Sunday, February 2, 2014

Meet Ovarian Cancer Survivor Jill Pall- Part 2

Here is the second part of Jill Pall's story.....


Talking about my seven year fight with ovarian cancer is difficult for me.  It's not that I don't want to, it's that I actually can't recall all of it.  Some of the information is jumbled, and I'm not sure if that has to do with all of the treatments and drugs I was on.  There are memories that are so crystal clear and their are parts I cannot recall no matter how hard I try. I also think it's partially because we try to block things out to really save ourselves the pain of remembering. And, I tend to change the topic when I don't feel like getting out of my comfort zone.  I want to share my story because I want women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer to know that although our journey may be different, they are not alone.

Super Bowl XLVIII is being played at MetLife Stadium this Sunday.  I live in New York and work in New Jersey, so the excitement is all around me.  I've been going to many amazing events and having an awesome time. But, I can't help thinking back to February 2012, the year the Giants won Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis.  That too was a very exciting time here.  And, I was thrilled for my friends who played for New York as they came back from a so- so season to dominate and win the coveted Lombardi Trophy.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Meet Ovarian Cancer Survivor Jill Pall

We are proud to introduce you to ovarian cancer survivor, Jill Pall.  She has not only courageously battled this disease, but she is also a vocal advocate for change.  Part of why we started Colleen's Dream was to not only share Colleen's story, but to let the world know that many of the diagnosis stories are similar.  We must change the statistics.  This is part one of Jill's three part story.  Thank you, Jill, for bravely speaking about your experience.



Today, 1/2/2014, I am one year cancer free.  I know I am supposed to celebrate this milestone, but the truth is it’s hard to celebrate when you’re terrified.  I am terrified of my cancer coming back just like it did last time, two days after I was two years cancer free.  And, just like it did the time before that.  I want to share my story because I want to save lives.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Long December….

  As my sisters and I prepare for our first Christmas without our mom, I would like to reflect on last December. This time last year we were all focused on squeezing out every last minute and memory with our mom, as we thought it might be the last of our time with her. We celebrated our many December birthdays, including Nicole’s, Chloe’s and mine. We went to Disneyland and California Adventure. Mom spent time riding the roller coasters and watching her grandchildren play with Mickey. If only we had known we she would die two months later. After we got back from Disneyland, on December 15th, our mom then ended up in the emergency room complaining of difficulty breathing. We spent the next week trying to figure out how to get her home from the hospital in time for Christmas. We barely left her bedside, as we had never seen her struggle so much. We felt so blessed that her physician promised us he would make sure she was home for Christmas. He kept his promise and we spent Christmas Eve curled up on her floor watching movies. That night every single one of her daughters, their husbands and her grandchildren slept at her house so we could spend one more Christmas morning waking up all together. We woke up on Christmas morning with so many presents that it took the kids 45 minutes to open all of them. We made mimosas and pancakes before heading to the Coach House for our annual get together with friends. Such a wonderful, painful, heart-wrenching December. We would do anything to relive every single moment.  
     This December has been a little different. I woke up the morning of my birthday with a very empty feeling. I couldn’t believe I wouldn’t hear her voice on this day of all days. She wouldn’t send me a text wondering what I was doing for lunch or buy me silly buttons to wear to dinner. However, around 7am that morning when I opened the door to leave for work I heard my wind chimes ring for the first and last time that day. I knew it was my mom coming to say Happy Birthday. I was overwhelmed. She truly is around all of the time. I felt blessed.  As our family approaches Christmas, I am not looking forward to the empty feeling I am sure to feel. We are told the first Christmas is the most difficult and so far everyone is right. My sisters and I are so lucky to have each other and such supportive, patient husbands who understand our waves of emotion because they love our mom as much as we do. And Billie will be home from Chicago on December 23rd to spend the holidays in Phoenix. I can’t wait to see her! 
     My wish this holiday season is for everyone to reach out to your family and friends and tell them how much you love them. You never know when it will be your last Christmas together. 

Peace to all this Holiday Season.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Colleen’s Dream Foundation Gifts $10,000 to The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center to Support Ovarian Cancer Research


In its ongoing effort to support ovarian cancer research, Colleen’s Dream Foundation has gifted $10,000 to The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center for cutting edge ovarian cancer research according to Colleen’s Dream Foundation President Billy Cundiff.

"MD Anderson is at the forefront of cancer research and attracts some of the top talent in the world," says Cundiff. "Partnering with them will allow us to support research that will make an impact on the ovarian cancer landscape."

According to Cundiff, the $10,000 gift will help support research being done by Dr. Zacharias Millward, Ph.D. assistant professor of Cancer Systems Imaging at MD Anderson.

For the past 10 years, Zacharias Millward has been focused on working at the interface of chemistry and biology. Specifically, she’s been interested in how chemistry can be used to study biological systems and solve problems in medicine.

"We are excited to support Dr. Zacharias Millward's cutting edge research," says Cundiff. "Early detection is important to us at Colleen's Dream Foundation and Dr. Zacharias Millward's research is in line with our mission. It is exactly the kind of research Colleen’s Dream Foundation is looking to fund."

Cundiff says the $10,000 will help Zacharias Millward in her research, which utilizes hyperpolarized metabolic imaging agents.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Colleen's Dream Making Headlines


Greetings from Cleveland!

Over the last month, we have been busy finalizing lots of plans.  We have exciting partnerships with NFL kickers and punters supporting Colleen's Dream and in return creating a bigger impact on ovarian cancer research close to their respective cities. The golf tournament and gala will be officially announced with all the details in the next few weeks... and don't forget the bike ride!

