Fight Cancer Now

Day 243
What a night! It was hot and muggy, exhilarating and emotional. New York Times writer / blogger / survivor Dana Jennings’ inspiring opening remarks whooshed us right into a  a survivor’s lap around the track at Brookdale Park at 7:15 last night which for many — myself included —  was the most meaningful part of the first Montclair Relay 4 Life evening.

Survivors walked hand-in-hand with loved ones of all ages; a team of young people carried the official Relay banner , while our strong walkers Nanci, Alex, Elaine, Toni, and Donna carried the snap-looking MyBigWalk banner that was designed and painted by Lori Loehbelson.

Toni saw a small girl checking in as a survivor receive a pair of purple wings to affix on her tiny shoulders; Dana spoke about being a “sage warriors,” who “will not let cancer define us.” The survivor walk was led by a cadre of young people including a young man with huge black plugs in each ear and a funky purple bandana on his head, and after the first lap Toni — who is in her sixth cancer-free year — grabbed my hand and pulled me onto the track with her.

As we looped the stadium fellow relayers, supporters, friends and family, stood and clapped. For fifteen minutes. I’m sure Elaine, who has successfully completed  treatment for advanced breast cancer and is gearing up for her second big trip to Europe this year, spoke for many when she said the the survivor lap was “very surreal, emotional and moving.”

The night went very fast after the opening ceremonies. Everyone on our team was in great spirits and absolutely diligent about staying on the track for their hour and more. We had three tents, deluxe air mattresses, lanterns, a beautiful white canopy courtesy of Myla’s mom — an artist who lost the battle last July and for whom Myla’s entire family came out to honor —  not to mention food galore, beautifully coordinated by Martha.

As darkness fell, the luminarias that marked our path were illuminated, and I was able to find the many candles pledged by HarperCollins folks in memory of  c0worker and rock drummer Dave Campbell. My parents, Myla’s mom, Leslie’s husband, and many others were memorialized along the way.

Before I knew it it was time for my midnight lap with Toni, followed by my own solo lap. I say solo lap, but I was never alone. Frank, who’d already walked the 9-10 lap with David, walked with me. Soon David and Ellen were out there with us, too. It was a beautiful night of camraderie, remebrance, and celebration.

I crashed at 4 in the morning, just as Leslie was going out to do her lap. When I woke, Martha and Nanci had returned with coffee, and Alex, Frank, Myla, Lori, and Martha were busy taking down the banner and tents.

In the spirit of the evening, Elaine came to collect her air mattresses at 5:30 but didn’t have the heart to wake me, and so I ‘slept in’ until 6. Thank you, Elaine! Thank you Lori, Nanci, Alex, Leslie, Toni, Myla, Ellen, David, Frank, Martha, and Jenny, too.

The relay raised $110,000 for cancer research. With $13,153 on our ledger by 4 am, MyBigWalk was by far the biggest fund-raiser for this year’s walk (see Baristanet piece). Best of all, the night was everything we’d hoped for, and more.


Day 240

I’m busy preparing for the American Cancer Society’s 12-hour overnight Relay for Life this Friday in Montclair. At this point, to be honest, the work is mostly sitting back and letting my wonderful team of 13 walkers paint our team banner and plan what to bring and what we’ll eat.

A special thanks to all MyBigWalkers who sent donations to the Relay.  You’ll be with us in spirit as we walk through the night.

Watch for pieces about each of my team walkers in the days ahead. Some are survivors, some are dedicated caregivers who are honoring loved ones, and others are remembering those who’ve lost the battle but live on in our hearts. Our reasons are complex and personal but they’re bringing us together, and community makes us stronger. That’s why we’ll be there.

Here’s a great story about the event posted yesterday on my favorite local news spot, Baristanet:

Countdown to Montclair’s Relay for Life

Montclair will host its first-ever Relay for Life on Friday, June 4, at Brookdale Park, thanks to the event’s chair, Erica Lowenthal, who took part in the Hoboken relay last year in memory of her late dad, Dr Hank Lowenthal, and decided to bring the event home.

Forty teams will be participating, and more than $73,000 has already been raised. Proceeds will go to the American Cancer Society Relay For Life – the biggest private funder of cancer research in the US.

The Relay celebrates the lives of those who have battled cancer and won, lost, or are still fighting back. Because cancer never relents, it’s an overnight event, beginning June 4 at 7:00pm and ending up to 24 hours later.

Each team has a reason, often a moving and personal one, for participating.

The leading fundraising team of My Big Walk, which has raised more than $8,500 so far, says on their page that they are “dedicated to cancer survivors Elaine Rapaport, Alex Nolan, Nanci Naegeli, Toni Martin, and Jenny Kydd.”

“Our friends have met and battled cancer. The women on our team are athletes, warriors, and ferocious fighters. We’re walking to keep the flame of the fight alive, and to light the dark night for those who are engaged in battle. Most of all, we’re walking for hope and unity.”

The entire community appears to be involved, including the Temptations of St Luke’s Church, Temple Ner Tamid, and schools such as Bradford, Hillside, Glenfield, Nishuane, MKA and Montclair High School.

The American Cancer Society Relay for Life provides emotional, screening and nutritional support and advice on healthy living. It funds research towards cures for cancer – 44 researchers supported by the ACS have gone on to win the Nobel Prize – and fights back, too. The society helped bring about the smoke-free law and assists low-income, uninsured or underinsured women with treatment or screening tests.

