Saturday, May 19, 2012

MRF Gala

What an amazing night.  I know the word "amazing" is overused and almost cliche, but it really was an AMAZING event and evening!

The highlight for me was meeting and talking with other melanoma warriors and survivors!  I met so many incredible, inspiring, and courageous people!  People from all ages, walks of life, and different backgrounds and stories with melanoma.  Some in remission, some in the fight.

I met a guy who has been in remission for almost 9 years from Stage 4!  His name is Erick Davis and he lives in Modesto, CA.  He is a patient of Dr. Minor's as well.  I heard his story a couple of years ago, but had never met him.  He is such an inspiration to me and it was truly wonderful to meet him face-to-face!  I asked him what he thinks he has done right to keep himself in remission for that long and he said, "Stay active"!  Love that!  I couldn't agree more...

Then there was a gentleman, David McMorrow, who lives in my home town of Pleasanton, CA.  He is in his 40's and is facing Stage 3 right now.  He is currently doing treatments at UCSF.  Great guy and definitely one to keep in touch with!

Mary Dynan is another inspirational survivor.  4 years in remission from Stage 4!  Another one of Dr. Minor's patients and such a sweet lady.  I loved talking to her.  It felt like I had known her for years.

There was a young girl, age 20, named Aine Kline.  She is in the middle of her Stage 4 fight about to embark on a clinical trial combining the BRAF and MEK inhibitors.  As frail and weak as she appeared, her spirit truly encompassed strength, bravery, and the "never give up" attitude!

Towards the end of the evening, I met a guy who is 11 years from his Stage 4 diagnosis!  His name is Brian MacMillin.  He has had FIVE recurrences since his initial diagnosis, but is still fighting and is still here.  I loved talking to him because he reminded me that we have to treat melanoma like a "chronic illness" because there is no cure YET.  He had such a positive attitude though--of holding out for something better and staying hopeful for the future!  His wife was equally amazing, those two are a force to be reckoned with!

I met another lady (and I can't remember her name), who lost her daughter, age 22, to melanoma a couple of years ago.  As devasting as it must be to lose your child to this disease, I was so impressed with her vision of moving forward, being an advocate for melanoma, and giving back to the cause.  A truly astounding woman and mother.

Then, of course, there are my own mole mates and friends, Sue Lescure (whom I have shared her story on here before), Emily and Mike McAuliffe (he is Stage 3), and Kari Worth (another Stage 4 survivor) who is 9 years out from her diagnosis and still fighting.  These friends have a special place in my heart for they have been such an incredible source of strength, support, and example to me in my own fight.  They all always encourage and support others in their fight with melanoma.  Sue and Kari were the Courage Award presenters at the gala and did a fantastic job.  I am simply in awe of them.  Sue is about the sweetest person you'll ever meet and will do anything for anyone!  Never do you hear her complain either (for all that she has endured).  She is truly remarkable.  Kari is a newer friend of mine, but I am so grateful for her in my life as well.  Her ability to just get the job done, keep moving forward, and live life fully are all attributes that I look up to.  Emily and Mike are two of the warmest, funniest, and kindest people.  I joke that Emily might as well be a melanoma survivor for all she knows about melanoma (and all WHO she knows with melanoma)!  They are so involved with the MRF gala each year helping on the planning committee.  Love them to pieces.

Ok, ok, so I have rambled on and on about the people I met.  Now, for the actual event!  When we came in (I was accompanied by my parents, sister, and our friends, the Mitchells), we were greeted,  introduced to the event planners, and then had our pictures taken.  The banquet room was absolutely beautiful.  There was food and drink lining the perimeter and in the front entrance.  I honestly didn't get a chance to eat much because I was meeting and talking with everyone!

About an hour into the event, they started the program with a few special speakers including Boris Bastian, who is a world renown melanoma and genetics scientist and physician.  Then there was another guy, Frederik something-rather, who gave a compelling and hopeful speech about the exciting research in melanoma that is currently happening and progress that is being made to eventually finding a cure.   Dr. Swetter, a dermatologist who heads up the Stanford Melanoma program spoke, as she was being honored for the Humantarian award.  Then the Courage awards were handed out, with me being last.  I gave the closing speech on behalf of all the Courage Award recipients.  I thought I would be nervous, but I wasn't at all actually!  I spoke from my heart and really tried to convey to the audience what it's like to live with this disease.  The fear, the anxiety, the doubts, the worries, but also the hopefulness and the determination to be never give up and to live life fully.  It was indeed emotional (how could it not be!), but I was grateful that I wasn't a blubbering idiot up there either!  I held it together pretty good, I thought! ;)

I will post a video of my speech when I get a copy.  My dear husband really wanted to see it, since he couldn't be with me.  For now though, enjoy a few pictures!

Me and my sister, Trish

My parents, sister, and I

My dear friend, Debbie Mitchell

The fabulous Sue Lescure, introducing the Courage Award recipients

Trying to hold it together during my speech!

One of the guest speakers, he gave a great speech!

Some of the survivors, and Dr. Swetter (far right)

I can't wait for the event next year, I definitely want to be involved more!  All in all, it was a wonderful event!  I left feeling hopeful, blessed to be alive and healthy right now, and so grateful for the new friends that I made.  I am also super grateful to my parents and family who have continually supported me and been there through everything.  I wouldn't be here without them!

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