Lung Day 2.0

Last February while in New York City just before the surgery to remove her lung, Emily was nervous about the effect it would have on her ability to do normal daily tasks.  To ease her mind, Miles came up with Lung Day.  Lung Day consisted of numerous challenges – dancing in Central Park, climbing a flight of stairs, and screaming “NED!” from atop of the Empire State Building. The idea was that each subsequent year they would have Lung Day so Emily could compare how she was doing, and be reminded of just how far she had come.

The original plan this year was to return to New York for a one-year follow up appointment with Dr. Flores and have Lung Day in the city; however, terrible winter weather on the East Coast put a halt to that.  Fortunately, Dr. Flores gave a glowing review of Emily’s latest scans and assured her that she needn’t make the trip all the way to NYC…but Miles wasn’t satisfied…

Last month, on the anniversary of her first Lung Day, Miles and EmTay surprised EmBen with breakfast in bed.  The startled yet excited EmBen was instructed to eat quickly as her first Lung Day challenge would start in 15 minutes.

Breakfast in Bed                      Lung Day Tasks

Challenge #1: One Mile Walk
Emily took a one mile stroll with the dogs around the neighborhood.  No breaks.  No rests.
Status: Complete

One Mile Walk          One Mile Walk with Dogs

Challenge #2: Blow Up Balloon
With one of Emily’s favorite new songs playing in the background, she expanded that one lung and blew up a balloon with surprising ease.  No dizziness.  No exhaustion.  She is now qualified to work the local circus.
Status: Complete

Challenge #3: Tour De France
Emily was given a yellow top and a bike helmet (aka Steelers football helmet). Channeling the Livestrong, cancer-beating Lance Armstrong, she rode the bike like a champion for 30 minutes.
Status: Complete

Tour De France

Challenge #4: Scream to the Heavens
After two exhausting workouts, Miles and EmTay did what any doctor would recommend – they sent Emily up a ladder.  Climbing onto the roof, Emily reached the ridge and screamed “I’m NED!”  This was a particular favorite for her as last year she would only scream “NED.” To be able to put a simple “I’m” in front of the word this time held much significance and was a source of pride and gratitude.
Status: Complete

Intermission: Some of Emily’s closest friends and supporters arrived at the house to partake in the second half of Lung Day and root Emily on as she continued to attack the challenges set forth.

Friends  Lung Day Intermission

Challenge #5: Lap Swim
Now that her full cheering squad had arrived, Emily was given the biggest challenge yet: swim one lap in the pool.  Under the guise of safety, Miles dressed Emily in ridiculous children’s swim gear he had purchased: arm floaties (unnecessary) as well as an inner tube (doubly unnecessary).  Fully outfitted, you would have thought Emily had had surgery to add rocks to her belly rather than having an organ removed.  Enjoy the laugh, and marvel at how far Emily has come!
Status: Complete

Challenge #6: Dance to the Music
Although her post-surgery dance moves typically involve a lot of arm flailing with minimal lower body action, Emily is not scared to bust a move.  As always, dancing brings the biggest smile to her face.
Status: Complete

Challenge #7:  Blow Out Candles
Surrounded by family and friends, Emily made a small speech about her happiness for all of the love surrounding her and Miles, and gratitude to be able to celebrate this day.  Then she exhaled like an angry Zeus and blew out every candle on the amazing Lung Day cake that Webmaster Annie had made.
Status: Complete

Blowing Out The  Candles          Lung Day Toast

Lung Day Cake

It was a wonderful, joyous day of celebration!  And most importantly, Emily successfully completed Lung Day after only one year post surgery.  She has rendered moot all of those concerns and worries of living a normal life.

Ho Ho HOakdale

Last December after her 6th round of chemotherapy, Emily and Miles hosted “Deck the Halls of Brentwood”, a wildly successful holiday party at their apartment in Brentwood.  Now that they own a home on Oakdale Ave in a neighborhood known as Candy Cane Lane, it was only fitting that Emily and Miles host “Ho Ho HOakdale” and try to outdo their own holiday spirit from one year ago.