The event will be moving, and fun, too, with plenty of entertainment organized.

If you’d like to participate, it’s not too late!

Phyllis Lowenthal, who heads the team, The Page Turners, is in charge of the survivors’ dinner and walk that begins in the evening of June 4, and may be emailed here.

Sign up here, or just help towards finding a cure by making a contribution, here.

Day 212

Man oh man, I love MyBigWalkers. Mighty Martha, who hails from Lee County, Virginia, can talk a blue streak that’ll challenge any Southern raconteur.

Martha Doesn't ALWAYS Have Mint Stuck in Her Teeth

“Martha,” we tell her, “You should write a book.”

“I can’t write a lick,” she says.”I’m practically a retard except you’re not allowed to say retard anymore.”

“No, you’re not, Martha.  You’re not allowed to say that word anymore.”

“Ok but I still can’t write lick.”

But she can, folks. Yes she can. You can see for yourself in this email Martha sent out to friends and family this week. I swear, I haven’t changed a word:

I am joining my friend Laurie Lico Albanese in raising funds for cancer research.  If you are like me, you get asked for donations every 10 minutes.  Please do not feel obligated, but if you typically donate to the American Cancer society, please feel free to donate via our team.  I have provided the link below and just $5 bucks would be fabulous and will take less than 5 minutes. If all of my friends donated at least $5, then I would raise at least $5!!!

Just a note of disclosure.  The walk includes a camp out in Brookdale Park, and I will not be sleeping on the ground.  The last time that happened, I woke up with my head 3 inches from the campfire!

I am walking in memory of 3 special people who died from cancer.

Nell Rose Flanary– my childhood friend Alison’s mother and the first person that I ever knew to have breast cancer. (cancer period)  She was diagnosed in the late 70’s and her doctor told her that it was nothing to worry about when she expressed concern.  She was a wonderful lady who died much too soon.

WR “Dub” Hines – my father who died of lung cancer at just 61.

Leigh Klenke – a good tennis buddy who died of breast cancer just a few short years ago leaving behind two small children.

Luckily, I have many more friends that have beat cancer and with your support, we can wipe out this horrible disease!


Last I checked,  Martha is up to $95 in donations. I’ll let you do the math.  If you are a friend of Martha’s, or would like to be, I hear she’s selling spots on her BFF list, and it’s only 5 bucks a pop. Who says good things don’t come cheap?

Day 192

Meet Elaine. Last year my friend Elaine was diagnosed with breast cancer, had a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery that lasted more than twelve hours, and began a long season of treatment and recovery.

Last week, Elaine was back on the tennis courts with us, whipping the ball around and whipping the pants off of her opponents.

Next month, Elaine will be joining my team and hundreds of other walkers for  the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life all-night walk in Brookdale park* June 4th-5th.

Elaine didn’t lose her forehand, her backhand, her sense of humor, or her spunk when she was diagnosed with cancer.  But she did find something —  I know, because she told me when we went walking through the South Mountain Reservation last week. Elaine found gratitude.

“Here’s what I’m grateful for,” Elaine said after we’d looped the familiar muddied path up in the rez. “I’m grateful that I’m still alive. I’m grateful for my doctors who kept me going and helped me get well. I’m grateful that I still have my sense of humor. I’m grateful that  I have two breasts that are the exact same size as my old ones! I’m really really thankful that I found out how strong I am. And I’m grateful to everybody who told me I had a strong attitude, because they made me strong by saying that, and that helped me keep up my strength and my sense of hope and optimism.”

Gratitude. Elaine got cancer, and she got grateful.

“In fact,” she said. “My friend Dawn was on the phone with me every day, telling me how well I was doing. I have to call her up and tell her that she really made a difference for me. She really really helped me get through it. I have to thank her for that.”

Every time I think about gratitude, I think about grace. I was explaining my new focus for MyBigWalk to Elaine, and she asked me to explain grace, gratitude, and generosity to her. But then Elaine showed me, better than I could possibly have shown her, just how closely grace and gratitude are linked. Find one, and you’ve found the other.

Thank you, Elaine, for showing me gratitude and grace in action. OH, and by the way, ELAINE, GET OFF YOUR LAZY BUTT AND COME WALKING WITH ME AGAIN B$^#Yo*TCH! (Elaine made me say it to her that way, guys. She says it helps get her motivated. I swear!)

* PLEASE CLICK HERE if you want to make a donation to our  American Cancer Society / Relay for Life team in Elaine’s honor or in memory or honor of someone you know and love who’s battled cancer.

Day 160

Before I get out for my walk this almost-dark and rainy evening, I want to give you a heads-up about the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, coming to my town this June. The Relay for Life is a 12-hour relay walk from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., which is meant to symbolize the cancer patient’s long journey from darkness into dawn.

I’m a team captain this year, something I’ve never done before in my life! On my relay team are four breast cancer survivors and one devoted caregiver. There are Relay for Life walks all across the country — if you’re a walker, and even if you’re not, you can get involved: organize a team, sponsor a friend, or hey, I have an idea!! SPONSOR THE MYBIGWALK team.

  • More information will be coming shortly.

Meanwhile, send me your photos so I can post them next week! And Storey, have a great great time in Hawaii. You lucky babe.