09.24.2008 – Fighting Cancer for Those Who Cannot

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Betty Seise, My “Second Mom”

Once in a lifetime someone makes a difference in your life.  I do not mean my parents, or my husband, my childhood best friend, or even my child.  Someone who takes an interest in your well-being for no reason except that they really give a crap about your future.  That was my mentor, and “second mom,” Betty Seise.

When I was a teenager, I worked as Betty’s assistant for a company where she was the Controller.  She guided and directed me through school, life decisions, and choosing a future.  She supported me when I was right, told me the truth when I was wrong, and encouraged me to the light when it was dark.  After her career advanced and I went on to college, Betty remained close by.  She was always interested in what I was doing with my life.  When I graduated from school, she told me, “The world is your oyster,” and I was inspired by that.

Betty was a champ.  She had her shares of ups and downs, but she was a self-made woman, a mom, a daughter, a wife, a leader, and a self-proclaimed life-long student.  She was charitable, helped others, and when you told her something you knew she was listening.

So, you can imagine my response when in the summer of 2008 I found out that she had cancer.  Stage 4, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, to be exact.  I began researching everything I could find on the disease, and found that 5 in 10 people go into remission post chemotherapy and radiation.  I was 100% confident she would be okay.  After all, Betty was a fighter. 51 years old, in impeccable shape, a healthy eater, and a holistic healer.  She was educated and well-read, so if anyone had a chance for survival…it was her.

Over the next ten weeks, the updates on Betty’s health were up and down.  Due to the cancer in her lymph nodes, large amounts of lymph fluid accumulated in her abdomen and under her arms.  Doctors had to surgically extract 1.8 liters here, 1.5 liters there, and it was excruciatingly painful for her.  She had to maintain iron levels in order to receive the chemotherapy treatments that were imperative to her survival.  She spent days in the hospital, lost a great deal of weight, could not eat, could hardly sleep, and eventually could not talk.  One day, her condition improved.  We had hope!  Then on a Monday night, I received the news that she was again hospitalized and was not expected to make it.

09.24.2008 is the day that Betty, my mentor, my second-mom, lost her battle to cancer.  And I started the fight.  4 months and 1 day before I was married.  Two years and one week before my daughter was born.  One day before her son turned 22.  One year before her oldest son earned his Master’s Degree.  And my life, like many others, has never been the same.

Betty is not the only one.  We all know somebody who has won, lost, or is still fighting the battle.  There is something that we can do to help.  All organizations that provide prevention to support for Cancer patients and their families need volunteers.  In fact, many rely on volunteer support to serve those in need.  Contact any hospital, cancer treatment center, hospice, American Cancer Society, or Leukemia and Lymphoma society and find out how you can help.  Or, volunteer to be a bone marrow donor. ALL of these organizations need volunteers, so JOIN THE FIGHT!

How are you volunteering to fight cancer?  Please share.  Make YOUR difference in the world…Volunteer!

Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

American Cancer Society

Delete Blood Cancer – Bone Marrow Registry

Hospice Foundation of America

UC Davis Hospice Volunteer Program

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Mentors Bridge the Gap for Youth

Picture1There are not many causes that pull my heart strings more than those about children…the most innocent of victims in poor circumstances.  They have the most to lose and the least with which to fight.    Mentors are working every day to bridge the gap for children in crisis or at-risk of crisis.  Mentors teach youth skills to achieve their life goals and live productive, fulfilling lives.  And, it is still not enough.  There is something that we all can do to help.

All kids need the influence of a positive adult.  However, not all are devoid of a loving home.  Some families have one parent or even two parents who work long hours to support the family.  Other children have a learning or physical disability, or are simply struggling in school.  Others may have endured a traumatic experience such as divorce, loss of a parent to death or prison, abuse or neglect, or are in foster care.

I am inspired by the life stories of two star NFL athletes, Jimmy Graham of the New Orleans Saints and Patrick Willis of the greatest team in the league, San Francisco 49ers.  Both men endured poverty and abuse as children, were rescued by an adult mentor, attended college, and embraced sports with motivation to overcome obstacles.  Both Graham and Willis have shared that the adult mentors in their lives made the difference for them.

Jimmy Graham was abused and abandoned at 9 and again at 11 years old. While attending a local church, a young mother, Becky Vinson, took him under her wing.  The three lived in a small trailer with no heat, where they had to sleep in one room during winter to stay warm.  Becky graduated from college and her example encouraged Jimmy to excel as well.  While Jimmy went on to college at the University of Miami on a basketball scholarship, he played one year of football, and was drafted by the Saints in 2010.

Patrick Willis and his three younger siblings, living in poverty and violence from an alcoholic parent, were on their way to foster care.  A coach and a young couple took the Willis kids into their home and encouraged their education.  Patrick went on to graduate from the University of Mississippi, playing baseball, basketball, and football, where he was All-American.  A highly awarded athlete, he was drafted in 2007 by San Francisco.

The key factor for these outstanding athletes was a mentor, an adult who envisioned a future for these kids whose parents gave up on them.  There are many children, who are in crisis or at-risk of crisis today.

Youth mentors make a difference on a variety of schedules.  Organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Club, or your local school district match adults with at-risk students to provide help with homework, engage in hobbies or sports, teach leadership and life skills, and serve as a positive role model.  YOU can make a difference as a youth mentor.

What is your inspiration for mentoring?  Please share.  Make YOUR difference in the world…Volunteer!

The National Mentor Partnership

Big Brothers Big Sisters

Boys and Girls Club of America

Hands On Network

Junior Achievement