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Sep

6

Drop

By Leesa Gabel

I had to make a tough decision this week. Due to some recent health issues — no worries, it’s not cancer-related — I had to drop from the TNT Tucson team. I haven’t been able to get in the needed training and I really didn’t want to get out to Tucson and not be able to finish.

Yes, I’m frustrated and disappointed. One thing I’ve learned over the last couple years is that you can’t take your health for granted. I need to stop and refocus. I need to get me healthy.

It’s going to take time, this didn’t happen overnight and I can’t expect it to be fixed overnight. I have the proper tools and the knowledge…just need to put them all to good use.

Tucson will be there, Tahoe will be there, Disney will be there, Redman will be there. And one day soon, so will I and I’m going to kick some serious butt!!

Aug

12

All is well

By Leesa Gabel

Life is good in the House of Four Gabels.

The summer is winding down. School starts in a few days. Tucson training is going well….could be better if the weather would cooperate. Training in 100+ degree temps is not my cup of tea….I have a basket on my road bike, I’m not hard core.

Craig and I have been spending a lot of our summer weekends at the LIVESTRONG Sporting Park watching some awesome Sporting KC soccer games. But our main reason for spending so much time out there is to help spread the message of LIVESTRONG and to help connect people affect by cancer to the care and support that they need. We’ve met wonderful people, heard amazing and inspiring stories….and have learned a lot about the sport of soccer.

Hopefully Sporting KC will make it to the playoffs so that we can continue spending time out at the park….touching lives, making a difference. If you’re ever out at a game, please stop by the LIVESTRONG tent to say hello and to add to the Tribute Banner.

Feb

17

Support

By Leesa Gabel

In life, it’s very important to have support….to be supported.

The fourth anniversary of my cancer diagnosis is fast approaching. Since May 2008, I have discovered who my true supporters are….the people I know I can turn to at any time….the people who make up my support network. Sadly, I have also discovered who isn’t a supporter. Surprisingly, it’s people that I spent years of my life with, shared intimately personal moments in my life with who weren’t there when I needed them the most.

I have been blessed beyond words by complete strangers. One blessing that quickly comes to mind is the handmade quilt that the mother of the young woman who shaved my head when I first lost my hair to chemo made for me. I think of her fondly every time I see the quilt and I say a quick prayer of thanks to God for bringing her into my life.

Then of course there are the financial supporters who have blessed us. Not for our family personally, thankfully we’ve not needed that kind of financial support through this experience. I’m talking about the donations we’ve been given to give to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Those dollars stay here locally to help families who are in need of financial assistance. Those dollars also go to fund research. Research that is desperately needed to find a cure.

Often I am moved beyond words when I see the donation notice. It’s not about the amount….because any amount is appreciated. But it’s the person that it comes from. For example, a high school friend that we hadn’t really communicated with since 1993 sent a very generous donation after learning about my cancer journey. Completely unexpected…and appreciated beyond words.

Then there are Craig’s co-workers. They humble me. They make me feel so special. I love the stories that Craig shares after returning from big meetings or trips about how the first thing he’s asked is ‘How’s your wife?’. Having the support of people I’ve never met warms my heart.

One of the reasons I love Team in Training is because of the support. All it takes is a hug from a teammate to turn my day around.

I know that I have support. I know that I am blessed. Plain and simple.

So here’s my advice….your take-away….

Be a support to someone. It could be anything — from bringing over a meal, giving  flowers not for a special occcasion, taking them out for coffee, mailing a card or sending a quick Facebook message, email or text (those last three are free!) – to let that person know they’re on your mind.

 

Jan

29

Busy Bee and Cancer-free

By Leesa Gabel

I found out that I’m still in remission! 8+ months and counting. I cannot wait for May 9th — it’ll mark one year of being cancer-free!!!

It’s a busy year for me and it’s only January. But that’s ok. I welcome the full calendar of activities. Many of them will be done as a family and all of them are something that I am passionate about. I’m enjoying the fact that I have the energy to do all of this.

I seem to go back and forth between Queen Bee and Worker Bee roles. Right now I’m definitely a busy little worker bee.

I’m planning two major events that will take place during the first half of the year – Johnson County Girl Scout Camptennial and Kansas Leukemia Cup. Right now my focus is the Camptennial which takes place in April, The KS Leukemia Cup isn’t until June. In between there are lots of fun activities — Training for Tahoe begins Feb. 11; in March Craig and I go to Austin, TX to attend a LIVESTRONG conference; in April we’re hosting another edition of BBQ for a Cure; in May we’ll take our son to his first rock concert – Van Halen (ok, this one is purely for fun and not related to scouting or cancer).

