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Friendship, Cancer and Hope

Toni, Bridget's Beautiful Mother

Mario, Bridget's Dad

UPDATE – August 8, 2011

“If you’re going to doubt something, doubt your limits.” ~Don Ward

I wish I could write that Mario is in remission, but I can’t. Since I first wrote about my friend Bridget and her father Mario back in December, he has been battling the enemy with quiet dignity and every ounce of physical strength he can muster. He has not given up. Nor has his family and friends. In spite of the setbacks, hope sustains us all.

Mario is on my mind a lot lately. He is someone that I have personal connection to who is currently battling cancer. Since joining Team in Training (TNT), with the intent of raising money for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society (LLS), and while also attaining a personal goal of completing an endurance event, Mario is one of several people who give me the motivation to keep going. It’s not easy to ask for money and it’s not easy to push myself physically to the level that I have been for the past few months. But it is so worth it.

Most of the people on my team have a personal connection to someone with cancer. We never begin a ride without first acknowledging someone that is currently fighting or who has fought this disease. Anyone is free to speak. We dedicate our rides to these people. We keep them in our thoughts, especially when you become physically spent. Our coach tells the story of going out on long rides when his daughter was battling Leukemia. He often did difficult climbs to ease the pain and anxiety of feeling so helpless to change her circumstances. He said with every climb he thought of her cancer cells between his cycling shoes and clips and would stand up and “stomp” his way up steep hills. The lesson for us was to find what works. I think of Mario. I think of Addison, our youngest little honoree, who at just three years old, lost her battle with Leukemia a few weeks ago. And I think of my son, Jarrod, who is never far from my mind. How can I possibly compare the difficulty of asking for donations or climbing that steep hill on my bike to what our honorees have been through?

Here is a link to a page from LLS. While Mario isn’t battling a blood cancer, I think it is important to know that people with other types of cancer are also benefiting from the treatments that are being developed.

http://www.lls.org/aboutlls/researchsuccesses/

And here is the link to my TNT page:

http://pages.teamintraining.org/rw/gsfba11/jsmithl4jg

December 12, 2010

It was a rough weekend. I ended it by spending the day with one of my closest and dearest friends, Bridget. We have known each other for over 15 years. She is actually much closer in age to my son, Jarrod. We met when I managed a coffeehouse. She was one of my employees. She was 18, I was 35. We connected immediately. Bridget had lost her mother to cancer when she was just 14 years old. That may have been part of the reason we became so close, so fast, but there was more to it than that. Sometimes we meet people in life that you immediately bond with. That was Bridget and I. Yes, she was much younger, and we both had girlfriends our own age, but Bridget was an old soul. She was wise beyond her years. Perhaps it was what she had been through at such young age, but I am more inclined to believe that regardless of her circumstances in life, she is who she is. Early on in our friendship, I know that I filled a void. She didn’t have a mother. She realized immediately that she could talk to me about anything, but I also realized early on that this was not just an 18 year old girl. I wasn’t looking for a daughter. I had a son and was perfectly happy with just having a boy. Our friendship was ageless. We have weathered many storms together. We have always been there for each other and now that she is a young woman with a wonderful husband, Phil, and two beautiful children, I feel so fortunate to still have her in my life. She tells it like it is. She pulls no punches. She never stops making me laugh.

Today I met Bridget at her dad’s house. Mario is on a mini vacation and Bridget wanted to surprise him upon his return with a bathroom renovation. I painted. She sought out a new shower curtain, towels and rugs. We have another storm brewing. She has been by my side during a very difficult year. It is my turn to be there for her. Bridget’s dad, Mario, is now battling cancer. To say that this is unfair would be an understatement, but life is never fair. Mario is a wonderful man, a loving father and grandfather. When Bridget and I met, it wasn’t long before Mario came in to the coffeehouse to see who his daughter had been talking about. We also became fast friends and I have always felt like part of the family. There were many times in Bridget’s early 20’s when Mario would call because he was worried about her. There was that summer when she followed Phish around the country. Always the free spirit, I told him not to worry too much. She would find her way. Easy for me to say. He was the father of a daughter living in a tent from campground to campground. But she did find her way, and I know that he could not be more proud of the woman she has become today.

Whose life hasn’t been touched by cancer? I hate cancer. Bridget was there for me when my son, Jarrod, battled cancer. I was a wreck. He was going through treatment in Walnut Creek. We were staying at my parent’s house in Antioch during that time and Bridget was living in the Oakland hills. She was my respite. I would go to her house and we would cook dinner together, get drunk, and then have a good cry. This was long before she was married with babies, but Phil was there. They were just beginning a life together and he was a rock to lean on, too. I remember those times in that sort of tree house of a house that they lived in with loving and lasting memories, even though I was going through the worst time of my entire life.

Jarrod during Chemotherapy. Not a photo that a mother ever wants to take of her child, but I felt the need to document this. A stark reality.

We are hopeful. We will never lose hope. We need to believe that Mario is going to beat this cancer just like we needed to believe that Jarrod would. And Jarrod did. I lived a mother’s worst nightmare. No, not worse than actually losing a child, but what I lived was next in line, as a mother. I emphasize that because Jarrod is the one that actually lived it. He was the one that had to face that nightmare at the age of 20. I would have traded places with him in a heartbeat. But that wasn’t possible. All I could do was be there for him. I can only imagine the terror that must have been his companion at times. I can only imagine it because he never let me see it. I know he protected me. I think there were times that he was more worried about me than himself and that is not the way it should be. But that is Jarrod. He went through his ordeal with courage, grace and dignity beyond his years. I could not be more proud. Jarrod has been cancer-free for over seven years now. He is living proof that survival is possible.

Jarrod and Amanda, October 16, 2010

Happy and Healthy 🙂

Life is so unpredictable. Take nothing for granted.

If you pray, I ask that you please say a prayer for Mario, Bridget and the rest of their family.

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Linda Reinhardt #

    Jodee, I said a prayer for Mario… I’m so thankful for Jarrod’s healing!

    I’m enjoying your blog… keep it up!

    Hugs
    Linda

    December 12, 2010
    • Thanks so very much, Linda.

      December 13, 2010
  2. Robert Lial #

    Dear Jodee, Tonight I prayed. Cancer took my sister 10 years ago. I feel the pain with all the others! Your Friend, Robert

    December 12, 2010
    • Thank you, Robert, and I’m so very sorry about your sister.

      December 13, 2010
  3. beth leben #

    Jodee, what a beautiful tribute to your son and Mario. I can’t imagine what you went through while your son was going through his treatments. I will pray that Mario pulls through this as successfully as Jarrod. Your writing made me feel like I lived through the experience with you. Keep up with your writing. You are certainly gifted. Thank you for sharing!!

    Beth

    December 12, 2010
    • Thank you so much, Beth. I truly appreciate your words and encouragement. I will do my best to keep this going…

      December 13, 2010
  4. Toche..Cancer took my dad..”I hate the word cancer”. Thanks so much for sharing with us.

    January 7, 2011
    • I hate it too. I’m so sorry about your Dad.
      Thanks so much for reading my blog. You are the first I am aware of that I don’t personally know.:)

      January 7, 2011

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