October Calling: It’s Just About…Life

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Let’s face it, Fall really begins in earnest tomorrow. Though the calendar says we are well on our way, it’s not until October that change really begins. And change is not bad, it’s just…different.

Fall might be the biggest season of change, especially when there is a day which brings about a hint of winter and the hibernation to come, so the goal is to be aware of what’s right in front of you – the beauty of change all around you. Embrace that change in season, in color, in the weather and do the same with change in your life, whether it be today, or tomorrow. Change is inevitable, growth is optional. And if you’re not growing, you’re not going…anywhere special.

Around these parts, October will be special, at least for about a week and we hope well beyond, as the Orioles, for the second time in two years, find themselves in the playoffs… though this year without the shock and awe of a 15-year post-season drought, but instead with an edge that comes from consistently winning, an attitude of confidence and heightened expectation of much more to come. If Orange is the new black, then the hope is the birds get back-in-black and back to the World Series.

Jones crazy face

Change. The coming month signals the warm-up to the warmest time of the year – a renewed sense of family and fellowship as we (and the retailers) start to think about the coming holiday season, it seems far off, until it’s at your doorstep. Time running at break-neck speed during what should be a season to coast. But Mother Nature has other ideas. She brings October in with a burst of color – leaves of red, brown, green, and yellow — until she suddenly leaves, turning a cold eye like a woman scorned and we’re left to huddle up and face the change from another visitor – Old Man winter.

October is calling. This time last year October came calling and a change happened for myself and my family, as the book, It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story, became a #1 Best-Seller on Amazon, a change in our lives which still resonates today.

book is number one

October is calling. Heed the call. Get in the game – embrace the change – it’s up to you.

Until next time, thanks for taking the time.
Mark

Mark Brodinsky, Author, Blogger, Financial Services

The #1 Amazon Best-Seller: It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story
(http://www.spouses-story.com/)

Connect: markbrodinsky@gmail.com

 

The Sunday Series (43), with Mark Brodinsky

The courage to move forward. A dedication which inspires us all. The hope for a better tomorrow. September marks National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and today, the story of one young lady who is finding her way out of the darkness.

The Sunday Series (43): The Lucky One

They say the journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step, for Neha Kundagrami the steps are painful, yet through it all she keeps the faith, keeps her head up, believes she is one of the lucky ones.

neha looking up

It all began with a small bump on the head, one which Neha says she believed was nothing – maybe she bumped her head on her headboard while she was sleeping. What Neha couldn’t know then, that from head to toe, her life would be forever changed.

“I kind of ignored the bump at first”, says Neha. “Then it started getting bigger and bigger. We started going to different doctors and the frightening thing was no two doctors concurred and every one said something different.”  When some swelling also began on her neck Neha and her family finally visited a head and neck surgeon and he referred them to someone from his graduating class who worked at Johns Hopkins Pediatric Oncology. A lymph node was extracted. The diagnosis: Acute B Cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma. Lymphoma is the most common blood cancer. Cancerous lymphocytes can travel to many parts of the body and can accumulate to form tumors. Some of the most common forms of treatment are chemotherapy and steroids, but these treatments take their toll.

“This has probably been the hardest on my family, and my parents watching me go through this, watching me go through chemo is the only time I ever say my Dad cry. Plus I have always been deathly afraid of needles. Even at the age of 16, I had to hold my mother’s hand while getting a blood test done, often while choking back tears. So it was with the deepest sense of irony that (at the age of 16) I was diagnosed with cancer, a diagnosis that inevitably comes with a guarantee of the patient turning into a human pincushion.”

But then there’s the other side effect of chemotherapy, which Neha so eloquently explains: “No one understands what it’s like to be a kid with cancer. Ask any cancer patient what the worst part of chemotherapy was and they will not list any of the drugs that they had to take, or any pill, radiation or medication of some sort. Chemo is hard, but it is necessary, it becomes bearable. For almost all the patients the worst part of chemotherapy is the isolation it forces. The patient is forced to spend months at a time, either at home or in the hospital, barred from civilization. Without the common distractions, such as a trip to the movies, a day at an amusement park, or even something as simple as having friends over, there is nothing to distract from the discomfort of cancer treatment, which somehow manages to make the treatment even worse.”