Emily tapped back into her holiday Pinterest board and prepared an incredible spread of festive foods that could make even the most gluttonous elf feel full all the way to the tip of his pointy little ears…

HohohOakdale Food

Miles took the lead on entertainment and made sure that between the music, the games, and the photo booth with props, there was never a dull moment.  All attendees were required to wear their most festive holiday sweater or costume.  Side note – if you want to know what constitutes top notch holiday costume please see Nate Folk, aka The Grinch.  He was a regular celebrity on Oakdale Ave as the cars that were driving around to look at the holiday lights would stop and entire families would pour out to take photos with him.

HohohOakdale Friends

Party goers also braved the bumper to bumper traffic that was inching around the neighborhood (seriously, it looked eerily similar to the 405 freeway at 5PM..) and went for a late night stroll on foot to check out the holiday displays.  Needless to say, the houses on Candy Cane Lane did not disappoint.  It was almost possible to hear the electricity meters humming in overdrive as millions of colorful lights twinkled, snow flurries flew in larger than life inflatable snow globes, and robotic reindeer pulled Santa around.

HohohOakdale Decorations

Overall it was a fun and festive night to celebrate good friends and good health this holiday season.  If you are in the neighborhood, or flying overhead, keep an eye out for Miles’ and Emily’s house – you will be able to identify it by this special light display on the roof…

Holiday Hope

Emily’s CT & Brain MRI Results Arrive Post Gala

The 2013 Bonnie J Addario Lung Cancer Foundation (BJALCF) Gala united over 40 lung cancer survivors with researchers, oncologists, surgeons, pharmaceutical execs, fundraisers, foundation workers, volunteers, and hundreds of steadfast and generous supporters in the cause to eradicate lung cancer.

Three distinguished and radiant survivors:  Emily “EmBen” Taylor, Bonnie J. Addario and Hank Baskett, Sr. at the San Francisco Fairmont Hotel Ballroom.

Three distinguished and radiant survivors: Emily “EmBen” Taylor, Bonnie J. Addario, and Hank Baskett, Sr. at the San Francisco Fairmont Hotel Ballroom.

Bonnie’s daughters are at the heart of the BJALCF – Danielle Hicks, Director of Patient Services and Programs (left), and Andrea Parks, Director of Event Strategy and Marketing (right).

Emily and Natalie DiMarco join in the applause as the Gala survivors are asked to stand. This year had more survivors than any of the previous seven Gala events, thanks in large part to the work of the BJALCF.

Speech 1 Miles

After awards were presented for Outstanding Service in the Field, and the BJALCF 2013 video was shown (watch HERE if you missed it!), two of the video’s participants were asked to take the stage. Miles told the audience about INHERIT, a new study funded by the BJALCF, carried out at the Dana Farber Institute at Harvard, that will seek to determine if the T790 gene in lung cancer can be inherited, like the BRCA gene in breast cancer.

Speech 2 Emily

Miles then passed to mic to Emily who shared her personal story and history. Her conclusion was a stunner, “I have nine frozen embryos, and if it’s possible that this gene is inherited, I want to know so that my children can be tested and treated early, so that they will not have to go through the hell that I have been through.”

Speech 3

Bonnie’s husband, Tony, later commented “Every woman at my table was in tears.” The applause left them humbled, but the bigger reward was displayed on the donation screen to their left where audience members punched in donations of $217,300!!!

Josh & Fam

Josh Zazulia (Miles’ college roommate and Best Buddy in their wedding party), joins the family for the happiest of celebrations.

Photo bomb

Miles tries to shows his appreciation to Andrea for pulling off such a spectacular event . . . only to be photo bombed by his sister.

One Lung Dance

Emily continues to enjoy strapless dresses, proudly displaying her long surgical scar. Here she is teaching her family and supporters the One Lung Dance…it involves little foot movement, some dramatic arm flare, and a lot of attitude.

The Results

And now, the news you have all been waiting for: Miles Taylor presents the test results…

Live in the Momemt

EmBen is still NED,
CT scan and brain MRI are clean!
What can be said?
She’s a cancer fighting machine!

James

Visit the gallery of James Hall (center), our favorite photographer EVER, for more photos of the Gala.

