Josh July 21 2015
There’s a story behind every new business, and you could say that the inspiration behind Happy Puppies was born twelve years ago. That’s because my son, Josh, was born on July 21, 2003. If not for Josh, and for his battle, I never would have run my first race. I never would have chafed. Happy Puppies would never have started.
It all began because Josh’s body started to malfunction. His bone marrow started producing blasts, and stopped producing enough normal blood cells. Josh got cancer.
On November 24, 2010, my sweet, happy little athlete had his whole life turned upside down. After some heartbreaking wails of “I’m going to die!” followed immediately by “I can’t play FOOTBALL!” Josh calmed down, and proceeded to just roll with the punches. He asked his oncologist if he would be able to play football while on treatment (YES!) and if he would be able to go back to school (another yes, but not until his immune system was stronger). Josh’s strength and courage amazed and inspired me.
But I was still sitting on the couch eating my ice cream, mourning the loss of so much of Josh’s childhood, and living in constant fear of that nasty disease attacking again. And then, Tiffany died.
Tiffany was a 16 year old girl who was battling a different form of leukemia, and her body could not tolerate the harsh realities of a bone marrow transplant. Her body shut down, and she passed away, devastating everyone who knew her.
To honor Tiffany’s memory and to raise money to find a cure, Josh’s nurse, Melissa, formed a team to run with Team In Training. Though I had my doubts, I thought that if Josh could battle leukemia so bravely, I could stumble my way through 13.1 miles. And on November 10, 2012, I waddled the streets in Disney World as I completed Disney’s Wine and Dine Half Marathon.
And I felt strong. I felt empowered. I felt as though I could do something amazing! Because I am and I can.
Josh fought leukemia for three years and four months. He emerged, victorious, from battle on March 7th, 2014. He missed 14 months of school. An entire year of football, baseball, and basketball. He has fought through neuropathies, but is getting stronger on a daily basis. He is amazing.
If I were to acquire a magic wand that would allow me to change something, I would immediately erase all of the pain and sickness that tortured my sweet Josh. But, I would never take away the lessons my family and I have learned. Nor would I lessen the strength that we have found.
We live for today, and hope for tomorrow.
We live out loud.
We take chances.
We make sure that our family knows how very loved they are.
We followed our dreams, which have thus far, led us to Happy Puppies.
I wish the same for you. May you live your life like the gate is open. May you be free to live a long and happy life. May you always know that you are loved and appreciated. May you be content with your life. I wish you all these blessings and more.
And to my inspiration, my warrior, my athlete, my Josh: Happy birthday, sweet boy!
I read a post today, asking women what their favorite running shorts were.
An innocent question, and I started to read the responses. Some of them were funny. "In the wash" or "haven't found them yet." Many people gave shout outs to their favorite brands. (My heart went aflutter when I saw Happy Puppies listed!) But, as I continued to read, I found that many women were self-critical.
"None. My thighs touch" or "I only wear capris." One woman wrote that her thighs tough so much that they would cause sparks. Women wrote that they are too self-conscious to wear shorts.
Just a few years ago, I was one of those women. I understand the insecurities that come from daily torment in middle school. That crap doesn't just go away.
My fabulous classmates told me how fat I was on a daily basis. How weird I was. I talked funny. Had bad hair. I let those words, the nastiness of some preteen kids, bury themselves deep within my brain.
Even though I went to a private high school, those words continued to echo within. I began to throw up, trying to lose weight. (Thankfully my brother caught onto that one and put a very quick end to it.) No matter what I did or how I looked, I could never shake those damn words.
Until one day, three years ago, I tied on my running shoes and hit the road. The pounding of my feet finally drowned out those nasty words. I finally saw myself as my family sees me.
Here I am at the Disney Princess Half Marathon, February 2013, with my four boys.
I have some extra pounds. That's a fact. And that's not going to change, because I love to bake, and cook with and for my family. And even more than that, I love to eat what we have created! And if I have a few extra rolls to show for it, who cares? No matter what my size is, my family loves me. When something amazing happens to my children, they can't wait to tell Mom, and these arms, complete with their extra jiggle, hug them tight as we dance in celebration. When something bad happens, these same arms comfort them as they lay their head in my soft lap. No matter what I think that I look like, my husband calls me beautiful, and the way that he treats me shows me that he believes it.
I am beautiful. I am BEAUTIFUL! I AM BEAUTIFUL!
