Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Team Mallory

Right after I started treatment, my good friend Gina- from her remote location- sent me an email asking if she could help create a T-shirt as a fundraiser for our family. I've known Gina for a lot of years and she is a kind, thoughtful person. Of course my gut reaction was- OH Dear God No. But I decided to heed my mutant friends' advice to allow people to help me and took a moment to think on it. I like Tshirts. I wear Tshirts. Phil likes Tshirts. He wears tshirts. The kids are constantly growing out of their Tshirts. We have Tshirts from squadrons, from trips, from sports and now theatre. So why not? 

I talk to Phil about it, knowing full well his reaction is going to be- OH Dear God NO. I was not prepared for the veil of despair that came over his face. I expected the adamant proud reaction- we are fine. I jumped on the defensive and explained we needed to let people who love us help and the majority of our family and friends are over the ocean and cannot prepare a meal or run the kids to school and want to help. At least that's what people keep telling me. He simply said- It's not the T-shirt. I don't want to be the family that has a Tshirt because I don't want it to be that bad. I'm not ready for it to be that bad. 

I understand the panic. The tough realization. I hate that I ultimately am the cause of pain for him. That there is not much we can do to change the course we are on. A course of limited time.  When my brother Bob got sick there was no time. No time to Make a Wish much less have it granted. Barely enough time to say goodbye. Some of the toughest parts are the unknowns. But I remind myself, no one knows. We were told maybe 5 years with Lily. You just don't know. We have some key information that changes the way we play. Perhaps it's time to let our friends play along side us. So I sit down and try to think of what I would want on a Tshirt? That wasn't swearing associated with genetics....

When we joined the Air Force fighter community years and years ago, I made many friends- some by chance, some by design.  It's a family in so many ways. Orders throw you together- but choice keeps you together over time.  A friend, who both she and her husband outranked mine by several years taught me that friendship and respect know no rank. Long before Edward or Jacob became the gold standard of teaming up-she referred to every family as a Team. She was kind to everyone and taught us most success comes from working as a team. I embraced this approach and welcomed every letter and every card that greeted us over the years with her signature address- 

A few years after moving to Hawaii, I faced the challenge most stay at home moms face- what is my purpose? Is this enough? Meanwhile my mom felt further away from each milestone for the kids and I tried to find a way to bridge that gap with a new technology- blogging.  The kids were monkeys in every way- and it became Monkeying Around. As life and technology seem to do- all this changed and grew when Lily was diagnosed with 2 cancers- one of which had and extremely poor prognosis. Entries were no longer happenstance potty training forays- they were a lifeline- a way of healing and sharing the heartbreak and survival through a really dark and scary time. The title reflected our military connection and the focus of the time- Lily Kayda and the Tale of the Terrorizing Tumors. Publicly blogging forced me to find a bright side to every story because I firmly believe that the way you approach a problem and attitude affects the outcome. It also became a tool for me to help others understand more about us and living with cancer as those who live with hereditary cancer syndromes like Li Fraumeni Syndrome have to do.

I never thought cancer would skip me. It is a lifestyle of careful watching. Knowing my body and trying to teach the kids without being oppressive to do the same for themselves is always in the back of my mind while preserving a sense of normal. Although there is always a certain element of shock with cancer diagnosis- when you have a family cancer syndrome like LFS- you kinda are waiting for it. After watching my dad and brother be stripped of their personalities quickly with brain tumors- breast cancer was a relief for me. At least it was a part that could be removed. I knew it was still a threat. But the summer after my surgeries was the perfect answer- visiting family and spending time with my kids on the road- like my family used to do growing up.  One of my favorite mementos from the trip was a necklace I made in Colorado while Kiera tried to decide on which beads she wanted. It was a simple endless knot with a few beads. Some call it a celtic knot. It winds round itself like protein structure or DNA. Some call it a Buddhist knot. Also appropriate since most only know my better half as Buddha. Either way I love the symbolism of it. No beginning, No end. 
with my buddha, my monkeys and my necklace

SO I cut and pasted my ideas into a rough outline for Team Mallory- jet, monkeys, knot- and sent it off to Gina. She took care of contacting the company and after a few weeks they fired off some designs. When the design opened on my computer, my first thought was- OH DEAR GOD NO.  I shot it off to my cousin who said she liked it. It was a monkey driving a very inaccurate cartoon of a fighter jet pulling a banner. A monkey driving a jet? Pulling a banner? No. That is not going to fly. My cousin said no one expected mechanical accuracy on a T-shirt. I've long given up on accuracy but I just felt like it missed the target.   We were fast approaching Christmas, there was too much going on and I was spread too thin so I told Gina I would have my cousin come up with something and filed it away under a dusty mat in my brain. I was a failure at letting people help and I tried not to think about it again. Until Gina forwarded me some ideas her friend Hope, a graphic designer put together. They were beautiful. The knot was the same as my necklace and the center of Team Mallory. Four monkeys and their shenanigans. The jet, symbolic of not only a career, but a family of support. She captured us. And without these amazing ladies- the concept would still be buried under that dusty mat in my brain. I finally confided in Gina that my worst fear is that they would go to all the trouble of doing this and no one would want a shirt. Sometimes it's just easier not to ask for help than to ask and get rejected. 

So Imagine my shock to see within the first few hours, dozens of shirts selling.  The support is overwhelming, unexpected and so appreciated. As a friend said- it is exactly what you would do it for any of us- we just want to help. I knew letting others help me would be difficult- but I had no idea it could be so wonderful. Thank you to Gina for not giving up when I was difficult. Thank you to Hope for capturing a vision. Thank you to those who keep up with us and are brave enough to publicly announce any association to us. Thank you to all of our friends for the support and love. Team Mallory is bigger than I ever expected. Thank you for Hanging Strong with us. 

Shirt Orders can be placed until February 15, 2014.  CLICK HERE to Join TEAM MALLORY

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Lily Kay Monkey

Lily Kay Monkey
November 2008 Photographed by Shelley Detton (7 Layer Studio)