100 Days of Difference – Day 14

If you missed my post two weeks ago explaining my summer project, check it out here before you continue reading this post.

Now that you’ve done that, you should know that today (June 7th) is National Cancer Survivors Day. So if you know anyone that has beaten any of the numerous varieties of cancer that currently plague our world, take a minute before continuing to reach out and let them know you’re glad they won! Life after a cancer diagnosis and even after a remission or “all-clear” declaration is never the same as it was pre-cancer. I feel so thankful for each of my family and friends that doesn’t have to fight anymore, at least not right now. And as silly as most “holidays” are these days, I support this one because it recognizes those among us that have been to hell and back.

But this special day also brings up the question of what can I/we do for those still in the trenches, fighting for survivor status? The answer for me was in this #100daysofdifference challenge. I can RAISE MONEY for an amazing organization, Hope for Young Adults with Cancer, that helps 18-40 year olds across the nation that have been diagnosed with cancer. No donation is too big or too small and my goal is to raise at least $1,000 this summer, which would be enough to fully pay for a scholarship for one deserving cancer warrior. These scholarships allow recipients the opportunity to not only pay for their treatments, but also to continue living throughout their often long and difficult cancer journey. Check out my donation page on Crowdrise or contact me about other ways to donate financially.

As someone who has worked with charities for a long time, I am fully aware that not everyone is comfortable or able to give money. That’s 100% fine with me! You can share my blog link or my Crowdrise page and help me spread the word. I appreciate any efforts, no matter how big or small.

I also created an Amazon wish list this week to give potential donors even more ways to help support young adults with cancer. So one of my #100daysofdifference goals is to put together 100 “cancer care kits” to take to the North County Oncology Medical Clinic. The idea behind this is that chemotherapy and radiation and blood transfusion are all long, scary processes that cancer patients have to endure. While I can’t change that, I can provide bags of goodies to help entertain or increase the comfort level of patients. The medical center plans to give our bags to new patients during their first day of treatment, just to welcome them to the cancer family and let them know that there are people who care, even during this difficult time.

The way the Amazon wish list works, is kind of like a wedding or baby registry. You click the link I just gave you, decide which items you are willing to purchase, check out, and then they will be shipped directly to my house. I will collect items all summer and hope to distribute the 100 finished bags the last week of August. For those of you that live in San Diego and see me on a regular basis, please feel free to pick up any of the listed items on your own and give them to me when we see each other. Also, if anyone wishes to donate other items I am happy to accept those as well, just send me a message!

Thank you, thank you, thank you for supporting me in the huge summer project. I literally cannot do it without each and every one of you that reads this blog and please know that I appreciate every donation, every encouraging comment, and every spreading of the word. Below is a chart of my progress so far, I’m getting there!!

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100 Days of Difference – Day 1 (The Challenge)

I’ve been brainstorming ideas about fundraising for an AMAZING organization, Hope for Young Adults with Cancer, since I finished the San Francisco Marathon last summer. As part of my training, I raised over $1,200 for Hope for Young Adults with Cancer. Instead of focusing on one race this year, I have decided to center my efforts around 100 Days of Difference by using the five love languages. I hope to complete one task (or set of tasks) for each of the categories of love between Memorial Day and Labor Day… which I know is 105 days, but it doesn’t sound as good 😉

So why focus on love when raising money for young adults fighting cancer? Because I witnessed the unconditional love my parents had for one another during the five years my father battled bone cancer. From his experiences, I know that love can be a powerful force for those facing a cancer diagnosis. As a family member I know the importance of love, from family, friends, and strangers alike, when dealing with the loss of a cancer patient. And as someone who teaches young adults, I see the effect love and compassion can have on even the most guarded individuals.

