Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Year in Review Part Two

Wow, how fitting that I write this on the very last day of 2008. Hard to believe that this year is all but over. My sentimental side gets the best of me at this time of year and so hence this look back...

I've become aware of the fact that writing this year in review blog may just take the place of one of those annoying holiday letters you get in the mail.
You know those people who write you a Christmas Card and slip in this really gag-worthy...Johnny got a promotion...Little Suzy is the smartest kid in her class, We're going to Cabo San Lucas and you're not update letters. Well, I just thought of that and I apologize if my year in review resembles that because that is not the intention. Ehh...what do you care if this is a snore...go back to facebook.

The summer of 2008 was a particularly memorable one for a couple of reasons. To start things off, my sister Mary got engaged to her boyfriend Karl. Mary asked me to be her maid of honor...and of course, I was honored to accept the duty. My little sister is getting married in July. It has been widely acknowledged publicly that a dance-off will take place at the wedding...between my brother in law to be and myself. There are bets now being taken as to who will win...but I have to say...I am taking this very seriously.

Also this summer I began working with a great organization called Melissa's Living Legacy Teen Cancer Foundation (Teens Living with Cancer). They are an amazing organization that helps support and guide teenagers through the unique challenges of cancer during that difficult life stage of adolescence.

On the way to the LiveSTRONG Summit this year Mom and I took a roadtrip.
The goal was to rack up three states...putting my state count to I'd be that much closer to making my 30 in the 30th goal. I have to say it's one of the ways my Mom is so special...just being game for such a crazy adventure because she knew it meant something to me.
I broke in my new (to me) car Smurfette (yep she's a blue Hyndaui Elantra) on this trip and I added Illinois, Wisconisin and Indiana to my state roster. I think the highlight had to be a visit to the Indiana Dunes National Park.
As an environmentalist, my Mom had always taught me an appreciation for the treasure that we have near my aunt's cottage at Pine Grove (Selkirk) on Lake Ontario. To the unschooled dunes might just seem like really cool piles of someone who truly understands they are a sanctuary for unique species of birds, plants and animals. Supposedly, Indiana is the only other place that you can find sand dunes near fresh water. Fortunately their dunes are protected by state law and federal law...unfortunately for the residents of Selkirk can all attest to the fact that the sand dunes there were not at the time most of them were mowed down by development. We can all think the Brennan Dynasty for that environmental wallup.

That roadtrip was all combined with making my way to the 2008 LiveStrong Summit in Columbus Ohio. I attended as one of 1,000 delegates across the country. Mom spent the first evening at the Summit and both of us were able to hear John McCain speak along with Lance Armstrong and Paula Zahn in a townhall specifically dealing with cancer. We won't go into my own feelings on what McCain had to bring to the table on this issue...but let's just say I wish Obama had been there to share his thoughts.

I met so many amazing people touched by cancer in so many different ways...survivors, co-survivors, non-profit professionals, people in the medical field. Everyone had one goal in common: to make cancer a national priority. I'm Too Young For This was well represented there. Okay so hanging with Lance Armstrong was pretty cool, but we didn't really hang out..he was kinda busy (Kate Hudson was in town). The true big bonus was linking up with a huge group of i[2]yers from all over that congregated there.
That weekend was absoultely edition to the knowledge, training and networking it offered, I made some amazing friends there in Columbus.

I have to say the summer was pretty action packed right to the last drop of fun. My friend Jenise had a birthday party that rivaled all 30th birthday parties on August 30th at the New York State Fair no less. Her sense of humor and tongue in cheek whimsy is obvious in this birthday party invite.
Summer came and went...but the fall was pretty crazy too. Nicole, my right hand woman in our i[2]y group got us registered as our very own kickball team in a tournament. That's right...a team filled with cancer survivors! We wanted to show everyone what a bunch of cancer survivors can really do! Yeah! Boo-ya! Well, okay we did get our butts kicked... but the team playing us had a slighltly unfair advantage---a former Rochester Rhino playing with them.

September was the most amazing Light The Night yet for Leah's Line-up. Our team together raised more than $3,000 for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society. I was an ambassador of Rochester's walk along with an 8th grader named Tony. Tony and I had a lot of fun shooting the commercial at Channel 8 with Elizabeth Harness, this year's spokesperson. We had a pretty darn large team this year and everyone helped make it a success, even little Lucy (AKA Leah's Magic Medecine) who was so tuckered out at the end of the walk that she took a nap.

Another milestone was acheived in 2008---My 30th state! Back around the time of cancer diagnosis #2, when things were darkest, I'd made this something on my bucket list and I was determined to do it! I'll have you all know that the state that made the 30th distinction was ---drumroll please...Connecticut. I happened to share this special occasion with my best friend, Jillian which made it even better. She wanted to help me get this 30th state done so we hopped a ferry from Long Island to Mystic CT...and in late September mission accomplished. I've always loved watching the movie Mystic Pizza so our trip included a stop in the actual Mystic Pizza restaurant. Jillian and I ate our fare share of pizza in college...and sadly for most of those four years at Bonaventure a decent slice was hard to come by. Jillian has on more than one occasion proved to me that New York City and Long Island make the state's best pizza. However Mystic Conneticut isn't doing too bad for itself. Yummy!

In October...I ventured back to my alma mater to do a presentation with Curt Balch where we spoke to students on the issue of young adult cancer survivorship. St. Bonaventure was incredibly generous with their support of us and of I'm Too Young For This as well and proved it with a fundraiser for i[2]y that following weekend.

Just a few days later was the annual dinner for Melissa's Living Legacy. It was quite a busy weekend with Sean Swarner the guest speaker for that event in town. This Ironman/mountain climber was even nice enough to throw in a speech for students and staff at my school. Sean was kept hopping that whole weekend and never stopped smiling even through the garbage plate he devoured just hours before his keynote. He also inspired me to do something I never thought I'd do. I climbed to the top of a rock wall. That's right...that same girl whose fear of heights kept her from climbing trees as a kid. Originally, I thought I'd hang out at the bottom with other spectators.
I made a pact with i[2]y founder Matthew Zachary...he'd do it---if and only if I did it. Ask Matthew--that promise was kept. He proved to all of us i[2]yers that there's a little mountaineer in everyone, even the uber technologically inclined.

One of the most memorable moments of 2008? Right up there had to be my friend Zach DeRidder winning the LiveSTRONG video contest. He was the little engine that could and he grabbed the votes and hearts of people all across the nation...maybe across the world. We are sooo proud of the Z-Man!

Okay, I'm running out of time...and you're likely running out of patience reading this so I'll cut to the chase...there were some other cool things about turning 31...which I thought would be painful...but actually was not. I could tell you about the blizzard of 2008 which was not so cool. It cancelled my plans to journey to NYC December 19th. That was a major bummer. I was so looking forward to seeing Rockefeller Center lit up for Christmas and of course congregating with some fellow i[2]yers. But we won't go into's just going to make me sad again.

Instead I have to just focus on what's ahead for the new year. I'm jumping into 2009 with a fresh perspective on life that 2008 helped bring about for me. I'm feeling more and more like things are headed in the right may take a little elbow grease and a little faith on my part...but I have high hopes for 2009. Lots of things to accomplish...and lots of memories to make.

For all of us looking at a new year...and thinking about what we'd like to see in it...remember...
Life is really like a you have to enjoy those big bites. Every bite!

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