A Ride with Matt: Rarely Am I at a Loss for Words

But right now I am. I’m struggling to put a coherent sentence together, let alone a whole post. I have to try. This is THAT important. I grew up in Mayberry (OK it was a small town in upstate NY called Palmyra, but it was very Mayberry-ish). Everyone knew everyone else’s name, and business. But we didn’t know everything. We judged others based on their actions at times and it was wrong. I told you about this over a year ago when I explained that I wondered why the town drunk, who was actually suffering from Huntington’s Disease, was allowed to walk the streets of this beautiful small town. 

I later came back to explain that his daughter and I cheered together, his wife was my awesome English teacher, and I had his daughter tell their story in her own words.

This family has had it rough but they are standing up to this disease. They are trying to fund a cure. Here’s where you come in. A Ride with Matt can help but you need to help them to help find the cure. I’ve been following along, I’ve donated, I felt like I did my part. But tonight…well tonight…this got even more personal. I heard about a father that took his life before Huntington’s could take him. I heard a young, courageous man say that he’s taken a knife to his wrist 9 times to escape the disease but backed out because he knew it would make him feel like a coward. He wants to help. He suffers with this disease. Yet he is an inspiration. 

They need $2600 more to reach their goal of $12,000. If each one of you on my friends lists, my twitter followers, my readers, donated $1, (put down the Starbucks…it’s not that important and can’t save lives) they’d more than exceed their goal and lives would be saved. Lives would be saved. I meant to repeat that. Were you listening?

You know what? If you don’t want to listen to me, listen to and watch this. If you don’t want to donate after following this story, maybe I should consider downsizing some of my lists. You might not miss me, but these families sure miss their loved ones when they’re gone. This disease is hidden. They aren’t drunks. This disease kills people. Kills people. Again, I meant to repeat myself. Please help!
Make your DONATION today. Super simple. You can give up your coffee and feel good about yourself. Matt can live. 

Life Lessons, Cancer, Inspiration, and a Cure with MasterCard! #DoGood #MC

In an attempt to help MasterCard Dig In & Do Good to benefit Stand Up to Cancer, I have partnered with them through Collective Bias. I’m honored to share this program with you. And although I have been compensated for this post, I would do it anyway and all opinions, ideas, and photos are entirely my own or used with express permission. 

My Pappy, my mom’s dad, was my favorite man who ever lived. When he spoke, I listened. He taught me many life lessons in our 10 years together. He taught me to be kind and caring, to have fun and love everyone, no matter what, and he taught me about favorites. You see, as my Pappy explained, it was OK to have favorites. It doesn’t mean you love anyone else less, it means you realize that you click with some people better than others. You chose one spouse because they’re your favorite, you have best friends because they’re your favorite, you like one food better than others because it’s your favorite. Favorites aren’t always a bad thing. I was his favorite and I adored him. He was to walk me down the aisle. He was to be there for the birth of my first child. He was not. 

The last lesson my Pappy taught me, at the age of 10, was loss and cancer. It wasn’t his fault. The beast did that. He had just retired, bought a boat, and he was diagnosed with cancer. A brain tumor. I was too young to understand, but as I sat in his hospital room after his surgery, he tried to explain. I didn’t really get it, but the beast took my Pappy. I knew I hated the beast. 

My life moved on, because it had to, and I learned more about this beast over the years. I’ve lost friends. I’ve lost family members. I’ve seen this beast rear its ugly head WAY too often. It has to be stopped. Luckily there are brilliant people who can help through foundations that we should all support. Luckily there is MasterCard Dig In & Do Good. They’re making it easy for us to help foundations like Stand Up to Cancer which is where the end of cancer begins. SU2C is a groundbreaking initiative created to accelerate innovative cancer research to get therapies to patients and save lives now. You can help by simply buying your family dinner, spending over $10, and MasterCard does the rest. They make the donation because you ate dinner to help fund cancer CURE research. 

Who do you stand up for? What’s your personal story? Who inspires you to do good?

You see, I have this friend, and she’s my inspiration. We met in middle school and reconnected years back on Facebook. She’s had cancer since 1998, and she laughs at it (literally) and she stands up for others while she battles the beast herself. Her name is Jody. I absolutely love her. She inspires me to help and be a better person.

Jody mentors young cancer patients, even while she’s being treated herself. She’s amazing. She lost her young friend, Heather, who was only 16 (for only 9 days in fact) when the beast took her life. And Jody helped throw a fundraiser for the family to pay the bills while they mourned the loss of their daughter. I hate that beast. 

But Jody, just like MasterCard and the Do Good Foundation, knows that there is a cure on the horizon. She knows that if we all support these missions (and there are many of them), there will be no more Heather stories in this world. Heather should have gone to her prom. Heather should have graduated high school. Heather should still be smiling today. She’s not, because of the beast. 

Here’s Jody’s story: She’s been through hell and back, yet sparkled through the beast’s attacks. In 1998, 3 weeks after her wedding, while running in a Relay for Life, her legs gave out. After several tests, the doctors diagnosed her with a form of Guillian Barre. Over the next few years, she went through different treatments and ended up having a port put in for IV treatments, 3 weeks on, 1 week off, for 2 years. Her legs giving out went from on/off to progressive constant. Her Neurologist OK’ed her to get into a clinical trial of stem cell transplant in 2007. The night before she went in for an all day nerve conduction, they found “the lump”, so they added an extra scan, and she got the cancer diagnosis 10 days after her 40th birthday. Breast cancer, stage II. 