Second Annual BJALCF 5K

Last weekend over 50 of Emily’s most dedicated and spirited supporters descended on San Francisco for Team EmBen’s second annual appearance at the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation (BJALCF) “Your Next Step is the Cure” 5K event.  It was beautiful and sunny out – simply a perfect day for thousands of folks to rally together in the fight against lung cancer.  Team EmBen raised almost $10K for the cause, and overall the event raised $320K.  A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!!!  Here are a few photos highlighting the incredible day…

Team EmBen SF 5K

Team EmBen, fifty people strong, looking spry and spirited, as usual.

5K13_IMG_6028

Emily’s cousin Amy (left) coordinated a top secret operation that brought Emily’s brother, Chris, and other cousin Lindsay (right) in to San Francisco for the race from out of state. Emily was completely surprised and having her family take part in all of the festivities made the day even more memorable.

Nate and Sign Dominating

This is Nate, he is one of Emily’s biggest supporters and, for the second year in a row, he ran the ENTIRE race carrying the Team EmBen sign high overhead. Nate and his wife Melanie have a 3 month old baby, Parker, who happens to be Emily’s littlest BIG supporter.  He also completed the 5K in an “I Heart EmBen” onsie with a sign on his stroller. Like father, like son..

Emily, Bonnie, and Natalie

Emily with fellow lung cancer survivors and champions of the cause – Bonnie (middle) and Natalie (right)

Taylor Family

The Taylor family used their lungs to dominate the running portion of the event for the second year in a row.  EmTay won the women’s 39 and under division while Rich won the Grand Masters category. Meanwhile, Miles took home the award for most wrist/arm flare.

Lung Run Collage 1Lung Run Collage 2

Lung Run Collage 3

If you did not get to take part in the 5K in San Francisco you can still support this great event.  Click here to make a donation and join the rest of Team EmBen in the fight against lung cancer.

Finally, a great big thank you to James Hall, who captured many of these wonderful images from the day.  If you would like to see more photos, please visit his website here.

Attention San Francisco Bay Area EmBen Supporters

Marissa Bus Stop

Marissa is pumped to pour cocktails – come visit and test her mixology skills!

This Thursday, September 26th, Emily and Miles’ college friends Marissa and Josh will be hosting a fundraising event from 6 – 9 PM for Team EmBen at Soda Popinski’s (1548 California St, San Francisco, CA 94109).

Josh Lung run

Josh would LOVE to make you a drink – won’t you stop by and make his night?!

Stop by, say hello, and grab a drink or two!!  Marissa and Josh will be bartending and ALL tips from this three hour window will go towards Team EmBen.  Raffle tickets will also be sold for some awesome prizes, and all proceeds go to Team EmBen for this Sunday’s race.

Speaking of, if you still haven’t signed up or donated for the 5K, please CLICK HERE to do so now!  

Team EmBen Wants YOU!!

Join Team EmBen

Mark your calendars for Sunday, September 29th – Team EmBen is coming back in full force and looking for new members for this year’s Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation (BJALCF) “Your Next Step is the Cure” 5K event!!  Last year the team raised $10K and 70+ friends and family descended on San Francisco with nothing less than 732.5% team spirit.  The team is reuniting behind its namesake and inspirational leader, and looking to up its game this year.

Do you want in?  Yes?  Yes!  Great answer.  Here is the scoop:

Who:
You!

What:
“Your Next Step is the Cure” 5K Run/Walk

When:
Sunday, September 29th, 11 AM

Where:
Lake Merced, 1 Harding Road, San Francisco, or wherever you may be located around the world [You do not have to be in San Francisco to be a part of Team EmBen!]

Why:
To raise money and awareness for lung cancer research and education, to share stories and support with other lung cancer patients, survivors, and their families and communities, and because it’s fun, just plain old fun.

Next StepsCLICK HERE TO JOIN TEAM EMBEN!!  If you are able to make it to the 5K in San Francisco, please click on the link at the upper right side of the page that says “Join Our Team” to register for the event as a runner/walker for Team EmBen.  If you are unable to make it to San Francisco but would still like to be a part of the team and lend your support from afar, please click on the button on the right side of the page that says “Give Now”.  Your contribution will be counted towards the Team EmBen fundraising total.

