Monday, February 18, 2013

Jacksonville ~ 2013

~*~  If you are reading this blog for the first time, please go to  That this Part I of Melissa's blog.  B POSITIVE is Part II (this blog).  If you scroll down, the archives are on the right side of this page.  Melissa's last post was Christmas Eve, 2008, along with everything prior to that. (I have updated since then.)  This blog is STILL Melissa's.  I try to post what SHE would post...although I am not the writer she was.  I am just her mom who wants her legacy to live on...I hope you have lots of'll love her writing.  And you'll be laughing out loud.  Enjoy.  ~*~


Handed out some cards in Jacksonville, and I want to make sure "new" readers read from the beginning...

Now, if Fort were posting this, she would know how to put a link on the right side and post all the pictures there (like the one of our 3day in Atlanta)...but I don't know how to do that. So it's going here.  This is going to be a little long, but it will mostly be pictures with's fun.  And Melissa would like it, I'm pretty sure.

So.  Where did I leave off...ah, yes.  The challenge from Jen.  Before I go on with Jen's challenges, I have to save that she NEVER twisted my arm, and I didn't always complete the challenge to her COMPLETE satisfaction.  As you will see by the pictures.  If you can figure them out.  

But before I go THERE, I need to start with the first day, after we registered.  We went to lunch at JOE'S is a FISH HOUSE, and got our first sign from Melissa (just like last time...only then, it was Viva La Vida at the bar when we were toasting her!)...

         (when Melissa was little, I used to tuck her in and say "Good night, Pretty Girl!)

Oh, and it was Big Dog's Birthday (not).  So they sang to her...or they made HER dance.  And since Jen was so nice to let them know it was Big Dog's birthday, she got to join her...
                                          those are beaks and wings they are wearing...

                        Of course we had to make a visit to the beach on the FIRST day...
                        (this was right after we trained a little for Sunday...a REAL little. About 
                         a five minute walk down the beach....BRRRRRR.....

After lunch, we headed back to the hotel for naps, then happy hour..which we considered part of our training (we needed carbs, and doesn't beer have carbs???) Fort would like 
that too.

So that's when the challenges began, the first one being including myself in a group that didn't know ME, but had to convince them I knew THEM.  I'm not very good at that. But I did it. Kind of.

The next challenge, which was WAY to easy, was to go out into the ocean up to my knees.
In the dark.  In the VERY cold water.  (Ok, maybe I didn't walk in up to my knees...but the water SPLASHED up to my knees.  The waves were REALLY big and I didn't want to fall in!)

  I didn't get this guys name, but when I went up to the bar to buy a round of drinks, he asked about my shirt.   (If you can't tell, it has Melissa's picture from her 30th birthday on it)...I love when people ask about Melissa!  So I told him a group of us were in Jacksonville for the Breast Cancer Marathon, that my daughter died of breast cancer.  When I went back to the table, Jen gave me Challenge #3...Use your imagination on the next challenge...I did the best I could.  (and I'm not very good at THIS either...) Anyway, I told him I was "sitting on his lap" because my friend was going to make a donation to my daughter's scholarship fund if I did....

...this couple was sitting behind THAT guy.  They heard the story, and the next thing I know, this guy (and I am so sorry I didn't get his name!), came up to me, handed me a very generous amount of money and said "put this toward your daughter's scholarship fund"....WOW.  I hope they read the blog, because I want to say THANK YOU again! (Note...he and his wife were on a weekend getaway...and they are sporting FORT bracelets...)

Saturday night wasn't quite as busy...Sunday morning we were getting a 5 a.m. wake-up call!
So before we went to bed...everything had to be ready...after 37 years of marriage, you kind of start doing things alike.  Anal.  I know.

Didn't need the 5 a.m. wake up call.  We were both up every hour on the hour and around 4:45, the girl across the hall from us was running up and down the hall sobbing.  Have NO idea what was going on, another guy came out and asked if she was ok, and she went into her room and didn't see her again...
So in 1/2 an hour, we were ready.  Met Jen and Kary in lobby at 5:30, then off to pick up Big Dog...

and get a TEAM B POSITIVE team photo!

Kary, Pam, Donny, Jen, Michelle (Big Dog) note what Big Dog is wearing.

Back of Team B Positive shirts...

