Friday, May 29, 2009

Gone too Soon

Yesterday, we lost another person to lung cancer. Kevin Brumett was just 29 years old. He and Dan had connected through the Lung Cancer Alliance. Their stories were eerily similar. Kevin was a wonderful advocate, and like Dan, shared his story in the hopes of combating the stigma associated with lung cancer. He was even a patient advocate at the pharma company that made his drug. My heart goes out to his wife Steph. The two were just married this past weekend. Although we never met them in person, I feel that the four of us were close. And unfotunately, our lives shared similar paths.

These loses really impact me. Many of the people that I met with lung cancer during Dan's journey have since passed on. Wonderful, beautiful, articulate people. People who faced death every day and lived full lives nonetheless. What we have to offer those with lung cancer in terms of treatment options & research is not enough. It's woefully inadequate. We need to do more.

I hope you will send a little prayer or kind thoughs for Kevin's wife Steph. Having been in her shoes just 10 week ago, my heart breaks for her. Like me, she has lost a lot of innocence at a young age. Bad things happen to good people. It's not fair, and it's not because God wouldn't give us what we can't handle. It's just life, which in the same moment, is hauntingly beautiful and tragic.

I am borrowing a poem that Rachel posted on her blog awhile back... actually, it was on the day Dan passed away. A friend framed it for me and left it on my doorstep. I read it every day, and it's a fitting tribute for Dan & Kevin, two brothers-in-arms....

You can shed tears that he has gone,
Or you can smile because he has lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that he'll come back,
Or you can open your eyes and see all he's left.
Your heart can be empty because you can't see him,
Or you can be full of the love you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember him and only that he's gone,
Or you can cherish his memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind,
Be empty and turn your back,
Or you can do what he'd want;
Smile, open your eyes, love and go on.

-Author Unknown

I think I am going to wear some green and yellow today as a nod to Kevin & Dan.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Speaking Up

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to give the opening speech at a local Relay for Life in Frederick, MD, an event that raises funds for the American Cancer Society. These Relays are held in communities across the country. People form fundraising teams and then commit to walk continuously from sun down to sun up. Prior to this particular evening, I had never been to a Relay for Life. But Dan had formed a team of friends for the past several years at McDaniel College. He spoke once, and was scheduled to speak last year but an unexpected hospital stay prevented him from participating. Dan was very disappointed that he couldn't make it, but was impressed that his friends still went & walked. So I think it was only fitting that I was asked to speak... I was able to honor his commitment, and walk a few steps in his shoes

I am re-printing my speech below. Well, it's actually a combination of Dan's words from previous speeches and a few of my thoughts. I appreciate these opportunities to tell Dan's stories and convey the lessons he took from cancer. It's very helpful for me to have something positive to direct my energy into during these tough times.

My name is Meghan Rodgers. I lived with cancer for the past two years. And I will live with cancer for the rest of my life. Nine weeks ago, I lost my fiancé Dan Waeger to Stage IV lung cancer. He was just 2 months shy of his 27th birthday. It is truly an honor and an inspiration to be here with you this evening at the Relay for Life and share a little bit about Dan and our experience with cancer.

I cannot imagine what it would be like to be 22 years old in the middle of pursuing a MBA and coaching college golf, basically living out the dreams of a young life… and then have someone tell me that I have cancer. And worst of all, it is stage IV lung cancer. But that was the exact the position my fiancĂ© Dan found himself in May 18, 2005, nearly four years ago.

Twenty-two years old.



Lung cancer.

Those are phrases that just don’t belong together when you're 22.

I would often ask Dan what he thought when he heard those words- “You have cancer”. Of course he was scared- who wouldn’t be? But he also knew that he was facing a potentially life threatening and debilitating disease & he could do 1 of 2 things: feel sorry for himself or stand up and fight...........Dan knew he had no choice but to fight.

And fight he did. Forget what the statistics said. He lived almost 4 years with a disease that kills most people within a year. During that time, he endured almost 50 cycles of chemo, radiation, 2 major surgeries, hospitalizations and every side effect you can name-

He puked. Sometimes in the car on the way home from treatment.