Emily has been working hard on rebuilding her strength and lung capacity so she will be able to complete the entire 5K with the rest of the team.  She is excited to visit with everyone from last year, and looking forward to seeing lots of new faces in the crowd as well.  Won’t you come to Lake Merced on September 29th and help make her day? 🙂

In other awesome news, these have been popping up around San Francisco (!!!):

EmBen Bus Stop                      Marissa at EmBen Bus Stop

This advertising campaign was recently launched to help promote the 5K event as well as some of the other great initiatives that the BJALCF spearheads to support lung cancer patients and their families.  Who better to be the inspirational face of a lung cancer survivor than dear Emily?  Keep an eye out for her cute mug gracing bus stops around The Bay!  If you spot one, take a photo with it and share the pic with the rest of Team EmBen using #EmBenKicksCancer!

The Garland Company Spirit Week

GarlandMiles’ employer, The Garland Company, recently held a Spirit Week during which they raised more than $40,000.  All of this money was graciously donated to the Bonnie J Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, an organization that Emily has a very close relationship with.  Emily, Miles, and their families would like to extend a HUGE thank you to the entire Garland community who rallied to donate money and offer support.

Garland Spirit Week

Bonnie Addario also had some very kind words for The Garland Company and their incredibly generous donation to the Lung Cancer Foundation.  Bonnie’s letter is below, but the full story can also be found on The Garland Company’s Facebook page.  Please feel free to visit their page (CLICK HERE) and share your own words of appreciation for this incredible organization.

Dear Dave…. 

Miles tells me it is you I should be thanking for the amazing donation to our foundation and the event you held in our honor….Or should we say Emily and Miles’ honor. 

I am not sure that you know just how special a company you are. I am not talking about the products you sell but the ‘heart’ and the ‘character’ that your company has. They say we hire in our own image so I am thinking that the founders of Garland stated their philosophy many years ago and it has served you well. 

We have been with Emily and Miles on their entire journey with lung cancer. The outrageous diagnosis, the shock and then the ‘can do’ attitude they both have for Emily to survive. 

They speak often that they would not have had the ability to FIGHT the way they have without your support. For Miles to be able to work from any location, including hospitals, chemo rooms, airplanes and cars it was only because of you that made this possible. This type of company support is almost unheard of today… 

You have raised the bar of what a company CAN and SHOULD do in these same circumstances. Emily and Miles were able to concentrate on healing and just look at the outcome. 

You have my undying respect, gratitude and love forever! 

Thank you again from everyone here at the foundation. Please know we will put the funds you raised to very, very good use. We are launching a Young Lung Cancer study in about 60 days with people like Emily in mind to see if we can find a new bio marker for this sector of lung cancer that might have a drug in another cancer that can be used in this one. That is the simple version! 

With much gratitude for all you did for both Emily and Miles and what your funding will do for lung cancer. 

Bonnie

Deck the Halls of Brentwood

After two weeks of feeling the less-than-ideal chemo spirit, Emily is finally feeling better and embracing the vastly superior holiday spirit.  Last weekend, together with Stephanie Hammond (friend, coordinator of meals, and Brentwood neighbor), Emily hosted a fun, festive, and quite-filling holiday progressive, starting at Emily and Miles’ place and ending at Stephanie and her boyfriend Roger’s new apartment.

In the weeks leading up to the party when Emily was not sleeping or feeling the other ill-effects of chemo, she was combing the internet for cute party ideas.  Being quarantined and confined to the couch in your own apartment isn’t nearly as bad when there 1,687,149,987,245,831 holiday pins on Pinterest to search through and pass the time.  Emily enlisted the help of some cooking-savvy elf-friends, and the final result?  Party guests were treated to a whole selection of incredible snacks including brie baked in puff pastry topped with cranberries, honey, and toasted nuts, pomegranate jello treats shaped like gingerbread men, single serving spinach artichoke dip served in edible wonton cups, and good old pizza (made to look like candy canes, of course).

