Monday, October 11, 2010

Preparing For The 2010 Walk

We're just under two weeks away from the Dallas Light the Night Walk.  Team Jason is soaring well above the "competition" and will easily slide into 1st place for the 2nd year in a row.  I mean, it's not really a competition...we're all raising money for the same cause.  But hey, I'll walk a little taller knowing that our team raised more money than all those other teams!  LOL

Meantime, as I referenced in my post last month, they'll be presenting Team Jason with the "Jason Harmon Enduring Spirit Award" at this year's walk.  When they told me about the award, they asked if I could put together a little bio about Jason and his fight against blood cancer.  So, this is what I've come up with.  This will be read as an introduction to the award while a slideshow of pictures of him flashes across the two jumbo screens.  (Jason would totally be embarrassed...and I LOVE that! hahaha)  Let me know what you think:

"For those who knew Jason Andrew Harmon, May 28th will forever be the day cancer entered his life – as well as the day that cancer took his life. Jason was diagnosed with an aggressive and rare form of non-hodgkins lymphoma on May 28th, 2008 several weeks after he first discovered a mass under his arm. Over the months that followed, Jason endured numerous rounds of chemotherapy that eventually lead to a stem cell transplant. By January, Jason and those who loved him learned that nothing seemed to be working to kill his cancer. For two more months, Jason and his doctors continued trying new things. But, after a PET scan in March, doctors discovered Jason's cancer had spread throughout his body. He was given two months to live.

Despite that dire prediction, Jason continued to live his life as normal as possible between the endless stream of doctor visits, blood infusions, and radiation therapy which he insisted they keep doing. He continued searching for new treatment possibilities. He also continued working – something he loved to do – and he continued fighting for every moment of his independence. Throughout his illness, he never wanted to be treated as a “sick person”. He never let cancer run his life or the lives of those who cared for him (no matter how hard they tried). From the very beginning, Jason maintained his fighting spirit.

On May 28th, 2009 – exactly one year to the day of his diagnosis, cancer took Jason's life. But because he never let cancer into heart & soul, he would forever have the last laugh and will always be remembered as a true fighter and survivor. Every day, that part of Jason’s spirit continues to comfort those who love him.

In the wake of Jason's death, Jason's friends & family united with one objective – keeping his fighting spirit alive. Through Team Jason and the Light the Night Walk, members of Team Jason have raised nearly $30,000 in less than two years for patient support and blood cancer research that we all hope will someday lead to a cure."

Until next time --

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Happy Birthday Jason

Today is September 18th. It would've been Jason's 41st birthday. This weekend would also be our 3 year anniversary.  But something happened yesterday to take a little of all that pain away.

I received a call from our rep at the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  After a discussion earlier in the day, they've decided to create a new award - one that will go to someone who has gone above and beyond the call of duty in fundraising for the society.  They decided to name the award after someone who had lost his/her life to one of the many diseases they fight.  And, incredibly, they picked Jason.  The award will be named The Jason Harmon Enduring Spirit Award. 

When Jennfier told me, I was frozen in shock.  I immediately started crying and didn't stop for 2 hours.  I was just so completely floored that they would choose to honor Jason's fight & my fight to keep his memory alive.  And the fact that today's his birthday just made the announcement all the more sweet.  And to top it all off, Jason's parents will be at the walk this year. 

I can't think of a more perfect way to celebrate Jason, his life, and his birthday.

Until next time --

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Different Year, Same Feelings

This time last year, I was dreading September.  This month brought with it Jason's 40th birthday, our anniversary, and the first-ever Remembrance Ceremony for the North Texas Leukemia & Lymphoma Society that I was asked to speak at.  There were a lot of reminders of Jason, and a lot of reminders that he was gone.

A year later, little has changed for the month of September.  His 41st birthday is this Saturday, and the following week would've been our third anniversary.  It's also the 2nd annual Remembrance Ceremony, though this year I won't be speaking.  So much has changed, yet so much - more than I thought - hasn't.

This was a big week for me.  My big Stand Up To Cancer special debuted on Saturday to rave reviews.  I've received incredible feedback from everyone involved.  The best reaction so far has been from my boss, though.  On Friday, I called her into the edit bay to watch a rough cut of the entire special.  She hadn't seen any of the stories yet, and I wanted her eyes on it before we put the finishing touches on everything.  By the end of it, both of us were in tears.  I was crying because I was so incredibly proud of how it all came together.  She was in tears because she was moved by so many of the stories we had put together.  It was a great moment for me in my life & my career.  And at that moment, I also cried because the one person I wanted to share it with wasn't there. 

That hurt like hell.  I haven't hurt in a long time from all of this, but damn it that hurt.  I wanted to pick up the phone and call him and tell him how great it had turned out.  I wanted to sit, wrapped in his arms, while watcing my masterpiece on TV yesterday.  That is the only thing that could've made this whole experience any better.

And now, I'm looking ahead to Saturday which would've been Jason's 41st birthday.  We don't have much planned - not like we did last year.  But, I'm sure a few of us will get together and toast him.  It's hard to for me to believe that it's only been three years since Jason and I first met face to face.  It was the weekend of his birthday, and it was love at first sight. 