He had neuropothy, edema, throat sores & rashes.

He lost his fingernails.

He lost his hair twice. I even shaved his head the second time.

And eventually, he lost his life.

But that is not the end of Dan’s story. Because there were many wonderful things that cancer could not take from Dan. Cancer did not take his smile. Cancer did not take his willful optimism. It did not take his hope. And it will not take his legacy.

Dan insisted that he never failed treatments. Rather, treatments failed him. He had a good life, and was determined not to let cancer stop him from making it great. So he didn’t stop. During the 4 years he was undergoing treatments, he also graduated with an MBA, started a career as a cancer advocate and founded the National Collegiate Cancer Foundation to help other young adult cancer survivors by awarding scholarships for college and graduate school.

He lived a full life as a son to two loving parents, as the youngest brother to four lively siblings & as an uncle to a growing brood of nieces and nephews. Dan never stopped living his life. And we never stopped living our life together.

When it comes to cancer, we often speak of people “fighting” the disease. And if someone ultimately passes away, we say that they “lost” their battle. From “winning isn’t the only thing, it’s everything” to “there is no such thing as second place”- we are a society obsessed with winners. But when it comes to this game called cancer, those of us in it know that judging “victory” solely by being cured would completely underestimate the importance of the journey and the day in & day out management of the disease.

Many cancer survivors & their loved ones, like Dan & me, don’t see a cure as the only possible cancer victory. Because the reality is that not everyone is cured of this disease. And even a cure is not a "one-size-fits -all" solution. Many of us would be ecstatic if cancer could be managed as a chronic disease- like diabetes. Or if genetic testing could just narrow down the options to avoid toxic and crippling treatments as a cruel form of trial & error to find the one that works. Or if we could find a way to just to minimize the daily side effects during treatments and beyond.

Victory in our cancer battle isn’t a straight win/loss scenario. For many of us, the ultimate victory is living a normal life, no matter what the odds are. That is the win we are looking for. We want to fall in love. Play on the work softball team. Maybe even just go to work. We want to have a few beers with friends on the weekends and take in a baseball game. We want to take vacations and celebrate holidays with our families. We want to be like everyone else. And that it is Dan and I wanted. And that is what Dan & did.

I met Dan two years after he was diagnosed. Many people often say that I must have been a brave person to date someone with cancer. I honestly have no idea what that comment is supposed to mean. Because those of who love someone with cancer just know them as the people they are meant to be, not as a statistic to be cited somewhere in a study. We love them, not the averages or odds they may represent.

In our life, Dan & I demanded as much normalcy as possible. But how do we do this when faced with cancer? Especially if statistically, we aren’t facing good odds?

It all starts with the right attitude. One of Dan’s favorite stories was about Pete Rose’s pursuit of the baseball’s all-time hit record. During Spring Training, a reporter asked Pete how many at bats he would need to get the 78 hits to break Ty Cobb’s hit record. Pete matter of factly replied “If I need 78 hits, then I need 78 at bats.”

The reporter laughed & said, “Come on, Pete…you can’t be serious. You’d have to bat a thousand”

Pete replied- “You know, if I don’t step up to the plate believing that I’m going to get a hit every time….then I don’t deserve to get up to bat at all.”

This story resonated with Dan because if he didn’t wake up every single day…

if ALL OF US here tonight don’t get up every day…..

Thinking that we can do it, that we can succeed, we don’t deserve to get up to up at all. This goes for the cancer survivors, and those that are beside them in their journey. And for those like me that lost a loved one, it means believing that we can make it through even though our loved ones are no longer here.

But even the best attitude and medicine won’t take us all the way. We may have the “What” on board, but we would never get anywhere without the “Who” on board. When I heard that tonight’s theme centered around The Wizard of Oz, I smiled. Because it’s the perfect analogy for a cancer journey. Dorothy couldn’t make it back home to Kansas without the heart of the Tin Man, the wisdom of the Scarecrow, the courage of the Lion and a great pair of shoes. She couldn’t make it alone.

