Pink at the Rink

This past Saturday, November 6, 2010, the IWireless Center here in Moline, IL turned the rink pink for a night for Quad City Mallards hockey game to raise awareness for breast cancer awareness. Anyone that has or has had breast cancer was eligible for free tickets. Since I have only ever been to one hockey game in my life, and since my kids have never been, I quickly contacted Genesis to be put on their mailing list. Here’s the clipping from the Quad City Times Online paper:

“Pink In The Rink” will benefit Genesis Foundation for breast cancer patients
Posted Online: Oct. 04, 2010, 12:46 pm
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Press release submitted by Quad City Mallards

DAVENPORT, Iowa — Oct. 1, 2010 — The Quad City Mallards, Genesis Medical Center and Cumulus Media will team up to support breast cancer awareness with “Pink In The Rink” night in the I wireless Center on Saturday, November 6 when the Mallards host the Bloomington Prairie Thunder.

The Mallards’ players will wear special pink jerseys during the November 6 game. The game-worn jerseys will be auctioned after the game with proceeds benefitting the Genesis Health Services Foundation.

“We feel privileged to be able to work together with Genesis Health System and Cumulus Media on Pink in the Rink Night,” said Mallards President Chris Presson. “The chance to aid a cause as important as the Genesis Health Services Foundation is one we are very happy to embrace.”

The first 1,000 fans through the doors will receive pink caps and breast cancer survivors will receive free tickets to the game, as supplies last.

Cumulus Media will provide media support for the event. “We are honored to be part of such a great event and important cause”, said Cheryl Riley, Market Manager for Cumulus Media. “Every ticket sold thru our media efforts will result in a $2 donation going to the Genesis Health Services Foundation, so we will be reminding our listeners to support the November 6 game.”

There will also be breast cancer information available at a concourse display throughout the evening.

“This year Genesis will treat 300 women with breast cancer and will provide nearly 30,000 screenings or diagnostic procedures,” explained Flo Spyrow, Vice President, Genesis Health System. “Breast cancer remains one of the most important women’s health issues facing all of us in the future and having the resources to provide access to screening for all women remains a goal of Genesis.”

Patients of the Kenneth H. McKay, M.D., Center For Breast Health have access to the latest diagnostic and screening tools in the region. The center also provides women with a skilled team of experts in various specialties, including family practice, radiology, surgery and social and emotional support.

Genesis participates in clinical trials on an ongoing basis. Those trials allow women with breast cancer to receive the latest treatment while being able to remain close to their homes.

“Genesis and the Quad City Mallards organization have been partners for many years. The loyal fans of the Mallards have allowed us to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to support the Genesis Health Services Foundation and its projects that benefit patients throughout the region,” said Craig Cooper, Media Relations Coordinator, Genesis Health System. “We look forward to this next partnership that should be a lot of fun for fans.

“We hope the entire i wireless Center looks pink on November 6 to again raise awareness for the issue of breast health.”

It was just a short year and a half ago that I would have given the middle finger up to anything that would try to make me part of some elite club. I didn’t want to even associate myself with the disease, was pissed as hell that I had it, or that others would also hear those words in their lifetime. I have worked through a lot of my anger–slowly and have realized a couple things. Bad shit happens to Good people. Period. Sometimes life isn’t fair. Deal with it. Man up. Quit whining. The only way for me to do that was to dive back into where I just spent a good year clawing desperately to get out. It’s that all or nothing part of me I talked about in the last post. So, when I hear of local events that promote breast health–my ears perk up. When I see a pink ribbon somewhere, in the paper, a magazine, a billboard, or on a pair of socks, shoelaces, shirt or even tattoed on someone’s skin–I pause. If it has to do with a person–I go up to them and talk to them. I ask if they wear that badge in honor or memory of someone. I listen. I watch that person’s eyes light up for a moment in gratitude that someone would want to hear about their loved one. Sometimes, that’s all a person needs. That way, the memory of that loved one has not gone unnoticed.

