inspiration

She lost her mom to cancer. Now, she's spreading hope to kids.

By Kendall McKee

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     I was 7 years old.  We went to Disney World as a family for Spring Break that year; a week that consisted of water slides, meeting characters, and being introduced to peanut-butter and marshmallow cream sandwiches (I recommend trying one if you haven't).  My biggest memory from that trip wasn't riding a plane for the first time or meeting Cinderella, it was what happened by the benches next to the in-ground water fountain.  That was where we got the phone call- where our world got turned upside down.    My mom was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer that day.  She was only 38 years old.  I honestly don't think I really knew what cancer was when I was 7.   All I knew was that Mommy was sick.     
 
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    She got surgery shortly after the diagnosis, and started chemo and radiation.   My brother, Dad, and I shaved her head bald in our garage.  She stayed in bed a lot.  My mom wasn't ready to surrender to cancer, so she fought with all her might.   And one day we were blessed enough to hear the words "the cancer is gone."   We lived for 10 years thanking God each day that my mom had been given a second chance at life, despite her close call with this awful disease. We finally felt safe.  In 2010 my mom went in for a routine mammogram and they found a "suspicious spot."  Our hearts sank...could it really be?    It was Stage 4 breast cancer that had metasticized to all of her bones.  They told us we would have 12-18 months with her.    We were numb.   Mom went through chemo and radiation once again, she changed her nutrition, exercised a lot, but mostly, she prayed.  Months went by, then years.  We cherished every moment we had with her, and we  NEVER LOST HOPE.    February 25, 2013 my mom lost her battle to cancer.  She was my best friend, and I miss her every day.


I was 7 years old. We went to Disney World as a family for Spring Break that year; a week that consisted of water slides, meeting characters, and being introduced to peanut-butter and marshmallow cream sandwiches (I recommend trying one if you haven't).  My biggest memory from that trip wasn't riding a plane for the first time or meeting Cinderella, it was what happened by the benches next to the in-ground water fountain. That was where we got the phone call- where our world got turned upside down.

My mom was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer that day. She was only 38 years old.  I honestly don't think I really knew what cancer was when I was 7.  All I knew was that Mommy was sick.


She got surgery shortly after the diagnosis, and started chemo and radiation.  My brother, Dad, and I shaved her head bald in our garage. She stayed in bed a lot.

My mom wasn't ready to surrender to cancer, so she fought with all her might.  And one day we were blessed enough to hear the words "the cancer is gone."

We lived for 10 years thanking God each day that my mom had been given a second chance at life, despite her close call with this awful disease. We finally felt safe.

In 2010 my mom went in for a routine mammogram and they found a "suspicious spot."  Our hearts sank...could it really be?  

It was Stage 4 breast cancer that had metasticized to all of her bones. They told us we would have 12-18 months with her.

We were numb.

Mom went through chemo and radiation once again, she changed her nutrition, exercised a lot, but mostly, she prayed.

Months went by, then years.  We cherished every moment we had with her, and we NEVER LOST HOPE.

February 25, 2013 my mom lost her battle to cancer.  She was my best friend, and I miss her every day.

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  So, why did I tell you this story?  I'm glad you asked!   This story is, unfortunately, very similar to the stories of 3 million kids in the United States . 3 MILLION!  That means 3 million kids need our help.  But more importantly, they need our hope.   These kids are often overlooked when we think of all the kids affected by cancer.  Just because they don't have the disease themselves doesn't mean they aren't affected...they are!   Camp Kesem recognizes and supports this overlooked population of children, ages 6-16.  CK is a nonprofit organization with 64 chapters located at different college campuses across the United States.   I am a member of the Indiana University chapter, which is completely run by college students.  IU’s chapter was established in 2003, and since 2004 has offered a FREE week long summer camp for kids affected by a parent’s cancer.   IU student volunteers have the special opportunity to be these kids’ summer camp counselors.  Camp offers kids a vacation, if you will, from their frightening reality at home.  They have to grow up so fast because of cancer, and CK gives them a way to JUST BE KIDS again!   These kids need hope, love, and FUN!  And that is what CK is all about!!!    The week at camp consists of swimming, crafts, outdoor activities, scavenger hunts, and (most importantly) Messy Olympics!  This activity is always a camp favorite, for the campers, that is.  They get the opportunity to coat their counselors in food products including, but not limited to, ketchup, jelly, honey, chocolate syrup, sprinkles, flour, and Cheetos.