We need a team to survive cancer. And that team extends beyond the hospital and our families and friends. It’s a community effort. From the neighbors that help with errands or food, to the co-workers who donate vacation hours and the bosses that let us work flexible schedules, to the volunteers at great organizations like the American Cancer Society…We need all the help that we can get.

But it’s not only cancer that joins us together tonight. Our unifying bond IS HOPE. For those of us in the land of cancer, the doctors, nurses, (the wonderful nurses), the friends, the families, the cancer survivors…some days, it may seem that the challenge is too big, too tough.

We hear about another friend, parent, or co-worker being diagnosed. We hear about those that make it, but a lot of times…we unfortunately hear about those who don’t. In difficult times, we must remember that life’s challenges are not suppose to paralyze us and bring us down, but help us discover who we are and the changes we can become.

We know that once cancer enters our lives, we will never be the same. There will never be a day when we don’t think of cancer. It will always present some sort of physical or mental challenge. So if we’re going to sit and think about cancer everyday, we need to realize that we can do something about it. We can do something positive. We can live our lives. And we can make a difference. We can HOPE.

Earlier I spoke about the definition of winning when it comes to cancer. Sometimes, it’s important to remember that we win when we don’t quit, we don’t give up, when we simply choose to keep moving. We win when we choose HOPE.

I know that you have a long night ahead of you. And we all have a long road ahead of us on this cancer journey. But I know that the reasons that brought you all here are the same reasons that won’t let you quit this Relay or quit this fight in the future. And one of those reasons we will never quit is Hope. It is Hope that will carry us through.

Because in the presence of HOPE, anything is possible.

Everyone here has a story. And I know that mine is no better than anyone else’s.

So from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU for allowing me to share mine.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


I was very sad to hear that Phil Mickelson's wife Amy was diagnosed with breast cancer. For those that don't know, Phil was Dan's favorite golfer. Phil also has a reputation for choking during tournaments, a fact that I liked to tease Dan about, and that also resulted in phone calls from Dan's dad when said choking occurred. But Dan's reasons for liking Phil were more noble- he just thought Phil was a stand up guy who gave back generously to numerous charities.

Phil was Dan's guy... he even had a programmed distribution list in his phone to text his friends on the off chance Phil was making a charge down the back nine. Dan loved watching him play. In fact, the last thing Dan watched on TV was a recap of Phil winning the WGC-CA by 1 stroke over Nick Watney. That last evening, Dan wasn't talking much and had been drifting in & out of sleep. But when the highlights of tournament came on, he woke up to watch Phil's victory and then smiled & gave me a thumbs up. I'll always think of that moment whenever I see Phil.

I hope that the Mickelson family finds the strength to get through this next phase. Again, we are reminded, as with the constant press coverage of Farrah Fawcett's tv special and Patrick Swayze's tabloid coverage, that cancer does not discriminate. And I know Phil has one guardian angel wishing for more than a victory on the golf course this time around.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Four Years

Dan was diagnosed with cancer four years ago today. Since I didn't know him then, the date doesn't hold much significance for me, though it probably does others. I don't remember Dan making too much of this "cancer-versary", at least not in the 2 short years I knew him. As time moves on, I realize there is a lot I don't know about his cancer experience. He was almost half way through by the time I entered the scene.

So, I am not really sure what would be a fitting rememberance of this day. I guess it's just another day, another date on the calendar to just go on doing what we do.


Friday, May 15, 2009

Rays of Hope

This week has been insane. On top of going to work, I finally managed to run 3 miles without stopping. You may remember from a post a couple of weeks ago that Dan & I would run the loop near the apartment. Dan always wanted to be able to get up to a 5k. Well, this week one of us finally made it! It only took me about a month to get up to speed (well, not really speed when you consider my pace), but I am glad I can do it now. Last year, we were going to do that 5k on his birthday, so I am little ahead of schedule.

