Life with cancer… 4+ years later. (Please Pass This On)

Today is a day about truth.  Today is also a day about taking action.  Today is the day that, once again… the pain, hurt, fury and frustration has boiled to the surface… and I am fired up enough to write another passage about what it’s like to be a survivor of cancer.

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These messages were painted on the roads of the Tour de France before the peleton pedaled through.

Just as Lance Armstrong was pedaling through France this past summer, I was spending two wonderful weeks with my big sister Lea.  Diagnosed with leukemia on January 10, 2005, Lea has survived a barrage of assaults on her body, mind and spirit.  Not surprisingly, for those that know and love her… she is a unyielding fighter… who can reach deep into her soul and produce courage and focus that is truly incredible.  Many would say that Lea has beaten cancer, and by all medically relevant standards she has… but there’s so much more to her story, more that is easily ignored, forgotten or avoided: It’s the aftermath.

There’s a lot of hardship in this world… and my guess is that folks who have endured severe tests of the spirit, know a thing or two about surviving.  But like the person who climbs out the wreckage after a tornado destroys their home, or the soldier who spends months in physical therapy learning to walk again… there are certain challenges that take years and even decades to rebuild from.  Leukemia has been that for our family.  Lea beat hell out of her cancer, but it’s impacts are still felt everyday.

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You did it Lea… you really did!!

We first became involved with Doug Ulman and the LIVESTRONG movement in the moments after Lea’s diagnosis.  Through the tears and the nausea of the news, LIVESTRONG was the first organization that really tapped into our fighting spirit.  There was an unapologetic belief that there was strength in unity, and that hope was as powerful as any cancer drug would ever be.  We’re forever grateful and as a result we want to make sure that everyone out there understands how important it is that we unite together against the epidemic of cancer.

So today happens to be LIVESTRONG Day and there are ways YOU can help.  We are donating 10% of our annual profits to Livestrong and like minded charities… so our request isn’t for moola… it’s for involvement.

Here’s how:

1.)  Register your bone marrow:  Swab your cheek with a Q-tip at home for FREE as part of becoming a bone marrow donor.  If you’ve been meaning to do this, do it today.  It’s easy and you’re saving someone’s life!!!  PLEASE do this.  If you already have done it… THANK YOU!  Please write in and tell us what made you do it!

VIDEO: How to register / get tested

Here’s how to sign up for a free test kit (donations accepted but not required):

http://www.dkmsamericas.org/category/marrow-donors/become-donor

You might never be a match, but if you are… wow, you’re in the position to save someone’s life!!  You’re not donating a kidney or a lung now… so get that whole gory, life altering surgery concept out of your head right off the bat.  The act of bone marrow donation can take on one of two different forms, but 70% of all donations are taken in a procedure very similar to the simple act of donating blood.  The cold hard truth though is that every year 35,000 people need a donor and only 3800 will find one.  Bottom line: we need more people involved and you could be that one!

A great video that explains what the actual donation process is here:

2.)  Get healthy and get involved.  Go for a walk today, ride your bike, play with your kids, smoke one less cigarette, eat a salad… whatever.  Do something healthy for you and your family.

3.)  Livestrong: it’s not all about Lance… it’s about uniting against cancer.  Get involved through this link here. While you’re at LIVESTRONG, go buy some of their sweet gear, and wear it with pride knowing that you’re helping a great organization with your cash while raising awareness about cancer.  If you want to understand what LIVESTRONG is to survivors like us, here’s their manifesto:

THE MANIFESTO OF THE LANCE ARMSTRONG FOUNDATION

We believe in life.
Your life.
We believe in living every minute of it with every ounce of your being.
And that you must not let cancer take control of it.
We believe in energy: channeled and fierce.
We believe in focus: getting smart and living strong.
Unity is strength. Knowledge is power. Attitude is everything.
This is the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

We kick in the moment you’re diagnosed.
We help you accept the tears. Acknowledge the rage.
We believe in your right to live without pain.
We believe in information. Not pity.
And in straight, open talk about cancer.
With husbands, wives and partners. With kids, friends and neighbors. And the people you live with, work with, cry and laugh with.
This is no time to pull punches.
You’re in the fight of your life.

We’re about the hard stuff.
Like finding the nerve to ask for a second opinion.
And a third, or a fourth, if that’s what it takes.
We’re about getting smart about clinical trials.
And if it comes to it, being in control of how your life ends.
It’s your life. You will have it your way.

We’re about the practical stuff.
Planning for surviving. Banking your sperm. Preserving your fertility. Organizing your finances. Dealing with hospitals, specialists, insurance companies and employers.
It’s knowing your rights.
It’s your life.
Take no prisoners.

We’re about the fight.
We’re your champion on Capitol Hill. Your advocate with the healthcare system. Your sponsor in the research labs.
And we know the fight never ends.
Cancer may leave your body, but it never leaves your life.
This is the Lance Armstrong Foundation.
Founded and inspired by one of the toughest cancer survivors on the planet.

