40,000 Reasons to Be Happy

Somewhere, in the way back of my chemo brain, a mashup is brewing. If I was feeling more creative tonight, and had less of a battle heating up between the residual benedryl wanting to knock me out or the lingering steroids wanting to party all night, I’d be presenting a killer rhyming combo of Pharrell’s uber famous “Happy” song and REM’s oldie but goodie “Texarkana” (you know the one…catchy tune…”40,000 reasons for living”…you know you love it, if you don’t know it, google it and listen). But I just can’t pull it off tonight. Maybe someday. But here’s why I have 40,000 reasons to be happy. And grateful!

On Saturday, March 1, my incredibly talented, creative, dedicated, determined, supportive and awesome sister pulled off an amazing event in my honor. Not just her, but also her equally talented, hardworking and huge-hearted business partner Dani, along with the amazing, truly unbelievable staff at Rhythm Dance Center. Bullseye Bash rocked, just like every Rhythm event. Off the charts incredible. Amazing. Blown away!

The reason it rocked is because Rhythm rocks. They rock because they are truly a family and not just a business. They work so hard at everything they do, they set positive examples for every dancer in their studio, they push them toward being not just a better dancer, but a better person, a better human being. This goes on every single day. And you must buy into this if you are to be part of Rhythm. Because you can’t be part of Rhythm and not live this. It’s the fiber, it’s their culture. Be awesome or go home. And that’s not be an awesome dancer or go home. It’s be an awesome person or go home. Try, practice, reflect, grow. I’ve personally witnessed this philosophy for the past 21 years, from day zero, all the way back when Becca and Dani first announced they were partnering to create Rhythm Dance Center. They were going to be different. They don’t have to go this extra distance they choose to travel. They could just teach dance steps, have their business and go home at night content. They could just care about the dancers for the one or two, three, ok 80 hours they are at the studio each week and be done. But they don’t. They go above and beyond, always. This is how they approach everything they do. Nothing is worth doing if it’s not stellar. And it’s always stellar.

Bullseye Bash, organized to raise money for the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation, was no exception. I’m still blown away by that day and have struggled to find the words to describe my gratitude, hence the long delay in any blog posts from me. Radio silence. I’m blown away by all the people who busted their tails to make it such a perfect day. Many long hours went into that effort. Becca conceived the whole event, planned out the activities, wrote all the descriptions, explained it to the dancers and their parents, coordinated with the Foundation. It was a lot of work and pressure, especially during the absolute CRAZIEST time of year for her. Then of course, turned their already amazing studio into a stylish, super swanky custom TNBC event! Her, Dani and the RDC staff volunteered their time for all of this. They don’t get many weekends free of competition, conventions and rehearsals. Especially not this time of year. This was an “off” weekend. But they still came to help and to work their tails off all weekend. Be awesome or go home.

So did my friend Jenny, who has a lot going on in her own busy life, but who still made time and effort to drive me there, work into the wee hours of the morning helping set up and be there for me at this event just like she is at every single one of my treatments and appointments (with a “chemo” present in hand at each one, mind you). And Nancy, my sister-in-law, who has a crazy, parent-of-two-kids-sports-all-day-every-day schedule still drove two hours to help, alongside my sweet niece Anna and her friend Caroline to work the entire event. She also donated the face-painting clown who was the hit of the day. And Erica, RDC’s fab graphic designer (with her young Chloe always assisting) who donated time she didn’t have to develop all the logos, flyers, tshirts and everything else you saw that day. And it looked fabulous! And of course, my mom and dad, who sacrifice so much every single week so my mom can be with me for every treatment.

There are so many people involved, too many for me to name. The DJ, the dance-a-thon leader, the moms who donated prizes. Those who did things I don’t even know about! Picture me naming your effort here!

Same deal for the dancers and parents who participated and danced in the dance-a-thon. These dancers ranging from pre-schoolers to age 18+ already put in so much of their life and time into dancing, rehearsing and competing. I’m sure they would have loved to sleep all day that “free” Saturday (and deservingly so). But they didn’t. Because they are are Rhythm. And they never stop being awesome!

These amazing dancers, along with my incredibly supportive family and dear friends all joined together, in my honor, to raise FORTY THOUSAND DOLLARS for the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation. That’s 40,000 reasons to be happy right there! Happy thinking of what that money will translate to in research for targeted therapies for TNBC. Happy for the hope it will bring to those like me who suffer from this disease. Happy for the young families who might not lose their wives, moms, daughters, sisters from this horrible disease in the future. Happy that this many people cared enough about me and this cause to join together to spread awareness and make a difference. (Wait, did I just start writing that mashup?? I didn’t mean to but you sort of could, in a stretched out kind of way, sing that to the tune of “Happy”. See, it’s somewhere in the back of my foggy brain but not quite there yet).

In addition to the awesome event hosted by the RDC family, another Bullseye Bash event was held to launch arrows against TNBC in my honor. Hosted in the town where I grew up (shout out to Trenton, GA! What, what!), my incredible family and friends (who are adopted family) threw a satellite Bullseye Bash Soup and Chili Supper at my parent’s church on March 3. Two of my aunts, Gail and Carolyn, and my adopted “other” moms, Stacia and Jean, and many other helpers (my parents included) also worked their tails off and their efforts are what bumped the Bullseye Bash donations up to the $40,000 mark. They did all that in honor of me and for every woman facing this diagnosis.