Patrice (Dan's sister) and I also were lucky enough to attend the National Coalition of Cancer Survivorship's Rays of Hope Gala last night. Dan used to work at NCCS. And everyone there holds a special place in my heart because I always felt great that Dan had such fantastic support at work. And now many of the people at NCCS have become my dear friends.

The Gala was dedicated in part to Dan, and I know he would be honored. Last year, Dan had just gotten out of the hospital for a random infection. Despite carrying around a pump for his antibiotics, he insisted on attending the Gala. I think it was important for him to push through cancer whenever it came to NCCS because he represented so much of what the organization stands for- survivors!

I was able to write a little something in the program about Dan from my point of view. I am including it below

Dan taught me that surviving cancer was less about chasing a clean scan that may never come and more about living with a chronic disease. He got up every day believing that he could make a difference in his cancer journey, regardless of what the statistics said. His approach was simple. If he believed in a “Will Win” attitude, then others could, too. If he told his story, then those who weren’t so lucky could speak through him. And if he was going to sit around and think about cancer every day, he could channel his energy into something positive.

Many people think that Dan’s legacy is the contributions he made to other cancer survivors through his work at NCCS and the National Collegiate Cancer Foundation, the organization he founded after his diagnosis. While these accomplishments are outstanding, Dan’s true legacy lies in the way he lived his every day life. He was never angry or bitter. He acknowledged his fears but was not a prisoner to them. He refused to let cancer define who he was or what he could accomplish. He made an effort to help others when most people looked the other way. He wasn’t afraid to try new things or meet new people. He appreciated his great life and everyone in it. He never quit.

I know Dan would agree that our love story is one of the best parts of his legacy. Dan and I didn’t just survive cancer together, we truly lived. We laughed. We celebrated. When Dan came bounding into my life, it was immediately bigger and brighter, and full of endless possibilities and surprises. Although he is gone, the lessons he left keep me moving forward in my own life. Even though I will miss him every day, I know I will survive. After all, I had a pretty good teacher.

Here are a few photos

me & Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order SVU) one of the nights honorees

Patrice, Ellen (aka Boss Lady) & me

Me & Bob Schieffer (Face the Nation)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hi Ho Hi Ho

It's off to work we go! Today was the first day back to work for me. I can't remember the last day I was in the office, but things weren't normal for me there since January. It was a little more emotional than I thought- stepping back into my life as just me, and not someone's fiance is inevitable and normal, but still sad. I'd like to say that my attention span is back up to speed, but it's just hard to sit in one place. That, and I am not used to wearing work shoes which, although cute, aren't as comfy as the sneakers and flip flops I've been wearing the past few months.

But I am really glad to be back. It was time to go, and there is no point in building up more hurdles to have to jump over. I am lucky to have a job that I enjoy (at least from what I remember of it!). And it is really something special to work for a boss and a company that treat you as a person first, not a policy. But I did miss having a constant email conversation with Dan throughout the day. Knowing him, he would have had flowers waiting there at my desk or for me when I got home. I miss having my cheerleader. He was so happy for me when I found this job, and I know he'd be glad I am getting back a little of my own life.

So, I guess it was a little anti-climactic. As I said to my boss, there is no handbook for this situation. I can't confine my sad times to the weekend or at night, so I am sure there will be days that being at work will be tough. As with anything, I just do my best and make no apologies for a little flakiness or getting choked up. Just gotta get through it, not over it.

Friday, May 8, 2009


I seem to get a lot of the same questions from people I've seen over the past few weeks, so I figured I might as well get to share some of the answers with you.

1. How are you doing?- In general, I am ok. Certain days or moments are harder than others, but I have been able to get out bed every day. You don't "get over" something like this, you get through it. And I think once I had that realization, I've never felt very guilty about moving forward.

2. How are you really? (ie- You must be in shock)- Really, I am doing ok! No, I am not in shock. I have lots of opportunities to talk and write about things as I want to, and many different types of outlets for these conversations. I allow myself full freedom to do what I please, and don't set any rules other than getting out of bed and leaving the house.