Kicking For The Dream is taking off!  To date, the project has raised over $5,000 and looks like it will meet its goal of $10,000.  If you haven't checked it out, go to www.kickingforthedream.com.

The world is starting to take notice of the foundation.  Colleen's Dream has been featured recently in the following news stories:
http://www.omaha.com/article/20131014/SPORTS/131019260/1029#whether-it-s-highs-or-lows-it-s-been-a-kick-for-cundiff
http://www.girlsgonestrong.com/ggs-spotlight-colleens-dream/

Plus, Colleen's Dream has been mentioned in these articles:
http://www.omaha.com/article/20130928/LIVEWELL01/130928803/1161
http://www.wusa9.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=275713

We also have been able to circulate our awareness poster to over 1 million people via Twitter.  A big thank you goes out to Jill Pall!  You can follow her at @KnockoutOC.  Amazing woman.  A true teal warrior.  She even signed up for Kicking For The Dream.  Check out her profile: http://donate.kickingforthedream.com/jillapallooza.

On a personal note, I have missed my family so much this football season.  Nicole and the kids are staying in Phoenix while I play this season out.  The hardest part is behind us.  They are in town since Chloe has fall break.  Before they came to visit, I had only seen Chloe and Luke for 7 days since July 20th (Nicole snuck in a trip with Caleb the weekend after our Thursday night game).  Moving forward, I will get to see them for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Getting time with everyone has recharged my batteries.  Who knew the little ones could grow up so much in such a short time?  Over the last few days I have showed them Cleveland and will send them home with an amazing vacation high... Chloe wants to live here now.

Exciting times.  We are so grateful for all the support over the last 10 months.  Thank you for joining us in the fight.  Thank you for helping us strive each and every day to get closer to the dream of one day having a reliable, accurate early detection test.

Billy

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Happy Birthday GiGi


I recently moved to Chicago…in part to escape the minute-by-minute constant reminders of what was missing, in part to explore my independence, and in part to honor one of our Mom’s greatest dreams. I have now been here for five weeks. 

I can’t help but think about how foolish I was to believe that running away would be the answer. I am lonely, I am empty, and I have that ridiculously heavy elephant constantly sitting on chest. The reality is, I am finally grieving.

Before I made the decision to uproot my life, I truly believed that I was ok. I believed that I was the exception to the 5 stages of grief. Well, the joke was on me. I have continued to live in the stage of denial now for 7 months. I became a person even I couldn’t recognize. I was careless and I was unattached – and in some ways, too attached – to so many aspects of my life.

While I recognize that I am still very much living in a state of denial, as demonstrated by my tendency to speak so nonchalantly about her passing (because let’s be honest, it isn’t real), I am slowly coming to terms with the reality that is now my life. Every job interview, every job offer, and every exciting or terrifying event that has happened to me in the last month has only served as a stark reminder of the fact that no matter how badly I want to pick up the phone to call her, she will not answer.

One of the most difficult things about experiencing such a great loss, especially at such a young age, is that there are very few people who can truly understand the ever looming pain that seizes to pass. It’s almost as though people expect that you will just get over it. They have moved on so they tend to assume you have as well.

People stop paying attention to the small details that signal moments of extreme pain and sadness. Very few notice the glaze over my eyes when certain songs come on over the radio or when a random endearing thought of her crosses my mind. They stop noticing, so they stop asking, and I stop talking. I feel guilty sharing my pain because I feel guilty ruining their day. So, I act normal and the people around me feel normal. I sacrifice my opportunity for relief in exchange for their comfort. It’s a viciously painful cycle.

While I have a handful of college friends here in Chicago that either knew my mom personally, or at least met her in passing, I find it incredibly challenging to truly honor the exceptional woman that she was – energetic, heroic, compassionate, kind, and daring.

I went 5 months without purposely looking at a picture of her, even though they were posted all over my house. In the last week I have watched the slideshow of her life played at her service more than 10 times. I watched it twice today. Every time I watch it, its like I’m seeing it for the first time. Each time I notice a new detail of her face or a new detail of her life. Every time I watch it I am reminded of every “first” that she will not be there experience.

Last week happened to mark one the “firsts” that seems to be so much harder and even more dreadful then all of the “firsts” we have faced so far this year. I was the first of my sisters to have their “first” birthday without the compassionate celebratory love that our mom exuded every minute of our birthdays. Before my birthday was our “first” Mother’s Day, which my sisters and I spent picking up pine needles at our cabin, exactly as she would have done. Then there was Michelle’s birthday, her 31st birthday, pregnant with a daughter our mom was not be here to meet.

Last week was our Mom’s birthday. How incredibly impossible to celebrate the birth of the person you love most in the world when they aren’t even here to celebrate it themselves. Last week was, and will continue to be one of the most difficult weeks for my sisters and me. I have had 3 dreams over the last 7 months that my mom has appeared in. Yet, two of my sisters had a dream last week alone in which our mom came to them, in her natural voice, excited to celebrate her birthday.

So, in true GiGi form, we celebrated.  I flew home to be with the girls, to sip champagne at high tea, to sit on our mom’s favorite restaurant patio, to listen to live music, and to drink lots of sangria, exactly as she would have done. As each one of us has mentioned time and again, the greatest gift our mom ever gave us was each other.

Happy Birthday, GiGi. We love and miss you more every day. We know you were there with us.