Sunday, September 30, 2012 at 12:23PM
My cancer anniversary was smack dab in the middle of the week following Chemo Round 35. Because my anniversary was so important to me, such a symbol of how far I've come and how much I've endured to survive, I knew I was going to make that week extra special. It was all that and more. I spent my anniversary in Washington D.C., a fitting location since Dr. Sugarbaker's "pick it out, pour it in" surgery -- which took place in D.C.'s Washington Hospital Center -- played a major role in my survival. But I wasn't there for surgery. I was there for scans...but not my own. I was invited to DC by my friend Erika, the founder of a non-profit organization/online community known as ColonTown, to partake in a little bit of advocacy work relating to medical imaging (like CT and PET scans). ColonTown partnered up with the Access to Medical Imaging Coalition to present an opportunity for cancer warriors like me to come to D.C., get briefed on issues relating to medical imaging, and advocate on Capitol Hill about the importance of scans and why funding for them (through reimbursements within the Medicare program) shouldn't be cut. The program lasted for two days -- one day of training and one day of advocacy -- and I'd have to say that my favorite part of the whole experience was meeting my fellow warriors, people who have fought the beast known as cancer and have dedicated themselves to helping others in big and small ways. Telling my cancer story to Senator Boxer and Feinstein's staff and enjoying the gorgeous sights and sounds of DC were amazing, but nothing could compare to connecting with courageous and inspiring cancer warriors. I can now call these dozens of wonderful people friends, and I'm incredibly grateful for that. The party didn't stop after the advocacy work ended, though. In some ways, it was just beginning. The WunderGlo Foundation hosted an event on Friday night at O'Melveny's beautiful DC office. The event was a success, with friends from college, law school, O'Melveny, and ColonTown in attendance. The most special part of the evening for me was our location within O'Melveny's office -- in a room named after O'Melveny partner Gary Tell, a fellow cancer warrior that I had become friends with shortly after both of us were diagnosed (he had esophageal cancer). He was a true inspiration to me, a person who fought the disease with an upbeat attitude and who embraced healthy living as a part of his cancer-killing regime. Heartbreakingly, Gary passed away last November after suffering a recurrence. Of course, I was crushed. I think of him all the time, a brother in O'Melveny and in cancer. So when I walked up to the room where my event would be taking place and saw his face on a plaque at its entrance, I knew it would be a special night. And it was. Following the DC event, my traveling WunderGlo Foundation crew (my mom, Will, and my friend/partner in crime Tracy) loaded our stuff in our rental car and hightailed it to New York City. After all, The WunderGlo Foundation had another event in New York on Saturday night. We hit the road around midnight (so, technically, on the day of the event) and knew we were in for a long night, but good conversation and even better music powered our ride and we rolled into my mother-in-law's home by 3:30am. We crashed and slept in, then feasted on a bountiful brunch. My mom and I got a quick workout in, and then we were off to NYC without a minute to spare. The second WunderGlo Foundation event in as many nights went incredibly well. The event took place at O'Melveny's jaw-droppingly beautiful office in Times Square, and the party was great from the outset. My buddy from Duke, C.K. Swett, was the master of ceremonies and also happens to be an incredible auctioneer, a superstar at some of the fanciest auction houses in New York City. He led our live auction and killed it, helping us raise a bunch of money for colon cancer research and advocacy. Friends from all over were in attendance, but none as big as my Duke contingency (Go Blue Devils!). In two days, The WunderGlo Foundation raised over $6,000. Not bad, right? It was humbling to see so many people believe in what I'm doing with The Foundation. Humbling and motivating. After the event, my traveling WunderGlo Foundation crew and I went to see/experience "Sleep No More," the most unique and interactive work of theater that I've ever seen. Yes, after the event. We got to bed around 3am. For those of you who worry about me, rest assured that I got my eight hours of sleep. After a lovely brunch and stroll around the city with my sister-in-law Marie and my good friend (and fellow Blue Devil) Eric, we were on our way to JFK. We made our flight with about 5 minutes to spare. As I settled in my window seat, I exhaled a sigh...not of relief, but of satisfaction. Yes, this was exactly how I wanted to spend my anniversary week. My week was action-packed, fun-filled, and full of love, friendship, and hard work. It was the definition of living out loud and loving life. And above all, it was confirmation of something that I know just as well as I know anything in this world: cancer's got nothing on me.