Last week we were on vacation.
It was a vacation gifted to us. The cycle of love was pretty epic actually.
The cycle started with a pretty awesome person named Karen Wellington. She was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer when her children were littles. She was a favorite patient of Dr. Wonderful’s for ten years. From everything that Dr. Wonderful, her widower, and her son have told me about her, I know this for sure: Karen and I would have been friends had we been able to meet. She did her days well and she lived a vivacious and full life. Her husband told me about how, while sitting in Dr. Wonderful’s office, she took a fresh-off-the-presses lab report and balled it up and tossed it in the trash can, and then asked Dr. Wonderful a non-cancer-related question. She focused on the LIVING, hence her memorial foundation’s name. Karen was my kind of girl. I aspire to live as well as Karen did.
My mom the Rozzinator and I were both nominated as recipient through the Karen Wellington Memorial Foundation for LIVING with Breast Cancer. A friend from elementary school nominated me, and a co-worker nominated mom. Love comes from the most unexpected places sometimes.
The Karen Wellington Foundation for LIVING with Breast Cancer was established in 2007 in the memory of Karen Wellington. Karen inspired so many people in the way that she continued to live her life during her ten year battle with breast cancer. Even after her diagnosis at age 30, Karen continued to live her life to the fullest every day.
To carry on her legacy, the Foundation honors women and families LIVING with breast cancer by sending them on vacations, relaxing spa days with a friend, lunch or nights out on the town. We know there is a cure out there somewhere, but in the meantime, the Foundation gives women something fun to look forward to, often amid a calendar filled with doctor appointments, chemo treatments and surgeries.
The Foundation reminds everyone how important it is to take time to really appreciate LIVING.
The spectacular folks over at the KWF connected the dots and contacted us asking whether the Anderson family and the Mathie parents would like to go away on a vacation together. Of course! But then I did up the ante even more: in my nicest voice, I asked whether — if we were going to go that route — then could my two sisters and one brother-in-law pretty please also be included. Of course! they said, because that’s how they roll.
The KWF accumulates a list of families/donors who gift time at various vacation homes and a second list of families affected by breast cancer. Then they match them up. They have gifted 35 vacations so far this year, and they have a long waiting list!
Our match came from an Atlanta family who has very generously gifted time at their lake home for several summers now to the KWF. That is how we came to spend last week in Lake Lanier, Georgia. We stayed in their spectacular, and I do mean S.P.E.C.T.A.C.U.L.A.R., home–it had ten fireplaces. Ten! We were so very blessed to have a whole week together. We had full use of their amenities including pools and lake toys. They left personal gifts in the home upon our arrival to welcome us. Can you say over-the-top? It was awesome. The week wasn’t perfect because real life isn’t perfect: my brother-in-law couldn’t get away from work in busy season, Greta fell in the pool in the middle of our family photo shoot, and I got a random rash which is less than ideal. But there were ten fireplaces, so we made the best of it! Ha!
I didn’t think it possible, but my heart has grown another size thanks to the generosity of the donating family, the mission of the KWF, and the memories made with my wonderful family. I am very similar to Karen in that I too want FUN on the calendar. I need to write it down, to anticipate it, and to imagine what it will be. It’s one of my cancer-coping mechanisms, I guess you could say.
Below is a shot from our week: my parents, Brad and the girls and I, Chief sister, Baby sister (her husband was unable to make it), and my cousin from Australia whose trek across North America coordinated nicely with our trip.
I’m so grateful to everyone who made this happen for us. I vow to do my best to pay it forward, forever. Thank you.
Cheers to my family, cheers to Karen, and cheers to LIVING!