Anyway–I received my tickets and began making plans for the family to have a night out enjoying a sporting event (one that we wouldn’t normally have chosen to go to). I was excited to see the rink turn pink like in this picture:

I went shopping at our local Goodwill store for pink shirts for everyone to wear. I love that place and sometimes its a curse that I live so close to it! I almost always find exactly what I’m looking for–for pennies on the dollar. This trip was no exception–super soft sweater for me, a fleece pullover for Justin and a brand new (tags still on) pink Ralph Lauren Polo with navy blue trim on the sleeves and collar for Jeff. Jordan said she already had something so for less than $10, we were now outfitted to go pink at the rink! Once I got home, I learned that Jeff was not going to be going with. Don’t get me started…I mean, I know he doesn’t care for hockey and that he had a ton of work to do or homework to do (I sent him back to college this semester on my dime after I took the semester off so), but I have never been into hockey either and that’s not what it was about. It wasn’t even about the pink thing–it was just an hour of family time, and I had secured free tickets for all of us and now he didn’t want to participate–for just an HOUR. I was bummed, but I wasn’t going to let it ruin my night out, so we went without him. We actually had a really good time, but we were all bummed that our ice was not pink.

Wish the ice would have been pink!

Justin forgot about wearing a "girl's" pullover once the popcorn was bought!

When I go to events like this, I am surrounded by women and children and families big and small that have been affected by cancer. There is an unspoken acknowledgement of each other as we briefly meet each other’s gaze in passing. Some nod, some smile, some look tired or worn out from the chemo, some are happy to be enjoying a night out with their families, some are oblivious, –but the magnitude of the cause remains the constant. Silent auctions for team member’s pink ribboned emblazoned jerseys were going on, T-shirts were being sold, information booths stood vigil. I was happy to be there with my kids. I was happy to have gotten free tickets. I was happy to see the look on my little boy’s face when I bought him own LARGE popcorn–his very own–and he squeezed my hand and told me, “Mommy, I love you soooooo much! Thank You!!” That’s all it took–for him to forget the argument we had had earlier about wearing a pink “girl’s” fleece pullover despite me countering with “Lots of guys wear pink!”. It was all it took for me to be reminded once again, that I am just exactly where I am supposed to be in this circle of life–sitting in a nosebleed section trying to get my camera to focus on a macro mode, hanging with my kids on a Saturday night. I just wish the other two members of my family would feel the same and would have been with me as well, but I take what I can get these days and try to feel grateful for those moments when they come. I just wish they’d come more often.

Race For the Cure

RaceForCure_logo-717608

Throughout this past year, with all the ups and downs and major family crisis, there is one event that really sticks out in my mind–a moment where we ALL came together (including Jasmine)–The Race For the Cure. I am going to be completely honest here, I had always heard of it, but had never participated before. I had always read about it in the paper, but had never witnessed it. I had always seen news clips of our local race, but I had never been touched personally by breast cancer up until this year. I take that back, as I’ve stated before in my post Strapped In Tight , my oldest daughter’s daycare provider was affected by the disease and yet, after she got remarried and moved, we lost touch. We weren’t thinking about it daily anymore and therefore, details and extra curricular activities once again busied our lives.

I have spent a great deal of time flip-flopping between being on the outside looking in (even though I was very “IN”) or “owning it”. I have said openly–“I DON’T WANT TO BELONG TO THIS CLUB”! I don’t. A big part of me really just doesn’t want to ever have to worry about cancer, statistics, prosthesis, chemotherapy, metastasis, reconstruction, wigs, mastectomy swimwear, etc. etc. etc. It’s like this…when you are pregnant for the first time, you are hyper tuned to all the strollers you see passing you in the mall, all the laughter of a preschooler playing in a park, a toddler crying for a piece of candy in the checkout lanes of the grocery store, or a baby and its mother conveying their love for each other through their eyes. If you aren’t pregnant or trying to conceive, you are busy with many other routines of life. Same goes for cancer. I am now, on alert when I read things in the newspaper regarding cancer treatments. I am more aware of (young and old alike) women that have lost their hair and whether they are wearing a head covering of some sort. I am more aware of the anguish some women are feeling as they are sitting in the Center for Breast Health. I know what they are feeling now. I have been there. I have walked a mile in their shoes. I have deep compassion and respect for these individuals who are facing their own mortality.

