Robins

Last leg of the run………….

It is hard to even put words on paper about how I feel writing the final blog for Sophie’s Run II. Many have asked me if I am happy that the run is over. To be honest, it is bitter-sweet. Physically, the running was getting tougher and tougher. I was starting to hit a wall and was happy that a break was near. Emotionally, I am not sure I am ready for Sophie’s Run to be over. I feel a little depressed that we are home and another successful run has come to an end. I have already gone out for a short run today to help me get through this feeling of sadness that Sophie’s Run II is now completed.Today’s run helped me prepare for the future and the many wonderful awareness opportunities that have developed throughout this run.

Arriving to Parliament Hill was everything and more than I expected. I felt many mixed emotions as we made our way to an entourage of family and friends waiting to hug us at the finish line. The feeling I had finishing at Parliament Hill was different than when I finished in New York City. I feel that I have come a long way in the 8 years since our last run. New York City was an awareness run, but it was also a way for me to escape the pain I didn’t want to deal with after my mom passed away. Finishing at Parliament Hill was different. I finally feel like I am exactly where I should to be in a life without my mom. I have now accepted she is gone and that I cannot bring her back. This acceptance has helped me to finally enjoy my life. Living life doesn’t mean I have forgotten about her. Living my life means that I am keeping her memory alive.

A few of my close friends have shared their experiences with me about losing their moms. One of my closest friends, Debbie, lost her mom to cancer as well. I was lucky to have met her mom. A beautiful and talented lady who made beautiful quilts. Even though her mom has passed on, her quilts are keeping many people warm and enriching their lives in ways they may not know. My friend Meaghan has told me about how ladybugs remind her of her mom. Every time I see a ladybug, I think of Meaghan and her mom. As I was packing for Sophie’s Run II, I found two ladybugs in my room. I smiled because I somehow felt that it was a sign that the run was going to be ok and that I would also find signs of my mom along the way. My sister-in-laws sisters told me how a “dime” reminds them of their mom and another close family friend is reminded of her aunt through chipmunks.  Until you have lost someone near and dear to you, you don’t realize how a loved one finds ways to let you know they are still in your life and watching over you. Every time I see a robin, I am reminded of my mom. She used to sit looking out our kitchen window at the robins, often calling my brother and me up to see them. On Sunday, our second last run, a robin flew by and landed on the patch of grass beside the sidewalk we were running on. I couldn’t believe how my mom knew to come and visit me right at that moment. I smiled and quickly realized that she is still with me……..guiding me through the next stage in my life.

I have many people to thank for their support, kindness, and love. I will be thanking each and every one of you individually. I would like to thank my Dean Susan Somerville for being the first person to say yes to Sophie’s Run II. Without her believing in me, I would not be here writing this blog to you all today. I am honoured to also call Susan my friend and the words she spoke to me at the finish line will forever be with me.
To my partner in crime, Natalie Atkinson, you truly are my other hero. To take time off work to support me on two Sophie’s Runs, how do I even begin to thank you. You are a beautiful soul and more importantly a beautiful person. Those whose lives you have touched are the lucky ones. I am lucky that you allowed me into your life. Thank you xoxo

To Mary Jo, thank you for being our third party for the run. Taking time off work to be our driver and leading us to the end was a difficult task. Thank you for everything.

To my friends and family, thank you for all of your support. I have personal messages for you all because you have all touched my life in a special way. I am beyond thankful.

Until the next run or journey, my blog will be put on hold. Thank you for allowing me into your lives and for following Sophie’s Run II.

Xoxo
Nicole

Celine Dion

For everyone who knows me well, I couldn’t go close to a month without writing a blog titled “Celine Dion.” There have been so many topics I have thought about throughout the past few weeks, but sharing my memories about Celine are truly some of the fondest memories I have with my mom.

We are currently less than 20km away from Ottawa. Many have asked how I feel. Physically, the running is starting to take a toll on my body. Although my body is almost programmed to run 20km/day now, it has become a mental game throughout the past two weeks. My feet are getting sore and I change my shoes often because it gives me something different to look forward to. On my toughest days, I think about when my mom was sick. During her chemo treatments, she was very sick. She would lie on the couch and often would refuse to eat. When she finally felt hungry, she would crave foods that she normally would never eat. I will never forget the time she asked me for a banana cream pie. During her toughest days I always wanted to make her happy. I used to panic and get frantic if I couldn’t find her exactly what she wanted. When I would find the foods she wanted to eat, I felt like I was truly “on top of the world,” only to find out a few minutes later that she couldn’t eat it because it tasted like metal. Everything tasted like a chemical. I often felt defeated when my mom wouldn’t eat. She tried and tried but some days were just so hard for her. I think about these times often on my toughest runs. I truly have nothing to complain about. I still have the ability to run and make a difference. A little bit of pain is nothing compared to the pain someone with chemotherapy goes through. They are the true heroes.

