Ripple Effects

December 2007 was the rock thrown in the still lake. It was the beginning of the ripple effect.

For those who are linear thinkers, it might seem strange to say that December 2007 was a starting point in two lives. Especially these two lives. Two lives that had already given almost a century of service to thousands of people. For Kay Yow and Annette Lynch, December 2007 was not just a starting point, it was, in many ways, the starting point.

To say that Annette Lynch’s life has been purpose driven is to say the very least. Her path through life has been a series of professional positions, any one of which could be considered a calling, all of them centering around one word—giving. As a coach, giving to her players. As a director at the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators (NACWAA), giving to an entire profession. Giving through a storied career in Special Olympics that started with a successful job interview with Eunice Kennedy Shriver and is still going strong.

Purpose driven.

Yet even for the most ambitious of souls, coming face to face with the realities of a cancer diagnosis would heighten the senses and double down on the resolve to find purpose.

Purpose in life. Purpose in cancer. Purpose in living beyond cancer.

In December 2007, Coach Kay Yow finalized plans to officially launch the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. Annette Lynch finished 33 rounds of radiation. It was a starting point for living beyond cancer. The point of purpose.

For Kay Yow, the Fund became her purpose, an avenue to give back. To give in favor of life extending research. To give to the underserved. To give future generations of women the chance to find their purpose. To give hope.

With Annette, late 2007 was the start of a conscious decision to live with purpose. Each day would be deliberate. Each encounter with a young professional or a Special Olympics athlete, the chance to mentor.  The chance to give.

Annette says, “We are measured by doing what we can with what we have, not what we don’t have.”

So true.

Cancer or no cancer, none of us know how many days we have left. The challenge is not in knowing the number of days we have left. The challenge is in taking each day and maximizing the number of giving opportunities. How much can we give? How much of an impact will we have?

Money raised for cancer. Athletes given the chance to excel. Lives bettered. Lives changed.

These are the ripple effects from survivors like Kaye and Annette, casting their stones into the still waters … the purpose of survival … and making a tremendous difference in the lives of others … of giving hope.

 

To donate to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, click here.

Giving Hope…

Christmas. New Year’s. Birthdays. All special days — days that should fill us with the best emotions life has to offer. Emotions that cannot be bought or quantified. Emotions as essential to us as life itself – peace, joy, and hope—especially hope.

For Andrea Eason, there was a time when the peace of Christmas was taken by the anxiety of test results. The celebration of New Year’s was taken by the raw emotion of a breast cancer diagnosis. The joy of another birthday was taken by an upcoming mastectomy.

Cancer has taken too much. Cancer often takes our sense of peace, our joy. But through the very worst, hope prevails. Hope is stronger than cancer. Even when cancer takes, hope continues to give.

Knowing Andrea is to receive the gift of hope.

In Andrea, other women see a fighter. Someone who refused to think the worst, but chose to live at her best. Someone who battled breast cancer as a single mother while balancing her career as a partner in her accounting firm. Andrea encourages women to do their own research, investigate their best options, and make decisions based on what is best for them. She is someone who handles the uncertainties of life, particularly life with cancer, with grace and courage.

Coach Yow gave us a similar example, fighting cancer with the shield of hope and a sword of grace. She was someone who refused to forfeit the joys of life, even in the most difficult of times, to the unrelenting power of cancer.

In these women we see all that is possible. We see the power of the human spirit and the best that exists in each of us. Watching these incredible women not just survive, but live — this gives us strength, this gives us hope.

And we know, hope cannot be taken. Hope can only be given.

Of course, we know that each diagnosis is different. Each journey contains its own challenges, presents its own battles. Each story starts and ends in a slightly different place. But each journey has the opportunity to generate hope. The kind of hope that can sustain others through the extremes of life. Andrea’s life with cancer generates hope. Long-lasting hope.

There are over 15 million people in the United States living with cancer today. They give us hope. They give each other hope.

Andrea Eason does not believe that her journey with cancer is particularly remarkable. But it is. Andrea’s journey gives hope to others. And giving hope is beyond remarkable – it is extraordinary.

 

To donate to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, click here.

Living in the Moment…

These are the moments you live for. The moments that Kodak never had enough film to capture. The moments you dream of when you are sleeping and envision when you are awake.

Terry Crawley’s first grandchild turns a month old today. She and her husband, Oliver, light up when they talk about their grandson. To say these are great times is an understatement. To say they are grateful is also an understatement.

They are more aware than most that this precious time was not guaranteed.

Terry was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003. She had discomfort in her breast. A tenderness that had not been there before. Wanting to be proactive, she had a mammogram. Nothing. The tenderness persisted and so did Terry. Another mammogram. Nothing. But something was wrong. Finally, at Terry’s request, an ultrasound revealed that the previous “nothing” was indeed something. Cancer.

Radiation wasn’t an option because the location of the cancer was so close to Terry’s heart—too close. But, then that is the way with cancer. It always strikes too close to the heart.

So, she had four rounds of chemotherapy, sent her youngest child off to his Freshman year of college, and then had a mastectomy.

Cancer was behind her.

