finding love in Seattle

I was lucky enough to be invited to go to Seattle to speak at a fundraising event for Dr. Olsen. One of our best friends and a member of our board, Renee came with me. I was happy not to go alone! We arrived at noon and jumped right into business.

But first we ate.. in the cafeteria there.. I couldn’t help but have my mind wander just a bit then.. to all the meals I shared with Jennifer in the cafeteria at Stanford. How we struggled to find gluten free food that was safe for her.. how all she wanted was eggs and french toast. How happy she was to finally get it.

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Simple things I remembered. Simple things I am constantly remembering and lamenting lately.

We got to tour and speak with 2 different labs at Fred Hutch. We learned about their successes and struggles and most importantly what is upcoming. They both focus primarily on immunology as a means to battle leukemia They both had passion and love for their patient and they both had a confidence in their approach that was contagious.

I got to tour the whole facility again since it was Renees first time there. What I love about Fred Hutch is the history there the noble prize recipients pictures hung on the walls, like Dr. Thomas who pioneered the

They still have our check from fluttering hanging up.
They still have our check from fluttering hanging up.

stem cell transplant.! .But for me the most endearing part of their past is simply the very start of it, founded in honor of a sibling with cancer. What great things tragedy and love can do.

And its a place where everywhere you walk researchers and lab heads are totally accessible .. and collaborating with each other. Each lab seems like a family unit but the the entire facility is a giant extended family. Its a pretty remarkable site. And we are honored to be a piece of it.

I have found a friendship in another cancer mom whose son Zach died at the same time as my Jennifer.. This mom and I are quite similar. We haven’t laid down .. or even slowed down much since our children passed. We have both found a purpose and a place in the fight against childhood cancer. Walking past a lab I saw his name carved into a plate of metal.. and I chocked back a surprising package of emotion. For this boy I never knew and the mom I have come to care about. To see his name emblazoned on this wall in front of a door that will hopefully lead to a cure of kids still battling.. of ones yet to be diagnosed.. It was just incredibly moving.

With a group of bereaved cancer parents at the Hutch event.
With a group of bereaved cancer parents at the Hutch event.

We went to the hotel after that and then walked all around Seattle. We talked about Unravel and we gossiped like girl friends should .. like I so miss getting to go with my friends. I felt like I go the opportunity to be her friend.. even if just for a little bit again. I have friends still.. I am so grateful for that. But the truth for me is that I am still not a friend. They are mine. I am not theirs. Because I am broken. Because being mom to 3.5 surviving kids, 1 in heaven and trying to run a non-profit leaves room for nothing and more importantly nobody else.

..she had fun..
..she had fun..

I am sorry. And I am grateful for the people that choose to remain.. even though I give nothing in return.

The next morning I woke up missing Jennifer a lot. I wondered what I had dreamt about to make me wake up with such a weight on my chest.

We headed out and got completely lost trying to get to a different facuiltiy to tour their labs, (if you are wondering it actually wasn’t my fault!! a first!). Eventually though we made our way to the Ben Towne Center. It was worth the journey. It was a whole different kind of place then I have toured before.. smaller.. and hungrier if that makes sense.

Their entire focus is using our own immune systems to eliminate cancer.. their hope is to learn how to treat cancer in a way that makes it no different than treating a everyday virus. Lofty, a seemingly unattainable goal.. But what wasn’t lost on Renee and I was the realization that making tumors light up from scorpion venom was much the same at one point. But with support and most importantly funding that has in fact become a reality. .. A life saving reality.

Ben Towne center has one main approach, immunology, which is a current focus for many blood cancers.. what I think made them different was that they are looking to use this approach against all types of pediatric cancers. So every single lab is concentrating on a different type of cancer is focused on using kids own immune systems to save them.

The heart and the willingness to try something different is what we both were most impressed with at this center. We almost cancelled the appointment, but I am glad we didn’t. Though it is hard to find so many truly dedicated and innovative researchers when I know we simply cannot fund everybody to the level we want to .. it is also so encouraging.. Given the funding they can have the opportunity to learn from failures to get to the successes so that kids will stop dying. Kids will stop suffering through nightmarish treatments and their survival will be positive in all ways, not just  “its better then them dying”.

