Emily made her national television debut on the Steve Harvey Show on Thursday. She was beautiful, poised, and eloquent as she shared her story and thanked her personal hero and mentor, Bonnie Addario. If you missed the live show, you can watch Emily and Bonnie’s segment HERE.
During the Steve Harvey taping, Emily had two familiar faces cheering her on in the audience – her sister in law, Emily Taylor (EmTay), and EmTay’s best friend from college, Emily Hampson (EmHam). (Note: Miles also managed to sneak in despite not meeting the prerequisite of being named Emily) EmHam has been a huge supporter of EmBen – she sends regular care packages and will be making the trek from her hometown of Chicago to San Francisco for the Lung Run on September 29th. EmHam has her own blog and this week she made this poignant post to help raise funds and drive awareness.
One Cup of $5 Tea
Next Wednesday, Sept 25th, I will turn 33. There was never any question in my mind that I might not reach this age. That I wouldn’t be married, settled in the suburbs with a toddler hanging off my hip, scrubbing crusted spaghetti sauce off the inside of the microwave. I am certain I have managed to take for granted most of my 12,000 plus days here on Earth and I have done so with the careless comfort of believing that death was something you fumbled upon in your 80’s and even 90’s. I have had other vital matters to attend to. Like fretting over the zit that perennially forms in the crease of my chin and those flights that were delayed over two hours due to tornadoes in the Oklahoma Panhandle and the nor’easter in Maine, and my beloved houndstooth sweater that shrunk in the dryer, not once but twice. I have been aimlessly distracted, attempting to recall ridiculously devised computer passwords, hunting down parking spots, burning frozen pizzas in the oven, and making sure my daughter didn’t rip the pages out of all the Dr. Seuss books. For the past 33 years, I have had that pleasure. This past year, however, everything was jarred. Shaken up and stirred.
I found out a year ago this past July that my best friend from college’s sister-in-law had been diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer at 28. She was a star volleyball player in college, a newlywed, a gorgeous and avid athlete, and a person who had never once touched a cigarette. Her name is also Emily. And I guarantee you she would have given anything that summer to worry about marinara in her microwave.
Emily’s good friends started a blog last year help keep those who cared for her informed throughout her journey. She endured multiple rounds of chemo out in Los Angeles, which led to a complete lung removal surgery in New York this February, followed by 28 unrelenting radiation treatments. With her family, a buttress of steel behind her, Emily has battled, fought, persevered, and maintained her lovely sense of humor and gracious spirit with gargantuan grit and guts. She is officially NED (No Evidence of Disease) as of this spring, and is gaining her strength and stamina back little by little with the support of streaming Netflix, electrolyte water, daily walks with her pooch, and her loving and devoted husband, Miles. Likely not in that order.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of being a guest in the audience when Emily made her television debut at a taping of the Steve Harvey show here in Chicago. The producers had flown her in from the West Coast so that she could surprise and thank her mentor and hero, Bonnie Addario, Founder and President of the Bonnie Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, who has raised over $10 million for research, medical support, and awareness to eradicate this devastating disease. There was Steve Harvey’s perfectly-positioned couch. And there was this breathtakingly beautiful girl with long brown hair and a poppy red dress, poised and postured with her ankles crossed under the glare of the studio cameras. The gasps in the audience were audible when it was revealed that she was in fact the face of lung cancer. This bright young woman, oozing with the promise of a giant life yet to live, sitting there, confiding her brutal battle to simply survive.
I was shocked at how neglected lung cancer funding is when I did some digging online. It is the most lethal cancer, and yet it receives the least amount of funding from the National Cancer Institute. It garners a fraction of the dollars that go to breast cancer, for example, and yet is second only to heart disease in cause of death. There seems to be a stigma associated with lung cancer as a smoker’s condition that is self-inflicted. However, more and more young non-smokers and especially women are contracting it. All the while funding is desperately needed to aid these patients and educate the public on belying the myths of lung cancer. Even the ribbon signifying the disease was formerly clear, giving subtle reference to its invisibility and lack of deserved attention. It has since evolved to white and I will be proudly wearing that ribbon next week when I run in the Your Next Step is the Cure 5K in San Francisco with Team EmBen. Did I say run? Okay, jog… well, powerwalk for sure. I will cross that finish line though, despite being embarrassingly out of shape and floppy in various key places.
Which leads me to my 33rd birthday. I’m not in the habit of buying lavish birthday gifts for my compadres, but who doesn’t love splurging on a draft pint or classy cosmo for a friend, toasting to their companionship and to another year of warding off grey hair? Pretend I am that friend this week….. that you are treating me to a steaming cup of earl grey (decaf for those who really know me) and a long overdue chat, and instead toss some change to the Bonnie Addario fundraising site in honor of EmBen. I even put the website here to make it easy for you: CLICK HERE TO DONATE!!!
And remember to set your DVRs this Thursday, September 19th to watch a poignant story of survival and support unfold on the Steve Harvey Show (NBC). Never mind that it comes after a teen sexting segment, I promise you will be moved. I promise you will turn off the television and not care that you forgot to buy the orange juice at the supermarket. And I hope you may just feel inspired enough to “take me out” for a $5 tea…
There is still time to donate or register to join EmBen, EmHam, and EmTay at the Lung Run in San Francisco as they walk/powerwalk/run to end lung cancer. All of the details can be found HERE. Thanks for your support, hopefully we’ll see you next weekend!!!