Holiday Food

Once every last plate in Emily’s apartment had been licked clean, the group made its way down “Candy Cane Lane” to Stephanie and Roger’s place.  The short walk was nicknamed Candy Cane Lane because the entire street was marked with giant candy canes so no one would get lost en-route to the next destination.  There were also more elf-friends (6+ feet tall basketball player elf-friends) along the route with music and trays of holiday-themed refreshments should anyone feel parched on the 3 block journey.

Co-hostess-with-the-mostest Stephanie also logged some serious hours selecting the best of the best holiday desserts so guests were again left with those hurt-so-good busting-at-the-seams eyes-are-bigger-than-stomach feelings.  Perhaps the highlight of the second party stop was the homemade photo booth complete with festive holiday props.  Who knew that an empty picture frame and oversize glasses could be so much fun?!

All in all it was a wonderful night to celebrate both the holiday season and Emily’s triumph over six rounds of intense chemotherapy.  Still not convinced?  We’ve got the photos to prove it! 🙂

Holiday Photo Booth

Holiday Party

Emily Gives Thanks

As a way to thank Miles for all he has done for her, Emily nominated him for a Caregiver Award called “The Wind Beneath My Wings” Award.  This was her submission.  Enjoy.

My husband, Miles Taylor, is the love of my life, the Wind Beneath My Wings, and the embodiment of selfless love.

Although, up until a few months ago, before my diagnosis, I would have more likely described him as a goofy, over-sized, overactive kid.  Not to sell him short – he has a graduate degree, a good job, and possesses a deep moral code – but the guy can, and does, make a game out of anything.

It’s not like I didn’t know what I was getting into. I met him my junior year of college when he showed up as the new ball boy for my volleyball team, and let’s just say this was not the official attire.

To give you a sense of who Miles is, I have to go back to a few of the highlights.  His wedding proposal lasted four hours.  It was a scavenger hunt that led me to clues all over the city of Los Angeles and finally back to our college campus, all along the way revisiting spots that held special memories in our blossoming relationship.

Of course I said, “YES!” This is just us being excited about the idea of getting married (and yes, that’s a bed sheet I’m wearing).

The wedding itself, held on the 4th of July two years ago, was a four day affair. Miles planned the three days of “pre-game” activities for our 200 out-of-town guests, renting a park, a gym, a disco, and an entire bowling alley.  He organized days with river rafting, softball, volleyball, and basketball, and nights with pub crawls, casino games, and dancing.  And of course there were prizes galore.

I took charge of the actual wedding, making sure it was a tasteful event.  All I asked Miles to do was arrange transportation for the guests from the State Capital gardens to the reception.  I had imagined a large, comfortable, air-conditioned charter bus for the 100+ degree Sacramento heat.  This is what he delivered.

Holidays with Miles are incredible affairs: always costumes, always a party.  He starts decorating earlier than Clark Griswold in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  Unexpectedly, I will arrive home from work and see our apartment ablaze in Halloween or Christmas lights and know that the local 99¢ Store has been depleted and its contents are now in my house.

And then there are all of his own annual traditions which bring together family and friends and involve elaborate details and homemade games like Thanksgiving jeopardy, family betting on the Oscars, Ryder Cup, Life Domination, every Steelers game, and the Rose Bowl, where we rent an RV and live in the stadium parking lot pretending to be from one of the teams.  Miles finds a school yearbook and assigns us all names and personalities, and then provides shirts and flags and we all end up talking like we’re from Wisconsin. But like any overactive boy, Miles can be a lot of work.  Not a week goes by that he doesn’t lose his keys, or his phone, or his credit cards.  He never wants to go to sleep at a decent hour, and he has yet to locate the laundry room.  So amidst all the fun, I had a small nagging concern about Miles as, well, as a father.  Sure, all kids love him, but would he remember to pick them up at soccer practice, or be able to discipline them?  My mother-in-law suggested starting him out on a dog.  So I got him Ginny for his birthday.

Cute, huh?  Well, that idea backfired.  Miles taught her to howl, growl, dance, and fight, leaving me with two wild creatures running loose in the apartment.