So, it goes without too much saying that when all the buzz about our local Susan G. Komen’s Race For the Cure was getting underway, that I found myself drawn to signing up. What an experience that was! I couldn’t believe how many people were at the sign up. I couldn’t believe how much pink was being proudly worn. I couldn’t believe how huge this was. The signup happened on a weekday and since I provide childcare during the day, I thought I’d just take them down with me–no big deal–we’d sign up–they would be my sign up supporters and we’d high five a good job done for Tina and we’d go grab a pizza somewhere. Little did I know that it would turn into a huge nightmare.

It was COLD and windy that day. The parking lot was jam packed and we had to park all the way to the back of the lot and run up. Once inside the convention center, I had to navigate through lines of women all the while continuously counting heads even though the kids are all knowledgeable about the rules I have while in public–hands on the stroller at all times, listen carefully for instructions, etc. We made it to the line where the applicants who hadn’t pre-registered were asked to stand. I waited approximately 20 minutes only to get to the front of the line when I remembered I left my debit card in the van. We turned around and headed back out into the cold to retrieve it. Once we returned the line had grown. We waited again for approximately another 30 minutes and once I reached the head of the row, the lady explained that they do not accept debit cards. I couldn’t believe it. I was so angry! She knew that was what I was going to get. It was the same lady. She heard me! Couldn’t she have told me then and saved me the trouble? Yes–but she didn’t. I turned everyone around and out we went to the van yet again. I loaded all the children, the double stroller and away we went looking for an ATM.

We ended up at a bank and after getting the exact amount of money we would need–plus a little extra to spend at the mini pink ribbon store that was there–we went back for a third time to the convention center. Pulling into the parking lot, I pulled out the snacks and had everyone finish up those before going in. I knew if I attempted it again, I would ultimately hear, “I’m hungry”. So, I crossed that one off the chesklist, first, and made my way through the throngs of women who were now standing in long lines. I found the same lady’s line that I had already stood in twice before. I know, you’re all probably wondering why I chose her again, afterall, she had already failed to give me pertinent information that would have made my life easier given the fact that I was trying to get through this process with 6 children by my side. It was a matter of principle at that point. I was going to prove to her that I was not easily deterred. That I was determined to sign up for this event–and really, if I left now without signing up after going through all the hassle, I would have been more mad at myself!

I thought that if we went and looked through the store, killed some time while picking out some bumper stickers, the lines would diminish some. I kept my eyes on their status and when I realized they were only getting longer, I figured I better go and grab a place. As we stood there, we played Simon Says and amused all the women around us. We also played I Spy until I was sick of it. I was getting hot and so were the kids. I started to peel coats off and pray the line would move faster. I finally get to the front after another 40 minutes only to have her smile sickeningly at me and ask me where all the registration forms were. That was it! I was about to blow and I knew I couldn’t because I’d have 6 children watching me. It’s moments like these when you know they are watching you. This is a teachable moment in patience, tolerance, and keeping my mouth shut firmly. I tried. I really did. I couldn’t help it, though and so I leaned over the table and got very close to her and as I smiled sweetly to her I told her through clenched teeth that this was my first time here. I had no knowledge of the process, the order to get that process done, or that I needed to bring cash or check. I told her that it was her duty as a volunteer to be trained adequately so that when someone shows up and looks lost, they are given ALL the information they need to produce the items necessary to register”. I then asked her where in the hell are the forms. She pointed to the back of the line where a table was set up. AAAAGGGGHHHH!!!!!!!!

