Sunday, October 4, 2009

Dedication of Event # 25 SC Half Ironman. Sunday October 4

Before I get into race details, I wanted to post an email I received from Justine Faisst, an acquiantence from CA, who joined the "40 in 40 Team" on Facebook and has been an ardent supporter of the cause. She always asks after each event "How'd it go" even though we don't really know one another. Justine lost both of her parents to blood cancers. She sent me an email, which I tried to paraphrase a bit, but was fearful I wouldn't do it justice. Her email in its entirety is below. It honors their memory and the amazing things they did in the face of adversity, in their battles. The battles Leukemia patients are faced with and the impact on their families - is so profound - and unique for each family.

Here is her email. Thank you Justine. Your parents were clearly remarkable.

Bill and Alice Faisst.

My father was born in 1915 in Brooklyn, New York, the only child of German immigrants. His parents moved to San Francisco in about 1921. My father was raised in San Francisco, when to the University of California and then served active duty in the Army from the time he graduated from college until the end of World War II. My mother was born in Sacramento, California in 1914. She was the first daughter and third child in the family. My grandfather worked as a miner, shop keeper and eventually a California Highway Patrol officer. My parents met on the eve of the bombing of Pearl Harbor; my mother was visiting her brother and his family and my father had been invited to join them for lunch (and then dinner) on December 6, 1941. My parents were married in 1946 after my father returned from Europe. My parents were luck to have found each other. My mother never grew tired of my father and my father remained totally enraptured by my mother. My parents raised their three children in the San Francisco Bay Area.

My parents were not particularly remarkable people. Neither of them did anything newsworthy, they worked hard and loved their family, their friends, and their pets. My father was a CPA and a Boy Scout leader. My mother was a housewife, volunteered for school field trips, and always had fresh-baked cookies in the house. After the three of us kids were grown and on our own, my mom went back to college, got her BA degree, and for about 10 years, had a career of her own. During the "empty nest" years, my mom volunteered at Children's Hospital in Oakland. She knit countless hats and booties for the preemie babies. My dad's job was to make tassels for the hats; he had learned this skill as a child working in his father's knitting factory. My parents travelled some, to Europe and Egypt, where I was working in the early 1980's. Despite the time he spent in North Africa during WWII, my dad was left with his mouth open at the site of a woman walking down the street carrying a basket of live chickens on her head! The trip to Cairo was after my father's first bout with lymphoma. At one point, he needed a rest day, so my petite grey-hair mother and I went off to the camel market and pyramids! My mother's urge to travel was greater than my dad's; after the war years, he was happiest being at home with a cat on his desk, a dog at his feet, and a pot roast waiting for his dinner!

My dad's second bout of lymphoma was in 1987. A second course of chemo was more than he could handle. He lived to see me get married, but not much longer.

If there could be a silver lining in death, my mother found it. A few weeks after my father died a neighbor lost her husband. My mother was able to offer consolation and companionship to an old friend. The two ladies checked in with each other every day, shared gourmet meals several times a week, and even went on a couple of far-flung Elderhostel trips. Right after my first son was born, my mom went off to mine opals in Utah. Before my second son was born, she was in scrambling around ancient ruins in Turkey. She also ramped up her volunteer efforts and did bookkeeping for a couple of my dad's former clients. In 1994, my mother's last planned trip, to Thailand, was halted by treatment for multiple myeloma. She lived for about a year and died just a few days short of her 81st birthday in October. In keeping with her character, before she died, she combed mail order catalogues and selected birthday presents for the family members who had not yet had birthdays that year. She wanted to make sure everyone got their "fair share" that year!

We learn from our experiences with cancer that it is a tragedy, but we also learn that there is always someone else worse off. My parents lived long, full lives. They raised their children, they contributed to society, and they used their gifts to help others. They didn't loose a child to this disease, they didn't leave young children behind without a parent, they didn't loose all 4 grandparents to the disease (as my niece did).

As devastating as cancer is to a person and their family, as we go through life we can celebrate the good stories. Both my brother and mother-in-law were successfully treated for early stages of cancer with surgery, without chemo or radiation. We celebrate when friends have their last chemo and radiation treatments, when they have their pik lines removed, when they go from 3-month to 6-month to annual check-ups, when they reach "5 years", when they move on with their lives and run a marathon again. We contribute when our son does a Relay-for-Life or complete stranger takes on a crazy challenge to mark his 40th birthday!

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