I tried to incorporate my passions into my goals and will post updates on my progress as summer continues. I would LOVE if you joined me in giving HOPE to young adults with cancer throughout the country. How can you do that? The best way would be to donate online on my fundraising page! However, I will also be collecting donations for my “survivor kits”, with more information to come ( but let me know if you want to help specifically with this part of the project!). If you can’t give financially, please consider sharing this post OR share the link directly to my fundraising page (https://www.crowdrise.com/100daysofdifference/fundraiser/karenoliver1) to help spread the word! Here are my five commitments for my summer 100 Days of Difference Challenge:

Words of Affirmation – Send 100 letters of encouragement

Acts of Service – Assemble 100 “survivor kits” for cancer patients

Physical (Touch) – Run 100 miles with Charity Miles app

Quality Time – Spend 100 hours traveling to see family/friends

Giving Gifts – Inspire 100 people to donate to Hope4YAWC

Please contact me directly if you have questions about my project or keep reading for more information about Hope4YAWC!

Who Is Hope For Young Adults With Cancer?
Hope For Young Adults With Cancer is a 501(c)(3) organization that is passionate about making the lives of young adults, ages 18 – 40, living with cancer a little bit easier. Our mission is to connect with our peers in the fight to provide direct financial support and a social network and outlet for those battling, surviving and living with cancer. Hope4YAWC is one of only a handful of non-profit organizations nationwide that focuses on providing direct financial support to young adults with cancer 18 – 40.

Over 72,000 young adults are diagnosed with cancer every year.
Survival rates for young adults have not risen since 1975.
This is due to unique factors such as lack of insurance, minimal participation in clinical trials and delayed diagnoses.

How Does Hope For Young Adults With Cancer Help?
Hope4YAWC raises funds through fundraisers and events organized by the charity and through partnerships with other organizations and businesses in the community, as well as through direct donations from businesses and individuals. We in turn provide direct financial support to young adults who currently are battling cancer as well as those who have been in remission for up to 5 years after their treatment. We provide this support to those who need it after a thorough examination and selection process through our “Giving Hope Fund” application.

Hope For Young Adults With Cancer’s “Giving Hope Fund”
The “Giving Hope Fund” allows young adults currently battling cancer, as well as those who have been in remission for up to 5 years after their treatment, the opportunity to help pay for necessities they encounter in everyday life as well as the opportunity to a “want” item that they have had their eye on, but couldn’t necessarily afford. This includes but is not limited to obligations, such as rent and mortgage payments, cell phone and credit card bills, clothing, work and educated related materials, department store and grocery gift cards, as well as laptops and electronic devices. We would of course be remiss if we didn’t include the opportunity to make payments on all forms of medical bills, healthcare premiums, doctor visits and prescription co-pays. The “Giving Hope Fund” is posted on our website and through our social media accounts twice a year, normally once in the spring and once in the fall.

Hope4YAWC Social Meetups & Fitness Programs
Social isolation is the number one concern in young adults with cancer. With this in mind, we organize quarterly meetups emphasizing a fun, stress-free environment where young adults with cancer can connect with other fighters and survivors their own age without feeling judged or embarrassed. We also offer yoga on weekends that is open to anyone, but mainly focus on building up physical strength and stress-relief for those young adults with cancer who are fatigued by the ramifications of their cancer treatment.

To learn more about Hope For Young Adults With Cancer, visit:

http://www.hope4yawc.org
http://www.facebook.com/Hope4yawc
http://twitter.com/Hope4yawc

Living Life in Leucadia

It has been SO long since I last posted about settling into California, oops? I’m excited to get back to posts about crazy adventures on the “Best Coast”. Jury is still out there, but for right now I’m leaning West. Anyway, so I told you that I bought a new car (SUV) and it’s still amazing. I have not picked out a name yet, but I’m sure that will come. For now, I’m just excited that I’ve driven over 1,000 miles so the engine is broken in and I can use cruise control. Work at Halstrom is going well, my hours are continuing to build and for right now it looks like I’ll be teaching a lot of AP World History and Algebra II, both of which are fine by me! I’m getting to know the new staff members and students and everyone seems really nice so far, so that’s great!