They kicked her out of the clinical trial. When her long-term doctor cried, she responded with “But Doc! This means that I not only DON’T have to go to Chicago and live for 3 months in ‘the bubble’ away from my family, but I get the SAME drug here AND I get a boob upgrade out of the deal! It’s a win win”. That’s Jody! Double mastectomy 9/6/07. She hemorrhaged that night. Four weeks later she had 4 big rounds of Cytoxan and Taxotere. In the meantime, Neuro stuff reversed, she walked and felt better. Her nerves started to regenerate.

If she started wabbling again, they had to look for tumors. Guess what? She started wabbling again 8 months later. Stupid beast! The next scan showed a spot on her liver which resulted in 5 more rounds of heavy Cytoxan. That made her walk better and the spot was gone. Six months later, they found spots on her lungs. This meant 6 more rounds, same thing, all better. On maintenance every 3 months for 3-4 cycles.

Then brain surgery for a pituitary mass in October 2010. More chemo in February 2011. 

She was scheduled for “rounds” in June 2011 but she wanted to do a triathlon! She felt good so they allowed it. And she did it! That postponement, while she helped others and ran that triathlon, lasted 2 years. The “palsy”, as she calls it, came back in April of 2013. More chemo that May. Her counts were low but her scans looked good, and was walking fine. All is on hold. The lifetime dose of Cytoxan is limited so they’re holding off until absolutely necessary again, which is hopefully never. She actually thinks she’s lucky because her body sends off Neuro cascades when the tumors are small and they are detected early. 

Y’all she thinks she’s LUCKY! That’s why she’s helped others over the years. Because they weren’t LUCKY enough to have the signs that would help them suffer through these treatments and surgeries for the past 15 years and still be here to tell about them and help others. 

If Jody can help others, run triathlons, serve at children’s hospitals to mentor and inspire young children, and do Relays for Life to fund Cancer treatment, do you think you could take your family out to dinner and spend $10+ to support the Stand Up to Cancer Foundation? All you have to do is eat dinner and use your MasterCard between now and September 28th. 

And so we did our tiny part. The kids had fun. 

There was good food. 

And I paid with my PayPal MasterCard. So by doing nothing out of the ordinary, I’m helping others find a cure. I hope we’ll see a cure soon. No one else should suffer. There are so many intelligent people working on the cure. A simple family meal, a night of fun, might be the dollar donation that finds the cure. 

And there are more ways you can help through this program. Heck, you don’t even have to leave your house! To find out more, be sure to look through my Google+ Album to find out all of the ways you can help. 

Please don’t just sit there thinking you can’t help. Just don’t sit there and think it’s OK that Heather was stripped of her life. Don’t just sit there and think that the doctors can’t cure Jody. Don’t just sit there and think of all of your friends, or family, that are battling this beast. Don’t think you can’t help! Go create a table, go to dinner and pay with your MasterCard, share it on Facebook and Twitter, or just donate. Join the movement and do your part. Kill the beast. DON’T JUST SIT THERE AND DO NOTHING!

Hickory Farms, Family Traditions, Last Minute Holiday Shopping, and Charitable Giving

Family traditions are important to me. Holiday traditions are imperative because these are the only times we tune out and focus on what really matters…our family!
You might remember a month or so ago, I reminded you that Hickory Farms can make any day a fun day. We had an amazing time enjoying our goodies from the Taste of the Trade Toolbag we received. Hickory Farms makes football games and family time seem somewhat nostalgic to me and that makes me incredibly happy!
But when I hear about people scrambling for “last minute” Christmas gift ideas, I always giggle. Last minute? Hardly! This is when I start every year. True story. 
So what to do. What to do? You’ve got distant relatives or friends left on your list? I’ve got the answer. Give them the gift of holiday traditions that brings back fond memories from their childhood and that will brighten their holiday spirit. There’s still time and Hickory Farms can help with a wide variety of gift baskets that will suit any family and any budget. Quality, freshness, and value are key traits of Hickory Farms. For more than 60 years, Hickory Farms has been providing holiday shoppers with options for tasty gift giving. In fact, their Signature Summer Sausage was rated #1 in America winning the Masters of Taste Gold Medal for Superior Taste in 2011.
Family Favorites from Hickory Farms (photo courtesy of Hickory Farms)

But wait! There’s more! Hickory Farms is totally in to charitable giving so by gifting to your family and friends, you’ll be helping others in need. They have partnered with Share Our Strength which is a leading non-profit organization that works to stamp out childhood hunger. For each Party Planner gift box sold this holiday season, Hickory Farms will donate $5 to SOS’s No Kid Hungry campaign. Through this program, Hickory Farms and its customers have already donated $1.9 million to this cause. How cool is that? Jump on the band wagon and put a smile on the face of your friend while helping a child in need!

Hickory Farms Party Planner Gift Box (Photo courtesy of Hickory Farms)

And as if that weren’t enough, Hickory Farms also has a partnership with Operation Gratitude. This is a national non-profit that creates care packages for military families. They offer 8 products with free shipping to military APO and FPO addresses, including the Home for the Holidays gift basket. 

Home for the Holidays Military Gift Packs (photo courtesy of Hickory Farms)

You should really consider this if you are a last minute shopper like me or completely forgot to pick up something special for someone on your list. Remember sitting around the table eating Hickory Farms sausage and cheese during the holidays with your family waiting for Santa to come as a child? Yea, me too. 

Bring that magic in to the house of a family on your list this year. It’s quick, convenient, and you never have to leave the comfort of your home! Spread the love, enjoy the season, and happy holidays to each and every one of you! Or as we say in my house…Merry Christmas!
Disclosure: Compensation and products for review were provided to me by Hickory Farms via MomTrends. As always, all opinions and ideas are entirely my own, and not indicative of the opinions of Hickory Farms.