And then I got cancer.  And my husband grew up overnight.

Miles is, without a doubt, the Ultimate Caregiver.  He calls this “the biggest game of our lives,” and has assumed all responsibilities so that I can focus exclusively on beating my deadly opponent.

  • Around the house, he won’t let me lift a finger.  In fact, I first knew I was really sick when he starting loading and unloading the dishwasher, because I wasn’t aware that he knew we had one.
  • He has added cooking and paying the bills to his household chores.  And because I have difficulty breathing around pollen, he makes paper flowers for my breakfast tray.
  • During chemo week, he makes homemade checklists with little boxes to track my medicines, holds my hair back when I hug the toilet bowl, and sets the alarm throughout the night to feed me Saltines so I don’t wake up feeling queasy in the morning.
  • To keep the house clean, he has adopted a “no shoes in the house” policy, opens all mail and deliveries to keep my hands clean, and forces Ginny into the shower with him after her walks.  The poor dog’s skin is so dried out that she can’t stop scratching from being so clean!
  • Miles used to work from bed in the early morning while tuned into ESPN, but now he sneaks out at dawn because he knows that, as much as I love him, I sleep better when I am alone and can stretch out for a few more hours of shut-eye.  And because I chill easily, he keeps warm fluffy blankets throughout the house, and covers me in heated blankets when I am at the hospital between procedures.  This is me in the hospital lobby on a bed that Miles made.

Miles is a top-notch Medical Researcher & Communicator.

  • For a guy with “white coat syndrome” who avoids doctors at all costs, this cancer diagnosis has been a challenge for Miles on multiple levels.  But you would never know it to hear him converse with medical professionals after being up all night learning about my disease.  As my diagnosis progressed from what we thought was a carcinoid to lymphoma to finally Stage IV adenocarcinoma, as our vocabulary grew to include acronyms like EGFR, KRAS and ROS1, as the search for care took us to City of Hope, USC, UC Davis, UCSF and Mt. Sinai, I have never had to log on to a medical website.  Miles has done all the research.
  • Miles has a brilliant mind and has been able to weed through so much material.  He carefully selects what will be most helpful to me, summing up what he has learned in simple terms and analogies.  Then he filters out all the scary stuff so I can focus on the positive.
  • Despite being an Econ major/MBA guy, he has embraced alternative medicine as well.  He supplies me with daily doses of alkaline water, grapefruit juice, curcumin, and over-ripe bananas (ugh!) which he hides inside yogurt.  He even hired a doctor in hypnotherapy to guide me through visual meditative exercises.
  • Miles keeps our family and friends informed with written reports, initially as emails and now as blog posts, which are both entertaining and informative.  For example, he uploaded CT scans of my lungs before and after the first two rounds of chemo and used Microsoft Paint to visually explain my wonderful progress!
  • Miles also supported my fervent desire to preserve my fertility, so that within days of my diagnosis we were actively involved in the fertilization process.  This man who passes out at the mere mention of a flu shot, prepared my hormone injections, and while his mother inserted the fluid into my belly, stood at the base of our bed displaying photos of a boy and a girl on his laptop, images he created by morphing our faces. Two weeks later, we were naming our nine precious fertilized embryos.

Miles is the Best Coach ever.  I have played sports all my life and I respond well to coaching.  Miles was also a college athlete and we have often talked about what makes a great coach.  I know Miles’ dream is to coach a high school basketball team, but instead he got me.  And I am the lucky one.

  • For inspiration, he researches and prints stories of survivors.
  • For visualization, he found caps in our spice cabinet demonstrating how big my tumor was when we started (garlic salt), the results after six weeks (balsamic vinegar) and our goal for the next CT scan (vanilla extract).
  • For discipline, he goes “drill sergeant” on me when I need it.  There are no days off.  He keeps tabs that I’m meditating twice a day, drinking massive quantities of alkaline water, and maintaining a “kick-ass” attitude.
  • For support, he climbs into bed next to me each night, no matter how tired he is, and talks to each part of my body.  He tells every limb and every organ how strong it is, he speaks to my white blood cells that are attacking the tumor, he reminds me how strong I am and about my conviction to beat this.  And then he describes our future family and how excited it makes him.  Finally, Miles sings me an Irish lullaby and says that when I feel his touch at night, he is transferring his strength to me so that I will be twice as strong as I fight this.