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After a lot of searching that really began back in North Carolina, I finally found an apartment and have moved in. I wanted to be in the Encinitas area again, since living this close to the beach is amazing and I like to walk to restaurants and stores when I can. My top priorities were two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a dishwasher, and parking of some sort… and obviously proximity to the Pacific Ocean. Several places fell through or changed at the last-minute or I was the second applicant and it was starting to look like April 1st was my new move-in goal. But then I found a posting 23 minutes after it went live that looked great! I called the property manager, went over the next morning at 9am, applied on the spot, and signed the lease the next day. It was a bit crazy but it was the first place I’d seen with everything I wanted. And it was the cheapest place I’d looked at too! It’s a two-story “townhouse-style apartment” with the bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs and the living, dining, and kitchen downstairs. There’s a great under-the-stairs closet for all of my athletic and camping equipment and I have an assigned parking space. There are only ten units in the complex and we have an adorable courtyard with a make-shift fire pit, ping-pong table, and outdoor shower. I’m still getting to know my neighbors but they seem really chill without being obnoxious. Yay!

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Enough about the business side of life, now onto the fun side of things. I can’t believe that I haven’t even been back a month because (in true Karen fashion) I’ve hit the ground running! I’ve already taken a weekend trip to La Quinta in the desert with an incredible group of new and old friends (pictured above). Less than 24 hours after landing, kickball started back up for the season and I have a fantastic team this time around! We may not be at the top of the leader board, but I’d argue that we have the most fun. In addition to playing together on Sundays, a bunch of us have fallen into trivia on Tuesday nights. We won the first week, which got us hooked, and were third this week. Our prize for winning was a bar tab and we got an Easter basket of candy this week for third (even better!). Last night nine of us stayed out after midnight to see Furious 7 on opening night. For those of you on the fence, it’s 100% worth going to see. The Paul Walker tribute at the end was a bit drawn out for me, but the movie itself was just what you expect, lots of fast cars and hot girls with some street fighting mixed in.

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I’ve also spent a good bit of time reconnecting with my core group of girls out here. I hit up a Dan + Shay concert downtown one night (pictured below), I hiked Cowles Mountain in Mission Valley one day (picture at top of post), I went on a training run along the coast, and I celebrated the first birthday of a very special little girl another night. It’s so good to be back with my support network and catch up on what’s been going on in their lives the last four months. Don’t get me wrong, I love my guys and I miss my East Coast people… but my girlfriends here are pretty incredible. We are starting our book club back up too, so I look forward to reading some new novels and having crazy discussions once a month going forward.

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I also like to check in on my fitness/nutrition in these type of posts too. I have been struggling with workouts these last few weeks because I dropped a DVD player on my toe, which prohibited me from wearing shoes for a while. I also cracked a big toe while jumping on a trampoline with my favorite fifth graders. And my left upper-calf/knee are giving me some struggles. But I’ve registered for the La Jolla Half Marathon on April 26th in addition to the Tinkerbell Half in LA on May 10th, so we shall see. I am just excited to get back into racing and finish these two events with my friends that are running with me. Time won’t be so much of a factor this time around, but I do plan to have both of my contacts in for LJ 😉 Oh! And I ran the Wellness 5k with Sean a few weekends ago. It was a smaller race, which was nice for a change. Sean ran his personal best 5k time and I won my age group, so we were both pleased with that! Immediately after the race, SK donated platelets and two days later I donated whole blood. It makes my heart happy to think about the lives we helped to save with those donations and I encourage all of you to sign up to donate blood this month, if you can!

