There are certain events in our lives that trigger emotional reactions.

It doesn't necessarily mean a bad reaction is the result, it's just a part of who we are and our experiences as we march through life.

One of my oldest friends and I do mean oldest; we went through elementary school together all the way through high school and that's a really long time ago!

She is a widow too.  Her husband kissed her good-bye one morning and left for work, just like he did every day, but this particular day, his heart seized-up, he blacked-out and went head first into a tree and was killed instantly.  Medics at the scene said they think he was gone before he hit the tree.  He was in his mid 50's.  They had four young kids.  This was a great family and in an instant it was shattered.

This was 18 years ago and you know what, she just passed another anniversary of his death and she said the triggers that lead to all kinds of emotions are still as strong as they were after year one.  She and her kids do all kinds of things to remember their guy.  There's an annual hike, his favorite foods, they all still gather together to support one another.  They remember their missing family member with gusto.  She tells me she wouldn't have it any other way.  She embraces the triggers and for her, it helps getting through the sad parts of those tough days.

But it's not just on anniversaries that something will trigger a reaction.  It could be just a typical day and a song on the radio or seeing someone who has the same walk and "boom" there it is.

It happens to me all the time.  I sometimes wonder if it's a good thing to be reminded of Leroy moments so often?  But then I hear from others who have lost loved ones and they say the same thing.

We're all a little 'trigger happy.'


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When Sidney Kimmel gifted Johns Hopkins with 150 million dollars back in 2001, it was the largest gift of its time to Hopkins.

It sounds like more than enough money to spread around to all the great researchers that live at the lab bench at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center.  Surely one of them or even ten of them would take a portion of that huge sum and figure out how to end cancer.

But not even Kimmel himself reached out to that conclusion.  Instead when he made his gift he said, "The goal, with this gift, is to make meaningful advances in our knowledge of cancer."

He knew there could be no dramatic discovery that would END cancer.  He's a smart man and he knows enough about the science of cancer that "advances" would mean his money would develop vaccines to slow down certain cancers and there would be clinical trials developed that would someday turn into standard treatment for other cancers.  His dollars would also go to research that would be green-lighted instead of getting bounced around from one grant proposal to another.

Dollars translate into research in cancer world and that, in-turn, moves the needle against the disease.

Mr. Kimmel's huge gift is also taking care of cancer patients and their caregivers.  He realized the individuals living in cancer world are no longer living a "normal" life and their comfort and care is critical to the research and treatment development his gift provided.

$150 million dollar gift is a pretty big life line....let's hope it's enough.


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Cancer forces so many changes in our lives, but it can NOT touch an SOS that goes out to family and friends.

Cancer can't do anything about the response to our cries for help.

The cavalry comes in so many favors.  Meals are taken care of, friends pick-up car pooling assignments, grocery lists are magically filled and the kids find their friends are front and center with play-dates, movie nights and sleepover's that act as the perfect stress reliever.

There isn't a little person on the planet who should have to 'deal' with anything in cancer world.

And when we get dropped into a cancer center, strangers on foreign soil, it's important to remember 'veterans' of cancer wars from years gone by, have knowledge and experience and are ready to help our friends navigate what they are absolutely not prepared to handle.

The message here, don't forget to ask.  Anyone who has walked this path wants to make it better for the next family facing cancer.

We know little hints to help you navigate the system and every cancer center, or hospital has it's own system.  We know people who work in patient care, social work or nursing who have the ability to find those extra five minutes in their day to extend a hand.  WE know this, because we've been there and we've lived it.

Wouldn't it be great to never have to use our 'learned knowledge?'  I wish that would be the case.

Instead, we all know when we least expect it, that SOS is bound to go up and we'll be there, ready to spring into action.

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She is a busy lady.  Angels keep a full calendar.

She lives in cancer world every day.  She is the shoulder to lean on.  She has the outstretched arms always available for a hug.  She has the open heart and steady mind to listen to the heartbreak and respond with solid information or maybe just a whisper of hope to steady the unsteady caregiver.

She is a woman trained to guide and protect those who are trying to navigate a cancer diagnosis.

Today, she went to visit a loving couple: the wife battling a spreading cancer and a husband trying to advocate for her and make sense of what is happening to their lives.  It's was a tough day and they needed support.

My friend, the social worker, listened:And then she listened some more.  Years of experience have taught her how important it is to measure the stress in the room before offering any advice.   Slowly but surely the tension eased and an open conversation took place.

A new friendship, filled with trust and caring was made today.

Not a surprise, when there's an angel in the room.


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Fighter, soldier, survivor, patient, all words we use to describe our friends and family members navigating the world of cancer.

When I heard about my friend who's been undergoing radiation treatment for a tumor around his esophagus, I thought of how BRAVE he is to face his cancer, knowing what the effects of the radiation could mean.

He was holding-up pretty well.  Radiation brings with it, fatigue, skin rashes, loss of appetite, but it can also bring more serious side effects and he's facing one of those right now.  It's a set-back, a big set-back, but his wife describes him as "weak in body at the moment, but strong in spirit and we hope that's going to carry us far."

BRAVE....both of them so BRAVE.

Cancer builds brave souls.

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Leroy was "The Mentor I Never Met."