3. Are you in therapy? Nope, but if I get to the point where I feel like I can't move past something, I would go. I do read a little bit here and there about grief, and take the tidbits that I find most useful. Today I spent several hours in the bookstore perusing the various titles on grief. I did read something that validated my view on not being completely stopped in my tracks with Dan's death. Many people who deal with a prolonged illness of someone they love exeperience what is called "anticipatory grief". In other words, you start grieving for someone way before they actually pass on. As the person with Dan every day, I knew the situation better than anyone else. My life changed completely 6 months before he died, and it continued to change. Yes, we had a "normal" life, but it was always about finding the "new normal". Although I can't pinpoint the exact moment, I did realize, even way before the wedding was called off, that Dan would spend the rest of his life with me, but I wouldn't spend the rest of my life with him.

4. Are you in a support group? Nope, but again, I would consider it. I did go to one last summer, but it wasn't helpful for me at all. First off, a lot of the support groups are during the day. So I guess clearly everyone that loses someone doesn't work! Second, as a young adult, my experiences are very different than the average person who experiences death. Not saying that one is harder than the other, just different. If there were a support group for people my age, I would get more out of it. As I said, I did go once or twice and found it to be counter-productive.

5. Are you working? No, I haven't been, but I go back Tuesday! I am excited and anxious, but feel good about it. I was 100% completely supported by my employer. I was treated like a person, not a policy. At first, I couldn't imagine going back to work because I felt very overwhelmed by the "administration" of death and NCCF. But once I came to grips that I wasn't going to be able to wrap up every detail for awhile, work seemed a lot more manageable.

6. What have you been doing? Well, I do admit that I like to watch Lifetime TV in the morning (a complete departure from my usual SportsCenter). Who knew that Reba and Frazier re-runs are so charming? I have alotted a lot of down time to myself. But I've been very busy with Dan's estate and NCCF, so I've been "working", just in much different ways. I've seen a lot of friends, but actually find it better to do one-on-one. I tend to find larger social things overwhelming at the moment. And I'm trying, but I am still not that big of a phone person.

7. Did Dan leave any special instructions? Yes, both in a personal letter and in a Will. I'll eventually share them, and some of you know them. But I feel like they deserve their own entries.

8. What is the best piece of advice people have given you? The problem with advice is that it's usually specific to someone's personal experiences. I get a lot of "you should do this or that". But I am just going to do what I need to do that day. I think the biggest mistake is to not allow myself to grieve. I don't really hide anything, and I do allow myself a few tears every day, regardless of where I am. But the best advice I go back to is Dan- If I don't get up every day believing that I am going to get through it, believing that I'll survive, then I don't deserve to get up. You know, I used to think Dan was full of it with some of the things he said, but I didn't have the right perspective to understand what he was really talking about. And now I do.

9. What is the hardest part? Some might think that being at home is hard, because Dan died here. It doesn't bother me at all, and I can actually find solace in the silence. I may move in time, but for now, I don't feel the need to (note that I successfully convinced my neighbor downstairs to not smoke under my window!). For me, I know I will get to move on and get to experience new things and adventures. So it really gets to me that Dan won't. While I miss him, I am still deeply affected by the actual experience leading up to his death- the last few weeks while he was home and the night he passed away. I know things that few do (outside of doctors and nurses), and in that way, have lost a lot of innocence. It's not that I am afraid that bad things will happen, I've just lived through them, and it's been a very profound and somewhat isolating experience at times.

10. How long will you write this blog? Well, as long as I feel like I have something to say. It does provide a very good outlet for me, and I think it brings others some peace as well. But, it won't go on forever. Like I said, I will never get over this. I am a much better person for the experience, and in many ways, stronger than I thought. When you watch someone you love go through what I did, all you want to do is take away the pain or prevent the inevitable. I can't do that anymore, but I can still fight Dan's fight. That I can do for him. And I always will, be it through NCCF or some other organization.

