Fly A Little Higher…

This post is part of the Fly a Little Higher Blog Tour which I am delighted to be a part of along with hundreds of bloggers raising awareness and giving hope to those with cancer. To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE!

2013 was not the most joyful of years. Our family entered into the new year knowing that for two of our loved ones, cancer was going to take them from us. It was just a matter of when.

What we didn’t expect was that more friends and family would be diagnosed with cancer as the year went on. It was really tough, and it really reminded me to appreciate the people in my life that are here now, and to appreciate my health.

It was May last year when a link to a YouTube video popped up on my Facebook feed. It was a documentary called My Last Days about a teenager with osteosarcoma. His name was Zach Sobiech. It wasn’t just Zach who inspired me, it was his friends and family too. They each seemed very different from one another, but so normal, so relatable and just so very genuine. Zach, Amy and Sammy reminded me of me and my friends from my high school days. They are the kids I probably would have been friends with. The one thing that caught my attention was that they all spoke with such grace, honesty and wisdom. I immediately downloaded music made by Zach and Sammy as I loved it. I listen to it often…and Clouds is what we woke up to every day we were in Germany earlier this year and my roommates begged me to share the link with them so they could download it when we got home as the lyrics would be stuck in our head all day. Walking through the streets of Wurzburg singing ‘we’ll go up, up, up…’ Clouds actually hit number 1 on iTunes on the day of Zach’s funeral, and even had a celebrity lip sync video which you can see here.

Zach died last year, but his legacy lives on. His mother, Laura, has written a book Fly A Little Higher about  Zach’s journey battling osteosarcoma and how they all learned from him how to live while you are dying. I’m currently waiting for my copy to make it’s way across the Atlantic and having read an excerpt from the first chapter already, I know that it is going to be an emotional read, but also one that is likely going to inspire me.

There is a quote from John Steinbeck that I have used often, especially after someone has died that ‘We should remember our dying and try so to live that our death brings no pleasure on the world‘. Because we will all die one day, and we should try to live a life well lived. Zach spoke a message of making people happy. He lived well. He lived so well in fact that it’s almost like his spirit is still very much present on this earth. Zach knew his time was short, but most of us have no idea how much time we have on earth. Maybe we’ll be lucky to have 80 or more years here, some of us won’t. Some of us may get sick for a long time like Zach did and have the chance to say goodbye. Others of us may get up like it’s a normal day and something may happen that our lives are taken when we least expect it.

We just don’t know.

But it shouldn’t matter.

I want to aim for quality rather than quantity of life.

Zach wanted to be remembered as a kid who went down fighting but didn’t really lose. I’d say that goal has been achieved. He fought for every bit of life, and ultimately he didn’t lose. Because death didn’t stop him making an impact on this world. In fact, God used his dying to share the incredible message of compassion and empathy he had, not to mention his and Sammy’s musical giftings and his mother’s gift for writing too.

Thank you Sobiech family, for being willing to share Zach with us all.

Fly a Little Higher is written by Laura Sobiech, the mother of Zach Sobiech. Laura spent the last three years walking the road of cancer with her teenage son, Zach, and blogging about their battle with the disease. Zach wrote the song “Clouds” which hit #1 on iTunes the same week he passed away in May 2013.

Grab your copy HERE.

PS If you don’t have Clouds on your playlist, do download it – and know that profits from your purchase go to the Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma fund so that researchers can help find better treatments and hopefully a cure for this type of cancer.

 

Very Airmail Christmas is back…

…and this time it is in honour of another very special person.

Last year, my friend Rebecca asked a few online friends to help her with a very special project that became known as ‘A Very Airmail Christmas‘. Over the space of a month about 30 people from all over the world signed up, and on December 1st cards began to get sent by snailmail all around the world. The idea came from one of Rebecca’s patients who we named ‘Robin’. Robin’s wish as she was dying from cancer was that everyone in the world would send a stranger a Christmas card to remember the true meaning of Christmas and spread good will. We know that Robin’s husband saw the Airmail Christmas gallery, and it meant a lot to Robin’s family to see people making this wish come true. This year, Rebecca is doing it again, this time in honour of Doria’s Mama MonkeyButt who died of cancer just before Christmas last year.

If you’d like to join in this year, do e-mail your name and address to:  forrobin_christmas AT hotmail DOT com by November 30th! It will only be shared with the person sending you the Christmas card. Below is a wee gallery as some of the people involved last year sent us pictures of sending/receiving their cards. Sadly we discovered some of the far travelling cards didn’t make it to their destinations, but that doesn’t stop us making the effort to give people ‘in real life’ post. It was so easy to do, and lots of fun to be a part of.