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I’ve gotten some new Beachbody DVD’s to mix things up and they seem to be keeping me interested for now, but I’m craving getting back on the bike and in the pool. My road bike is being put back together on Monday and I need to figure out my plan for pool access so I can start triathlon training. Nutrition right now is taking a back burner just with the chaos of life. I’m re-adjusting to packing lunches and getting workouts/smoothies done before work, but it takes time and I’m trying to set realistic goals for myself. Finally, I have gotten actively involved in Girls on the Run again this season. My teaching schedule doesn’t allow me to coach, but I am a shoe fairy and am on the 5k planning committee. As a shoe fairy, I size girls on our scholarship teams for brand new shoes and then get to deliver them the following week. It’s like Christmas in April for these girls! If anyone in SD wants to help me cheer on our amazing girls at the 5k on May 17th, let me know! I’m in charge of coordinating the cheer stations, so any/all help that morning would be amazing… you get to dress up and be as crazy as you want… just saying.

Alright, that’s all for now but I promise not to wait another three weeks to post and happy Easter!!

Settling in to North Carolina

This is going to be a quick post because I’m just not feeling very motivated to write. But I know some of you are itching to know how things are going in North Carolina. This post might be all over the place and I apologize for that. In fact, I’m going to break it up into critical pieces of my life right now so it will focus me a bit while I type.

1. House

On January 9th I got the keys to my apartment in Wake Forest, NC. It is awesome! I wanted somewhere that was quiet and relaxing, not in the center of downtown but not in the sticks either. I’m 18 miles north of the center of Raleigh and right along Capital Boulevard which leads straight north out-of-town. It’s an awesome location because I can be to almost anywhere in Raleigh or Durham in 30 minutes. I got a two-bedroom place that faces the small lake in the complex, which is just one of the many things I liked about this community. There are 288 units but broken up into buildings of just eight, four on the top floor and four on the bottom. I’m on the bottom, which I prefer so I don’t have to worry about my workouts waiting up my neighbors. I have a full kitchen, a washer/dryer, and a screened-in patio with a storage closet. AMAZING! I can’t wait to sit out there and watch the ducks float around once it gets a little warmer (although it’s 50 degrees outside today, so that isn’t bad!).

I’m still working on furniture (as I write this while sitting on the floor)… I’ve ordered a dining table and server, as well as a sleeper couch for the second room. My thought is that down the road I will buy a new bedroom set for myself (mine is still a full) and then I can shift my bed into the guest room. I also bought a few lamps and a tv stand, since I got rid of a ton of stuff in California. The next big thing on my list is a living room couch and/or chairs. Ugh. Such grown-up things to have to buy! The community here also has a pool, 24-hour fitness center, free DVD rentals, a car-wash station, a business center with free printing, and valet trash. Like I said, I love it here so far!

2. Job

This paragraph will be short, so I’ll rip the band-aid quickly and get it over it. I don’t have one yet. I’m applying like crazy, but nothing yet. I have taken a few placement tests this week for curriculum developer or content editing positions, so that’s promising! I’m considering looking into a job placement agency to help break me into mid-career jobs. It seems like everything I’m finding is either entry-level, hourly tutoring or non-profit CEO/Director positions I don’t quite qualify for. But it’s only been a week, so I’m still hopeful that the right opportunity will present itself!

3. Church

This has probably been the most exciting part of moving here so far. I have reconnected with friends from The Community Church back in Ashburn, VA who recently moved to Knightdale (an eastern suburb of Raleigh) to plant a new church. I’ve been to a few interest and membership meetings and am really looking forward to getting involved as the church launches. In the past, I have found great churches but never gotten fully “plugged in” because I always felt like leadership or volunteer groups were already well-established with people who had been together for years. The Edge Church will launch on February 22nd and I am already so excited! If you’re curious about the church, check out the website linked here. And get ready for updates on this as time goes on and I figure out where God decides to use me in the church.

4. Volunteer

In addition to work with the church, I have already reached out to the Girls on the Run chapter here in Raleigh. Because my job situation is up in the air, I didn’t commit to coach this season. But I will be helping plan and run the end-of-semester 5k race! I love this organization and how positive and supportive it is to young girls trying to figure out life. And it’s been awesome how welcoming this leadership has been in such a short time. I’ll let those of you in the area know more details soon, but for now if anyone wants to come support 800 elementary school girls and their running buddies on April 11th… let me know!