To top all of that off, both of these events raised a HUGE donation that was given to me to help cover some of my medical bills. This was above and beyond the $40K raised for the Foundation. I am so humbled by this. It’s so hard to accept this kind of help, but all of you have no idea what a major burden this lifted off us. Cancer is expensive!! Even for hard-working, dual income, no (human) kids couples with good jobs and group health insurance. You’ve all made such a difference in my life, you just don’t know. I don’t think I could ever adequately explain it or appropriately thank you. So forgive the vast smallness (oxymoron?) of the words “thank you” in a situation like this, but saying thank you is just the beginning of my response to this event. It was quite a site to walk into the cancer clinic and whisper to the front desk that I need to pay my bill but need to do so away from the lobby because I’m paying in cash. So we huddled in a closed door office counting out bills and change, large and small, and it felt so good to have that burden lifted. The staff at my clinic are amazed and in awe at the success of these events. As they should be!

Breast cancer has changed me. But not how I thought it would. All of my friends and family and people I don’t even know have inspired me in their overwhelming love and support of me. Your response to MY cancer has changed me. I’m not just going to say thank you to you. I’m going to carry this with me and turn it into something. There’s no big announcement here, sorry if that felt like a lead in to some new foundation being formed. It’s not. I don’t have time for that between cancer and crazy work and animal rescue. I don’t know yet exactly all that I’m going to do armed with this overflowing cup of thankfulness. I’m starting small, but starting nonetheless.

By striking up a long, benedryl-laden conversation with an overly anxious, sweet lady at her very first chemo last week to try to distract her from the red devil poison being injected into her body.

By assisting the poor man next to me today who puked into a blue plastic bag from his recliner the entire time he received his chemo, in a room full
of people with no privacy, if by nothing more than waving down a nurse and looking him in the eye to show my concern and ask if I can help relieve his suffering in any way.

By offering what little support I can to a dear friend whose family member just had to hear the same words I heard six months ago.

There are so many ways to help people cope and make a difference, no matter how big or small. And to Becca, Dani, the Rhythm family, my own family, my adopted family, my amazing friends, and all of you–whether I talk to you daily or I haven’t met you yet–who have supported me with prayers, donations, cards (some every single week!), gifts, time, calls, meals, emails, facebook shout outs, texts, visits, distractions, advice, walked my dogs, go to every single treatment, cater to my every need, go to the store for me, wear a ribbon or bracelet or sticker on your helmet for me, knit or sew me a hat, blanket or scarf, paint me a picture, draw me a picture, involve your young kids in praying for me, clean my house, restyle my house, help out at the event, took over my portion of managing the crazy stressful world of animal rescue I’ve taken a hiatus from, drove or flew MILES to support me at the events, brought my first ever rescue dog to see me because you knew it would make my day, counted donations, set up tables, picked up supplies, lost sleep, gave up free time, went door to door raising money, danced all day at the dance-a-thon, made a pot of soup, bought a bowl of soup, baked cupcakes and blogged about them to spread awareness of TNBC, covered for me at work, pushed my heparin slowly so I wouldn’t taste the horribleness so bad, forgiven me for really late thank-you notes, turned this scary cancer experience into a positive life-changing event. The list goes on and on (you noticed?) and you all know who you are. To everyone who has launched an arrow for me…thank YOU! Not one thing goes unnoticed or unfelt by me. Nothing.

You’ve inspired me more than you can imagine. And much like the yet-to-be-determined mashup of Pharrell and Mike Mills, something’s brewing in the way back of my chemo brain. You’ve inspired me to give back. To take this incredible gift you’ve given me of love and support and launch it back to someone else who needs it. It’s not something likely to materialize into a big formal thing. It’s something more on the inside of me. It’s there, and it’s not going away. It’s going to grow (unlike my cancer). So, thank you. Thank you. THANK YOU!

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3 responses

  1. I was also blown away at the Bullseye Bash. But not surprised, as we all know Becca and her amazing talents and hosting a fabulous event!
    Shelley, You are truly an amazing woman!! You are an inspiration to so many of us.
    Be awesome or go home! …… my new motto

  2. I just finished catching up on your blogs…and now I am in tears, but happy grateful tears.
    I missed the BASH, and truly hate that I did, but I am not surprised by its overwhelming success. I am so lucky and honored to have you as a friend. I know you will take your inspiration and DELIVER something incredible, no matter what it is. I will continue to say that you are my hero. You have raised the bar for all of us who are fortunate enough to know you, and have made our world a better place.
    I second Caren’s comment….BE AWESOME OR GO HOME!

  3. Shelley, you are awesome, yet you remain so humble! I am so taken with your words and your inspiration to others. I wish I could do more to help you in this fierce battle you are fighting. Rufus, Axle, Ginger and Coco send their love and appreciation for all you did for them….in helping them find their forever home. We continue praying for you and know you will prevail! Much love.

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