 

 

Nov

16

Yes, Virginia, there is….

By Leesa Gabel

…hair on my head.

I don’t know Virginia, but if I did I bet the first thing she’d say to me is, “Wow, Leesa, you’ve got hair!” As if I wasn’t aware of this fact.

During the past three years, I have lost my hair on three seperate occassions. The first time was rather traumatic. The second was more so for the kids than me (especially when my eye lashes and eye brows fell out too). The last time was no big deal at all. We all had come to accept that hair loss was a normal thing which just meant that the medicine was working; not that I was any more sick. But in between treatments, I kept my hair short….like pixi-cut short….just in case. This last time I made a promise to my daughter that when my hair started growing back in, that I would let it get long. So right now my hair is the longest it has been in three years.

I don’t like it. It’s in that awkward grow-out stage that I can’t really do too much with it. But….my daughter is happy….so I will ‘just deal with it’.

I wish others could let it go unnoticed. I know they got used to me with short hair or maybe they hadn’t met me before I lost it the first time to know how long it was. But leading a conversation off with ‘Wow, your hair is so long‘ is getting old. It ranks up there with, ‘Wow, you look really good’ (for someone with cancer is rarely said outloud thankfully, but I bet it’s always thought).

So to set the record straight….. I’m growing my hair out. Not for vanity reasons, not because I’m in remission and want to return to the old me, not because it’s easier to care for (it’s not), but because I made a promise to my daughter. For all the stress and emotional roller-coaster ride that having a parent battling cancer can put on a young child….dealing with the process of growing long hair from scratch (that’s basically what I’m doing) to make her feel better is the least I can do to repay how much support and strength she has shown me during the last three years.

Nov

3

Thankful

By Leesa Gabel

It’s November….and contrary to what you may be seeing on TV….it’s Thanksgiving time!!

Last night, my family and I got to experience the Victory Suite at the LIVESTRONG Sporting Park during the Sporting KC soccer game. It was Ah-mazing!!

I was asked to sit in the special Yellow Seat. It’s the only yellow seat in the stadium…reserved for Lance Armstrong and, on night’s when he isn’t there, cancer survivors. It was such an honor! I never knew that sitting in a cushioned chair could be such an emotionally rewarding experience. There was a special announcement before the game. There I was larger-than-life on the big screen. And my name was spelled correctly!!

I know I’ve said this before and probably not many people understand why I would say it, but I’m thankful for my cancer. I had a good life before cancer. But I was just moving through life. But then cancer came and my life changed. I became more engaged, more aware, more active…..I became a new person.

Learning you have cancer is like coming to a fork in the road. Go left, cancer takes the lead. Go right, cancer never sees what’s coming.

I went right!!

Oct

21

Spice

By Leesa Gabel

Craig and I have been together almost 25 years (we began dating in high school in November 1986). We practically grew up together…..I have more memories with him than without him. We have experienced many milestones together….thick and thin, ups and downs, good and bad, joyous and sad….you get the picture.

And yet, I continue to surprise him.

For all the time that Craig has known me I have hated spicy foods….especially anything with jalapenos.  But after my last treatment cycle something changed. One day, while out at a T-Bones baseball game I caught sight of a container of nachos with jalapenos on top….it looked so yummy. A few days later I was in the grocery store picking up the ingredients for Taco Tuesday. On a whim I grabbed a jar of jalapenos. That night at dinner my husband watched me load my taco with pepper after pepper, a look of utter amazement and confusion showing on his face. A few weeks later, while dining out I requested extra jalapenos on the side of our nachos….they were fresh, not pickled. I ate them all. I’m now the first to grab the peppers from the Papa John’s pizza box.

I can’t explain this new-found love for spice. I think maybe the chemo had something to do with it, but I don’t know for sure. I do know that I’m enjoying the culinary taste adventures and testing the limits of my spice love.

May

26

Conquering the Hill

By Leesa Gabel

I was only in Washington DC for about 36 hours, yet it felt like much, much longer.

I arrived at Reagan International at 9:30am on Monday….caught the shuttle to my hotel and then the adventure began…..

