange
I’m bald,
I have no eyebrows,
No eyelashes
To be honest, I don’t think I look that bad bald
Some people encourage me to embrace it
When I’m out in public
With everyone staring
I wish I could hide all of me under the hat
But when I’m all alone
I’ll look in the mirror and smile
I always knew I loved my hair
I never knew I’d love it gone

I never knew I loved fresh air
I take a deep breath of artificial oxygen
Trying to remember the taste of happiness
A cool refreshing September morning
Leaves changing
Dewy grass
Hospital air tastes horrible.

Turning a corner, I rub my eyes
The florescent lights are so harsh
I never knew I loved the sun
I close my eyes
I’m on a picnic
My mother is making sandwiches
Singing the wrong words to a Beatles song
My sister is cheerfully picking dandelions
The breeze is cool
But the sun is so warm and protecting
I feel so content,
Everything is right in the world…
I open my eyes
Nothing is right.

A lady walks by with a tray of food
A hot dog and french-fries
The smell makes me nauseous
I try to hide my disgust, but it’s hard
Cafeteria food, no,
Hospital cafeteria food
I never knew I loved my mother’s home cooking
Pans crashing
Earsplitting screams
Smoke and flames
But finally a delicious meal
I don’t think I’ll ever beg for pizza again.

My nurse leans over
She asks me how I’m feeling…
“I’m fine, thanks”
She smiles
So sweet and caring
I feel so safe in her care
I love her;
I love all of my nurses.
I never knew I’d love lying to a nurse

I see a little boy
He has cancer
So small and skinny
A little Red Sox cap covering his little bald head
He looks up at me and smiles
In so much pain and still smiling
It makes me smile.
They’ll do that to you,
Those kids with cancer…They know when you’re scared
When you’re in pain
Feeling insecure and all alone
That’s when they sneak up on you
And smile their beautiful innocent smiles
I never knew I loved how much a smile can say
It’s going to okay
I know what you’re going through
Be brave
Be strong.
They give me strength
I hope I’m able to give someone
What that little boy has just given me.

I look up at my mom and dad
My mom is fighting back tears…
Her big green eyes
You can tell everything about her from those eyes,
When she’s happy
When she’s mad
They always tell you the truth, even when she isn’t
I usually love that about her
But not right now,
Right now I don’t want to know what she’s feeling
My dad looks exhausted…
The man has worked three jobs all my life
And could still come home and wear me out
He wakes up every day at 4:30 in the morning
Forever running
Always busy
Never complaining…
I have never seen him look so tired
Like Superman holding kryptonite,
My poor Superman
I love them so much,
I never knew how much
I never knew how much they loved me.

We get to the end of the hallway
Double doors,
“You ready?”
No I’m not ready!
I’m terrified
I want to go home and hide under my pillow
I wish this was a dream,
A nightmare,
I want to just wake up…
“Yeah, I’m ready.”
My mother kisses me
I look straight into those eyes,
But I already know.
My father wraps his arms around me
So tight, not wanting to let go,
He lets go.

I close my eyes
Not trying to picture anything
Not trying to be anywhere else but here,
Trying to fight back the tears.
This is it.
I knew it was coming.
But it was surreal
It wasn’t really happening…
I open my eyes as the doors open up
Nothing has ever felt more real

I’m fourteen years old
I’m sitting in a wheelchair
As a nurse is pushing me down a stark white corridor
Just me and the nurse
Nothing to look at
No one to think about, but myself
I never knew I loved myself
Never knew I’d love doing whatever I could to save myself
Because I love myself so much


TriGirl 40 (okay - 41) said...

Incredibly moving poem - now I am teary, too. Thank you for sharing.

Definitely pass on info on that Asheville ride - maybe you'd like the company of a few other TRIgirls and we can combine fundraising efforts...

TriGirl Kate O said...

Don't worry, you'll raise the $$$. It's a great thing to do.

Denise W said...

All I can say is wow. I picture that little girl with another face-one of mine. Let me know when you (or other trigirls) do the race. I'm in on the fundraising effort.

Diane said...

I'm sitting at my computer sobbing right now. What a sad and beautiful poem. Makes me want to ride that century with you.