So, why did I tell you this story?  I'm glad you asked!

This story is, unfortunately, very similar to the stories of 3 million kids in the United States. 3 MILLION! That means 3 million kids need our help.  But more importantly, they need our hope.

These kids are often overlooked when we think of all the kids affected by cancer. Just because they don't have the disease themselves doesn't mean they aren't affected...they are!

Camp Kesem recognizes and supports this overlooked population of children, ages 6-16.  CK is a nonprofit organization with 64 chapters located at different college campuses across the United States.  I am a member of the Indiana University chapter, which is completely run by college students.  IU’s chapter was established in 2003, and since 2004 has offered a FREE week long summer camp for kids affected by a parent’s cancer.  IU student volunteers have the special opportunity to be these kids’ summer camp counselors. Camp offers kids a vacation, if you will, from their frightening reality at home. They have to grow up so fast because of cancer, and CK gives them a way to JUST BE KIDS again!  These kids need hope, love, and FUN! And that is what CK is all about!!!

The week at camp consists of swimming, crafts, outdoor activities, scavenger hunts, and (most importantly) Messy Olympics!  This activity is always a camp favorite, for the campers, that is.  They get the opportunity to coat their counselors in food products including, but not limited to, ketchup, jelly, honey, chocolate syrup, sprinkles, flour, and Cheetos.

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   Though these fun activities are an escape from cancer, everyone knows why we are all brought together for the week of camp.  The week is ended with an Empowerment Ceremony, which is a time that campers and counselors are welcome to share their stories with cancer.  This event gives us a special opportunity to relate to each other through our stories and see how cancer has affected us all in some way.  It’s an amazing thing to see so many children come together and support each other through a childhood they all share.  The strength these kids possess is unprecedented, and reminds me daily how important Camp Kesem is.  After the week of camp, Kesem is not finished.  We spend countless hours throughout the year supporting our campers, bringing meals to their families, fundraising money, and attending big events in the campers’ lives.  It’s important to us for our campers and their families to feel supported throughout the year, and stay together as one big Kesem family through the good times and the bad.  Now, (here comes the begging part), we can't send all these kids to camp for free without your help!  Please, please, PLEASE consider donating for these kids.  YOU can change their lives for the better.  YOU can make the difference.   YOU can give them hope.     
  
 
  
    
  
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   Kendall McKee     
  
 
  
    
  
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    Camp Kesem Indiana University Coordinator Guest Blogger     
  
 
  
    
  
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     For more information about the amazing things Camp Kesem is doing and to find a chapter near you, visit us online at:     
  
 
  
    
  
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   Camp Kesem Nationals  http://campkesem.org/  Camp Kesem IU  http://campkesem.org/indiana      
  
 
  
    
  
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   OR follow these links to see the first-hand magic of Kesem:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vi5SsQu4B8Q   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-mlKxXyReA


Though these fun activities are an escape from cancer, everyone knows why we are all brought together for the week of camp. The week is ended with an Empowerment Ceremony, which is a time that campers and counselors are welcome to share their stories with cancer. This event gives us a special opportunity to relate to each other through our stories and see how cancer has affected us all in some way.  It’s an amazing thing to see so many children come together and support each other through a childhood they all share. The strength these kids possess is unprecedented, and reminds me daily how important Camp Kesem is.

After the week of camp, Kesem is not finished. We spend countless hours throughout the year supporting our campers, bringing meals to their families, fundraising money, and attending big events in the campers’ lives. It’s important to us for our campers and their families to feel supported throughout the year, and stay together as one big Kesem family through the good times and the bad.

Now, (here comes the begging part), we can't send all these kids to camp for free without your help!

Please, please, PLEASE consider donating for these kids.  YOU can change their lives for the better.  YOU can make the difference.