Monday was spent in a conference put on by One Voice Against Cancer (OVAC) detailing the 5 points that were most important with regards to cancer fighting and the US budget. There were lots of facts and figures throw out….a bit overwhelming. During the breaks was the best part though….that’s when I got to hear the stories of the other attenders….hear their cancer connections. Not all were survivors…some where doctors, caregivers, family members of those who lost the fight. Every story was unique and inspirational.

I discovered during the planning portion that I was the only person representing KS. YIKES!!! I was hoping I wouldn’t be doing this alone. I knew that the ACS CAN delegate wouldn’t be there, but I was sure another organization would send someone. Nope. Just me. Me for the state with the slogan ‘bigger than you think’….

Monday evening was spent having fun….I attended the OVAC  reception and then on to dinner with the other LIVESTRONG Leaders. You know what I loved most about Crystal City?….I passed at least five coffee shops in a three-block radius.

I hit the ground running Tuesday morning….literally. My first meeting was at 9:30am. Thankfully, I went to Capitol Hill with a group because I’m not sure I would have found my way on the Metro by myself. It was raining….and my umbrella was safe and dry in Olathe. By the time I made it to Senator Jerry Moran’s office I was soaked.  Great first impression…. All-in-all, it was a good meeting. I just spoke from the heart and shared my story.

I had an hour before my next meeting with Senator Pat Roberts. I didn’t want to go back outside to the rain since Senator Robert’s office is in another building. What to do, what to do? Use the tunnels!!! There are tunnels connecting each of the three Senate buildings (the same for the House). So down to the basement I went. Guess what the first thing I see is when I get down there? A Starbucks!!! Seriously! Of course I just HAD to go buy a coffee!!

I did not meet with Senator Roberts, just his Health Legislative Aide….which is just as good because those people can be very influential. I had a special folder of information to leave at the end of each visit. I had plenty of time before my afternoon meeting with Representative Kevin Yoder so I stopped by all the other KS offices outside of my district to drop off the OVAC informational folder.

I LOVED walking the halls of Congress. I felt so empowered. I couldn’t stop smiling and every so often I’d catch myself on the verge of tears. I also enjoyed walking around outside….the buildings are just breathtakingly beautiful. I also saw democracy at work…..people holding a peaceful protest on the Capitol grounds.

I enjoyed lunch in the cafeteria under one of the House buildings. I made sure to avoid the elevator marked ‘Members Only’. During lunch, there was an alarm….I thought something was wrong….nope, it was just the signal to notify the members that it was time to go vote!!

The day just flew by….I was sad when all my meetings were over. It all just went so fast. I made my way back to Crystal City via the Metro….by myself! Then to the airport to catch my evening flight back to KC, but not before a quick stop in the gift shop….can’t return home to my kid’s empty-handed.

I hope I’ll be invited to OVAC again next year….until then I’ll continue my advocacy here at home…..

May

9

The R Word

By Leesa Gabel

I’m saying the R word once again…..REMISSION!!! My treatment has been a success and there are no cancer cells in my body! The only downside is that I still have four weeks of taking the daily chemo pill, but knowing that the pills are working will make them much easier to swallow!

Treatment hasn’t been too bad. The first few days back on the pill are the hardest. Especially when I don’t have the anti-nausea meds to chase it with. Ick. But after the initial nausea subsides, the lack of energy takes over. I have to plan my day accordingly….get as much done in the morning before I crash and pray that the energy returns enough in the late afternoon (after a nap of course) to get dinner on the table and be active with my kids.

I know I’m luckier than most….and I try very hard to remember this. I also try to focus too much on the fact that remission could be fleeting, as it has been in the past. That’s the bad part of a chronic disease….you never know when it’ll come back. Which is why I’m working hard to help find a cure….I’m tired of treatment, I WANT A CURE!!!

Apr

18

Mrs. Gabel Goes to Washington

By Leesa Gabel

No, I’m not going to fill a vacancy in the US Senate, but I am going to Washington, DC to make my voice be heard.

I was one of 40 chosen by the Lance Armstrong Foundation (LIVESTRONG) to attend the One Voice Against Cancer Lobby Day on May 24th!!

I’m over-the-moon excited about this. I’m also nervous. This will be my first major solo trip ever! Craig and the kids won’t be going with me. I’ll be taking my first solo plane ride…and trying to figure out how to get around on the Metro.

I’ll spend Monday attending a workshop on how to be an effective advocate. Then on Tuesday I’ll tackle Capitol Hill and will meet with Kevin Yoder and Jerry Moran from Kansas. I assume that’s who I’ll be meeting. Beyond that….I’m clueless, but uber-excited!!