So we get in the van and head to the start of the race.  The race is at 7.  We are leaving at 5:30.  
About 2 miles from the start, traffic is stopped.  Moving at about, well, a mile an hour.
Literally.  The race was SUPPOSED to start at 7, but was moved back an hour because of the traffic.
Another friend of Melissa's was already there with her girlfriend, and kept us informed on what was going on, and the weather.  It was 27 degrees.  They were waiting in the cold because the race was on hold because of traffic.  We were sitting in a VERY warm car.  At about 7, Jen said "Aw, darn. We missed the warm up aerobics..." and Donny said "that's ok.  It's just for the pretty girls..."  Whoops.
He will never live THAT down.  Jen said "So, are you calling us ugly?"  Then he said "I meant to say it's for the pretty and skinny girls..."  Not good.  "So.  We're ugly AND fat?"  She changed his name in the car that morning...I'll just give you his new initials.  F.F.  

So by the time we get in the parking lot, which probably holds, oh, 7,000 cars, we are at the back of the parking lot.  About a mile from the start.  We get there just in time for the start @ 8.  But we don't start til about 8:15, because we are at the back with the slow group.  And it's still 27 degrees.

we don't LOOK that cold.  Do we?
look a little colder?  Donny has four layers on.

This is Kary.  She didn't wear a jacket OR gloves.  So she went "street shopping".  All that stuff that runners shed in the first mile, she was picking up.  She got some pretty good stuff, but couldn't find matching least they were the same color!  (See Big Dog to her left?  No jacket, no gloves, and SHORTS.  And it's 27 degrees.)

this is where we entered the beach.  It's called the "Memorial Mile".  One BEAUTIFUL mile on the beach...EXCEPT the wind chill factor was probably 10 degrees.  And the wind was blowing in our faces.  UGH.  (probably the reason I ended up with a sore throat and 102 fever!...but I had to SUCK IT UP and just do it!)

the Memorial Mile had the boards that were signed at the registration.  This is the one Donny signed...
(D. 410R 4 4T)

When Melissa and I did the 3 Day Walk in Atlanta (2007) she thought it would be fun to have a Scavenger we did one too.  Came up with a list the night before.  Jen, Kary & Big Dog won the Scavenger Hunt, and I don't have their photos yet, but here are a few things we were looking for...

a dog dressed in pink
                                                             the pink Firefighter
                                                       your picture with another team
                                                             a cross dresser in pink

we were also looking for a police officer in pink,  a participant drinking a beer (couldn't be anyone on our team, because that wouldn't be fair), someone with ANYTHING from OHIO on (OU, OSU)...Jen found all of them.  BUT, I found

triplet cowgirls

and the pink mohawk guy

AND the Dos Equis guy (on the porch, wearing a pink ribbon)...that should have been bonus points...

...and in the was ALL worth it.  Donny, getting his FIRST medal for a marathon (half)!

for our DAUGHTER.  Melissa Marie.  This is for YOU.

Jen & Big Dog finish...

unfortunately, I didnt get Kary crossing the finish line...but she did.  

and waiting at the finish line?  Jen's mom, Tess, and a former rugby friend of Fort's who now lives in Jacksonville, "T" and her girlfriend Vic (who also ran the full marathon!)
         "T" was a spectator...looks like she's dressed for winter, doesn't it?

It was an amazing journey...cold...NO.  FRIGID.  But worth every step.  Donny said a few things in the car that won't be forgotten...but something he said during the marathon that hit home, and was the reason we did this.

Three little girls were sitting at the curb handing out water to participants.  As we passed by them, Donny looked at me and said (with tears in his eyes)..."maybe they won't ever get breast cancer..."

And THAT is why we do this.  So some day, there will be an END to breast cancer.  And no other parent(s) will have to watch their child die of cancer.  


ok...just a couple more photos and that's it.  Probably for awhile.

a friend of Jen's wore our team shirt in a Relay for Life to support FORT!

We stopped in Charleston on the way home and had some creative fun in a little gift shop.  
I couldn't resist...

Donny wanted SO badly to stop in Charleston, and I was SO sick.  So he walked and I got out of the car to take this picture...

And a post on this blog is NEVER complete without pics of Andrew & Max.
Fort would have it no other way.

Andrew & Pamma at his Pre-school Valentines Day party!

PopPop & Max at Pre-School

Hug your kids.  Love them every minute of every day...and have a good one!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

DONNA Breast Cancer Marathon...AGAIN!

We are in Jacksonville for the third time for the Donna Breast Cancer Marathon.  This time, Donny is participating too...with me in the 1/2 marathon.  Today is registration day, so we are up early to get there before it gets really crowded.  In the past, there were up to 10,000 runners (or in our case, walkers).  We get our bib(#) and lots of free stuff.  It's a fun we get to meet a lot of people who are doing this for a reason too.  It's all about breast cancer.
I hope some day this disease is gone for good.  Maybe if a cure is found for breast cancer, it will help find a cure for other cancers.  That is my dream.

