I am so excited to share this update. Have you ever heard the quote, "We meet the people we're meant to meet?" This weekend I fully embodied this saying.
On a whim, Brian and I decided to travel to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to attend Shane Burcaw's annual 5k event. For anyone who doesn't know, Shane Burcaw is an author, blogger, and YouTuber who was born with a disease called spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). To put it in uncomplicated terms, SMA robs him of physical strength by affecting the motor nerve cells in his spinal chord. It makes the muscles in his body surpassingly weak. Shane has certainly made lemonade out of lemons. For the last handful of years, he has been changing the world through his non-profit organization, Laughing At My Nightmare. Through his non-profit, he has raised approximately $200,000 for SMA patients and their families. This money revamps the lives of people living with muscular dystrophy by providing them with free medical equipment. Absolutely amazing.
Throughout this last year, I have been watching him and his fiancé, Hannah, on their YouTube channel called "Squirmy and Grubs." Their videos tastefully cover the ins and outs of their life as an inter-abled couple. I appreciate the honesty, humor, and normalcy of their videos. I applaud Shane for living his best life and tackling life's challenges with grace and a crap ton of humor. Their videos and books have been especially comforting for me over the last couple months following my diagnosis.
When I heard Shane was hosting a 5k only an hour from my house, I screamed. This couldn't be more ideal. Not only was the race conveniently located nearby, but it fell on the weekend before my fourth chemo treatment. I held onto the hopes of meeting Shane and Hannah, while I booked a hotel room. Brian and I left NJ on Friday, and on our way to PA, Shane posted a flyer for a book reading and signing that same night. Again, I screamed. Not only were we going to go to the 5k the next day, but we were also going to attend his book signing that night. This was too much for me to handle.
Close your eyes. Picture one of your favorite celebrities. Now imagine coming face to face with them. You'd freak out, right? I was expecting to be a meager ant among hundreds of people. To my dismay, Brian and I walked into Barnes and Nobles to see an arrangement of 20 chairs. 20! I pulled Brian to the front row. It was here where Shane and Hannah would be a mere foot away from us. I was going to go from watching them on a screen to smelling their cologne and perfume. Holy shitballs. Call me crazy, but being in their presence was close to an out-of-body experience. I was able to ask them questions, chit chat a bit, and even snap a picture. They are lovelier than I ever could have imagined.
Now, have you ever heard the quote "Sometimes it takes a wrong turn to get you to the right place?" I believe that if I was never diagnosed with cancer, I would not have been able to meet Shane and Hannah. Additionally, I wouldn't have been able to meet a remarkable woman named TaLisha.
I met TaLisha and her family at Shane's book reading. We exchanged small talk before the event but ended up talking for an hour afterwards. We instantly connected. TaLisha has a disease called Congenital Muscular Dystrophy (CMD), and she lives with her loving husband and their three young (and freakishly adorable) children. She has a YouTube channel called "Rolling Through Life With TALISHA."
The next morning we met TaLisha and her family at the 5k. We were surrounded by hundreds of people who were just as pumped to be there as we were. We walked with a purpose: to laugh at our nightmares and take control over it. Brian and I were walking to laugh at Hodgkin's. We even made 'FU Hodgkin's' shirts. We walked, talked, and bonded with TaLisha and her family for the duration of the 3 mile trek. It was a perfect ending to an insanely superb weekend.
Here are some pictures!
With this weekend coming to a close, I feel more empowered than ever. I'm starting to feel like myself again, mentally and physically. I am no longer in pain. I am opening my heart and mind to new experiences. I am making friends with people who are making a difference in this world. I am intermingling with people from different walks of life who are embracing their lives.
I guess the paramount point of this post is to remind you to keep an open mind. Entertain new connections. You never know who you will meet and form relationships with. If there's something you've been meaning to do, wanting to see, craving to eat, or somewhere you've been wanting to travel to...DO IT. SEE IT. EAT IT (LOTS OF IT). TRAVEL THERE.
Promise me that. You don't have to be diagnosed with cancer to be your best self.
All my love,
Hi, I'm Lia. I have Hodgkin's lymphoma, but Hodgkin's lymphoma does not have me.