Follow-up to The Live Fully 50
This year, I discovered that something remarkable happens when overwhelming grief is combined with the drive to accomplish a goal. Having lost my close friend Kathy to ovarian cancer in February, I wanted to hole myself up in my house and avoid anything I considered difficult (like interacting with people), but somewhere within I had just enough energy to run. It’s been a lifelong, familiar means of exercise for me. What seemingly little energy I had transformed into long, focused runs that had me mentally working through the memories of Kathy’s final days. I realized in order to function normally, I needed to get out there and move it.
For Kathy to die was a shock because she was very good at living. She would send me cards that said, “I’m so thankful to have you in my life,” and I knew she meant it. She filled her days with meaning by investing in people.
When someone you love has cancer, you might feel there is nothing you can do to make a real difference. The day I learned about Hello Gorgeous!, though, was when an opportunity presented itself to me. I simply visited their website and nominated Kathy for a makeover - and she was chosen! When we surprised her, she was walking to a meeting, looking tired and defeated. We’ll never forget how we saw her let out a heavy sigh. By the end of the day, Kathy’s funny, feisty personality had resurfaced as she bounced from guest to guest at her “reveal” luncheon following the makeover. She looked so polished and confident. Her makeup and new wig were so natural, enhancing her beauty. And her look was completed with a new outfit that she loved. Her special day was as much a gift to her loved ones as it was to her.
When Kathy died, I knew I had to channel my grief into something that gave me joy, as well as challenged me. When I think about Hello Gorgeous! it uplifts me. And I can’t think about Hello Gorgeous! without thinking about Kathy. I wanted to tell the world how these people made my friend feel so beautiful and adored. So, running for Hello Gorgeous! is what made sense to me. Running a distance that had mystified me after years of running marathons. 50 miles.
During my training, I felt close to Kathy because she didn’t know what her journey would look like, and neither did I. My challenge to myself to run 50 miles was a celebration of the gift of life and what people can do together to make life better for someone else. I knew I had the mental capacity to complete the challenge, but I couldn’t say with absolute certainty that I would finish. I was nervous. And I’m sure I was sometimes hard to be around because it was all I talked about. But taking this risk to help Hello Gorgeous!, and bringing people alongside me on the journey, was what brought me joy while I mourned.
Forty-seven days before my run, I made it public what I was doing, set a goal of raising $10,000, and I saw people give with such sincere generosity, my heart ached. A friend with an unemployed spouse and hospital bills gave what I thought was too much. But then I saw that this kind of generosity was sort of a trend. Countless people - some I’d never met - wanted to see my dreams come true. I heard stories of how cancer had touched their lives, how some of them knew women who had received a Hello Gorgeous! makeover, and from others, there was just sheer enthusiasm about my attempting to run 50 miles. In 47 days, any disenchantment I felt toward humankind fell away. I was humbled and awe-struck.
That support and encouragement carried me the entire distance. My feet felt lighter because of all the faces of loved ones I saw that day. I ran 50 miles, but the effort is a blur compared to the celebrating that happened leading up to, and on the day of, that monumental run.
My heart has been broken open and wide because of this experience. And I feel like it’s only a reflection of the generous hearts I’ve encountered. Last weekend at the Hello Gorgeous! annual luncheon, I was able to present them with a check for $17,049.24!
My life feels different since Kathy died. But I think I appreciate my life more because she wanted so much to survive. She lived fully, even in the darkest days, inspiring me to live that way too.
-November 14, 2013
Why 50 Miles?
Because it's time to go big! My friend Kathy Gribbin courageously fought a three-year battle with ovarian cancer. A few months before she died, I nominated her for a surprise makeover from Hello Gorgeous! of HOPE, Inc., and she was selected. They want women with cancer to feel beautiful, feminine and reminded of how loved they are. Kathy was surprised at work with flowers and chocolate and a big, "Hello Gorgeous!" by friends and stylists from The Beehive, an affiliate salon in South Bend. She received a facial, a manicure and pedicure, makeup, a new wig and a beautiful outfit - as well as a "reveal" party where 35 of her friends greeted her with "Hello Gorgeous!" This organization helped us celebrate Kathy in a profound way, and she loved every minute of it. She died on February 6, 2013. I've thought so often about what Kathy's surprise makeover meant to her - and what it means to the other women like her. So it's time for me to reach beyond what I know I can do. I've run 15 marathons, but to celebrate Kathy's life in my own way, and to give back to Hello Gorgeous!, I really need to go further.
Beyond 50 Miles
My goal is to raise $10,000. Kim and Mike Becker, the founders of Hello Gorgeous!, owned a large full-service salon in South Bend for ten years before selling it and committing to their mission: "To provide complimentary, professional makeovers and cosmetic education to any women battling any cancer free of charge in our Mobile Day Spa and affiliate salons."
- The average cost of a Gorgeous Visit is $700. (This doesn't include the cost of utilizing one of their Mobile Day Spas.)
- The average cost to set up an affiliate salon for one year's worth of Gorgeous Visits is $5,000. Their goal is to foster two affiliate salons in every city in the U.S. so they can help at least 500,000 women each year.
Learn more about this incredible organization here: http://hellogorgeous.org/
At the Heart of the Training
Kathy and the founders of Hello Gorgeous! have demonstrated what it means to "Live Fully." That's why I'm inspired to make an impact by using what I hold dear - my love for running.
- If you choose to donate, your gift will go directly to Hello Gorgeous! and you'll receive a tax deductible receipt.
- You'll also receive a unique perk in exchange for your gift! See column at right.
- Let others know that this is important to you and share my link with them. Thank you!