Monday, October 1, 2012

Words Cannot Do Justice, but I'll Try

Words cannot do justice to the excitement of the events of this past week, but I am going to try to express it anyway.

First things first: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GREGG!
Gregg as a baby in his sister Linda's arms
Last week's book event at Eagle Harbor Books was a success. I know that it's bad manners to toot one's own horn, but I must tell you that I heard from the Events Coordinator (thank you, Victoria) that I was the bookstore's best-selling author last week.
"Because of Katie" outsold J.K. Rowling's new book!
YES, you read that correctly - my book topped the Harry Potter series' author's new book! See for yourself (and order a copy) here.
At the book event with Dr. Jensen (photo credit: Eagle Harbor Book Co. website)
It was a joy to have Dr. Michael Jensen and some of his family attend the event. It helped enormously to look out at the dear, caring faces in the audience and have the privilege of introducing them to this man who is changing the way cancer is treated, here and now. To have him answer their questions was a gift.

One of the most encouraging aspects of this event was the feedback I received from those who attended. Several people who have not been active in this area told me personally that they are now inspired to get involved. They realized after listening that there is something that they can do to help - and this is always a blessing to hear, because it is an important part of my message: you are not helpless; everyone can do something to help others.

I spent most of the following week writing on a deadline. I had about 18 essays to complete, limited to 125 words each. I invite you to try that - write an essay on a deep topic, and then whittle it down to 125 words. It's much easier to write screeds than to be concise! I'm applying for acceptance to an educational program (which I will announce if I'm accepted; if not, we'll say no more about it). I did my best with the application, and now, will let go of the outcome.

The Ben Towne Foundation's 3rd annual BENefit was Friday, September 28th. There were 1,100 people in attendance; the BENefit has more than doubled in size since its beginning, just two years ago!
On the ferry, en route to the BENefit. I think this is the only photo of us from the evening. Imagine a blue silk dress and scarf, belted at the waist, with blue suede shoes on me and a gorgeous blue, Italian suit on Gregg , with jacket - no tie.

We filled a table with my parents, my brother and sister-in-law, and our friends Reba, Bill, Mary Jane and Brian. Reba and Bill's daughter Hannah, and Mary Jane and Brian's daughter, Jenny, both died from brain tumors - both near the same age as Katie. It was their first time at the Ben Towne Foundation BENefit, but they have all been active in pediatric cancer research support.

We saw old friends among Seattle Children's Hospital staff, and met the new president of the hospital. We hugged, we celebrated, we remembered - and we were moved. Jeff and Carin Towne both spoke eloquently, as they always do.

At the BENefit, Dr. Jensen spoke and brought us to tears with this news (quote borrowed from the Ben Towne Foundation's facebook page update): "the first ever clinical trial application from the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research for treating relapsed pediatric leukemia using reprogrammed T cells was approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration!"

This is the kind of treatment about which we could only dream when Katie was sick, with rapid results and no long-term, debilitating side-effects. We have actually seen more than one video of T-cells EATING cancer cells - it gives me the chills and makes me cry, in a good way. In five short years, we have moved from "we don't understand how the immune system works well enough to harness it for cancer treatment" to "it's happening, NOW." And it can be applied to adult cancer, as well as pediatric cancer; everyone benefits.

It's the answer to prayer - many, many prayers. You can watch this clip about it on the website of local news station KING 5.
 If you can give anything to pediatric cancer research, this is the place where I suggest you give it; this is where the income from the Katie Gerstenberger Endowment for Cancer Research goes.

Early in the morning after the BENefit, Gregg & I took a spur-of-the-moment mini-vacation to Victoria, B.C. It was Gregg's idea to go away for one night and two days on super short notice. We had a blast, as we usually do in that city. I would love to live there.
Lunch in our favorite Japanese restaurant.
Autumn light on the Empress Hotel.
My love, laughing over breakfast.
The view from the breakfast table.
The past couple of months have been a bit bumpy here, and this was a welcome time of rest and refreshment, a time to simply enjoy the natural beauty of a city we love during one of the most spectacular times of the year. Sunshine, crisp temperatures - perfect for 10 miles walking all around the neighborhoods we admire. We ate and drank well, browsed and window-shopped, went to a pub for live music and slept as late as we wanted to sleep. Up again the next morning for more walking and sightseeing.

The people in Victoria are polite, kind and helpful. We know our way around pretty well after all of these years, but when we stopped to discuss which way we wanted to go, several people saw us and offered help, thinking we were lost. We weren't lost, but we were impressed by their kindness!

Our dear neighbors took care of letting the cats in and out while we were away (thanks, Cami & John!). Upon our return, Liger climbed on my lap, and I felt something sharp when I petted him. Upon investigation, I discovered a cat's claw embedded in his head! I'm not sure what happened while we were away, but Liger is fine, and some other cat (we suspect Latte) is missing a claw. Serves the aggressor right!
Liger (a.k.a. "the Baby")
Today is a catch-up day for me, and when he gets home, we will celebrate Gregg's birthday. I'm thinking that "joy, awe and gratitude" are the best words to sum up the events of the past week.


ChiTown Girl said...

Happy Birthday, Gregg!!

Congratulations on the continued success of "Because of Katie!" I don't think I've told you yet, but I took my copy with me to Italy, and read it while I was there. I don't want to get into my experience reading it right now (I've been planning to email you for weeks now) but needless to say, I loved it! My brother's girlfriend started it on the plane ride home, and took it with her when we landed. I'll let you know her reaction, as well.

Good luck with whatever educational adventure on which you are about to embark.

Elizabeth said...

Oh, my gosh! I don't even know where to start here on a sufficient comment to remark and hold on so much goodness! So much goodness -- that's where I'll stop with an extra Happy Birthday to Gregg and a Congratulations to you and a crossed fingers of luck for those essays and the educational program.

Sending love and gratitude for all that you do!

Busy Bee Suz said...

Happy belated birthday to Gregg!!!!
The Benefit looks so wonderful and even better??? The changes this foundation is making....all wonderful stuff!
Glad you had a little mini-vacay Karen; I want to got there one day as well!
Oh those darn cats!!! Meow.

Karen said...

Your cup overflows. No doubt about how God is blessing and using you. And it's always so nice to get a break in the action...a little holiday, just the two of you, to recharge and rest up for what comes next. Your life is very exciting to watch! Blessings on you, beautiful lady.
Love, Karen East