One of the things you have to just accept as a road warrior is that you are going to spend a lot of time alone. On planes, on shuttle buses, waiting at the airport, hanging in hotel rooms……you have a lot of time to yourself. You also have the opportunity to meet a lot of people along the journey. Today I would like to introduce you to one of the great ones I met along the way, meet Kelly Thomas and her family. The Thomas family is the very definition of survivorship.
I have known Kelly (the good looking bald one above…..sorry Dave Thomas, I don’t mean you) and her family for about the last 3 years. Our paths crossed when she came to work for me. Fortunately, they have not stopped crossing since.
Kelly is one of those people who light up a room just by walking in. Her huge smile is infectious and she always has the most positive of attitudes to back up the smile. People want to be around her because they know they can only be better if for no other reason than osmosis.
I will never forget when Kelly texted me to let me know that she was leaving our company…..and why. Her 2 year old daughter (the youngest one above) had been diagnosed with Leukemia. There I was, in a hotel room in Indianapolis, alone, crying for my friend and her family….and also for my own. My response to Kelly? I know how you feel and I am in it with you. This conversation happened just days after my own wife, Joy, was diagnosed with Breast Cancer (read her story at http://www.joybowen.net). I was in shock and truth be told, happy to have someone who could even possibly understand the journey through hell I was about to embark on.
Over the course of the coming months, Kelly and I would check in on each other through text, Facebook and the occasional call. Kelly was always concerned with how I and particularly, Joy, was doing. Here she was battling childhood cancer with her youngest and she was sincerely inquiring how I was doing? Simply amazing. I watched and encouraged as she and her family tireless raised funds and awareness around childhood cancer research. Creating Facebook pages, being the poster child (literally) for fundraisers and constantly keeping the issue front and center, the Thomas family was making a difference.
Then lightning struck twice.
The next text hit me like a sledge hammer. I literally dropped to my knees as I was reading it. This time not at a hotel room, I was home, with the one woman who could help me process what I was reading. Kelly had been diagnosed with stage 3 Breast Cancer. Her daughter had not completed her fight yet and Kelly was about to start hers.
For the last few months I have been watching Kelly and her family live this journey of healing. Asking others to perform Random Acts of Kindness on Kelly’s chemo days and posting to the Love is Louder Than Cancer Facebook page and with the hashtag #loveislouderthancancer so Kelly could see the good that her story is doing. Constantly putting others first in their journey to go from cancer patient to cancer survivor. That journey takes a giant leap today.
Today is the day Kelly is scheduled for her double mastectomy. It is also her 40th Birthday.
I will spare you the details but the day of Joy’s mastectomy is one I will never forget (and not just because it was the day that Hoda put her cell phone number on air for all of America to see). I am sure it will have an impact on the Thomas family as well. We spent the days prior getting ready for the big event. Buying pajamas, getting pillows and asking everyone to change their profile pic to something with pink involved. Kelly and her family definitely have one upped us, in the best way possible.
I have a love/hate relationship with this picture. It was my profile pic as Joy headed into her own mastectomy. I love that it captures the fun that my son and I have on the mat. I love It was taken on Thursday, September 4, 2013, the day before my wife underwent a double mastectomy to rid her body of the cancer that was threatening to take her from me and he her sons (the oldest pictured here). I love that the shirt my son is wearing is the walk out shirt that Chael Sonnen honored his aunt with in her battle against breast cancer and the shirt I am wearing is to honor Joy’s fight. I hate that I ever had to do so.
What Kelly is asking for is exactly what I have come to expect from her, a campaign to put others first. So I am asking you now for Kelly, for Joy and for all of the other survivors out there, please do something for someone else tomorrow and share it on the Facebook page. The go to http://www.Loveislouderthancancer.org and make a donation of any size. The Thomases will thank you and so will I.
To read the details of Kelly’s story, click http://www.facebook.com/Loveislouderthancancer