And so are you.
Who cares if you have a little extra jiggle when you wiggle? A stranger? What impact does their opinion have on your life? Absolutely zero.
Wear the shorts. Do the dance. Go for a run. And pound out your self doubt. That doubt is your gate, closing you in. It's time for you to run like the gate is open, because you're the only one who can open it.
And remember: you are beautiful. You truly are.
"Running is not just for those who are fit and healthy and strong. Running is a life-breathe for those who struggle with physical and mental illness, self-doubt, loss, anger, regret and other unspeakable pains. Why? Because running has the power to heal, to bring perspective, to instill confidence, to restore sanity and to make us believers again. This is why I run.” - Susan Husband
A friend posted this quote this morning, and Susan Husband's words truly hit home with me. Happy Puppies makes charitable donations a top priority. But do you know why?
On November 24, 2010, my worst nightmare came true. My sweet, funny, healthy (or so I thought) son was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). The genetics of his disease were quite favorable, so I was told that Josh had a 95% chance of an event-free (meaning no relapse or death) five-year survival.
We headed into treatment optimistically, but two weeks later, Josh had not responded to chemo as well as he should have. Chances dropped to 90%. Two more weeks passed, and he still hadn't responded as well as he should have. Boom. Chances are now 85%.
Eighty-five percent still leaves great odds, right? Wrong. Eighty-five percent, 90%, 95%...those are NEVER acceptable odds when you are talking about your child.
But, what was a mom to do? I was completely helpless. I watched my child grow weak, with dark circles under his eyes. I sat in hospital rooms while he slept through his numerous blood transfusions and chemo infusions. I stood by his bedside, helpless while my child screamed in pain as he received shots of chemo into his thighs. I stood, helpless, as children we knew lost their battles. Became part of that 15%. Helpless.
Josh grew stronger. Fourteen months after his diagnosis, Josh was healthy enough to return to school and even his beloved baseball, even though he still faced more than two additional years of chemotherapy. I continued to sit on the couch and sob in my Ben & Jerry's.
Until one day, Josh's first nurse, Melissa, put together a team to run Disney's Wine and Dine half marathon in memory of Tiffany, a girl we all adored, who had just lost her battle with a different form of Leukemia. Her poor body, battered after fighting acute myeloid leukemia twice, could not recover after her bone marrow treatment. Josh and I loved Tiffany, and Melissa encouraged me to put down the ice cream (still haven't...don't judge) and get up off the couch. I got up off of that couch, laced up my sneakers and joined Team In Training to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Where I once felt helpless, I found strength. Where I felt despair, I found hope. Where I was lost, I found myself.
I am a runner. I am strong. I am saving lives.
I have run with Team In Training since June 2012. And I have seen the results! The research that LLS is funding is currently saving lives! I have done something! Josh is now one year off-treatment, and will be starting seventh grade in the fall. My son is a part of the 85%.
I often say that the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society helped to save Josh's life. But Team In Training saved mine.
On Saturday, April 25, I toed the starting line of the Country Music Half Marathon. And as usual, there were a whole lot of thoughts going through my head as I ran the course.
Before I share my ramblings, I would like to give you a bit of background. I train in Florida. It's very flat in Florida. I like to run along a certain street in my hometown because it has "rolling hills." Elevation 5 feet. Not an exaggeration. I will make every effort to get to the side of the road to give a kid a high five. If there is a little hand sticking out, I may or may not clothesline you to get to that kid. Worth it. If someone is offering food or beverages on the course, I will always take it. If they put forth the effort to go to Krispy Kreme at o'dark thirty so I can have a bit of extra sugar, I will take them, thank the person and declare him/her to be my favorite person. Because at that point in time, it really is true. I also give a huge shout of "THANK YOU!" to the volunteers along the course. Because without them, there would be no race. And, well, because they're freaking awesome.
Now, this is what flowed through my head.
- It's cold out. (It was in the 60's. Remember, I'm a Florida girl.)
- Wow. There are a lot of people here.
- Starting off downhill. I like this course!
- Wait. What is that giant mound of dirt that they paved over? Is that a mountain? Florida Girl doesn't comprehend this.
- Yes. I'm over that hill. Where's the downhill. Seriously. What goes up must come down, right? Why am I turning on a flat road?
- Ah, yes. There's the downhill. Time to fly, baby!
- Why do these hills keep happening to me? I didn't sign up for this! Well, maybe I did. But that doesn't mean that I have to like it!