I might have listened to Celine Dion a few times on our run to Ottawa. Many wonder why I am such a “Super Fan” of Celine Dion. It is fitting that I write about her today because she has taught me a lot about a lot about how to treat others.

I will always remember the first time I heard Celine Dion sing. I was watching the tv show “Life Goes On” with my mom. We watched tv together often. It was our thing to do before it was time for me to go to bed. There was a song at the end of an episode that I liked. I asked my mom if she would take me to the music store to buy her tape. Off we went and before I knew it I was also going to my first concert. I truly know how much my mom loved me. There we were sitting up in the stands at CNE Grandstand, anxiously waiting for Celine Dion to come on stage before Ray Charles. I truly was the youngest person in the audience, but it didn’t matter. My mom was so excited and happy for me. As both of my parents were always there to support my brother and my interests, I couldn’t have asked for a better person to bring me to my first Celine concert. Over the next few decades, I went to a small handful of concerts (ok, for those that know me, a handful is quite a few……often going two nights in a row when she was in Toronto). I will never forget the day my dad came home to give me one of the best surprises of my life. He not only handed me 4 tickets to see Celine at the Molson Amphitheatre, but he also told me that we would all be going backstage with the opportunity to meet her. You could just imagine how excited I was. Myself, my friend Kim, and our moms headed into Toronto (me in my new outfit lol) for the opportunity to meet Celine Dion. I had my gift, card, and new outfit all ready. I remember sitting nervously through the concert. I was worried about what I would say to Celine Dion. My mom always had a calming feeling about her. She kept reassuring me that everything would be ok and that I would know what to say when the moment came. I also think deep down that I did amuse her with how nervous I was:)  After the concert, we all went backstage and patiently waited. We stood in line and before I knew it, I was right in front of Celine Dion. I completely froze and could barely speak. Although I was mad at myself for not saying what I wanted to, Celine exuded the same calm that my mom did. She stood there and waited for me to try to finish what I wanted to say. For someone so famous, she was so humble and took the time for me.

Fast forward a few years later……….don’t worry, my Celine blog is almost over:) I found out that Celine was coming to a grand opening at one of her restaurants for a photo/autograph session. I told my dad that I was going to sleep in my car so I could be first in line to meet her. My dad was not going to let me sleep alone all night in my car. It was not my dad’s turn to take me to one of my Celine Dion events. Without hesitation, he drove and slept with me in front of her Nickels Restaurant. We woke up the next morning and were first in line to meet her (we might not have needed to sleep in our car). The owner recognized us from the night before and gave my dad and I a table right beside where Celine was going to be sitting. I write about Celine in my blog because her music has been instrumental in the good and sad times in my life and as a human, she has taught me a valuable lesson about how to treat others. When Celine arrived at her restaurant, we were told that you could either have a picture or an autograph from her (they wanted to have as many fans meet her as they could). That morning, Celine found out that my dad and I slept in our car to meet her. When I walked up to see her for the second time (this time not as nervous as I was the first time), she stopped the line and told security that I could have extra time with her. I had the time to speak to Celine, pose for a picture, and she also signed the picture of the first time her and I met. I am forever grateful that Celine took the time for me that day. She taught me that no matter how busy we are in our daily lives, we should never be too busy to tell those we love how much they really mean to us. At school, I make sure I take time for my students, even though I don’t like to travel, I make sure I visit my family in Texas, even though we don’t speak every day, I make sure I message my friends something funny to let them know I am thinking about them, and even though my dad and I are like an episode of The Odd Couple, I make sure I tell him I love him at the end of every phone call or before I go to sleep. It has taken me a while to learn this lesson, but I am grateful that the two women (my mom and Celine) I have looked up to have always taken the time for me.

As we make our way to Parliament Hill on Monday, I won’t complain about the sore feet, but instead I will be grateful for the opportunity to run and for the reminder about how precious life really is. I will take the time to “be in the moment” and to thank my family and friends for all of their love and support.

