LET US NOT SQUANDER WHAT WE HAVE BEEN GIVEN
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PSTRONG FOUNDATION EVENT – “An Evening in Hollywood”
MARCH 6, 2015
The P Strong foundation was created by friends of Pattie Iannitti after she was diagnosed with a rare abdominal cancer. The foundation raises money for research into better treatment options for those battling rare and unusual cancers. For more information about P Strong, to make a gift, or for further information about the upcoming event in March, please click here.
The following essay was part of a series that appeared on MomsCharlotte to promote PStrong’s inaugural event last year:
I wear a charm necklace with pieces that celebrate the unfolding of my life. The heart charm for my husband, whom I married 18 years ago this year, is flanked by charms for each of my sons.
Anchoring my family charms is a meaningful addition: a circle with raised letters spelling P STRONG, in honor of my friend Pattie, and her battle with appendiceal cancer.
The shock of Pattie’s situation exploding just as the new normal of Sheri’s experience was setting in felt like whip-lash to my brain. I struggled to reconcile Pattie’s energetic and sunny personality with the news that she was in the hospital after emergency surgery. I could not believe this was happening again.
The friend I had partnered with to write updates about Sheri was now the focus of concern for many friends and relatives hungry for news. Information offers at least the illusion of control and understanding when crisis occurs. Thankfully, soon we were connected through a Caringbridge website.
Initial posts came via Amy, who while at breakfast with Pattie saw her increasingly overcome by abdominal pain. A plan to follow her to the doctor’s office for help was abandoned in favor of going straight to the ER. Tests and surgery revealed a malignancy in her appendix and malignancy in her ovaries. More surgery was required, and further tests, which brought the good news of clear lungs, clear colon, and clear lymph nodes. I devoured the good news hungrily, a welcome and important addendum to the initial diagnosis.
On her Facebook page, Pattie’s husband Dave offered up the empowering idea of P Strong, borrowing from the rally cry after the Boston marathon bombing. This motto felt very right, given Pattie and Dave’s history in and connection to New England. But in addition to this personal parallel, the trauma and tumult in Boston seemed an apt metaphor. What happens when a bomb goes off in your body? In your life?
Many hard things, to be sure: Fourteen days inpatient in the hospital, and six months of chemotherapy. I was so sad that my friend had to face this, so bitter for her difficult road.
But then, I saw a post from Pattie on Caringbridge, describing the gift of a lemon tree from a friend who told her, I brought you this because when life hands you lemons, you have to made lemonade with them. We are going to do that years from now when you are better.
In fact, Pattie’s Caringbridge site began to reflect this premise more and more. Pattie wrote often and eloquently about her experience, her posts an almost daily gift to those of us who read them. At once point she wrote:
My purpose may simply be this: For me to write and you to read my story and learn something from it. You may learn to slow down and appreciate your good health. To be reminded what a blessed community we live in and how much more good in the world there is instead of all the rotten stories we all see or read about in the news. My story may remind you to hug your kids longer, kiss your spouse more, say “I LOVE you”; slow down and enjoy life.
In addition to her reflections, I was so happy to see all of posts that described the love and support that swirled around her. The P Strong bracelets, made by Ginnie and Maria that we could wear in solidarity with our friend. Endless visits from family and neighbors. Julie showing up with milkshakes to help her put the weight back on post-surgery. Pattie’s best friend Dana flying into town. Amelia and Deborah offering support at appointments and chemotherapy. Sheri, now the friend supporting Pattie instead of the friend receiving support, offering the added wisdom of her own recent experience. There were so many people doing so many things. Pattie wrote:
Through this experience, I have seen the best in people . . . the loving texts. The offers of rides and play dates, sending me silly jokes, books and cards. Spending time with me. Sending food and treats. A cheery phone call . . . packages with tshirts and wrist bands . . . a signed momento from the President! It’s the kind of love, support and thoughtfulness from others that astounds me. It just blows me away . . . every single [moment] is teaching me something. I wake up feeling grateful for everything I have. For every person in my life. For this amazing opportunity to see the world through a new set of eyes.
While Pattie’s reflections on Caringbridge offered compelling insight and bravely chronicled her experience, an earlier voice reappeared that began to channel the anger and helplessness of Pattie’s loved ones into action.
Amy, who was with Pattie the day she rushed to the hospital and who posted the first entry on her Caringbridge website, began to grow her own lemon tree of sorts. She wrote again to suggest that everyone wear blue and post pictures of themselves on Facebook and in messages to Pattie to show support on the Mondays when Pattie had chemotherapy. This idea exploded with people from all different parts of the world and from different parts of Pattie’s life happily inundating her on those difficult days.
Amy then posted again to invite folks to a clothing and jewelry show fundraiser. Then, to offer the P Strong charm, the one that I wear today, that she designed and sold to raise additional funds for The P Strong Foundation, a 501(c) 3 she created to raise money for research for improved treatment options for rare cancers like Pattie’s. In June, the P Strong Board, including Sheri, met for the first time.
After her first chemotherapy, Pattie wrote to thank everyone for their blue themed support. She ended her post saying, If I survive this, my wish is to have each and every person who has lifted me up all in one room, meeting each other and celebrating. In other words, a GIANT party! Celebrating life, the gift of friendship and the best of humanity. What a perfect day that would be.
This Friday, March 28th, Pattie will be the guest of honor at a giant party celebrating life and the gift of friendship – the inaugural event of the P Strong Foundation.