- OMG. There is a couple sitting in front of their house, drinking champagne at a bistro table. I love them.
- This whole street is awesome! Check out all of the parties going on! I love this town.
- Ah, yes. There's a man up ahead giving out Krispy Kremes. I love him. He is my new favorite person. Wait! What? Where are you going? Are you out of donuts! WHYYYYYY???!?! Why couldn't I run just a little bit faster? I think I'm going to cry a little.
- Oh, wait. There's a kid ahead handing something out. He has a big bowl. Maybe there's some candy in it. Nope. Bananas. Thanks, kid! You're my new favorite person!
- I can't eat this banana yet. What will I do with the peel? There aren't any trashcans around. I'll hold onto it until the next water stop.
- Don't squeeze the banana.
- Gentle with that banana!
- Yay! Water. Time to eat the banana. Why is it squished?
- This course is really beautiful. Except for those stupid mountains.
- This is the hardest I've ever had to work during a race.
- Will this ever end?
- Mile 12. Almost there.
- Seriously. Where is mile 13?
- WHY AM I CLIMBING ANOTHER MOUNTAIN?
- At the top. The finish has to be around here somewhere!
- I hear cheering. It has to be close!
- Down the bridge and to the right, and there it is!
- Wait? Did I cross the finish? Why isn't there the thingy that says finish line? Well, I crossed two mats, so I'm going to stop running now.
- Legs, you can stop. Wait. If I stop, I might not start going again. Walk, legs, walk!
- Ah, yes. The medals. There you are, my precious.
- Food. Lots of food. And what are you handing me? A box? You're handing me a box to put all of my food in? You know the way to my heart.
- And, finally, beer. You make all of the torture worthwhile. Thank you, beer.
Overall, the race was fabulous. The course was well marked, and well supported. I was undertrained, and I underestimated the "rolling hills" that I was warned about. Nashville, I'll be back! And next time I'll be ready for you, mountains of pain!
This was a very emotional race for me, as my son Josh benefitted from the research conducted at St. Jude. He is alive today because of the incredible people who have raised the money to fund research. If you are a St. Jude hero, or if you run for any charity, I thank you. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you.
Yep. I was doing it again. Frowning at my belly. Poking at my butt. Wishing I had more muscle, less fluff. Better hair. Fewer wrinkles. Looking in the mirror today, there really wasn't much I liked.
And then I realized just what I was doing. I was criticizing things that, in all honesty, I wouldn't change in a heartbeat.
My hair is short because last year I shaved my head for St. Baldrick's, in honor of my son, the cutest cancer survivor ever. My muscles are strong. I can throw a cranky seven year old over my shoulder to save an outing. My legs can propel 175 pounds of awesome through 26.2 miles. These arms that wobble when I run hug four boys to celebrate in joy and to comfort in heartache. This squishy stomach is where sick boys lay their heads while I rub their backs. This pancake butt....
Well, maybe I'll throw some extra squats into my routine tomorrow.
Too often we are critical of ourselves. Flaws are what make us who we are. Differences make us unique. We learn through mistakes.
I really do like myself. And I wish you the same.
I would not be here without the support of some amazing women. Together, we make up Team Happy Puppies. They've helped with clothing design, worked at race expos with me, talked me off a cliff when I'm stressed out. They are my people.
I think that you will be inspired by these amazing women, just like I am. So, I would like to share their stories with you, starting with team member Shari.
I met Shari through Team In Training. Though I live in South Florida and she lived in Minnesota, we bonded over the phone, as we planned fundraisers and virtual races, and plotted our path to crush cancer. We finally met in person at Disney's Princess half marathon in February, 2013, and we've been as thick as thieves ever since. My heart soared when I found out that Shari's husband got a job down here and she was going to telecommute to the job that she loves.
Shari is an incredible person. She was in a car accident that broke her back, and to this day causes horrible pain. But Shari doesn't let that pain stop her. In fact, she didn't start running until AFTER the car accident. As of Friday, March 27, 2015, Shari has completed 20 events, including 11 half marathons. But that number will change in 24 hours, because she will participate in yet another half marathon tomorrow.
Inspirational? Yes. Best friend anyone could ever ask for? Yes. Free shipping code in her honor? Heck, yes. Use code ShariRocks at checkout to receive free shipping within the US. Shop here: http://happypuppiesrun.com/collections/all