Last night my husband and I had the pleasure of attending the 2nd Annual GRACEful Hope Benefit for Ovarian Cancer Research at the Sport Clube Portugues in Newark, NJ. Over the past year or so I have followed and shared information on my Facebook page about GRACEful Hope events and was honored when they asked me to attend the Benefit and to tell my story.
Before I talk about the event let me give you some background into GRACEful Hope. The Rocha family lost their wife and mother Grace to ovarian cancer in 2008, while their daughter Erika fought her battle with the same disease. They formed GRACEful Hope in memory of Grace and in support of Erika in 2009 with family and friends coming together to enter walks as a team. In 2011, Erika passed away at the age of 20. But the family did not stop their efforts, no they continue to raise awareness and funds for research they hope will one day lead to a cure.
I have been to many ovarian cancer events from teas to walks to galas. And I have told my story many times in different venues, on TV, in a room full of women, at a walk and press conference, but last night was different. As we entered the Sport Clube I felt welcomed, at home and part of a large extended family. The event included a large family meal complete with overflowing platters of Portuguese food. The food was absolutely delicious. There was music and dancing. It was a celebration of the lives of Erika and Grace and all that GRACEful hope had accomplished in the past year. And it was an expression of hope. Hope that the funds raised for the Cancer Institute of NJ would get us closer to finding a cure.
I am always a bit nervous before giving a talk but I had practiced and I knew exactly what I wanted to say about my journey, being in a clinical trial at CINJ and the compassionate care Dr Rodriguez and Gibbon provide. So what happened next surprised me. As I talked about my clinical trial experience and the day I heard "There is no evidence of disease". The room cheered. And I had to pause and compose myself. I know my right hand which was holding the microphone was shaking but I continued talking about my recurrence. I talked about the surgery, treatment, the allergic reaction to carboplatin and how I heard "There is no evidence of disease" and the clapping began again. And I could feel my eyes starting to tear up. And I am sure my voice cracked as ended my speech with "I still have neuropathy in my toes, forget things because of chemo-brain , get anxious waiting for blood tests and scan results but the one thing I know for sure is that with my faith , my family and the doctors at CINJ I can face whatever lies ahead."
What an emotional experience for me. Maybe it was because it was the first time I was telling my story in front of my doctors ( who spoke right before me).Or maybe it was because my husband was in the room. Or I know it sounds corny maybe it was because people who I had never met before showed me so much love and gave me so much hope.
Every Day is a Blessing!