Our lives have changed drastically in a few short months.  Miles sold his beloved truck for a cleaner, more comfortable vehicle to drive me to treatments.  He no longer plans parties or wears costumes, his golf clubs are gathering dust, and there hasn’t been a peep about Fantasy Football.  Miles is glued to my side and assures me I will never go through any part of this alone.

A few days after my initial biopsy, we received an email from the Chief of Medicine at the City of Hope.  We were thrilled to have made the connection.  She asked who was caring for me – apparently she was looking for the name of my primary physician – but I answered “Miles.”  And I am standing by that answer.

I sometimes miss the fun-loving carefree boy who had never heard of an adenocarcinoma . . . but I am ever so grateful for the man who is now by my side.

I love you, Miles.

-Emily “EmBen” Taylor

Simply the Best

Last weekend, Emily and I [Miles] drove to San Francisco to attend the 7th Annual Simply the Best Gala.  Each year, the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation puts on this amazing, black-tie event to raise funds for lung cancer research.  Bonnie was generous enough to invite Emily and me as guests and to waive the $500 per person tickets (yeah, this party is legit).

Held in the renowned Fairmont Hotel Ballroom, the décor was astonishing.  Massive chandeliers hung from the ceiling.  Dinner tables draped in fancy linens beckoned with ornate centerpieces.  A local choir performed center stage to greet arriving guests.  It felt like we were crashing a royal party.  Oh, and did I mention the open bar?

The event was spectacular.  Unbelievable items – diamond earrings, paintings, Costa Rica trips – were auctioned off with all proceeds going to lung cancer research (by the way, how cool are actual auctioneers?).  At one point, Emily was called up on stage to draw the winning raffle ticket . . . and, I must say, she pulls off a helluva Vanna White impersonation.  Near the end of the festivities, Bonnie called for guests to “help make a difference” by donating to beat this awful disease.  Although lung cancer had never directly impacted most of them, in less than ten minutes, they had contributed more than $80,000.  It was exhilarating to know that while we fight in the present, there may be a cure in the future due to their generosity.

I cannot stress enough how uplifting the night was for Emily.  She met and spoke with so many survivors.  She learned new alternative therapies from Natalie DiMarco, who is currently undergoing radiation on the final remaining tumor in her lung, after defeating numerous other tumors and removing all cancer from her pleural lining.  Bill Kipp, who knocked cancer out of his diaphragm and is currently shrinking the tumor in his lung, shared his story and inspired Emily in her own fight.  Emily shared supplement recommendations with Brian Kissinger, an effusive three-year survivor and young father who has been stable for the past several years.  Jackie Archer, a seven-year survivor, held Emily’s hand and told her, “You will beat this.”

The event inspired and fueled Emily.  She radiated life on the walk back to our hotel room, and we celebrated with a jig down the hallway.  I don’t think either of us really knew why we were so happy.  Later that night, as she slept, I realized . . .

Sometimes the hardest part about cancer is not its toll on the patient’s body, but rather on the mind.  It can be mentally crippling.  The concept of defeating cancer can be daunting and overwhelming.  Emily has a remarkable ability to simplify the fight to a more mentally digestible day-to-day battle.  Each night before she goes to bed, she emphatically tells me, “I beat cancer today, and I will beat it tomorrow.”  Recently, as the chemotherapy side effects have increased, she has gained motivation to fight back by refusing to let cancer strip one single moment of her life.  Yet, despite Emily’s incredible willpower, and her constant proclamation that she is her own statistic, the challenge of beating lung cancer can seem like a never-ending uphill climb in the dark.  The Gala, and our encounters with actual survivors, provided a light of hope that illuminated the top of that climb.  We may have a way to go, but there is an end in sight.  We no longer just have hope.  We have a new-found confidence.

Thank you to Bonnie and her organization.  We are ever so grateful.

Love to all.  Live in the moment,

Miles and Emily