“Calm Down”, I told myself. “Breathe”. So, I did. The sound in the convention center was becoming deafening with all the chatter and women’s laughter. I was totally over stimulated. The kids, although satiated for the time being, were bored. What was supposed to take me 15 minutes had now taken me over two hours and I was still no closer to getting my race badges. Here is where the crucial mistake was made. Recall, I had given the children snacks in the van? What goes in must come out, right? Yeah–I never thought about that in all my frustration. So, after spending 10 minutes filling out all the information on front and back of 5 forms and standing in line for another 20 minutes, I hear that familiar sound, “Tiiinnnnaaa–I have to go potty!!!!!” That prompted the next one to grab themselves and start dancing–and the next one and the next one–etc. etc. etc. I looked at the front of the line–I was second in line. The women all behind me were secretly happy. I could tell. They were tired of listening to the umpteenth repetition of “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush”. “Can you hold it just a little longer?” I begged. “NOOOOOO! They all cried”. I should have pottied them when we were filling out the registrations. Hindsight. Crap. “I give up”, I dismally said out loud.

I took them all to the potty but the women’s line was out the door. Double crap. I can’t go in the men’s bathroom, especially with a double stroller so, I am going to let the 4 preschool boys go in as a buddy system and I would be standing right at the door listening for them. The first sign of trouble, I was coming in. Note to self: Never let 4 boys go into a public restroom with urinals hanging from the wall because 1.) they are not preschool sized or hung at a preschool height; 2). They can’t reach the sinks or the soap hanging from the wall; and 3.) the toilets are usually plugged and not flushed and no one will want to go. I could hear the laughter. I knew something was going on. It was just a matter of time, really. They all were bored and it was more fun to be playing in a big boys bathroom then to stand in a line waiting to be helped. I asked a man coming out how it was going in there. He was in there and I know not only had he heard me, but many, many women all around me heard the ongoing conversations I was having loudly with the boys. The man told me they were the only ones in there–noone else if I needed to go in and check on them. I thanked him and started maneuvering the stroller into the narrow opening.

What I saw was comical to say the least. On the one hand, it completely helped break the tension that had been building in me from our disastrous morning and on the other showed me how ingenuitive these boys really were. There they were–still buddied–only not hand in hand as I sent them in there. They had collectively figured out a way to use the urinals so they could all have a chance of peeing on the blue urinal cake. One buddy hoisted his partner up by holding onto his legs. Boy being hoisted was leaning with both hands on the wall on either side of the urinal and the forward lean was helping point the arc in the correct downward spiral. Once done, they switched spots and the hoisters now became the urinators. I do wish I could have taken a picture of that–although highly inappropriate–it was hysterical. My boy was heard throughout the immediate vicinity to say very loudly–“Just don’t pee in my mouth–ok?” I laughed and helped the boys all up to wash hands. I congratulated them on their use of logistical thinking skills and their cooperative teamwork, but asked them kindly to just use the normal potty from now on–even if it means you have to pee on someone’s poo (that was the overwhelming concern they all voiced).

As we emerged from the men’s room, I realized how odd that statement probably sounded coming from my son for those who had not witnessed what was going on. I couldn’t help but openly smile. I re-entered the line to register with all my applications and noticed the lady I had dealt with was now gone. “Probably out to lunch”, I thought. The lines were starting to dwindle and as I approached the front and got all the applications turned in and paid for, I mentioned to the lady as briefly as I could how unprofessional I felt the woman she replaced was. She asked me if the woman had shown or pointed to where the ATM machines were located there within the facility. I was horrified and speachless and as I turned around and looked down a dark corridor, I saw it. AAAAGGGGHHH!!! I turned and told her “Absolutely Not”. She shook her head and apologized. She finished up and told me to take my badges over to the T-shirt table to pick up our groups shirts. I thanked her and headed over there hoping we were close to being done. It was there that the gentleman helping me shorted me one shirt. He swore he had only received 4 vouchers. I swore I gave him 5. He went back through a giant stack of vouchers and began to check. I looked to see if I had dropped one somewhere. Then I saw it. One application that had gotten shoved down by the coats in the cargo bin of the stroller while I was in the restroom with the boys. It was Jasmine’s application. Triple Crap.

