Fight Like Mike Monday
"It's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get up." Vince Lombardi
Dear Fight like Mike army,
Today marks the beginning of childhood and blood cancer awareness month.
I made a promise to Mike in his final days. And so here is my broken hearted attempt to keep it.
I promised that I would keep swimming through the days ahead without him. I promised him I would keep swimming for Jake, Celia, and Graham. I would keep swimming for our family and our friends.
I promised him I would keep fighting for a cure. That I would keep swimming for our healthcare family- his doctors , nurses, and everyone on our journey that made our lives full of joy during our most frightening and painful days. That I would finish his battle for him.
But Mike and I mostly wanted to fill the lives of other patients and families diagnosed with rare and life shattering diseases, with the same love and hope we were given. We wanted , together, to be able to encourage someone else to keep getting back up , to keep swimming through rough waters. To keep fighting like Mike did but ultimately surrendering to the journey that you are given.
The last 5 months of missing Mike, without a doubt, have been the strongest waves and deepest seas of tears I have had to swim through.
But I keep remembering my promise to him and the most valuable lessons he taught me through watching him fight Leukemia. He kept getting back up, kept "hoping in a hopeless fight", kept swimming know matter the size of the wave.
The Winship 5k , for the last 4 years became our place of purpose.
A place where we found the good that comes from suffering. Where I felt and witnessed the love that surrounded us each day on our journey.The race morning was a visual reminder of this love. The love that we came to know as OUR cure.
In May of 2016, one of Mike's doctors, Dr. Arellano, recruited Mike for her team ,the Leukidators. It was his first weekend in the hospital after being newly diagnosed with Leukemia. Mike, of course the salesman he was, made a promise to her that he would win all three categories, t-shirt, fundraising, and actual race winner. Dr Arellano puts her heart and soul into this race. She has over the years become more than a doctor , she has become a friend that I am beyond grateful for and in debt to, for all she has done for us.
The only category Mike won each year was Top Fundraiser and largest team .
And I am hoping this year we can carry on that legacy for him.
Over the past 4 years, on the morning of the race, we would wake our three kiddos up before the sun came up, like it was Christmas morning, and would drive to Emory.
These beautiful fall mornings in October, we showed up to the sea of orange, wearing orange tutus and Leukidator t-shirts, enjoyed DD donuts coffee and donuts, blew up orange balloons, and enjoyed the best company of family, friends, and the Emory staff who had become our family too.
This year the actual race lands on October 3rd, what would be Mike's 37th Birthday. And I know that is no coincidence. I am so sad that we will not be able to hug all the people that pulled us through this 4 year battle . I could use those hugs more than ever this year. I will miss the spirit and love felt so strongly those race mornings. The spirit you can see in the pictures below. Pictures of hope in a hopeless fight.
However we still have the chance to remember and honor Mike ,and all the other patients who lost their lives , are currently fighting, or who have yet to be diagnosed. And I know there is nothing he would want more than to celebrate his birthday by helping others in their fight and giving back to those who helped him. Well maybe alongside grilling and enjoying a beer later that afternoon :)
Even though this year, the race will be done virtually, we still have a chance to give back to ALL the incredible doctors and nurses who are tirelessly fighting and working each day for the vulnerable.
Those people who never give up hope in what feels like a very hopeless fight.
We are all suffering this year.
I know that money does not come easy during these extremely hard days.
The 5k is actually free to sign up .
And I believe this year , it might be about something deeper than money.
Maybe about just reminding each other to keep swimming through the rough seas of life.
That we are stronger together, similar to a school of fish, verses facing the deep sea all alone.
Or maybe I have just lived in virtual school land with three kids for two weeks too long and have school on the brain.
I find great hope and strength in remembering how many people signed up under Mike's name over the past years. I believe and know with all my heart that this army behind us is what pulled us through .
This army of love fueled by courage of hope.
Mike and I always believed love was our cure. And Mike has for sure been cured by love now more than ever. By your love, his doctors and nurses love, and God's love.
There is an option to sign up and pay $ 35 .
I promise if you can sacrifice any gifts at this time, your money will be well spent on providing hope to patients who are in the fight of their lives.
You will also get two t-shirts. Woohoo!!
Our incredible family has helped me again , add to our Fight Like Mike wardrobe-haha, and create a memorial shirt for Mike. I am grateful for each of them , who have been my front line soldiers , not allowing me to drown in grief.
# milesformike has been our inspiration to keep going through these sad days of missing him. He would keep getting back up after each relapse or set back on his journey. Smiling , none the less. That smile is what I miss the most.
Yet, when I get out there and move, walking or running, I feel him with me. Running has saved me through these days of grief . I want you to let Mike inspire you to get your miles in , however it may be - running, swimming, biking, walking, or just breathing like Mike did best in his final weeks.
For this month leading up to his birthday, I want to encourage and challenge you the same way our families have encouraged me to keep moving. They have saved me by reminding me to get my #milesformike in each day.
In the month after Mike died, out of desperation to find some piece of him still in our home , I searched frantically in sock drawers and shoe boxes in his closet, for one last love letter he may have written to me.
But our story wasn't like the movies , Mike was 36 and didn't want to die. He was not going to believe he was either. He believed with all he had that he would win this fight.
So I came up empty handed and there was no last love letter found .
However I have come to realize and find that he did write me a final love note. Two simple words .
I wrote more about my inspiration form the movie, Finding Dory in 2016 before Mike's transplant. I found myself like her, floating around in uncharted waters with extremely short term memory. But she managed to survive with determination and a mindset to Just Keep Swimming. So I started signing all my letters to family, keep Swimming.
Mike would often say to me in my sadness, Keep Swimming , right?!
I knew of one page where he practiced to perfect his "messy handwriting" ( even made a curl on the K :)). He knew I wanted to tattoo the words on my wrist against his will. I had been asking him to write it for a year.
But later about a month after he died, I found a few more pages where he practiced in one of Jake’s notebook.
He did write me a final love letter after all.
We have cut some of them up and taped them around the house.
I have come to love the messiness of his handwriting.
It reminds me that Life is Messy. And most likely always will be.
But he wouldn't let me forget that we must Keep Swimming.
Through the mess. Through tsunami size waves.
Mike did. And he did it humbly .Smiling. And so well.
We can too. You can too.
A friend said when I gave her the new shirt- " Now Mike has always got our back ".
No matter the mess you are in, I hope you remember he always will(me too)!
If you sign up on the Miles for Mike Page,(link below) under the Leukidator team, we will get a new memorial
t-shirt to you. You can pick them up from our house if you are local or Mike's parents for our Louisiana family. We will mail them to you if not. Just email me after you sign up for the race.
The sooner you sign up , the sooner we can get them to you!
We would love for you to post pictures of you in your shirts on October 3rd.
So to simplify:
* Get in your #milesformike.
* Sign up for the 5k under Miles for Mike.
Click below and click - join our team!
* Keep Swimming.