11. Is there anything positive that has come of this? We always said that no one gave us a guidebook for this, and we made up our rules as we went. The only rule in life is that we will all die. I now know what that looks like, and with that, there is a new need in my life to be generous with my love and generous with my life. But I am still me- I am still a little messy and not good at returning phone calls. Some things will never change, no matter how much insight I have into life ;)

12. Can you laugh? Anyone that didn't laugh at Cafe Disco on last night's episode of The Office is not someone I care to know.

Ok, that is all I can think of for the moment. But I am sure there will be a part 2!

PS- If you're wondering whether I got your card, email or Facebook note. I did, and I read them all. I would have liked to get back to everyone, but there were hundreds. And yes, I was the one that opened all the mail that goes to NCCF. And if you haven't gotten your thank you letter, I am almost done and they should be out this week!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Ms. Smith Goes to Washington

Today was one of the best and toughest days of my life. I had the opportunity to join the Lung Cancer Alliance and over 60 other advocates in meetings on the Hill. We were there to gather support for the Lung Cancer Mortality Reduction Act which aims to develop an integrated plan that addresses prevention, early detection and research for lung cancer. You may remember Dan making a visit to Senator Mikulski's (D-MD) office late last year on the same issue. If you need a refresher, you can find more info and instructions on how to contact your state representatives here

My visits took me to meet with the staffs of Senator Cardin (D-MD), Senator Mikulsi (D-MD), Rep Van Hollen (D-MD), Senator Cornyn (R-TX) and Senator Specter (D-PA!). I was there with LCA staff members, lung cancer survivors and those like myself who have been affected by the disease. On the one hand- it was pretty cool. Pretty much the best field trip to DC that I've taken, and very powerful to be so close to the legislative process. It felt good to be an American.

Of course, the reason why I was there was the bittersweet part. I was very affected by the stories of the people I met. A 22-year old lung cancer survivor with a family history whose mother had to beg for a CT to get her to be properly diagnosed. A woman who lost her best friend 60 days after diagnosis, and who moved her friend in to care for her. There were several 7, 8, 9 year survivors who were lucky in that they were accidentally diagnosed and caught early. And then there was Jerry, father of 2 who lives right down the road from me. He'd already survived lymphoma twice in his late teens and early twenties. He lost his mother and his uncle to lung cancer, and is now battling it himself, stage IV and on Alimta, the same drug Dan was on for so long. He was also a sectionmate of Obama's at Harvard Law. Jerry recounted the irony of how Obama used the break between classes to debate politics and grab a smoke, while he had no interest in politics, yet found himself on the Hill today as a non-smoker asking politicians to solve the lung cancer problem.

I initially took comfort in being able to speak the same language as these folks. I know their doctors and nurses at Hopkins. I know the side effects of all the drugs they are on. I was so happy for Jerry that Alimta was working. I chatted openly about stage IV lung cancer. But it was heartbreakingly sad to know that, unless their cancers were caught early, many of these survivors are on the same path as Dan. Lining up one drug after another, hoping for one to work for a couple of years before throwing something else at the disease. But knowing that, even if they lived 5 years, it was highly unlikely it would ever be cancer or treatment-free, and it would not result in a cure.

I wrote awhile back about the hierarchy of cancer. I don't think that there should be one, but after spending a couple of days with LCA, I was reminded that there is. I can post all the statistics, go into the causes and arguements... there is no good reason for the way we treat lung cancer patients. More than 180,000 people are diagnosed every year, and 160,000 die each year. It kills more people that breast, prostrate, colon, liver & melanoma cancers- COMBINED combined. It's like a jumbo jet crashing every day. Survival rates haven't improved in 30 years. And yet, we invest less than 1/10 of cancer research dollars in our #1 cancer killer. (

When you're living with the disease every day, you cannot think of the enormity of the what you're facing. You manage each side effect that arises. If you were diagnosed with breast cancer, you'd be welcomed into a community of passionate survivors. When you're diagnosed with lung cancer, you're looking for anyone that has actually survived the disease. We can't mobilize a race of 50,000 survivors in colorful t-shirts. Because no one is surviving.