LIVESTRONG

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Ok… that’s it!  Thanks for hearing us, thanks for being involved, thanks to Tammy for donating her bone marrow to my sister… and most of all, thanks to Lea Morrison who inspires me everyday with her attitude, action and love.

To Lea: I couldn’t be more proud to be your little brother, and I want you to know that I understand how hard you work EVERY day to stay healthy and positive.  You have earned your title of Survivor the hard way.  I hope you will take a moment today, on LIVESTRONG Day to celebrate how far you have come!!

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  • October 2, 2009 - 12:09 pm

    Lea - Bri–

    I am crying (which is pretty impressive since I have no tear ducts that produce fluid anymore and need plugs in my eyes:)! Every single family member that goes through their own cancer journey is a survivor. Nobody “loses” their fight because they did not try hard enough or want to live badly enough.
    Thank YOU/Malia, Mum, Billy, and the fur babies for always encouraging me and believing in me. I get so bored at times talking about my longer than last year medication sheet, my limitations with life, and hate reading about others who are not lucky enough to be here weeping over their brother’s amazing tribute and blog. But none of you including my friends ever make me feel bad at all- in fact the opposite is true.
    I love you,
    your big (as in puffy steroid induced) sister, shaky (as in too many meds), but grateful as anything to be able to be alive and tell you that. I am proud of YOU! We are SURVIVING this disease- call it luck, fate, faith, etc. I still haven’t figured it out. The people who say cancer is a “gift” I disagree with. I would not give this to anyone I cared about or their family. There are lessons that are learned but there are also easier ways to learn those lessons.
    THANK YOU for keeping the fight against cancer ALIVE and DISCUSSED.ReplyCancel

  • October 2, 2009 - 12:41 pm

    Tammy - You guys are so amazing! Thank you for sharing your journey!ReplyCancel

  • October 2, 2009 - 1:43 pm

    Tina and Peter - Lea and Brian, We are two of your biggest fans! Your words are soo dang true. Lea’s courage and determination is obvious from the minute you meet her. A great pen pal and dog lover. Way to turn such bad luck into an amazing story and inspiring journey. Keep on truckin girl. Good luck in Boston. Love, the Locke FamilyReplyCancel

  • October 2, 2009 - 2:19 pm

    mum/Ginny Wedge - Bri and Lea, I could not be more proud of both of you than right now!!! This is definitely a wonderful and very emotional post. Brian, great job of getting the message out in a very meaningful and personal way. I can’t help but think of the people who are now sitting by their loved one’s bedside hoping and praying for health and wellness. We have been very fortunate and without many selfless people like Tammy, our lives would be changed forever!! Lea you continue to amaze me with your positive attitude and your love of life. I know all the medications, the billions of doctors apts. and limitations just never seem to get you down. I am very grateful!! Love, mumReplyCancel

  • October 5, 2009 - 8:35 pm

    Hearher Killeen Leonardo - Everyone should be lucky to have a brother like you! Lea is right, cancer is not a gift…I am not quite sure what it is after seeing so many people diagnosed with it. Lea is quite a survivor, and all of her family (Ginny, Billy, etc.) are quite an amazing support system. A beautiful tribute and post for a beautiful person. Thankfully, there are people like Tammy in the world that are willing to help others in a time of great need.ReplyCancel

  • October 6, 2009 - 10:58 am

    Debbie Chang - Hi Lea,
    What an amazingly stated tribute to a most amazing woman! Brian, your Mom & your husband have pulled together so beautifully to support you through a journey you never choose, but have managed to triuph in every way. I love you dearly.
    DebbieReplyCancel

  • October 10, 2009 - 1:33 am

    Marcia Blackman - Dear Lea,
    I so related to everything you were saying in your post. I remember too well the puffy, shaky grateful to be alive stage. It actually wasn’t that long ago. It has been several years since first “meeting” you on the CML list, you have had a long journey. You have come a long way and are well on the road to recovery from transplant. I am looking forward to meeting you in person when you come home to New England for your next exciting step of recovery! Healing Wishes XO MarciaReplyCancel

  • November 2, 2009 - 3:33 pm

    Karie - I just received my DKMS donor card in the mail and wanted you to know that I became a donor because of Lea’s story. I followed her story a little on the Glamour blog and for some reason felt a connection to her and to her story. I decided to become a donor because the world is a better place with people like Lea in it and if I can help save or extend someone else’s life then maybe I too can make the world a little better as well.ReplyCancel

  • May 6, 2010 - 10:00 am

    Jill - Brian, you have me in tears. The powerful words and beautiful photo of the strongest woman I know makes me speechless. Lea, I am grateful for everyday I hear your voice and see your beautiful smile. Having your friendship in this life is nothing short of s gift.
    Thank you for reminding me everyday why we are here. The NYC is for you, Bryan and all those who have been touched by Cancer. Love you both. JReplyCancel

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