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    Celebrating Life at Journeys!

    On November 4, we will gather once again to celebrate the lives of all the teens and young adults with cancer that we have been privileged to know and love over the years. This will be the 16th Journeys, our Annual Celebration of Living!

    If you’ve been to Journeys, you know how special this night is. If you’ve never been, I hope this will be the year you will join us because Journeys is unlike any other charity gala. In fact, we don’t call it a gala because there is no formal dress, the special themed centerpieces are fashioned on my dining room table, and there are only a few, short speeches! We call it a Celebration because that’s what we do.

    We celebrate all the kids who have inspired us to be the best we can be and to give as much as we’re able.

    Past 13thirty members, whose bonds of friendship were forged years ago, reunite as if no time or space has separated them. Present members welcome potential new members in friendship. Our families share stories with common themes and guests who have not been touched by adolescent and young adult cancer are forever changed by the energy in the room.

    During the cocktail hour, student groups provide the music, enthusiastic volunteers sell raffle tickets and corks for the wine pull, while delicious appetizers are passed by the wonderful staff of Creative Caterers. After dinner, the program starts with our time-honored, candle lighting ceremony, during which we remember our friends who — though gone — continue to warm our hearts with their light. We recognize special folks who have helped us. This year’s “Corporate Sponsor Salute” goes to ValPak of Rochester and Dr. Barbara Asselin will receive the “Make a Difference Award.”

    And then, it’s time for the highlight of the night: The kids’ performance!

    Each year, we have a theme around which the “kids” of 13thirty Cancer Connect craft a presentation that will give our guests an authentic view of what it’s like to be a teen or young adult with cancer. As you might gather from our invitation, this year’s theme is “Bridges” —  but I’m not going to say any more. You’ll just have to come and see for yourself what we’ve put together for you! We are thrilled to be working with Larry Moss and Kelly Cheatle from Airigami (airigami.com) this year. Here’s a clue – there are balloons involved. Lots of them! Local poets, Charlie Cote and Danielle Shied, helped the kids put feelings to words and our friend Dan Roach, as always, makes us sound and look great!

    It’s going to be an amazing night and I hope you will be there because if you are, you will see what keeps me going every day.

    When Melissa died, our hearts were forever shattered but I knew we were strong enough to carry on, to continue living, to somehow put one foot in front of the other. What I didn’t know was just how much better I could be, how much more I could love, how much joy I would find in the young people I work with every day. They are the beacons of hope in this (sometimes) dark world. They rise above the small things and keep focus on what’s important. They truly live and love life and I am so very proud of them all.

    I promise you, Journeys is a night you don’t want to miss! You can RSVP online until Oct. 26 at www.roc.13thirty.org.

    See you on November 4th!


    About the Author

    lauren-spiker-1Lauren Spiker is our founder, executive director, and chief visionary with a pulse on what’s happening in the world of AYA oncology. Her dreams are big and bold!

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    Painting in the Garden (and other Life Reflections)

    We must cultivate our own garden. – Voltaire

    “Have you thought what you’re going to do with my ashes when you get them back?”

    This was not a question I’d ever imagined being asked, especially by one of my children. So, when Melissa surprised me with that question one beautiful spring day seventeen years ago, it took me a minute to respond even though I had, actually, thought about it. Knowing that my 19-year old daughter would die soon of a cancer that could not be cured, I had thought of many unimaginable things.

    Melissa's Story 13thirty

    “Yes, I have,” I sadly responded. Knowing that she thought cemeteries were lonely places, I suggested that we might spread her ashes over the Grand Canyon where we had recently spent a bittersweet last family vacation.

    “Hmmm, I don’t think that’s a good idea,” she said. Seeing my puzzled look, she continued. “Remember how windy it was the day we were there? It would really be gross if my ashes blew back on all of you.” I still smile remembering how hard we laughed at the thought.

    “Do you have a better idea?” I retorted when we stopped laughing.

    “How about the garden?” my always-wiser-than-I daughter offered. It was a perfect plan. She knew we loved to be in the garden but more importantly, I think she knew that tending to and nurturing tender plants and nascent blooms would console my grieving heart when she was gone.

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    And she was right. Over the years, Melissa’s garden has grown from the first small bed, where her ashes rest under the arms of a lovely garden angel, to a rich tapestry of color and texture covering our entire side and back yards. This is my sacred place. The place where I seek and find peace. The place where my soul rests alongside hers. A haven from the day’s harried pace and society’s many conflicts. Here, the world makes sense as days pass as predictably as the seasons change.

    As it has through time, spring’s rebirth grows into summer’s glory and eventually yields to the bronze of autumn and the quiet hush of winter’s snowy cover. I take comfort knowing that this universal cycle will always start anew and that the energy within all living things changes form but never dies. Because this is what I believe, my daughter’s ever-present spirit fuels my resolve to carry on and strengthens my confidence that life does happen with purpose.

    Recently, Melissa’s garden became a respite for a small group of other moms whose lives, like mine, were turned upside down when their children were diagnosed with cancer. We came together on a beautiful summer’s night, planted our easels throughout the garden, and with brush in one hand and a glass of wine in the other, absorbed the quiet solitude as paint took shape on canvas. mary Beth 1

    As evening light started to fade, we stood back and admired our work. The finished pieces were each unique. Different color schemes, brush stroke, perspective, vantage point. But each was inspired by a common bond – the shared experience of motherhood.

    I’ve learned over the years that being a parent and gardening are very similar. Both involve patience, nurturing and the willingness to sometimes overlook pesky, unsightly weeds – or children, in the case of parenting. To do both jobs well, one must have the courage to envision and hope for the future. Neither happens overnight and shortcuts never work.

    But perhaps the greatest similarity is that both parenting and gardening are difficult, exhausting tasks leaving one bone-weary and often disappointed. It’s physically, emotionally, and psychologically draining with little respite, especially when parenting a child with cancer.

    The 18th century French writer and philosopher Voltaire once wrote. “We must cultivate our own garden.”   On this magical evening, four moms whose paths would likely never have crossed had it not been for cancer, heeded Voltaire’s advice. Together, they created art inspired by the beauty around them and their individual life experience. final paintingsIn this holy place, they found their own peaceful patch of earth, savored precious moments of solitude and refreshed their weary souls in the company of friends who understand.

     


     

    This is the wonder of 13thirty Cancer Connect. We support teens and young adults on their journey through cancer and beyond, as well as being a place for parents to connect with each other and build understanding and encouraging community. If your teen or young adult has endured cancer’s treacherous road and you have a need to “cultivate your own garden”, we invite you to join us! The coffee’s always on!

     

    About the Author

    lauren-spiker-1Lauren Spiker is our founder, executive director, and chief visionary with a pulse on what’s happening in the world of AYA oncology. Her dreams are big and bold!