So, once again... a year later... I'm wishing September would disappear.  This month only brings with it sadness, and memories of a life that's been changed forever.

By the way - if you'd like to watch my special, just click the name: CBS11 Special Report: North Texans Stand Up To Cancer.

Until next time --

Saturday, September 4, 2010

It's Been A While...

Wow! It's been a long time since I got on here and wrote something.  Over a month.  Time flies, I guess.  Things have been quite crazy around here - mainly with work.  I took on a huge project recently that's quite literally taken up my entire life.  It's something I'm extremely passionate about...can you guess?  That's right, it's about cancer.

A couple months ago, I pitched a proposal to my management about putting together a 30-minute special about the fight against cancer in North Texas.  We're tying it all into the national Stand Up To Cancer which will be airing across many different networks on Friday, September 10th.  Our local special will be airing on Saturday, September 11th.

Within this special, we're profiling local patients who have or currently are standing up to fight cancer.  We're profiling doctors who have made it their life's work to beat cancer.  We're taking a tour of a brand new, state-of-the-art cancer center that will be opening soon in Dallas.  And, we're remembering Leah Siegel - a breast cancer patient I blogged about who passed away recently.  It's 30-minutes full of information, compelling & emotional battles, inspiration, and hope. 

I was talking to a friend of mine tonight about purpose.  He's having trouble figuring out what his purpose in life is supposed to be.  I have to wonder if I've found mine...courtesy of what happened to me and to Jason.  I have such a passion, desire, and frankly a need to talk about cancer - the disease, those fighting it, and those trying to stop it.  The more we talk the closer we get to figuring out a better way to beat it.  It just makes me wonder if all of this happened so that one more voice - a voice with the opportunity to take to the airwaves - would be added to the chorus of millions of other voices already screaming. 

I have put my heart and soul into this special.  It's become a mission.  After this week, it'll be over.  But I don't want it to be.  I want to continue doing this work.  The last few weeks have been so incredible.  I've met so many amazing people - patients and doctors - whose stories are just unbelievable.  One woman, Gail, was diagnosed with breast cancer in her 30s.  She beat it, and then over the next 15 years was diagnosed with lung cancer three different times.  This past spring, she was diagnosed with breast cancer again!  That's FIVE different cancer diagnoses over the last 30 years.  Yet through all of that she has kept her amazingling positive attitude and most of all...her loving husband has stood by her side through it all.  Their love truly has withstood the test of time.

I met a 16-year old girl who cried during her interview saying she wasn't ready to die.  She was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia last year and just became the first in North Texas to have a specialized treatment.  She's now looking forward to a future of finishing school and becoming an oncology nurse at the same hospital where her life was saved.

I interviewed a husband who just three weeks prior lost his wife to breast cancer.  I, unfortunately, have the unique perspective of knowing what he's going needless to say, we both cried our way through that interview.  But more importantly, her life & legacy is already working wonders...reaching thousands of people around the world.  It's incredible to me how much impact one life can have.

This may be my job, but this is someone else working through me.  This is Jason's impact on my life.  I wouldn't be doing any of this - telling any of these incredible stories - if it weren't for him and his stamp on my heart.  As cheesey as that's the honest to G-d truth.  His battle with cancer, his bravery, his "no giving up" attitude inspired me beyond belief.  He changed my life forever...and my work now is finally reflecting that.  And, it's making me miss him even more.  I so wish he was here with me as I worked my way through this special.  I would've loved to come home, collapse in his arms, and tell him about all these awesome people I've met.  I think he would've liked hearing their stories.

Until next time --

Friday, July 30, 2010

A Day Of Mourning

I've been to one funeral since Jason's.  It was for my brother's friends who died.  But, somehow this funeral today feels different.  It's still hours away, and already I'm on the verge of tears. 

Leah embodied hope & fight to me in the months after Jason died.  She was my beacon...the one person who I thought would kick the shit out of cancer.  I was so beat down after what happened, that I hung onto every positive update I got from her.  And then, just like Jason's case, things took a turn and never recovered.

It's just not fair.  My colleague/friend Meridith - who also knew Leah - will be attending the funeral with me today.  This is her second cancer related funeral in a month!  Her best friend's husband recently died after battling his cancer for almost 10 years.  It's just unreal. 

At work, I've been given an incredible opportunity to help give a voice and put a face on cancer in North Texas.  As you probably know, the big 3 networks are joining forces again this year for "Stand Up To Cancer".  It'll be a live simulcasted event across the networks on September 10th.  Last month, I put together a proposal for a localized Stand Up To Cancer special, and it was approved!  I've already got more than a dozen stories lined up to start shooting over the next few weeks. 

But, as I sit here in my suit...the very same suit I wore for Jason's funeral...I have pause about this wonderful special I'm going to be putting together.  I know myself enough to know that I will become attached to the patients & families I profile.  Am I setting myself up for more emotional cutting in the future if something happens to one of them?  Probably so.  Can I handle more of this?  I'm not sure I can answer that today.

