Inside my memory bank is a vault full of fond memories that I wouldn’t trade for all the gold in the world. I also have a vault for the not-so-good memories. I think it’s important to place value on them too. They remind me to persevere and appreciate life. I’ll admit, when these not-so-good memories were real-time moments they seemed like obstacles, but in time they accrued value and became catalysts for inspiration and achievement.
One of my not-so-good memories formed on a fall day in 2007. I was 47 years old. A friend and I set out to hike the beautiful red rock landscape of Sedona, AZ. I knew we’d have some laughs and share a unique experience, but I had no idea that our hike would start the most significant journey of my life.
As we traversed the red rock I noticed a lump in my neck and – in a dizzying flash – I went from my friend’s company and comfort to the uncertainty of a doctor’s office. Thus began months of appointments, consultations, biopsies, and near-crippling worry. When my doctors surgically removed the lump, they discovered I had an advanced form of testicular cancer – one that was days away from entering my brain.
A second surgery immediately followed, and then a three-month chemotherapy program that was as aggressive as it was nauseating. A return to hiking was out the question, seeing as how I couldn’t make it up a flight of stairs without having to stop from exhaustion. Though I endured the pain and discomfort of chemo, I was blessed to have an amazing group of doctors and the love and support of my friends and family. What’s more, my treatment made me aware of the many people – the many children – that had prognoses far worse than my own. To this day, it’s hard for me to imagine children who may never get to hike the red rocks of Sedona, or spend a day at an amusement park with their families.
I’ve always believed in giving to children in need; in fact, over the last twenty-five years I’ve supported thirteen children through several sponsoring companies. I’m also a supporter of several local and overseas ministries that work with orphaned children. But my experience with cancer and the realization that children suffered as I did changed my life.
Facing an uncertain future gave me a deep appreciation for my past. My memory bank was filled with positive moments to call upon to help me through the tough times ahead. At 47, I’d experienced some of the greatest joys in life. And in my humble opinion, two of those joys are: Florida amusement parks and making what my friends and family refer to as “the best chocolate chip cookies they’ve ever tasted.”
Baking Memories 4 Kids combines these joys for children with terminal or life threatening illnesses – the brave youngsters who haven’t had the time or resources to fill their memory banks with joyous moments. Every year, our chocolate chip cookie sales raise money to send children with life threatening illnesses and their families on all-expense paid trips to Florida amusement parks, where they’ll create life-long positive memories that will help them forget their medical situations – even if it’s only for a short time.
Today, I am happy to say I am cancer free. But my battle with cancer is a memory that endures, and it reminds me that there people out there, young people, who continue to battle with the disease. It inspires me to achieve something for each and every one of them. So I ask that you imagine a child spending time in a cancer center rather than playing, attending school or vacationing with their families.
We can’t take away the pain that these illnesses bring to children and their families. Sadly, in most cases these kids are fighting battles that will steal their precious lives. But we can do something. Imagine we tell those kids they’re spending a whole week at amazing Florida amusement parks such as Disney World, Universal, and Sea World. Not only can we imagine it, we can make it happen.
My mission for Baking Memories 4 Kids: Become MEMORY MAKERS for children with life threatening illnesses and their families.
I invite you to come along with me on this journey. Together we’ll create memories more precious than gold.
Baking Memories 4 Kids