5. Friends

It’s been cool to see who is coming out of my past to reconnect with me now that I’m in a new place. Karen and Pete have been great to see and I look forward to joining them at church. But also, some friends from college have been in touch and we have plans for future dinners and UVA sporting events. Additionally, some high school friends are in the area and want to get together soon. And I have extended family scattered throughout the region! If any of you are nearby and want to get together, let me know! In an effort not to overdo things, I have not been to any meet-up events or UVA alumni functions that would introduce me to entirely new groups of people yet. I have a few penciled in over the next few weeks, and I’m excited to make new friends… but I’m also excited to be in my own space with my things unpacked and my schedule completely open 🙂

6. Fitness

This will just be a quick teaser, but I started a new fitness program this past week in an attempt to get back in shape after a fairly exercise-free fall. My good friend, and former teammate, Holly has become a Beachbody coach recently and asked me about joining one of her challenge groups. I put it off until now so I could have a TV and DVD player set up to run the program. But I’m excited about it and haven’t hated the home workouts like I thought I might. There is a nutritional piece to the Beachbody program as well, so I am getting back to healthier eating again too. If you want to know more, Holly posts on her blog all the time about her workouts and nutritional habits! Oh, and my half marathon training starts next week which will begin a long few months of running in the cold… Yikes!

Okay, okay… I said this was going to be short. That’s all for now but I’ll try to write again sooner than later!

Kids Conquering Cancer

Most of you reading this blog know that my dad passed away from cancer in 2010. Before he was diagnosed in 2005, cancer was just a word that flew around in the abstract. I didn’t really think about it because I was fortunate to not have to. After that day, I think about it all the time. But this week, I have found myself thinking about the positive side of cancer, if there is one. I’ve been exposed to a number of stories recently about kids and cancer. They aren’t all happy endings but they are all stories of kids conquering cancer in one way or another.

The first story is about one of my students. Obviously, I can’t go into too much detail. But the short version is that his father is fighting stage four cancer. If you saw him around school, you would have no idea there was such a struggle going on at home. He’s the happiest kid we have. Teachers enjoy teaching him and other students want to be him. And they have no idea what he goes home to… or maybe they do and they are being thoughtful enough to give him those few hours of escape each day to just be a kid. Either way, each time I see him I want to hug him. Which I know I can’t do. So instead, I continue to admire his strength from afar and I pray for his father every day. My kid is conquering cancer by not letting it steal his childhood.

The next story is about a courageous young girl from my old neighborhood. I learned about her story from some of the teachers I used to work with. Gabriella was 9-years-old when she was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor. Unfortunately, she lost her life in October of this year. But in the 11 months between her diagnosis and her death, Gabriella made more of an impact on this world than most people will in their whole lives. She collected over 240,000 “Dear Santa” letters which raised hope and money for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. She shared her story through video blogs posted on Facebook and urged people to pay attention to this devastating disease and the effect it is having on our future generation. After her passing, the federal government has decided to name their most recent medical research act for this courageous little girl. So while her body gave out on her, Gabriella’s spirit will continue to conquer cancer through this medical act and the foundations she established during her short life.

My final story about kids conquering cancer is about a 5-year-old named Abby who has amazing parents and a grandmother with cancer. She lives with her family quite near to me in California, but I heard about them through a friend from VA. Abby wanted to do something to help her “Lala” while going through treatment, so they put together a survival kit. This wasn’t enough for this determined little girl though and she wanted to do more. Instead of stifling her goals, her parents worked out a plan to get their friends, family, and strangers (like me!) to deliver 1,000 purple bags full of encouragement and hope to cancer patients across the country. You can read all about Abby’s story on the blog her mom just started, which shows the impact faith has had on their family.  On their Facebook page, there is a great list of suggested materials to include and a note about Abby to help explain her cause. I plan to gather what supplies I can from our friends and assemble some purple bags for Abby. Although, she already has California colored in on her map, so we might have to get creative and reach across state lines. If not, we can help Abby conquer cancer and reach her goal of 1,000 purple bags.

