UNBELIEVABLE

You all are amazing. You all have completely blown me away with your generosity.

I challenged you all to collectively contribute $500 between 100 people over 4 days.

You all have donated $1,295 shared between 33 people in 6 hours!!! That means that the total donated amount is currently $2,705!

I still can’t believe it. You all passed the $500 mark after only 3 hours and then kept going strong. I was sitting in front of my computer, crying because I was so overwhelmed with gratitude at your support. I haven’t been able to send out all of my thank you emails yet. And I know many of you haven’t even donated yet who we’re planning to!

So here’s the deal. I obviously have to bump up the goal. You can’t just look at an organization when you’ve reached your goal so easily and say ‘Meh, I decided not to try anymore’. No! So the new goal, until the deadline in April, is $3,800. That’s $2,000 more than my original, minimum requirement (I was going to make the new goal $3,220, for my birthday, but I think you all would blow right past that like you did to $1,800). If you donate by Tuesday the 4th at 3:30pm EST, I will STILL put your name in to win the 1-800-Flowers gift card!

Now, if we don’t reach that goal, I’m still happy. We’ve still made a major impact on LLS’ ability to help people. But looking at what this group is capable of doing, it doesn’t mean we can strive to hit that big number! Just like with training – I don’t really think my body is capable of going from winded after 5 minutes to running a full 13.1 miles, but that doesn’t mean I can’t try!!!

And with that in mind, and feeling so inspired, I’m going to challenge myself to a long workout. I’m going to do 5 miles on the treadmill today (mostly walking). Thank you so very much to all of my donors today. You have rocked my world with your generosity.

Bit By Bit

Wow. Wow wow wow. Thank you all so much for the outpouring of support I’ve had since my last post. You guys set a record day for my blog! Just goes to show that people will seek out positive messages and not negative ones, right? Writing my story and explaining my commitment has had a larger impact than I thought it would. I’ve received messages from people all over, people facing challenges large and small, who told me how they felt inspired to start going that extra step to improve themselves. And that means so much to me, being able to be a small part of an awakening in someone else.

But this particular goal is not about me. This training is about supporting others who are still burdened with treatment and fear and pain. And I can’t forget them. In thanking all of my generous donors thus far, I’ve asked again if they’d like to have a ribbon made for someone who has or has had cancer. While I’ve been excited to hear some wonderful stories of survival, there are also heartbreaking stories of pain and decline. People have told me about loved ones with weeks to live. One passed just a few days ago.

I made the first two of the ribbons last night. One will travel to Pennsylvania for a father’s funeral service this weekend. The other will, I hope, be a tiny sign of hope to an uncle as he fights to the end. As the ribbons are made, one by one, they’ll join me for my workouts, pinned to my back. They’ll go out in the cold with me, and be there when the cherry trees start to blossom, and go across the finish line with me in 12 weeks by the Capitol. Little flags in the wind, waving love and hope to the people who need it.

So while I love each and every one of you for the support you’ve shown me personally, my ultimate goal is unchanged – I’m running to raise money for cancer research. Money that will subsidize medical bills. Money that will support patients who need an informative guide, or a shoulder to cry on, or a life saving treatment. And with small contributions from many people, we can make an impact. The same way my core is stronger simply by adding one extra crunch to my bedtime routine each night. Or realizing over a few weeks that the daily centimeters of new growth on my hair have made it almost long enough to run my fingers through. My body heals and is stronger every day through tiny changes going on bit by bit.

To do the most good, I want to knock this fundraising goal of $1800 out of the park. My dad (that wonderful, generous role-model of mine) has offered to match every dollar I receive until the goal is met. That means that the $410 you all have contributed in the last 2 weeks is now a whopping $820 – a full 45% of the way to $1800!!!

Here’s what I propose to you — 100 hours to get 100 donations.

If 100 people contribute $5 apiece, that’s $500. Matched by my Dad, we could be at $1000 at the end of 100 hours on Tuesday afternoon. The goal would be COMPLETE!!!! That’s a mere 15 days since my initial announcement about running the event. Tuesday also happens to be World Cancer Day, and you can help raise additional funds for the American Cancer Society simply by turning your Facebook or Twitter profile purple.

Is there $5 in your budget that you could spare? One venti latte at Starbucks? Popcorn at the movie theatre as you catch up on Oscar nominations? Your contribution, however small, my friends, would be inspiring to me.

If you’ve already donated, or cannot donate, please forward this to anyone you know who could. If you need an incentive of immediate gratification (beyond knowing that you’re helping to save and improve the quality of thousands of current and future lives), how about this –

Once we have 100 donations and have met the $1800 goal, I will randomly select one of the 113 donors (yes, you first 13 get to be part of the fun too!) and send him or her a $50 gift certificate to 1-800-Flowers, just in time for Valentine’s Day (or you could use it for something else)! The $50 is my own money that I’m putting up – I won’t touch a cent of your donations.

