While sitting at my office computer today, I received an email notifying me that another person had made a contribution to my fundraising campaign for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
It was from my "Aunt" Kathy, my mom's college roommate.
In our younger years growing up in Toronto, my sister and I would spend nights at Aunt Kathy's. We would play games, climb onto her what-seemed-to-be-at-the-time giant bed and make ourselves at home.
I remember taking the subway for a day of shopping around the city as a little girl with my sister, mom and Aunt Kathy. I remember taking trips to her parent's lakeside cottage. I remember going on paddleboats at a small amusement park, Aunt Kathy always worried (like I was) that we would somehow get lost or stranded in the small pond.
Over the years and because of the many moves my family made along the way, we didn't stay as close to Aunt Kathy as we probably should have. She never had children of her own, and I think that we, along with her neices and the hundreds of kindergarten students she taught in her career, were her children.
This particular donation gave me pause for a moment today because about two years ago Kathy was left paralized from the neck down after what was supposed to be a routine surgery. After initially being in a coma, she had been transferred to a hospital where she endured attempts at rehabilitation. No one quite knew what the prognosis was. And still nothing is certain.
My mom found out almost by accident while arranging to see her during a quick trip I took with my parents up to Canada earlier this year. The news most certainly upset my mom, and I know that we were all a bit nervous about what condition we would find her in when we met her at the hospital.
We all felt a sense of instant relief when we opened the door to the tiny hospital room to find Aunt Kathy smiling widely. Without the use of her legs or hands, she was confined to a wheelchair and needed help to do the smallest tasks. Her husband, Richard, retired from his postal service job and spent every day at the hospital with her.
I remember marveling at how small she had gotten. Her leg muscles, after years of not being used, were basically non-existant. She weighed less than one hundred pounds. Her fingers seemed to be glued together and pointed straight out. She couldn't pick up anything, brush her hair, feed herself or even scratch an itch on her face.
And walking, well, that was a long way off. When we visited in April, she told us how proud you become of the little moments when in a situation like hers. She shared with us a story about finally being able to move her foot enough to tap a beach ball and the feeling of accomplishment that came with this once-simple task.
Sometimes it takes something significant to remind us to appreciate what we can do every day.
Since then, Aunt Kathy has moved back home. Her downtown home has been equipped with a chairlift, wheelchair ramp and other necessities to accommodate her new lifestyle.
It's not unlike my parent's house, which has been outfitted with medical devices to help my mom, who was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 30, move around and complete daily tasks.
Nothing comes easy for my mom. And I know nothing comes easy for Kathy, either.
I bet both of them would give anything to be able to get up and run with me in the morning just for one day -- even if it means waking up before the sunrise. I know when that alarm goes off, I'll want to stay under my blankets and get that extra 45 minutes of sleep.
But I have to remind myself that there may come a day when I won't have the option of getting up for a run. Or a walk. Or even getting out of bed without a struggle at all. Odds are I could get rheumatoid arthritis. Or, against the odds, I could have a sudden medical condition like Kathy.
I want to run because I can. And I want to run for those who cannot.
REMEMBER, I'M DOING THIS FOR A GOOD CAUSE.
Have you donated to my fundraising campaign for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society? If not, please consider doing so. You can donate online at http://www.active.com/donate/tntma/Teresa. Please pass this link to everyone you know. Every dollar helps me get a little closer to the Disney 13.1!