I hope these stories haven’t made you too sad, because for me they remind me of the silver linings in life. They remind me to smile on the tough days because you never know who else might need to see your smile. They remind me of the good in the world instead of focusing on the bad. These kids inspire me to be a better person and give me hope that we can conquer cancer through small, meaningful actions in our daily lives.

Focus on the Phenomenal

I wrote a few weeks ago about my sources of distraction during workouts, but I’ve been thinking more and more lately about who and what I find myself thinking about in my free time throughout the day as well.  This might be while commuting to work or while working on secret projects at home or while just sitting still and relaxing. Okay, so that last one never happens… but theoretically, it would be an example.

Anyway, I always seem to find myself drifting in my mind to those people I know that are taking chances, helping others, and doing life in such a way that is making an impact. And it’s funny how we have those people in our lives we rarely talk to directly anymore, but who we stay so connected with because of digital and social media. And I may not have talked directly to these people in years, but I find myself admiring them from afar… in a completely non-creepy way. It’s a few of those people I want to brag about for a minute because they would never do it themselves.

Don’t get me wrong, I think my day-to-day friends are incredible as well, but this is a blog about a few “outliers” in my life that are doing spectacular things worth sharing. And these few, short examples are by no means inclusive, but they are just some of the people whose current choices in life are affecting mine. For privacy purposes, I’ll change names but if any of you reading this want to know more or want to help their causes, just let me know via comment on this blog or Facebook, or by messaging me and I’ll get you the contact information.

Ironman

The first of my phenomenal friends is a guy I met once, three years ago, during a spring break trip. He is a friend of a good friend of mine and serves in the military. He recently started distance running and triathlon training, and signed up for Ironman Lake Placid. This alone would be reason enough to be considered phenomenal, trust me. But what I find so admirable about this friend, is that while training he decided to try to raise $100/mile for the Wounded Warrior Project. That’s a lofty goal of $14,060. In an earlier marathon he had been inspired when passing a wounded warrior at mile 24, because it took him that long to catch the guy. And WWP is an incredible organization that helps injured veterans recover and live their lives to the fullest.

My friend successfully finished his race last week and will forever be an Ironman, but I think his greater success was raising over $11,000 to date for the WWP.  His story not only encourages me to think about bigger and longer races (if I survived mine this weekend) but to find an organization to benefit while training. What an incredible way to pay it forward and raise awareness at the same time.

 

Briar Woods/Briarwood

Those of you who have followed my blog for a while know that I used to teach and coach at Briar Woods HS in Ashburn, VA. This next story is about one of my former students who is phenomenal in so many ways, but for right now it’s because of what she and her family are doing to help a school in need. After the recent tornadoes ripped through Oklahoma and destroyed entire towns, she decided to do something to help. One of the schools most affected was Briarwood Elementary and my student couldn’t help but notice the similar names. She then decided to start raising money, collecting donations, and doing what she could to help the students and teachers at that school.

A Facebook group was created and teachers from Briarwood began to send out their supply lists. Almost daily my student or her mother post items being requested and almost instantly one of the close to 1,000 members of the group replies that they will take care of it. As a teacher, and one who has never suffered such loss, it is hard to imagine how grateful the teachers at Briarwood must feel for each donation. I’ve seen sets of books, dry-erase boards, math games, supply carts, basic supplies, number lines, etc. all be requested and donated. That doesn’t count the numerous gift cards and monetary donations which are being used to purchase even more materials to help these teachers and that school get ready for another year. It’s astounding to me what one teenage girl can do when she puts her mind to it and has the support of her family, friends, and community. And it’s humbling to think that I was originally the one teaching her, but now she’s the one teaching me.