With cancer in the rearview mirror, Terry continued living. Watching her children grow into adults. Life moved on.  Graduations, weddings, the highs and lows of life continued.

Almost 10 years to the day of her first diagnosis, Terry felt that same familiar and unsettling tenderness, this time in her other breast. Stage 2, triple negative breast cancer, with lymph node involvement. Somehow the second breast cancer diagnosis seemed to hit harder than the first. Terry and her oncologist, Dr. Mark Graham, worked to put a “game plan” together. Cancer isn’t a game, but having a plan of attack makes the course seem more manageable.

Terry remembers watching Coach Yow, inspired by her ability to continue living, coaching her team, while engaging in a battle against, what Coach Yow herself referred to as, the “toughest foe of all—cancer.”

But, like Coach Yow, Terry continued to live. One day at a time. Each milestone. Each memory. Each moment—giving hope to others who witnessed her battle.

Giving hope. What a tough thing to do. How does one person give hope to another? It seems the answer is somewhere in the fabric of continuing.

Continuing to coach. Continuing to live. Continuing for the chance to impact others. Continuing for the chance to meet grandchildren.
To donate to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, click here.

Using Cancer…

Some of the things Cindy Alexander says belong on a shirt or a poster. Better yet, they belong in a song.

Cindy is an artist. She uses her music to raise money for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund and awareness for ALL women’s cancers. She is on tour this summer and donating the proceeds to the Fund. But it is bigger than that. Way bigger.

Cindy is the mother of two 8 year old children. She is teaching them how to use their passions for a cause. She is teaching them how to give. Actually, she is teaching a lot of people how to give.

Her journey with cancer started when her kids were young. They were too young for a lot of things. Too young to understand cancer.

Then again, are any of us “old enough” to understand cancer?

In talking with Cindy, it becomes apparent that her intention is not at all to understand cancer. It is to use cancer. And she is.

She is using cancer as a platform to give back. She is using cancer to teach others how to do the same.

She is using cancer as a reason not simply to exist, but to live and to thrive.

She is using cancer as a reminder of her own mortality. Not in a scary way, but in a way of immense gratitude. Gratitude for each day, each moment.

She is using cancer to show her kids that making a life is more important than making a living.

One day her kids will understand that when they were 4 years old, their mom faced a scary opponent. They will understand why their mom goes for check-ups less and less frequently. They will understand why each of those follow-up scans ignites fear. But they will understand that their mom conquers fear.

Cindy Alexander never met Coach Yow. She wishes she had. She says she understands from what she reads that Coach Yow had “giving energy.”

Yes. Yes, she did.

The giving energy is something Cindy recognizes, because, she too, has it. If cancer is hard to understand, giving is not. The great thing about the gifts that Cindy and Coach Yow have given is that they can never be taken away. They will always remain.

The unfortunate reality that we all understand is that cancer takes too much away from us. But, the victory is in those people, like Coach Yow and Cindy, who have “giving energy.” They give us hope and hope cannot be taken away.

 

To donate to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, click here.

For more information on Cindy Alexander or to check out upcoming tour dates, click here.

Photo credit Don Adkins.

 

 

Hope for the Future…

Julie Skinner is a member of two sororities.  She volunteered for one. She was drafted into the other. She is thankful to be in both.

She is a former Kay Yow Camp counselor (anyone who ever worked or attended Kay Yow Camp knows that is a sorority). She is also a cancer survivor – the most courageous of sororities.

Thirty years ago this summer, Julie worked her first of two summers of Kay Yow Camp. One, surely hot, Tuesday night in Reynolds Coliseum, Coach Yow approached Julie and asked her if she would lead the next morning’s devotion. However big or small the moment seemed then, certainly Julie could never have known the eventual significance.

Julie remembers that she picked the verse from Jeremiah, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” as the focal point of her lesson.

First the irony.

Looking back thirty years later, the fact that Julie led a devotion assuring listeners of God’s gentle sovereignty regarding future events, perhaps no more than 6 Wednesdays before the Wednesday in August 1987 when Coach Yow was first diagnosed, seems so amazingly random. And yet, we know, nothing about this story is random.

Now the parallels.

The future. Coach Yow was diagnosed with breast cancer on August 5, 1987. 23 years later, Julie began her journey with breast cancer. Coach Yow would never know that their futures held this common bond. Yet, each woman battled their common opponent with grace, courage, and strength.

The hope. Talking with Julie, it is apparent that her life with cancer has been lived in a similar vein as Coach Yow’s. Julie is a coach for multiple club basketball teams. Throughout her battle, she continued to coach, giving hope to the kids and their families that witnessed her strength and courage in a daily fight for her life. At the same time, Julie says nothing gave her encouragement quite like that of her players. Sounds familiar.

Maybe it was the plan along. His plan — to give Coach Yow and Julie a purpose, in their players, that they were so passionate about that being in the presence of their game and their people would give them both strength and hope on the darkest of days. That alone is an encouraging thought.

The even more inspiring idea is the thought that His plan was to give hope to many, many more through the battle that Coach Yow and Julie both fought. In this way, the future is full of hope and the battle is already won.

To donate to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, click here.