Just a little story about last night.  We are her with Jen (Smitty - one of Melissa's former rugby coaches), her mom and dad (our cheering squad), Michelle (Big Dog, who is doing the FULL marathon) and Di, and Kari (also doing the full) and Leslie.  After dinner, Jen, her mom and dad, me and Donny came back to the hotel bar.  Sat and told Fort stories and had a few drinks.  As we were sitting there, a group of people came in, obviously meeting friends/family they hadn't seen in awhile...there was lots of hugging and kissing and laughing...and then Jen put $50 on the table.

She said "If you go over to that table and start hugging people and acting like you know them, I'll put $50 in Melissa's Scholarship fund."  Donny immediately said "She won't do ANYTHING for $50!"
Ok, so I'm a little shy.  Plus I only had a couple of drinks, and it takes me awhile to build up the nerve to do something like that.   So as we were leaving, Jen pulls out the $50 AGAIN and says "Ok. That guy right there.  Go up to him and say "Hey Big Daddy, do you remember me?"  And I thought, what the hell, it's for Melissa.  She would be embarrassed, but she would laugh about it too.  So I did it.
This guy was a little shocked, I think, but then I heard coming from behind me..."Should I be upset about this?"  Obviously his wife.  Uh oh.  What was I thinking?  With so many people carrying guns these days, I could have been in BIG trouble.  But fortunately, it was a very nice group, and when we told them why we are in Jacksonville, and a little of Melissa's (FORT's) story, they were very understanding.  Including his wife.  Gave out some of her cards (and hopefully more readers of HER blog) and wishing I would have had some FORT bracelets with me.  I will bring them with me today and hopefully run into this group again.

(had to update...jen just sent me the photos that go with the REALLY happened...)

Hug for "Big Daddy"...note his hands are at his side...and to the far left, Donny is watching!

Now Jen wants a kiss on the cheek...he doesn't seem TOO unhappy...not sure about his wife!
(all this for a contribution to Melissa's scholarship fund...and this is as far as I will go, except, well, for $200 I might try to get one of the Donna Marathon post might be from behind bars!

Which brings me to the reason I am posting today.  If you are a NEW reader to this blog, please go to (note the #1 at the end of fortscancersux)...that is the original blog that Melissa started when she had her first reoccurrence.  She was on chemo and got mouth sores and was getting a lot of phone calls from friends.  She didn't (couldn't without a lot of pain) want to talk on the phone, so she started the blog.  She closed down that blog when she was applying for jobs, 6 months before she passed away.  She did get a job (her DREAM job) at the University of Cincinnati as the Marketing and Promotions Coordinator for the Co-op Program.  After she got the job, she started Part II of the blog.  Her last post on that was Christmas Eve, 2008.  She passed away January 3, 2009, two days before her 31st birthday.  That is when I started updating...

You REALLY want to read what SHE will laugh out loud.  She was in incredible writer and it is her legacy to us.  She titled the blog "B POSITIVE, It's not just my blood type"...that's how she lived her life on her journey with breast cancer.  Positive.  Every day.  She also always said "No matter how bad you have it, there is always someone who would love to be in your shoes"....she never felt sorry for herself, she continued to do what she always, play rugby, volleyball and love life.

I miss her every single minute of every day...and will continue to tell her story and share her blog. I hope you enjoy it.

(just a note:  as you are reading, go to the archives down the right side of the blog - the most recent post is always what you will read get to the beginning of the blog, you need go to the LAST date on the archives.

Gotta go...we're off to register!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

In like a lamb...out like a lion

That is actually how MARCH is supposed to begin and end.  For us, it was January.

As much as I struggle from November until mid January, this year I actually was able to get some things accomplished.

Beginning the month, I chose to stay in my pj's all day on January 3rd and just remember Melissa ALL day.  Sue called me first thing in the morning just to say that she knew today would be hard, but she was there for me.  We talked for a little bit, and that would be the last time I would talk to her.  Ever.  If I had known, I would have talked a lot longer than I did.

Saturday, January 5th was Melissa's 35th birthday.  We celebrated just like we always did with her, lunch at China Cottage.  When we got home, we got a call from the Nelson's, good friends of ours.
Greg was just released from the hospital that day, and wanted to go out to dinner.  So we met them.
Then they wanted to go to the boys basketball game, so we did that too.  (hard to believe I could do THAT much on Melissa's birthday, but we did).  When I got home, I realized that I hadn't talked to Sue all day, and that was very unusual...because I talked to her EVERY day for the last four years.  But especially because it was Melissa's birthday.