 

Inspiring Parents

This last story is about parents who are doing it right, in the face of great trials. They are a couple who are family friends and whose daughter was diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma when she was three-years-old. To read her story through the eyes of her loving parents has been a blessing in disguise for me. Their unwavering faith in God and devotion to Him, each other, and their child has continued to give me hope in this world. While not all updates are positive, because cancer is such a nasty beast, they are all rooted in the belief that God is bigger and He will provide. I’m happy to be able to say that she is currently leading a happy post-cancerous life, but that hasn’t come easily. Seeing the devastated and determined faces slowly turn into elated smiles warms my heart each time.

They are now getting to enjoy their time together as a family, outside the hospital walls, and they couldn’t look happier just to be together. They’ve also begun to give back to the people and the places that helped them when they needed it the most, and their daughter is right there with them, following their perfect, loving examples. Their family will be forever changed from this disease, but I pray with all my heart that the last three years will be their worst, and that there is nothing but happiness in their future. And I know that either way, they will continue to be strong and shine as bright examples to the rest of us.

I Learned From You

I’ve talked before about how amazing my father was, I know I have. And I’ve written about the Miley Cyrus song, “I Learned From You”, that really reminds me of how strong my father was and how much he impacted and continues to affect my life today. Today my dad would have turned 60 years old and I wanted to take a minute to show you just another small example of how he’s constantly a part of my life.

Monday morning I had signed up to give blood with the Red Cross.  Those of you who have read my blog for a while, probably remember the last time I successfully gave blood, which was almost two years ago.  I have a problem donating because my iron levels are always too low and then if I pass that test, frequently my blood clots and stops before an entire bag can be withdrawn. So over the weekend I stocked up on foods high in calcium and iron, took my iron supplements, and drank TONS of water. I wanted to give myself the best possible chance to donate that I could.

Step one: pass the iron test. My first finger prick showed 11.7, which is not that close to the 12.5 goal, so I wasn’t confident when the manager came over to try my other hand.  But I wanted to pass so badly and she aggressively punched my finger, so there was hope.  As she took my blood pressure, just in case, I saw the numbers flash on the screen “12.6”. Yay! The next hurdle was finding a good vein.  Another issue I frequently have because mine like to hide beneath the surface.  My poor nurse finally decided to go with the outside vein on my left arm, which I assured her was the best bet, even if it wasn’t a good one.

She got the vein with the first shot and blood starting flowing.  I couldn’t release my breath yet though, and for good reason.  About 1/3 of the way through the bag, the blood flow stopped.  She began maneuvering the needle in my arm to find that vein again.  Success! But it was short-lived as my vein kept collapsing.  The nurse added a blood pressure clamp to my bicep and pumped it up to encourage the blood to flow. Several “maneuvers”, and much pumping up and releasing, later and we finally got enough blood. Final step? Getting the two test tubes of blood for the hospital to test. Really? We somehow managed to squeeze those out too.

This whole time I was just thinking about Dad and many other cancer patients, or those with chronic diseases. I do this once every 60 days and because I want to.  They often have treatments daily, with complications weekly, and there’s nothing they can do about it.And I’m healthy and feel great going in to this process, while they often feel run-down and exhausted.  The average time to donate blood is 10 minutes. I had the needle inside my arm for 35 minutes.  As the nurse handed me the ice pack (because my arm “might” swell or be tender) she thanked me for continuing to give, even with difficulties.  My friend Sean gave blood on Monday as well and told me I was a trooper for sticking with it.

They might be right, I might be unique in my perseverance to give blood in spite of the pain and the struggle.  But I’m just doing what my dad taught me, which is to do what’s right, to help others as much as you can, and to smile through life.  Without units of blood like mine from donors like me, my dad would’ve been taken from me weeks, months, possibly years sooner than he was. Every blood transfusion he got gave our family more time to spend with the most amazing father I could’ve ever asked for.  So think about that today, on Dad’s 60th birthday, and consider donating blood the next chance you get. Because it really does make a difference, not just in the lives of the person who receives it, but their family’s lives as well.

I love you, Daddy, and thank you for being an amazing, positive example of how to live life to the fullest and enjoy every moment. Happy birthday!!

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