I'm not going into the reasons why this has happened. We need to move forward, and keep asking for help. We know that people get lung cancer who don't smoke or quit 20-30 years ago (60% of all new cases). Yet, we don't have any way of testing people, and without early detection, you cannot survive this disease. I think I was lulled into believing that Dan's diagnosis was a fluke- it just doesn't happen. But it does, and his family should have a way to get tested!!!!

So today was very much about moving forward, carrying on for Dan. Literally walking where he walked, speaking to the same people he spoke to in December and wearing a yellow "Lung Cancer Sucks" t-shirt under my suit coat. I told his story, with my heart wide open, to strangers. I shed a couple of tears on Capitol Hill, and if that is what it takes, so be it. Because what we're offering people with lung cancer is crap. Dan had the BEST medical care. And for that, he endured around 50 cycles of chemo, radiation, two surgeries, another major hospitilization and every side effect imagineable. He took all they had to offer, and it wasn't even close to curing him. But he was considered lucky- he lived almost 4 years.

Dan surpassed our expectations of a survivor, and in many ways, made his story seem normal. It is easy to sometimes forget he had lung cancer because he focused more on surviving than cancer itself. He had no choice to hope and believe in miracles, because that was the best shot he had. It's just unacceptable. I remember at one point feeling jealous when learning that another lung cancer survivor, my friend's husband, had his lung removed because Dan couldn't. That is just insane!

I really feel blessed that Dan left this path for me to follow. His friends at LCA are now becoming my friends, and I have already found comfort in others who believe we need a change. Yes, I am bummed that I didn't get to meet any of the Senators or Reps (except Arlen Specter when he popped in). But I don't think it's the last time I'll be there. While I miss Dan, I mostly saddened by the mere fact that he lost his life. I don't feel bad for myself that he left me, but more that he had to go through what he did. It weighs heavy on my heart. We have a long way to go before we move the lung cancer mountain, but that isn't a reason not to try.

One of Dan's favorite quotes-

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." Margaret Mead

Who knew I'd turn out to be an idealist!!!!

PS- I was most upset today when I realized the parking garage attendant ate the Peppermint Patty treat I had saved for myself. Who does that?????

Oh, I made sure to get a Dan-inspired picture at Senator Mikulski's office. Yes- it was rainy in DC today. Hence the crazy hair! The other guy in the pic is my new buddy Jerry.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

If a Tree Falls in the Forest...

More like if a good deed is done and no one is watching, doesn't it make it all that much better?

I have spent most of the evening working through some things for NCCF. I've been sitting here for about 4 hours straight, and my shoulders and neck are aching! I attribute this to getting man-handled by a masseuse today. But I digress.

Some readers may not know that Dan pretty much ran NCCF all by himself. Since he's been gone, I've been trying to keep things moving. And let me tell you- I completely underestimated what it took for him to manage all the emails, the scholarship questions, the website, donations... and we haven't even touched the Waeger CUP yet! I feel overwhelmed some days, and I have plenty of people waiting to pitch in. Honestly, I though I was helpful to Dan the past couple of years with respect to NCCF but I hardly did a thing!

As if I didn't admire Dan enough, I think of him balancing a full-time job and treatments, and then having the energy to manage NCCF.... it really gives me a boost on the days when it feels like I am carrying a 25 pound backpack of grief, anxiety & anger. (Hence, the trip to the spa today).

I guess what strikes me the most is how subtle Dan was with respect to the effort it took to run his organization on top of everything else. He never complained, was always available to anyone that called and took the criticisms of people in stride. Note: it's sometimes very tough to do good- people are seldom satisfied. I used to listen to him as he spoke to people who called NCCF, often spending up to an hour talking to someone who was newly diagnosed or a parent frantic to help a child. He did all of these things out of sight and often without recognition. People called NCCF thinking they were getting a big organization, and they ended up getting Dan, the man behind the curtain.

Just when I thought I knew it all, I am learning so much more about Dan's will and spirit. When faced with a huge task, many will shrug and say "Well, I am only one man" and wait for someone else to solve the problem. But some days, it may only take one person to make that difference if he just steps up and tries.