Sunday, January 6 we had the annual balloon release for Melissa's birthday.  I thought Matthew & Jen were bringing Sue.  They thought she was coming with us.  When I got  a call from dad asking why no one called him on Saturday, not even Sue , who called HIM every day too, I was concerned...I tried calling her, then I checked her FB page and it looked like she had posted something. So I wasn't as worried, but went to check on her later that evening anyway.  Her lights were on but she wasn't answering her phone, so I thought she was sleeping.

When she didn't answer her phone all day the next day, after Nick picked up the boys Donny and I went over, found someone to let us in the building, then pounded on her door - the dog was barking and the tv was on and she didn't answer.  I called 911, texted Matthew (her son, who had just moved back from Pittsburgh the week before after 4 years).  He got there before the police did...and found a way to get into the apartment where we found her.    After January 3, 2009, the worst day of my life.

We decided on a Memorial for Sue.  A good friend of ours, Mark Franz, helped us get Greenmont
Hall...I called him and he met me that day to sign all the papers.

This the Greenmont Hall at Sue's Memorial Service.  It was a Celebration of her life.  Mark is in the red shirt - his best friend of 50 years, Rick Fortener (Donny's cousin) is next to him in the blue shirt.

A week after the memorial, we had plans to go to Berlin, Ohio (Amish Country) for a high school basketball tournament that the Fairmont girls were playing in...and we decided to go.  I needed to keep busy THIS time.  It was a good diversion.

Firebirds honor Fort...
she would LOVE this!

Got home from Berlin in time for a 90th birthday celebration for my good friend Ruth's husband Bruce. 
One of the better days in January...(Ruth passed away 2 years ago from breast cancer also).

End of the month...not so good.  Mark (our friend who helped us get the hall for Sue's Memorial), was having chest pains on the last day in January.  Drove himself to the emergency room where he was admitted.  Ended up have a quadruple bypass the following Wednesday.  Things did not go well and he passed away that evening.  
The day before his surgery, Mark was getting all his things in order...including his wishes in the event that things did not  go well.  He requested a celebration "like Sue's"....  his memorial was last night and it was an amazing tribute to his life...a TRUE Franz celebration, with great stories, laughter (and of course a few tears, which from what I heard from a member of his family, he said "too many tears at Sues' memorial"...) Hard not to shed tears for someone who touched your life...

This is Mark with his daughters, Kristi and Nikki.  They both played on our softball team last summer...the reason we won the league AND the tournament (they both went to college on softball scholarships - Nikki graduated last year, Kristi is still playing)...he was SO proud of his girls.
After our softball games, we would go to Angi's (a local bar that sponsors our team)...and he would have us laughing the entire time we were there.  He told the best stories.
Donny and I were talking about this - the fact that his girls FINALLY got to play on this team.
It has been together for probably 30 years - starting with Marks sisters, sister in laws, then his is really a Franz family softball team.  About 30 years ago I was invited to play on the team and have been there ever since.  This is an AMAZING family.  Eleven kids.  The oldest, JEF, passed away several years ago.  Somehow, we have become a part of this family.  Melissa and John's first date was to Julie (Franz) and Kevin Cates wedding.  They were all at her and John's reception.  (Melissa always said we were "Franz wannabe's" was true.  They all helped out at Sue's Memorial.  We are so blessed to be part of that family.  

This is the Franz Women's team...nine of our players are Franz's. The rest are Franz wannabe's...

Mark will be missed...he was a generous, funny, caring man.
RIP Mark ~ you are loved and will be missed!


Despite the (for loss of a better word) crappiness of the month of January...I feel like I need to end with some smiles.  Melissa would have it no other way.

A "serious" family photo...or so I thought.  Andrew took this picture.

PopPop and Max bonding...with their tablets.

Working on a science project at Pamma's..."Will it sink, or will it float?"

Good times.

Pulled this one out of the archives...I took this photo on the beach in Provincetown (on Cape Cod)...
I'm guessing that these canoes are probably covered with snow right now...Provincetown is a beautiful place in the summer!

Sometimes I ask myself how am I going to get through another day....I am so tired of losing people that I love.  I don't know HOW I do it.  I just get up in the morning and put one foot in front of the other and go.  

I miss Sue and her phone calls. EVERY day.  

I miss Melissa.  Every minute of every day.  But I know I will be with her again.  I have Donny, and Nick, and Andrew, Max and Meredith.  And my dad.  And my sister Donna. And a lot of great friends.  So until it is my turn, I'll work to find a little happiness in each day.  And remember not to sweat the small stuff...and in my life, pretty much EVERYTHING is small stuff. 


It's what I live by.