Who’s with me? 100 Hours starts today, Friday, January 31st, 2014, at 12pm EST. You can donate here.

Let's Do It

Let’s Do It

Every Day a Champion

I wanted to explain at a deeper level why it’s really important to me to participate in this Half Marathon with TNT & LLS, and it takes a little bit of a story. A bit of probing into psychology, into life goals, into habits and motivation and why life is worth living. So, here goes – an honest reckoning.

Had you asked me where my life was headed two years ago, as a 23-year-old who’d been out of college for two years, I would have laid out a hazy life plan.

January 2012

Just like so many other millenials, I wanted to make a comfortable living, do something I loved, and meet Prince Charming. I wanted to work in theatre. I wanted to have kids. I continually ‘planned’ to work out more so I could lose the extra 50 pounds I’d had since middle school, but inevitably held off for later. I’d knew I wanted to find some way to make the world a better place somehow or other, but never really got around to it. Even though I had no defined path to achieve these goals, I still expected that life would sort of fall into place and work itself out. After all, this was how life worked for upper-middle-class American kids, right? Why shouldn’t I get everything in life I was told I could have? I was young, I was healthy, and I had nothing standing in my way.

Except myself. I was given so many gifts in my life, but I was squandering them. I was blessed with an intelligent mind, a loving family, physical safety, and financial security. I did all of the ‘right’ things to prepare for my future as a kid – I got good grades, I played soccer, was a Girl Scout, had a passion for Shakespeare, and went to a top-notch college… But all of my accomplishments were mostly surface level, the result of a minimal level of effort.

Sure, I had passion for the arts and my friends (and still do), but beyond that my life was one of financial dependence, Netflix binging, and comfortable monotony over new experiences. Don’t get me wrong, I was (and still am) a good-hearted, loving person, not some demanding princess. I was simply lazy, with no discipline or drive. I lacked that burning fire in my gut to go out and make something of myself, because I’d always had everything I needed and had always been told I was doing so well even though I was barely breaking a sweat.

Two years ago, my January 2012 self had no idea what was coming.

June 2012

I was originally diagnosed with Hodgkin’s in June 2012, after I had found an inexplicable lump in my right armpit. This is where you might assume I had a radical life change… but you would be wrong. After completing my six ABVD treatments, I thought I was home-free. Even though I had been scared, I had been relatively confident that I would to beat the disease. It was simply one bump in the road, a classic challenge to overcome before a story-book ending. Sure, 10% of Hodgkin’s patients relapsed, but I was above-average. I was going to be fine forever, and even more so, because SURELY I wouldn’t get cancer a second time.

So, slightly shaken, I went back to my half-planned future and tried to leave cancer behind. I was getting back on track, making a career with my mother in real estate, but still falling into bad habits.  My January 2013 self was a survivor, but she hadn’t really learned how to live.

February 2013

When the cancer showed up again on my 3-month PET scan, everything I had assumed about my future life came crashing down around my ears. I was stunned. I was heart-broken. The fear I’d felt at my initial diagnosis was nothing compared to this horrifying trumpet call of judgement day.

I was sure I was going to die. After all, I’d poked around online. I knew the survival rate for relapsed Hodgkin’s patients was significantly lower than 90%. I numbly went through my next chemo regimen, thinking that like Icarus, I had been too cocky before. That now I was going to pay.

I fell into inconsolable depressions. You can read lots of my old posts that are simply full of emptiness and fear. I lost my hair, for the second time. I binge-watched HGTV for days on end as I begged my body to please melt the cancer again so I could do a bone marrow transplant, a treatment that offered the only chance at survival.

As I wrote obituaries for myself in my head, I was flooded with regret for the time I had wasted, for my arrogance and naivete. All of the advice and mantras I’d heard from past mentors or from my Realtors’ coaching organization suddenly resonated wth a bittersweet clarity. Why hadn’t I been living every day as the best person I could be? Why was I continually delaying the challenges I knew I needed to face in order to grow? I finally felt able to see the sorry state of my past life and vowed to try to live however much time I had to the fullest. I went into INOVA Fairfax for 17 days, praying to come out with a clean start.

Today

And so it is that I am here. A new Elizabeth. A woman who won’t wait, because she knows that time is precious. I don’t know what the future will bring. I could relapse again in a few months. Looking ahead two years, I could be dead and gone. No matter how long I have left – months or years – I refuse to be a bystander in my own life the way I had been before. I refuse to wait to make my health a priority. I want to always be challenging myself, to finally accomplish something difficult that I set myself to do. I want to say ‘Yes’ to what life brings me. And I certainly cannot sit idly by while other people in the world are suffering. I want to be a good citizen of the universe, to see the beauty around us and prevent pain, disease, and disaster. So LLS is the first step. This is my thank you note to the universe, long overdue.