YOU can give them hope.

Kendall McKee
Camp Kesem Indiana University Coordinator
Guest Blogger


For more information about the amazing things Camp Kesem is doing and to find a chapter near you, visit us online at:
Camp Kesem Nationals http://campkesem.org/
Camp Kesem IU http://campkesem.org/indiana 

OR follow these links to see the first-hand magic of Kesem:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vi5SsQu4B8Q
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-mlKxXyReA

She Overcame Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome—and Became a Fashion Photographer

Hannah Kik’s time in high school was a little unconventional: After being diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome at sixteen, Hannah fought to make it through the day without passing out. Over the course of two years, she bounced between her public school and the hospital, struggling to keep up with her schoolwork and fighting anxiety over her grades…    But her silver lining was bright: Ever since she picked up a camera at age ten, Hannah wanted to be a photographer. Her passion for modern art found its home behind the camera.    Now, she’s a long way from that ten-year-old who had just discovered photography, or that sixteen-year-old who was too sick to go to school: After graduating high school an entire year early, Hannah is a student at Savannah College of Art and Design, where she’s a photographer and creative director who focuses her work on fashion photography.    Hannah isn’t just chasing dreams, she’s capturing them with every click of the camera’s shutter. We chatted with her about hope, why art matters, and never giving up.     Q:     Tell us about being diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. What were the biggest challenges? What did it teach you?      A: Being diagnosed when I was 16 years old was a huge challenge.   I was surrounded by kids my age who were healthy—getting their licenses, visiting colleges, all while I was just trying to make it through the day without passing out. I was taken out of public school at that time and put on homebound because I was in and out of the hospital so much.      I had an incredibly hard time maintaining my grades, which, in turn, gave me a lot of anxiety. It was hard to see a silver lining in that situation. After 2 years of rotating between public school, my bed, and the hospital, I finally started to recover. I not only graduated high school, I graduated a year early and left for college! I never saw that coming. I still have the disorder, and struggle with a few symptoms. Overall I am so thankful for having learned to not give up. It really taught me how to be thankful for good health, because I took it for granted.      Q: You’re a student at SCAD and a fashion photographer. What does photography mean to you? When did you fall in love with it?      A: Photography, to me, is a way to capture the essence of your dreams. I think it’s the closest thing you can get to experiencing someone else’s dreams and emotions. For me, my dreams are vivid colors and lots of fabrics, all floating in the air. That’s the best way I can put it into words. I fell in love with photography when I was 10 years old, and had my first paying customers when I was in middle school.      Q:     What’s been the most inspiring experience of your life so far?      A: Visiting New York City. And well, traveling.   I love seeing and really feeling how many people there are in this world.      Q: For all of us ordinary people who aren’t geniuses with a camera…why does art matter?      A: Art is the expression of humanity. Without it, we would not have movies, magazines, music. We wouldn’t have culture. Art is vital to a thriving society.      Q: What advice would you give someone on overcoming an obstacle to pursue their dream?      A: Do not lose hope.   Find something you enjoy, and get better at it. Never stop growing. And always look for opportunities.     Hannah Kik Fashion Photographer  hannahkik.com    @hannahkikphoto


Hannah Kik’s time in high school was a little unconventional: After being diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome at sixteen, Hannah fought to make it through the day without passing out. Over the course of two years, she bounced between her public school and the hospital, struggling to keep up with her schoolwork and fighting anxiety over her grades…

But her silver lining was bright: Ever since she picked up a camera at age ten, Hannah wanted to be a photographer. Her passion for modern art found its home behind the camera.

Now, she’s a long way from that ten-year-old who had just discovered photography, or that sixteen-year-old who was too sick to go to school: After graduating high school an entire year early, Hannah is a student at Savannah College of Art and Design, where she’s a photographer and creative director who focuses her work on fashion photography.

Hannah isn’t just chasing dreams, she’s capturing them with every click of the camera’s shutter. We chatted with her about hope, why art matters, and never giving up.

Q: Tell us about being diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. What were the biggest challenges? What did it teach you?

