Put One Foot In Front Of The Other (Again and Again)

Thoughts by the writer in both first and third person, from one of the co-leaders of November Project Brooklyn—Sierra.

“Hello, Blog Post, my old friend…” Sierra here, with a little bit of STORYTIME to get you through your most recently updated, ‘slightly delayed,’ travel commute. This blog brought to you by the month of January and the saying, just show up. read more

WIGGIN’ OUT | Behind The Run

We’ll start by saying, ‘Thank you,’  to all the runners who showed up, donated, volunteered and supported this event that was created on a bar napkin at the ugly duckling after way too many beers.

 

 

We’re sure everyone knows someone who has been affected by cancer.  It’s a terrible disease, and we wanted to find a way to bring some cheer on the 2018 weekend of World Cancer Day.  For some people, it’s a challenge running in 19 degree weather with tail winds whipping in your face. We had 42 people run, while wearing wigs, outside in that crazy weather.

Jeanie’s Story

In September of 2015, Jeanie was out to lunch with her mom when she noticed a large lump in her throat. After months of sore throats and loosing her voice, she had a sleep over at Emily’s house in New Jersey, and oncr again—woke up with zero voice.  Jeanie finally decided to get it checked out. After an ultra sound, and guided needle biopsy, it was confirmed.

Jeanie had stage 2 Thyroid Papillary Cancer.

After completing a full thyroidectomy and experienced radiation, Jean will be celebrating 3 years of being cancer free this upcoming August.

Jeanie has always had a huge cheer squad at November Project that supported her. It still feels like yesterday that my mailbox was flooded with posters, humorous cards, board games, books and a wide range of coloring books when I was on the mend. I am forever grateful of the support from the tribe and my sister who became my own personal nurse through my journey.

 

 

Sierra’s Story

In early Autumn 2009, Sierra was back at college beginning her sophomore field hockey preseason. Summer training had been filled with early mornings, lab studies, and an increasing amount of naps with a side of lethargy that had been attributed to the heat (Richmond, VA is a rather humid place come August, take note!) During a routine fitness test, the team’s trainer (let’s call her, Trainer Meghan) pulled her aside after barely crossing the end line after the second sprint.

Pre-diagnosis aka ‘The Twilight Zone’
This is from our NY weekend where we took on Columbia University – some of you in Boston might recognize Tori on the far left, and my good friend Betsy is holding it down in the middle.

That afternoon, blood tests were scheduled to begin, ruling out what wasn’t causing the steady weight loss and increased coughing that became the daily normal. The blood tests orginally lead to a diagnosis of iron deficiency, and after a month of taking iron supplements—plus losing a few (Read: 20 lbs) extra pounds, the serious struggle to digest whole foods, and fatigue kicking it up a notch—the move was made from a physician’s office to a blood & cancer outpatient facility. After three surgeries, a couple of CAT scans, and the start of night sweats, an answer was found late September—cancer. Officially diagnosed with stage 2-4b Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, I began 6 rounds of ABVD chemotherapy while going to part time status, and redshirted for the remainder of the season.

This is from our last match that season, we made it to the first round of the NCAA tournament against UVA.
(Hint: I’m the one not covering their shins)

Those months were a blur of extreme moments, total numbness, and held together by the steadfast family (yeah, that includes friends) who got me through it. I received my last treatment on St. Paddy’s weekend in 2010 and went straight to the tattoo parlor to commemorate my victory (luckily, my parents didn’t disown me). I’ll be hitting year eight of remission this March.

I can’t tell you how many times I drew that symbol on my body during treatment…but it was A LOT.

When we started the tribe together last January, we have always talked about the importance of spreading the good word of early detection and how important it is to listen to your body—if something doesn’t feel right, get it checked out.  We are very lucky to have supportive families that looked out for us during our cancer journey. We wanted to give back to an organization that embodies those same values. That’s why we chose Soul Ryeders—a local 501(c)3 public non-profit organization that’s volunteer-driven based in Westchester County, NY—committed to empowering those in our community who are affected by all types of cancer.  From diagnosis through treatment, recovery and survivorship, they offer practical resources and nurturing support services that provide dignity, confidence, hope, and compassion.

These are their core values:

Assess unmet cancer-related needs in our community and develop programs to address them.

Award grants to support initiatives at other local cancer-related organizations.

Promote cancer awareness and prevention.

Provide individualized resources and emotional support for those in our community diagnosed with cancer and their loved ones. read more

Gone But Never Forgotten

The text finally came, just after midnight on Friday morning. It wasn’t unexpected, but there are some things that knock the wind out of you no matter how hard you try to brace.

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I met Stephen Menefee at work. We were assigned to the same program; me in Product Support Engineering and he in Project Engineering. He was the type that draws others in: always smiling, making jokes, laughing. We’d occasionally bump into one another at our work gym, and he’d ask about Meaghen, the boys, upcoming races. He’d shake his head and call me insane as he’d watch me do my workout, then join in after finishing a punishing class. “What’s happenin’ brotha?” was his line, even if he’d just seen you an hour prior. He introduced me to the Rocky Point Triathlon and Ragnar relay series, and let me know that I was welcome to join him anytime I wanted. Steve didn’t have friends, he had family.

BG hosted a pop-up in Phoenix to kick-start our official November Project pledge shortly after I came on board. I hounded every one of my coworkers to show up. Steve did, and became an instant celebrity.

John Lennon’s “New York City” t-shirt, Marilyn Monroe’s flying skirt, National Geographic’s “Afgan Girl.” Steve Menefee’s “November Project high-five” is easily as iconic and recognizable to the Phoenix tribe. And for good reason: the flowing mane and massive grin evoke warm memories for all of us. Everybody who has been with us from the beginning remembers the old dude with “those chicken legs sticking out of short shorts” (his wife Kelly’s words), the never-ending grin, his joie de vivre.

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Steve only made a few workouts before a relapse of gastrointestinal stromal tumors took his strenuous activities offline. People noticed: many asked about him, even as recently as last week. He continued to work for a while, and I never saw anything but a smile on his face. He promised to make it back to the stairs. He refused to give up as treatment after treatment failed, choosing instead to attack every day. He found out that Meaghen is a cancer survivor (and is in cancer research), and they quickly became friends, sharing regular emails and keeping up with one another on social media.

Steve was a warrior. His motto was, “be an owner, not a victim.” He is the embodiment of November Project, of everything that We stand for. Steve touched each of us in immeasurable ways, and his impact cannot be fully expressed in words. He may be gone, but he will never be forgotten. For the rest of us, I’d like to share the words that Steve used to close every email: “What are you doing for your health today? Nobody said it would be easy, but it will be worth it.”

 

NOTE: We will update with funeral arrangements when they are available. We are planning to send flowers to the family, as well as give a framed photo from NP. Let us know if you would like to donate.