A Very Airmail Christmas Gallery

IMGP0500

Card which travelled from England to Scotland
Tim sendingA card ready to be posted across the world from England to Australia!

MB card

A card ready to travel from Georgia to Illinois.

tim card

A card that travelled from the USA to England
rebecca cardCreator of Airmail Christmas with a card that travelled from Scotland to England

la's card

A card which travelled from New Zealand to Scotland (with a kiwi!)
GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAA card that travelled from Nevada to Tennessee

Join us in the Airmail Christmas fun! You know you want to… :)

Prayer request

Hi.

Prayers right now would be really appreciated. There is A LOT going on over the next few weeks. Tomorrow, Guides starts back, and we’ll be starting the Amelia’s Campaign Challenge Badge. On Tuesday, I head down to London for a few days, where I’ll be meeting with the rest of the National Partners Team, and hopefully catching up with some friends – including someone whose centre ended up having to closedown (made even sadder as it was in located in a part of London where the unplanned pregnancy and social deprivation rates are high). This weekend I’ll be doing a pretty intensive relationships counselling course day. Then it’ll be all about getting everything sorted for our annual Scottish conference on 12th May.

The main prayer request stems from this post. I recently found out that two of the Scottish centres are being affected by cancer AGAIN. One of our managers – her husband has been diagnosed with Kidney Cancer, and last week had his kidney removed. Another staff member from another centre has been diagnosed with non-hodgkins lymphoma (lymph node has been removed, waiting to hear if cancer has spread anywhere). If you could pray for these people, their families, friends and medical teams – and the staff at the centres where they work, we would very much appreciate it.

Thanks LFS readers!

xxx

Again and again…

I’ve not written much in the last week, because to be honest, I’ve not had the emotional energy to write much. Last week was trying to say the least where I basically worked 6 days straight (not something I’ve done much of in the last 4 years). It was stressful and really really not worth it. On Saturday I missed 2 birthdays, falling asleep when an unexpected guest left, waking up, and then getting a phone call from my Dad to say that my suspicions had been confirmed…my Grandpa has been officially diagnosed with throat cancer.

This is where life gets strange.

Life as a ‘divorced kid’ seems to be affecting me more now that I’m in my twenties than it ever did during my childhood.

I don’t really know how to respond to this news that my Grandpa is (most likely) dying from cancer.

Firstly, my stepmother basically stopped my Dad seeing his family from when I was about 9 years old. After that point I never saw much of that set of grandparents, so I don’t really know them.

Secondly, I’ve ended up with several sets of grandparents. My Nana & Grandad and step-grandfather have all died in the last 6 years. The 2 grandfathers also died of this kind of cancer.

When my Dad called me a few weeks ago, and told me that ‘Grandpa hasn’t been very well’ and told me his symptoms, I knew immediately what was wrong. However, I’m not a doctor, so at the point I could not say ‘well, it sounds like he has cancer of his oesophagus and/or throat’. Because I might have been wrong. I wasn’t wrong. My Dad then asked me, just like my Mum asked me 6 years ago as my Nana lay in an ICU – ‘what does that mean?‘ – how can you tell your parents what’s going to come?

Of course, if my Dad and Mum had been married, he would have seen what happened to my Grandad and he’d know what is to come because he’d have seen it and been through it already.

But they aren’t.

And so I have seen it but he has not.

I have decided not to go and visit him. That may be the wrong decision, but certainly I don’t believe I have the strength or emotional energy to cope with being stuck miles from home with a family who do not know me, nor have they ever fought to get to know me even when I’ve made effort with them. I ended up having a massive argument with my Dad as he realised that I do not trust him and that I haven’t forgotten the things he has done in the past which he denies. I also do not have much respect for my grandfather knowing the abuse directed at my father most of his life.

What a mess.

One thing is for sure, and that is that the fathers in my family have made a huge mess of things, and it creates a domino effect down the generations.

I am one of five children – and none of us see or speak to our biological fathers often.

I just hope that if any of us have children of our own, we’ll be able to break the pattern.

Only time will tell I guess.

All I can do is pray. Pray that whatever happens over the coming weeks and months would bring our family closer together, changed for better and not for the worse.

:)

Please vote for LoveOliver!!

Hopefully, some of you remember Oliver (to be honest I’m not sure how anyone could forget that gorgeous smile of his). :)

Well, I have important news… LoveOliver is now officially a Scottish Charity!!! You can find LoveOliver on facebook, twitter, and on the LoveOliver website.