Either way, I will not let anything - grief, or otherwise - stand in my way of doing this special.  It means the world to me to do it, and I will give it 110%.  After it's done, though, I'm thinking I need to hang up my "cancer hat" for a little while and emotionally take a break.  I'm finally understanding why my therapist was so concerned about me wanting to change careers and work in a cancer-related field.  My wound is still so raw, and it's only pouring salt on it.

At least, that's how I feel today...but, maybe tomorrow will be a different story.

Until next time --

Monday, July 26, 2010

Another Devastating Loss

Wow.  It's been more than a month since my last blog.  I guess that means I a) didn't have the time to blog, or b) didn't have anything interesting to say.  That's changed.

Today, the world lost another incredible person to cancer.  Leah Siegel battled stage four breast cancer for less than two years.  She died this morning at 4:30am.

I was first introduced to Leah through a story we were doing here at my TV station.  Leah's story crossed our desk after she was diagnosed.  They found her cancer just days after she gave birth to her third child.  Our first story followed her through some of her treatment, and how she dealt with cancer while still being a full-time mom & wife.  She truly was an inspiration to everyone fighting the disease.  Her outlook was incredible.  Here's the first story:

I remember laying on Jason's couch, wrapped in his arms, while we both watched that story.  It aired exactly one week before we found out that Jason's cancer had exploded all over his body.  Yet, at the time, we suspected something was going on.  Her story hit such a core with both of us.  I wrote to Leah the next day and introduced myself and told her our story.  She was such a sweetheart and emailed me back right away.  We began talking through email keeping up on each other's progress.  After Jason died, she was so supportive, and even donated money to Team Jason - all while trying to keep herself afloat while paying for her own treatments.

We did a second story on Leah in November last year.  She had just started a new clinical trial and things were starting to look up.  For the first time in a while, Leah had hope that she was going to live for several more years.  This story aired 8 months ago -

I felt like I had become friends with Leah.  We had met for meals, I visited her in the hospital, etc.  She was a wonderful, wondeful person...and I loved spending time with her.

Leah was admitted to the hospital again a couple weeks ago, and things were not looking good.  By last week, things had gone from bad to worse, and it was obvious to everyone - including Leah - that the end was near.  In fact, that's what she said on her Facebook post.  How very "21st century" announcing your imminent death online.  Here's part of her post: "Elvis might be leaving the building. We are probably down to just days or weeks.So now it's time to leave my Facebook friends."  That was her last post dated July 18th.

This morning, we received word that Leah had passed.  And, once again, I was transported back to that dimly lit living room on Dunhaven, holding Jason's hand...hearing the hospice nurse say "He's gone."  The other producer who worked on Leah's story contacted me, and we decided she deserved one more story.  So here's the tribute piece we aired today at 5pm.  As you can see, our anchor Karen was touched by Leah as well...

After her post on Facebook, I sent her a note and said "Hey, when you get up there...please find Jason and give him a big hug for me and tell him I love him."  She replied "Is he allowed to associate with Jews up there?"  Her sense of humor was intact all the way to the end.  LOL

Leah Siegel, you will forever be loved.  You will forever be remembered, and you will forever be missed.

Until next time --

Monday, June 21, 2010

Moving On...I think

So, it's been a few weeks since my last post...since my return from Boston...since the year anniversary.  It's amazing to me how much things have changed for me in such a short amount of time.  What a difference a year makes.

Since my last post, I really feel like I've let myself move on.  This past weekend, I went on two dates...with two different guys.  And, I tell you what... it felt GREAT to be back out there.  It felt good to be in the company of another man, to have that anticipation in the pit of my stomach, and to have that playful interaction that only comes with dating.  I forgot how much I missed all of that.

A funny (funny weird, not funny haha) thing happened last weekend.  I knew it was coming, I remembered it...of course...but on the actual day, it was completely gone from my mind.  There was one more anniversary of sorts.  Last Sunday, June 13th, was the year anniversary of the day we buried Jason's ashes.  I expected that I would remember that day and do something special to commemorate the day.  But, I woke up without a thought and went through my day without a thought.  I never once looked at the date otherwise I think it would've triggered.  It wasn't until the next day that it hit me.

At first, I felt guilty that I had "forgotten" so quickly.  I felt bad that I didn't do something that day to remember him.  But, then, the more I thought about it...the more I forgave myself and realized that this is a good thing.  I didn't need to remember that day.  That was an awful day, and why would I want to commemorate that day a year later?  There was no reason to mark the day, and subconciously I guess I knew that.  My guilt melted away, and I accepted the fact that it was just part of moving on.

I've felt good the last few weeks.  I've felt good about myself.  I've felt good about my life and the direction its going.  I feel that good things are ahead of me, and I'm looking forward to them.  That's not to say that I haven't looked back...because I have.  I've thought about Jason almost every day since I got back from Boston.  I'm still working on Team Jason and reaching our $25,000 goal.  I feel like, for the first time since he died, that I'm finally finding a balance between keeping him in my heart and beginning to live my life again.  It feels good.  And, I think Jason would be proud.

Until next time--