May 26, 2011

"UII" Are A Family

Miles 4 Mark Team at the 2010 Light the Night Walk

“UII” Can Spread Hope!
Cancers, especially blood cancers, are part of the family of ‘invisible illnesses’.  Patients have few (if any) outward marks that indicate to others the life-threatening battle they are facing.  That’s why it came as such a shock to my family when Mark, my husband’s step-father, was diagnosed with Lymphoma in 2008.
My Family's Story
Mark is a bear of a man; a true ‘gentle giant’.  He’s soft-spoken; you can count the words he says during dinner on one hand, and he’s never riled by the boisterous family activity going on around him.  He’s the type of guy you can’t imagine getting a splinter, let alone a disease that carries such a terrifying potential outcome.
The 16 months after his diagnosis went surprisingly quickly, as Mark began chemotherapy treatments and the agonizing waiting periods.  Updates came at bi-weekly family dinners, with rarely any mention of side effects or the emotional strain this had to have caused.  An unexpected update came the day my mother-in-law, Debbie, called to tell us Mark had been declared in complete remission.  Debbie didn’t cry when she told us Mark was diagnosed, but she cried when she told us he was cured.
After this pivotal day, we found out how Mark & Debbie got through all the treatments, scares when his progress wasn’t as anticipated, untold side effects, and “wait & worry” times.  They had the LLS.  This organization provided my family with the resources, experience, and support they needed to maintain composure throughout the process.  Debbie described how they pointed Mark in the right direction at various turning points.  Then ‘Silent Mark’ started to talk.
Ever stoic, Mark never got into the details of what he went through with his treatments.  Other than a buzzed haircut and light appetite at those dinners, I may never know what effects he experienced.  But I know what the LLS means to him.  I know his passion to support the organization that supported him has broken his shell, and is infectious to the rest of us.  Mark joined the executive committee for the 2010 Light the Night walk, and our family fell in line behind him.  We learned that innovations developed with funding from the LLS are often repurposed to battle other cancers.  I knew that it was in part because of them that my own father had more reason to hope when he had his kidney cancer scare months later.
“UII” (Understanding Invisible Illnesses) aims to utilize the power of collective knowledge by pooling the information, resources, and experiences of many patients and caregivers with the purpose of benefiting others and ultimately spreading hope.  The LLS epitomizes these goals.  Throughout the year, we receive messages from the society sharing the hope-filled stories of previous patients and the relief felt by those who’ve been touched by the LLS’s programs.  As I mentioned, the LLS funds research and innovations that are frequently recycled for other cancers & diseases.  I’ve met with regional organizers and a national vice-president from the society, and can vouch for the enthusiasm with which their people approach their work.  “UII” are proud to support the LLS by joining the walk and encouraging donations.  They’ve given continued life, connectivity with other patients, renewed hope, and more to thousands of people already – the least we can do is give a little bit back.

As you know, my policy is to only actively fundraise among my community for 3 causes in the year which are especially close to me: Sjogren's (my condition), Autism (for my Aspie brother), and the LLS (for Mark).  See my fundraising page here for information on the LLS or make a donation.  Please use the share buttons below to post to Facebook, Twitter, or email your friends.  And thank you, as always, for your support.

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