Today, like every day, I will strengthen my body somehow for the run. Today is a cross-training day, with Zumba for an hour. It’s still a little dangerous for me to go outside to train in the mornings (ice, freezing, dark, lack of cold weather running gear, danger to knees being so heavy on the asphalt), so I’m at the gym in the evenings. It kind of sucks, but as I’ve heard over and over again recently, everyone hates things that are uncomfortable and annoying and painful and exhausting. It’s just that winners push through the discomfort or annoyance or pain or fatigue to get the task done.

It’s in my cancer journal that I wrote, but I’ll post it here too. Muhammad Ali – “I hated every minute of training, but I said ‘Don’t quit! Suffer now, and live the rest of your life as a champion.'”

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My attempt at looking fierce after my freezing cold run on Sunday. Possibly more cold than fierce 😉

See Elizabeth Run!

I, Elizabeth Almen Stone, a Hodgkin’s patient/survivor, have set a Big Crazy Goal for myself. I decided that this year, as soon as I had clean scans after my most recent treatment, I wanted to commit to getting in shape and living every day to the fullest. Simultaneously, after a year and a half of treatment, I have wanted to find some way to give back to the universe for all of the unbelievable love and support I received as a patient. To pay-it-forward after getting a second (and then third!) chance at life.

Luckily, I stumbled upon LLS’s Team in Training Program. Over the past 25 years (yes, TNT is my age) Team in Training has raised over $1 billion dollars for the LLS. TNT trains volunteers (like me) to participate in endurance sporting events, like marathons, triathalons, etc in order to support LLS’s mission – to research cures for leukemias and lymphomas while educating and assisting patients and caregivers of these diseases. That’s why I will be walking the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in DC on April 27th with the Capital Area TNT!

Time to Get Fit & Fight!

Time to Get Fit & Fight!

Ok, ok, so I’ll probably be walking half of it (I don’t think I can run 13.1 miles straight 3 months from now). My goals are simply to improve my health while improving the lives of others. Many blogs I’ve read about the Nike Women’s Half are from hard-core female athletes who want an opportunity to run and crave the event’s signature Tiffany necklace at the finish line. While I like jewelry just as much as the next lady, that’s not why I’m in it. You all may know that I’ve never been much of an athlete. And I’m not doing this so I can go on an adventure and run some race in sunny California. I can do this by working hard for 3 months, then easily hopping on the Metro (which means you’re not contributing to any travel costs for me)!

LLS is obviously a cause that is close to my heart, and I received many benefits from them directly, from when I was scared and looking for information when I was originally diagnosed, or seeking support groups and mentors, or being treated with life-saving medications and procedures that LLS had helped to research and fund. Even if you’ve never been touched personally by these diseases, LLS is a solid organization that uses a full 75%+ of their funding on Patient Research & Support. They contributed $73.8 million to research in 2013 alone! You can see some of their accomplishments here.

Personally, I find the following graph particularly compelling. For much of the 20th Century, Hodgkins and the other LLS diseases were essentially death sentences (anyone remember Homer Hickam’s teacher in October Sky?). Since the 60s, LLS has doubled, tripled, and quadrupled the survival rates through their research.

Wow!

Survival Rates in LLS Diseases, 1960s to 200s

That’s why I’m asking you, wherever you are, to consider donating to support the LLS. All donations are tax-deductible, plus you’ll have the benefit of watching my (potentially hilarious) antics as this Rubenesque woman tries her best to conquer 13.1 miles in her beautiful hometown of DC. If you could give $20, that would be wonderful. But many small contributions would get me to the goal, too! For example, if 110 people (the same number of people who ‘Liked’ my clean CT results on Facebook this past week) all donated $16.50 (the price of two Chipotle burritos), the goal would be complete.

Now, I understand that some of us have the desire to support good causes, but not always the means. And there are so many worthy causes to support. If the LLS is not your highest priority, or if you have a different cause that is near and dear to your heart, I encourage you to go support them instead! But if you can spare anything for LLS, I would be so grateful. If you can’t donate money, I could use your moral support, as I will be exercising and dieting to make sure my body is a lean, mean, half marathon machine in 3 months time! If I can jog half of the 13.1 miles, I’ll be darned proud of myself.

If you’ve known someone with a blood or lymphatic cancer, please feel free to reach out, or donate in their honor or memory. For every donation made to honor an individual whose life has been taken by cancer or who has walked away in triumph, I will wear a purple ribbon with their name written on it during the race.

Please, if you do nothing else, share the cause with others whom you think could support the cause. I’m so excited to get started and see what I can do!