But it was visits and spending time at places like Camp Sunrise, the camp for child cancer patients which gave Neha hope and the realization she was not the only one. Neha saw all these other children going through the same lonely disease she was: “They are kids, but they still managed to be kids despite the cancer, so there is no reason I can’t be.”

Neha in chair

At the age of 19, Neha is now finished with the chemotherapy and the steroid treatments which saved her life. But its hold on her life is far from over. Neha describes her journey into cancer as a “long, dark tunnel”, and it took baby steps to realize she could make it through, but the reality of those steps became increasingly more painful. The steroid treatments affected her mobility – in a big way. Her left hip collapsed and cannot be saved. Neha says, “imagine taking a ping-pong ball and running it over with a tractor and then putting it back in. That’s what my hip joint is like, flat.” A recent surgery, a bone graft on her right hip has stopped that disintegration. But now Neha moves about her college campus on crutches, not the easiest of travels and walking will be about the most she will ever be able to do – no running, no jumping, no dancing – just walking – the simple ability to get from one place to another. Yet Neha believes she is lucky.

neha long hair

“For so many kids cancer is their lives, it becomes their lives”, says Neha. “There are cancer patients that will never walk across the stage at graduation, never go to college, never get married or have kids. I’m one of the lucky ones. Two of my friends, Brooke Lauren Shockley and Sarah McMohan weren’t as lucky. They didn’t make it.  After all the radiation, surgeries, chemo, spinal taps, and hospital visits. Nothing worked. They passed away before they even had a chance to live, and were stripped of their lives and their potential from the raging monster of cancer. These kids are the next generation, and every one of them deserves a chance at life. I can’t do anything about the suffering cancer has put me through. I can’t do anything about the scars it left, or the year I lost to treatment, or the months spent in the hospital begging to go home. But I can work to see the end of cancer. I can work to find a cure, so that children like Sarah and Brooke have the chance to grow past their teenage years and so that no mother goes home to an empty bedroom where her baby once slept. Because you can’t change the cards life handed you, but you can change how you play the hand.”

Neha is taking the hand she has been dealt and doing all she can to live a so-called normal existence. It’s been a long journey out of her tunnel to see the light. But it is this light which kept her moving forward. “I remember after I was diagnosed”, says Neha, “I was told I would be bald, and couldn’t go to school and I collapsed and started bawling. I remember looking up and it was cloudy and stormy, but five minutes later I took a break from crying and I remember looking up again and it was sunny with no clouds in sight. I remember thinking that today might suck, but my future is so bright. I am one of the lucky ones, I realize that now. I may have had more surgeries than I care to remember. I may have had so many tubes sprouting from me that I looked like a blossoming flower. I may have even been so sick I couldn’t even remember what being healthy actually felt like. But I had a cure, a chance to get my life back. I had hope.”

neha and family

And hope is far from overrated. Sometimes it’s all you have. As the calendar turns from National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, for so many children with cancer, time seems to stand still. Neha believes so many more advances can be made to better the lives of children fighting to survive. “Cancer advances happen every day”, says Neha. “Targeted gene therapy, nanobots and other new, less painful ways of treating cancer are being discovered every day. But work still remains. There are still cancers for which there is no cure, or cancers for which the success rate is far lower than we would like. And we cannot rest until every cancer has a simple, easy cure, for our job will not be done until no other child has to suffer.”

No more suffering. A chance to become one of the “lucky ones”, like Neha. It’s a chance worth fighting for.

neha close up good pic

Until next time, thanks for the taking the time

Mark

(In case you missed it from my last blog, there is a brand new song and music video from Sarah Bereilles and Cyndi Lauper, which is raising awareness and dollars to help battle childhood cancer, the song, Truly Brave. The link is below:

 

Mark Brodinsky, Author, Blogger, Financial Services

The #1 Amazon Best-Seller: It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story

(http://www.spouses-story.com/)

For ideas, comments or feedback on The Sunday Series: markbrodinsky@gmail.com

Follow It’s Just About… Life & The Sunday Series and get an e-mail every time there’s a new post by entering your name and e-mail address above.

 

 

It Takes 2+1+10: It’s Just About… Life

It Takes 2 – at one year.

It was on this date one year ago that we published It Takes 2: Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story.  I can’t think of a better way to mark the one-year anniversary of a choice to share a message with the world – than to share a blog about love and hope. The book was written and published for one reason, to tell the true story of my wife and her battle to defeat and to recover from breast cancer. It’s a story I hoped, told from my perspective, which would help others through the same.

