Monday, November 19, 2012

Old Friends

“There's not a word yet, 
for old friends who've just met.” 
~Jim Henson

Friday night, meeting for the first time.

I knew when I planned my trip to Charlotte for the AIM at Melanoma 5K that it would be a special weekend. I did not prepare myself for how special it actually would be, how honored and humbled I would feel, and how these cyber friends would instantly feel like family. 

We arrived in Charlotte around 10:30 Friday night. There I was, checking in with the receptionist when I heard, "There's Chelsea!" I turned to greet Reverend Carol of Attitude of Gratitude and Melanoma Grief Chapel for the very first time. I got a hug from the Rev herself and then she informed me she had a little present for me. Clueless, I opened the bag...

Rev. Carol made me a melanoma princess for the weekend! I can't remember how it was determined that I should have a tiara, but a few months ago, my mole mates joked that I would have one at the walk. I had totally forgotten about it, but not Rev. Carol. She remembered & crowned me PRINCESS! (Here's her description of our meeting!I've always wanted to be a princess...(Although I think Mr. Spots--and maybe my sisters-- would say I already act like one sometimes. Oops!) 

Rev. Carol informed me that there were other melanoma warriors still hanging in the hotel lounge so I hugged my mom and step dad, convinced my sister it was too early for bed, and brought my luggage into the bar with us. It was time to hug my friends.

  The 3 of us met on Twitter!

After many hugs, a few hours of convo, and too much wine, we headed up to our rooms and happily said, "See you tomorrow!" (Which is really, really fun, by the way!) 

Saturday morning arrived and it was a beautiful day to AIM for a CURE! I think the best way to document this day is to share the pictures with you. Of course I will add a few comments here and there.

Newly diagnosed melanoma warrior, 
showing that she doesn't chase the sun anymore!
It turns out that the owner of this RV became a very dear friend to me this weekend.

 This beautiful gal is Timna of Respect the Rays.

Sometimes you meet people and they instantly feel like family. Meeting Timna & her real life family was like that for me. (I mean, her daughter picked me out of a crowd of strangers and said, "Are you Chelsea?" Love ya, Ella!) I highly doubt I'm the only one this weekend who felt like that about Mrs. Timna. 

 "Fast forward to the walk...20 signs were held by so many loving people!  Eric, Bob, Judy, Steven, Jen, Jillian, Leslie were all "at the walk"!  THIS is what WE do!  We make shit happen!  WE!  As the brilliant Helen Keller said, "Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much."

Let me explain...Timna went above & beyond this . Rev. Carol shared an idea, Timna put it into action, and people all around the country were impacted. You see those signs? She made them to honor warriors who are off battling this horrible beast. These folks wanted to be at the walk with us; however, melanoma had another plan. With her help, they attended. People noticed!

I can't wait to see her again!

My twitter girls!
I'm already secretly planning road trips
to TN & FL! 

 Cute Alicia of The Skin I'm In!
Isn't she adorable?!
She's just as sweet too!

Alicia's support system! Love the shirts!

I had wanted to meet the author of Hotel Melanoma ever since he made me lose my sh*t in the middle of an oncology waiting room while reading his blog. Warning, if you worry about being socially acceptable, do not read his blog in public. I'm pretty sure there were sad tears and happy tears during my 3 hour wait for an appointment. I guess I owe Rich a big THANK YOU for sharing his blog, otherwise I would have had to read some crap like Cosmo. ;-)  (It was this post that made me laugh out loud and wipe a few tears.)

Survivors carrying the signs of our inspirations.

Author of Hotel Melanoma & Stage IV (NED) warrior Mark Williams.
You can read a little about Mark HERE!
Both men are true gentlemen and I am so honored to call them PALS!
Oh, and yes, they are wearing tutus! 
You helped them reach their goals, they kept their word!

Did YOU get your FREE skin cancer screening?

They call us The Power Rangers.
Mark Williams

 My family made the trip for a second year in a row!
I am so thankful for them.

Helping Charlotte's AIM Chapter President, Anne, with the raffle!
Oh, and it just so happens, she is a great friend of mine.
For those who met her for the first time this weekend,
isn't she amazing?!   

Melanoma Tailgate Party!
I was convinced by my new mole mate to join her and Al, author of Black is the New Pink, and his family for a glass of wine. One glass turned into more than one glass, and we had such a great visit! This was definitely a highlight of my weekend. These two people were exactly as I imagined them being. She is incredibly sweet, welcoming, and just fun! Al, as I knew he would be, is a joker! He claims to be shy but I don't believe it for one second. Al's wife and family were such fun to be around, too. After a few minutes, it really felt to me like we were old friends getting together to play catch-up! I have a feeling all of us will get together again one day for more wine out of a paint can! :-) 

Meeting all of my "mole mates" was such a special experience.
This lady pictured above, her mom, and her beautiful daughter
were truly a pleasure to meet!

I know that I said last years AIM at Melanoma walk was special, and it was because it was the first fundraiser I had ever attended for a disease that has hit so close to home, but this was incredible. I met so many friends who I've shared secrets with, fears with, and I got to hug them in person! I met strangers who came up to me and openly said, "You have no idea who I am." I listened to a beautiful young girl honor her sister's memory, and promise that one day a cashier at the grocery store will say, "Would you like to donate a dollar for melanoma awareness?" I got to stand next to a stage IV melanoma warrior who told me all about the YMCA LIVESTRONG program that got him back in the gym. I walked with a mother who recently buried her own daughter due to this damn disease, yet she's putting her grief aside in order to save other young women. The point I'm trying to make is that I was surrounded by so many incredibly strong people who understand that melanoma is so much more than just skin cancer.  

Picture from Respect the Rays!

We were a group...
        a group made up of old friends who had just met.

Mole mates, 2012, Charlotte, NC




Light Skinned Mother said...

As always, so wonderfully written. Just a couple of months ago, I felt so lost while trying to understand all these crazy emotions and fears that melanoma had brought out in me. I discovered your blog, I wrote you, and you encouraged me on my journey of doing my part and feeling sane once again. You are a class act and definitely deserving of the princess title. Can't wait to see you again. Virtual HUGS!

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful blog i too am a melanoma survivor not by long but im here for my family and friends thats all that matters ,you guys are doing an amazing job raising melanoma awareness good luck and keep on keeping on from sunny coast of queensland :)

Rose ~ from Oz said...

I hope your Queensland commentor will contact me Chelsea, I really hope she/he comes back and reads the comments again.
Your post was sensational (Princess)-great family, great people, great event, amazing warriors - it made my heart sing for you all.