A: Being diagnosed when I was 16 years old was a huge challenge. I was surrounded by kids my age who were healthy—getting their licenses, visiting colleges, all while I was just trying to make it through the day without passing out. I was taken out of public school at that time and put on homebound because I was in and out of the hospital so much.

I had an incredibly hard time maintaining my grades, which, in turn, gave me a lot of anxiety. It was hard to see a silver lining in that situation. After 2 years of rotating between public school, my bed, and the hospital, I finally started to recover. I not only graduated high school, I graduated a year early and left for college! I never saw that coming. I still have the disorder, and struggle with a few symptoms. Overall I am so thankful for having learned to not give up. It really taught me how to be thankful for good health, because I took it for granted.

Q: You’re a student at SCAD and a fashion photographer. What does photography mean to you? When did you fall in love with it?

A: Photography, to me, is a way to capture the essence of your dreams. I think it’s the closest thing you can get to experiencing someone else’s dreams and emotions. For me, my dreams are vivid colors and lots of fabrics, all floating in the air. That’s the best way I can put it into words. I fell in love with photography when I was 10 years old, and had my first paying customers when I was in middle school.

Q: What’s been the most inspiring experience of your life so far?

A: Visiting New York City. And well, traveling. I love seeing and really feeling how many people there are in this world.

Q: For all of us ordinary people who aren’t geniuses with a camera…why does art matter?

A: Art is the expression of humanity. Without it, we would not have movies, magazines, music. We wouldn’t have culture. Art is vital to a thriving society.

Q: What advice would you give someone on overcoming an obstacle to pursue their dream?

A: Do not lose hope. Find something you enjoy, and get better at it. Never stop growing. And always look for opportunities.

Hannah Kik
Fashion Photographer
hannahkik.com
@hannahkikphoto

Photographer & Creative Director: Hannah Kik

Photographer & Creative Director: Hannah Kik

To anyone who doesn't have a NYE resolution: Love the Little Moments

It's here: The time of grandiose resolutions. Where we're supposed to write down a list of goals for the next year, like go to the gym every day or finally stop procrastinating (someday). We think about the end—closing the chapter and cleaning off a slate. Saying "see ya later" (or hopefully, see you never) to a year's worth of mistakes, slip-ups, or tiny tragedies that break our hearts just a little.

We love ends, and grand finales, and spectacular finishes—we have encores and sequels in spades, and we're totally the people who skip to the last chapter because we want to know how the book ends. We save the most delicious bite for last and we’re supposed to kiss the person we love (or want to love) at the very end of the year. 

We forget the middle.

But the middle is where all the good stuff happens.

Think about your last really good day, or a moment that made you stop-in-your-tracks happy: It probably wasn't some big planned thing. It was kismet, those little magic moments that aren't anything out of the ordinary...but totally, completely are. That text that made you smile or the person paying for your coffee at Starbucks. That time someone went out of their way to be kind, or did something that inspired you so much, you wanted to get up and run ten miles (or take a trip. or celebrate from your couch). Maybe it caught you off-guard or was a moment where all your work paid off. But I bet it was a moment in the middle.

It's easy to get caught up in the hype: This is the year I stop eating French Fries! (Don't do that, are you crazy?!) This is the year I run a marathon! This is the year I become a millionaire!

Those are all good goals, worthy goals. Do the big stuff—fall in love, have adventures, try to move mountains, break rules, dream bigger and bolder. But don’t forget the little stuff, too. Be a little kinder. A little more thoughtful. A little more aware of the awesomeness of this life. Because it matters.

I hope in 2015, we remember to love the little moments that create the middle, because the middle is our life. It's those little pieces that make a big difference...a kind word, going out of your way to make someone else happy, or even $1.

It doesn't have to be big to be important. And it doesn't have to be perfect to be meaningful.

Maybe 2014 was your best year ever—awesome! Maybe you dream of 2015 looking a little different. Regardless, I hope we love the middle as much as the end, appreciate the little stuff, and do whatever we can to put a little bit of goodness out.

May this year be magic for you. 

Let's toast to the middles. 

Rainesford Alexandra
Communications

The Monday Life
@Rainesford