2013 08 15 It Takes Two (v2)

It’s all about helping other people, just like yesterday morning. Because of the contributions from nine other people we joined together to serve breakfast for the families currently staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Baltimore. It was a delicious old-style breakfast for the families dealing with children battling illness and physical challenges.

The Menu

The Menu

Each day at the House groups come to serve breakfast and dinners, so the families who face these trying times have one less thing to worry about, since most of their days are filled with just that, worry and stress. The goal is to give them a few minutes each day to enjoy a good meal, talk, smile and hope for the best. They call it the House That Love Built for a reason.

I was there to serve breakfast and I also serve on the Board of Directors for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Baltimore. The coolest thing about yesterday was the diverse group who volunteered their time and efforts to help make it all come together. It was first and foremost the members of my Mastermind group who wanted to create the opportunity to give back: Mark Pallack, Rob Commodari and Pete Kohlasch.

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But when we asked others to join us they were happy to do so – many thanks to Tiffany Pallack, Beth Ritter, Maggi Simms, Jason Plotkin, Jon Bonacci and Nanda Oliveira, who though she couldn’t be there to serve breakfast, joined me on the shopping spree just hours before to purchase the cart full of food for the families at RMH.

photo 3 (1) Group Effort to Serve photo 1 (1)

It’s heart-warming to share your heart with others who truly need and appreciate your efforts. “Thank you” are the two words heard most often around the House because it’s all about giving, love and appreciation. When a child is sick, so many rise to the occasion to help.

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As I mentioned at the beginning, this is the one year anniversary for the book detailing my wife’s battle with breast cancer, which in so many ways pales in comparison to what these families face on a daily basis, and which is why the timing of a visit to RMH seemed so appropriate. Another breast cancer survivor apparently feels the same. Hoda Kotb, from NBC’s Today Show , is also a breast cancer warrior and because of her struggles has chosen to take on the cause of kids with cancer. Hoda was able to convince superstars Sarah Bereilles and Cindy Lauper to join forces to combine their two signature songs and create a new one, Truly Brave, to raise awareness and to raise dollars to fight pediatric cancer.

Take a few minutes to start your weekend by viewing their music video, then realize we are all part of this human experience together:

Until next time, thanks for taking the time.

Mark

Mark Brodinsky, Author, Blogger, Financial Services

The #1 Amazon Best-Seller: It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story

(http://www.spouses-story.com/)

 

 

 

 

 

Breaking Good: It’s Just About… Life

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There is nothing wrong with supporting a good cause. In fact, we all need a cause. We’re all here because of something, to do something, to share something, the great challenge is to figure out what that something is.

Without a cause, without a purpose we are going somewhere, we just don’t know where — and that’s a tough road. We all need to accomplish something while we’re here. What’s the point if you die with  with the most toys, or the most money, because you can’t take it with you, but you can leave something behind. That something is the one thing you gave to the world which made an impact, which touched other lives; it’s why you are loved, why you are remembered. For you, what is that thing? Think about it.

For my friend Rich Polt, I can already think of nearly 100 reasons why he is on the right path to leaving something of meaning behind. Rich has a website and a mission called Talking Good. With all transparency I was featured as one of the nearly 100 articles he has written on that site which is gaining worldwide recognition. it was a proud day, but I am only 1-in-100 – and I’m sure way beyond that number.

Rich has learned the key in life is to give, then receive. So when Rich sent a message yesterday to ask those who have been featured on Talking Good to share his most recent story in advance of his 100th feature, I was happy to do so. Again, give first, then earn the right to ask. Rich is taking his “something” to new heights.

His latest feature is a surprising one and an even better one for those who might be a fan of one of the most celebrated TV series in recent memory, and it all happened by accident. So give yourself a five minute break and click on the first link below, it’s bad and it’s good all at the same time. You’ll see….

http://www.communicategood.com/2014/09/the-tweet-that-changed-everything/

(More of Lauren’s story): http://www.talkinggood.com/profiles/LParsekian

Until next time, thanks for taking the time.

Mark

Mark Brodinsky, Author, Blogger, Financial Services

The #1 Amazon Best-Seller: It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story (http://www.spouses-story.com/)

Connect on the contact page above, or markbrodinsky@gmail.com