Better than dead. Its true. But it will never ever be a good enough way for our kids to live. 

seattlespeaking9Renee and I walked again. And found Jennifer was insistent on letting me know she was there with me. Walking through pike place market I heard the song Brave.. but I wasn’t quite sure where it was coming from. But then the crowd opened up.. A man likely in his 40’s was just sitting on a stool laughing watching a video on his phone with a song blasting out of it. Brave. A song that will forever carry so much meaning and symbolozime for me and my girl.

I was so nervous for that evening.. for the speech that we flew there for. Because it wasn’t for Unravel, It was for Dr. Olsen. He was entrusting me to share out story and motivate people to donate right then and there. I was honored. I was terrified.

but you were just proud of me. thank you sissy miss.

We got ready and headed out. I was still more nervous that I had been but steady. Jennifer has that ability to calm me, at age 6… forever 6… she grounds me and holds me up. I am constantly in awe of my brown eyed girl.

The event was amazing. And I am really proud of how I did. We were able to help raise a little over 600k in one night to support Dr. Olsen and his truly dedicated team of scientists. (ps if you want to meet one come to our MNO at the end of this month in May in San Jose we will have one of them with us!)

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The next morning we moved up our flight so I could get home in time to jump in the car with the kids and Tony to make it to our bereavement camp weekend. So Renee and I didn’t sit together. But that was ok.. because again I wasn’t alone. High up in the clouds I met a little somebody.

A baby..  a tiny baby with hiccups commanded my attention. My baby. Our baby. It finally and truly hit me. We are having another baby ..  I will be a mom to 5 children. We are all tied up now. .. but our dandelion wish will be our tie breaker. And I am completely and utterly in love.

.. again.

seattlespeaking7

…until there is a cure..

13 Responses to “finding love in Seattle”

  1. Libby, Thank you for your courage, dedication, love, and determination to “Unravel Pediatric Cancer”! Jennifer is with you on this journey. So happy for the arrival of your little baby this summer.

  2. You give us (those you know well and those never met) something quite freely, just by sharing so openly your journey of love, loss, courage, grief, hope and perseverance. You generously give us a glimpse of Jennifer and share her special light to make a difference. You help turn no into yes in households across the country. It might feel like nothing sometimes, but truly its everything to those that daily surround you in love and those who pray for you from afar <3

  3. Isn’t it amazing how you can love six people with your whole heart at the same time?

    And dont be so hard on yourself, you have a lot to offer your friends. Thats why they stick around.

  4. It is so wonderful when our loved ones show us that they are still with us. I love reading the signs that Jennifer gives you! I believe my mom (who was also my very best friend) gives me similar signs. Thank you for sharing with us all! And I am absolutely so very happy for you, Tony and the kids…this new baby, a brand new life…will bring so much healing to your family.

  5. Libby you are such an inspiration. One of my heroes for sure. I hope you know how much all of us love and support you, even if it’s from afar. I am so glad you were able to feel Jennifer so much!

  6. Thank you Libby for sharing!! I knew you would do amazing at the presentation! You continue to inspire me and many others who join you in this fight. I hope that as we get the the Team Scot Foundation up and running we will be able to help bring awareness to pediatric cancer research and most importantly FUNDING to help these amazing doctors find a cure…

  7. All the love on the world to Jennifer…to you all. Ahe has imprinted my heart forever. LOVE4JLK ♡

  8. Moving mountains…that is what you all are doing. I love knowing Jennifer is up there whispering to your dandelion wish.

  9. um, what, $600K in one night??!! oh you are a powerhouse. You and Renee are doing such amazing work (and now we see from photographic evidence what fuels her work…lol)
    You must be so proud and happy…a tinged happiness. You’re setting such a great example for your kids of how to make things HAPPEN.
    So neat your baby felt he or she was flying! Up in the air so disconcerted, and hiccuping away to you. <3

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