You know what that meant. I had to return to line to pay for hers and get her voucher. At that point I was wondering if I should just forget about it. I mean, she was, at that time, MIA and Lord knows when she was going to be back. I went with my gut and decided to wear her badge along with mine should she not show up. Knowing that if she were in her RIGHT mind, she would not miss this and if she did, she would walk in spirit with me. When I got to the front, the first lady was back. I glared at her. She asked me for the money and I handed it over. She said I was $5 dollars short. WHAT??!!!!! I was FURIOUS!!! I had no more money, time, or patience left. I began to replay the events of my entire morning to her including the part where she failed to tell me there was an ATM ON SITE!! Her supervisor came over and it was waived. I was not trying to get out of donating to a worthy cause, mind you, I had spent upwards of $100 that day and knew I would spend more at the race as I perused the vendors, so it’s not like the organization wasn’t going to be making any money off of me, that’s for sure. I snatched the voucher out of her hand, marched over to the T-shirt table and had the man bag up all my shirts. I was relieved to be done, finally. The kids were relieved to be done, finally. Finally, we were going home.

We left the center and it was so nice to hear the quietness of that cold morning. We went to the van, loaded everyone up, loaded the stroller, and began to exit the parking lot. QUADRUPLE CRAP!!!! This sickening feeling washed over me as I looked in between the seats for the bag of shirts. “Oh God, please tell me I didn’t forget them all in there!” I kept muttering “Please, Please, Please” as I pulled over to check the cargo bin of the stroller. Not there. I looked up at the convention center and realized I had to make one more trip inside. I was about to say “Forget It” and take off without them, but I had paid for them. I wanted my family to all wear theirs with me. I pulled back into the parking lot and for the last time, I unloaded all the kids and walked into the center. Now–I just hope someone hasn’t stolen them. We waded through the sea of women and came to the table. There, all bagged up and sitting on top a pile of t-shirts were mine. I opened the bag, counted the shirts, made sure the sizes were all right, and left for the last time.

This would be my first Race For the Cure. I prayed that my children would walk it every year in memory of me and not because they had been affected themselves by the disease. I prayed that I would be a more willing participant of the “Club” once I could see visually how many people are affected by breast cancer. I prayed Jasmine would come home. I prayed that I would have the strength of an army to get through the rest of this year. I was just happy I had made it out of the damn convention center without killing someone!

The morning of, it was chilly and rainy. Not bad, very spitting conditions, yet not my ideal forcast for my first race. We didn’t let it get to us. We donned our shirts, our race badges, and peeled Jasmine out of bed–she had made it. I’m not sure how with us she really was, but she was physically there and she was willing to participate–so that spoke volumes to me at least. I was overwhelmed and found my eyes tearing up on more than one occassion. I had never seen so many people! I even knew some of them–more members of this club of women–some I had even remembered seeing in the Center for Breast Health’s waiting rooms. We walked that day–all 5 of us. Jasmine pretty much walked ahead of us and at times I wondered if she were looking for an escape route somewhere along the way. We posed for pictures and I secretly wondered if I would be around for next year’s. I began to notice the little patch on the survivor caps that delineated how many years cancer free they had been.

I didn’t wear a wig and I was trying to own my baldness on that day. I had a baseball cap and a smile and my family. That was all that mattered to me. We walked the long route. We saw all sorts of crazy and funny things from t-shirts to dogs decked out in pink ribbons and booties. We saw memorials emblazoned across the backs of countless idividuals walking for loved ones they had lost or were battling their dragons. It’s hard to explain, but the whole time I walked, I had a lump in my throat. It was hard to swallow. Just as it is hard to swallow the fact that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed. Seeing that many women walking, and watching more intently to the chatter on Twitter regarding similar walks all around the country has prompted me to really think that statistic is not correct. “It just has to be lower than that”, I kept saying to myself as we walked.

One of my all time favorite movies is Superstar featuring Mary Katherine Gallagher, a clumsy parochial student who is just looking for acceptance. She always strikes a pose and cries, “Superstar” as an affirmation to her awesome-ness. When I passed the finish line I pulled my signature Superstar move. Everyone there laughed and cheered! The news crew came down and asked me to give my name so they could give a shout out to me on the radio. I told them I was Christina Heald, 3 month survivor so far, and I was a Superstar!

IMG_0306

Superstar!

Moral of the story: Always pre-register for the damn race!!!

Started Tracking on 12-1-09

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