That's what she called him.   He was her guiding light when it came to blogging about sharing her cancer life with the rest of the world.

She blogged because she said she didn't want to be invisible to the world while going through her cancer journey.

Lisa Bonchek Adams found her strength, her permission to be brutally honest about struggling with cancer, from reading "MY Cancer."

And that's how she expressed herself; with honesty and openness and clarity.  She even wrote about it in the Huffington Post back in 2012.

"I followed Leroy's blog religiously.  My mother did too.  We would talk on the phone and sometimes the conversation would turn to Leroy, a man we'd never met.  "Did you see Leroy had a good week?" we might ask.

Lisa Bonchek Adams died March 6th from metastatic breast cancer.  She was 49 years old.

At one point she wrote "I am now Leroy."

Her breast cancer has spread to her bones.   She knew there would be no cure.

"Cancer is not a gift. You're not always given what you can handle. You don't always get what you deserve."

Lisa talked about how her blog allowed her to free.

"My blog is where I tell my story to those who want to listen and share my experience the way that Leroy shared with me."

"I was paying attention, Leroy, as any good student does."

And we listened, Lisa....we listened.


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Sam Simon died today.  His name may not ring a bell, but his creativity certainly will.

Sam Simon was one of the creators of The Simpsons.

If you ever watched an episode of "Cheers" or "Taxi" there was a pretty good chance you were laughing at scenes created by Sam Simon.

He won countless Emmys and was honored time and again for his philanthropy.

He was 59 years old and he died after fighting colon cancer since 2012.  At the time of his terminal diagnosis, he said he'd be giving away his fortune that was estimated at around $100 million dollars.

Because of his love for animals, many of his dollars will continue to go to animal charities, but to be sure, he also gave to support research in cancer world.

These were his thoughts about living and dying with cancer, they left the biggest impression:

"Cancer has been a fight, a journey, an adventure and the most amazing experience of my life."

"Somehow I ended up surrounded by people who love me and take care of me and will do anything for me." He's quoted as saying.  "That is happiness.  I think I may have had a problem letting it in before."

Cancer's "teaching" side.



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It seems like the cancers that get the most attention get months assigned to them.

March is Colon Cancer Awareness month and this Friday is "Wear Blue Day" according to the Colon Cancer Alliance.

I guess I'm kind of partial to colon cancer since it is the disease that took Leroy's life.  He was actually being pro-active when he went to the doctor to get his colonoscopy.  His mom and his mom's mom had colon cancer battles in their life times.  They both lived long, full lives in spite of those findings.  Cancer eventually took their lives too.

So I've had a front row seat to what colon cancer can do to a body.  Even when they say "we got it all," and the lymph nodes come back clean after surgery, some nasty wild colon cancer cells have already escaped and are on the hunt to find new, rich soil to set-up shop and cause problems.  It might not happen for months or maybe years, but in my experience, they can reappear when you least expect it.

And the fight begins again.

Colonoscopy has proven to be colon cancer's nemesis.  Early detection can made a world of difference and lives have been saved when it's been found in its early stages.  Science and research have also moved light years in treating colon cancer too.  Many survivors treat their colon cancer like a chronic disease now, pushing it back with new protocols on many occasions.

So if you can, wear blue a lot this month.  It might not kill any colon cancers but it is the acknowledgement that you are saluting those who have fought the good fight against a cancer that the American Cancer Society predicts will add over 93, 000 new cases in 2015.

But here's a statistic we can all hold onto: There are over ONE MILLION survivors of colorectal cancer in the United States.

Everyone looks good in blue.


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I don't know why today is different.

I don't know why today I miss him more than yesterday or last month or two years ago.

Maybe it's because I heard a song today that said something about 'never looking into those eyes again' and I've been bothered by that all day.

I don't know.

On days like this, and there have been a few in the past 61/2 years, I just give in to the missing because I can't do anything about it.

In fact, I'm playing his music on his IPod right now and it just feels right.


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We all handle a cancer diagnosis differently.  Do we share in this experience or do we keep our doors closed and make it a private affair?

Leroy made the choice to share his daily life while living with cancer because he truly believed he could help others who were going through the ups and downs of the disease.  His blog not only talked about treatment and care but how he felt his life was impacted after his diagnosis.

His was a public account of a terminal diagnosis and it was open and honest and at times, even heartbreaking.

Then there are those who don't talk about their cancer.  If they're lucky enough to survive their disease, that's when they sometimes step out of the shadows to make a difference.

I've met so many cancer survivors at the Kimmel Cancer Center who have taken their experience and turned it into a crusade to help others.  Some help other patients who are currently going through treatment.  Who better to take the hand of a patient than some one who has walked that path?

Other survivors raise money for research.  They have an appreciation for all the hard work that went into the time spent at the lab bench: the work ultimately turning into new and aggressive treatments that may have saved their lives.  Fundraising is the way they give back.

And sometimes it's left to the care givers to give back.  We walk, we run, we swim, and we ride bikes to fund raise.  We talk to newly appointed caregivers who never expected to become care givers in the first place, just so they know we were in that spot once too.

What we have here is another piece of the complicated world of cancer; Always challenging who we were, who we are and who we'll become.





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