LoveOliver was set up in memory of Oliver Gill after his death on Christmas morning in 2010 caused by a rare and aggressive form of cancer. He was only 5½ months old. The charity helps fund research into paediatric cancers and practical support to families affected by childhood cancer who are having treatment at Royal Sick Children’s Hospital in Edinburgh (known as the “Sick Kids Hospital”).

Already over £40,000 has been raised in honour of Oliver, and £20 000 of that has already been donated to fund a research project.

For those of you in Scotland, I’d love love love if you could register with RBS Community Force and vote for LoveOliver so they could be awarded £6000. (I’m not sure if you can if you live outside of Scotland, but it would be worth trying – please let me know if you do and what the outcome is!)

Also if you’re in Edinburgh area, there is going to be a fundraising gig in my hometown of Leith on Saturday 8th October. You can purchase a ticket here.

 

Cancer really sucks

I get asked to pray for people quite a bit. I think because my friends and my family know that it’s what I do. I pray. I pray in my car, I pray on the bus, I pray in the shower, I pray as I push the trolley around the supermarket.

It was quite a few years ago that one of my best friends asked me to pray for friends of hers that I’d only met once. Their baby son had been diagnosed with cancer. They would send e-mails updating all of us prayer warriors about how treatment was going, how we could be praying for them.

It was a joyous day when I got the e-mail to say that his cancer was in remission. Yes!

On Saturday, I was round at my friend’s house. It was her husband’s birthday a few weeks ago, and we also wanted to celebrate that he will be graduating from university this week. I was asking them about their upcoming holidays and how they were going to get to catch up with this family I had prayed for.

And then my friend told me as I was about to leave: Pray. Get others to pray too. They’ve just found out the cancer is back, has spread and it’s not treatable. Now they are setting up this boy for Palliative Care when he should be getting excited about school after the summer.

He’s only 5 years old.

Cancer sucks.

But I’m thankful that just a couple of weeks after this news, my friends will be down visiting their friends and will hopefully be able to get alongside them at such a time as this.

I can only imagine.

And pray.

Pray for the chance of a miracle. Pray for peace. Pray for every single moment to be lived. Pray for strength. Pray for the best people to be around this family – loving them, supporting them.

Would you join me in praying?

Causes I support: Love Oliver

Palm Sunday.

I have too many  causes to support I’ve discovered. But being that I got a great reminder via a lovely article on the Scottish Television news website on Saturday, the cause I chose this week was Love Oliver.

There aren’t many babies that have had the amazing number of friends on facebook that Oliver did. And now his parents, Andy & Jennifer – with the support of lots of family & friends, along with many people who probably got to know them purely through seeing pictures of Oliver’s gorgeous smile and hearing his story as he spent his 5.5 months on earth battling a rare form of cancer.

Love Oliver is supporting families who have relatives facing a similar battle in Edinburgh Sick Kids Hospital, as well as going to be supporting research into rare forms of cancer found in children.

You can donate here.

Not the end of their love

There are a few people my blog readers ‘know’ well, just because I’ve asked you guys to pray. In the last year 2 people I’ve really being pretty much bashing down the door of the heavens for are Eva Markvoort (who died a few days before her 26th birthday last March) & baby Oliver Gill (who died on Christmas morning just past).

I just wanted to let you guys know how their family & friends are continuing their legacy. They are not going to be forgotten.

Firstly, Oliver’s parents are setting up the Love Oliver trust.

This trust is going help raise funds to practically support families in Ward 2 at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children (aka Sick Kids Hospital) in Edinburgh, where Oliver spent a lot of time during his treatment. It will also be used to help fund research for children’s cancers. It was incredible to see how Oliver touched people all over the world with his smile & resilience, shown by the sheer number of comments that filled Oliver’s Blog on facebook.

Find out more about the trust here, and you can also make donations here.

And there is the #4Eva movement.

The makers of the documentary Eva starred in during her wait for transplant in 2007 have continued to work to spread the word of 65_RedRoses. One of Eva’s wishes was for the 65_RedRoses to be shown in the USA and that is finally happening!

It has been picked up by the Oprah Winfrey Network & had amazing support from Oprah, and Rosie O’Donnell. You can find out more here – Philip & Nimisha actually got to meet Oprah in person at the Sundance Film Festival last week!

I just wanted to share  - they may have left this earth, but their legacies are most definitely living on. As Eva said, ‘this is the end of my life, but it’s not the end of my love’