Xoxo
Nicole

Always On My Mind……

Happy Mother’s Day to my angel in heaven.  Although today is usually a tough one, I am smiling as I think about the wonderful memories I have of you.  Although I wish you were still with us here today, I know that you are watching over us and guiding us through this journey of life.  Today’s blog is written on behalf of my brother, Jason.  I am thankful for my brother.  He keeps my mom alive by his warmth, kindness, and love for his family.  He is a wonderful father and someone who I am proud to call my friend.  His tribute to my mom below is beautiful xoxo

On behalf of my brother:

I still remember dancing with my mother to “Always on my mind” by Willie Nelson at my wedding.  This was one her favorite songs and every time I hear it, I think about the good times spent with her.  The walking in the door saying “what’s up mom?” and her responding “What’s down!” times.  The calling Debbie a saint for putting up with me times.  And of course the big smile on her face when she saw her first grandchild Cole.   It is funny how a song or lyric can bring back a memory.

I hear Always on my Mind on the radio a lot living in Austin and for some reason I think she brought me here to Texas.  I truly think my mother was guiding my family and me here.   It has made me stronger and helped me understand how precious family is.  Family first is how she lived her life and living in Austin has taught me that more than ever before.  Thank you Mom.

See, my mother is not gone she is just looking after us all in a different way.

With my sister she is the wind at her back, pushing her each kilometer.  Making her stronger with every stride.  Showing her that she came make it to the finish line.

To my father, she is the “I love you” and the “stop eating junk food” in his grandchildren’s voices:)

For my family, she is the Texas warmth and soul.   Always gifting us with amazing memories and songs.

I love you mom and will never forget you.  Happy Mother’s day…you will always be on my mind.

Love Jason

Betty’s Run

Today’s run was dedicated to a very special lady, Betty Johnson. Betty was my brother’s mother-in-law. My brother married into a family that meets every definition of what a family should be. I finally got the sister-n-law always wanted and luckily, I also was welcomed with open arms by her three sisters, her dad, and also by their matriarch, Betty. Betty holds a special place in my family’s hearts. Like my mom, Betty lived a very selfless life. There wasn’t a mean bone in her body. She treated everyone with respect and took time to be there for everyone in her life. Betty was a humble and gentle soul. My family and I miss her very much. Today’s run was dedicated in Betty’s memory. My blog today was written by her daughters and grandchildren. I am honoured, as my mom would also be, to have Betty a part of Sophie’s Run II.

Nicole, from your four sisters we are so very proud of you and know that you are an inspiration to us all. When reflecting on your first run with all of us being together in New York City, we would never have imagined that you would be running for our mom on this journey. Even though our Mom did not have your typical symptoms, an earlier colonoscopy may have detected the cancer, which shows the importance of sharing your experience and creating awareness of colorectal cancer.

We know you shared such a special bond with our Mom. When your Mom passed away she was there to support you through your good and sad times, but also when she became ill know that you were a huge comfort and support to her that we will always cherish.
As children we were so fortunate to be able to enjoy our grandparents that lived into their 90s. The hardest and saddest part for us all is not having our Mom see our children grow up. The time she spent with her grandchildren has left a lasting impression and instilled the values that were so important to her which they can now follow in her footsteps. Faith (Betty’s granddaughter) had an assignment at school and wrote about the “Most Important Adult” to her:

“The most important adult to me would be my Grandma. I called her Nanny. She was a very kind and helpful woman. She used to always volunteer at her church by cooking food and making costumes for their plays and nativities. She always put everyone before herself. She worked at a store and loved to sew. I wanted to be a fashion designer when I was younger so I loved watching her make clothes and costumes. When I was younger, my mom had to go back to work early so she would always drop me and my brother off to my Nanny’s house. I spent most of my time at her house because I loved sleeping over there. I would always secretly use her lipsticks, but she could tell because it was all over my face. My cousin and I used to show her fashion shows while we were dressed in her overly big dresses and shows. My brother, my cousin, and I were the oldest so while our aunts were with the younger kids, we would be over at her house. My Nanny created this nativity at her church that still continues today that is called “Walk to Bethlehem” and it occurs every November. She made me go in it every year because my brother and cousin didn’t like speaking or performing in front of an audience. She made all of the costumes and ran the whole thing.
She was important to me because I spent so much time with her and she was basically my second mom. As I said before, she made clothes and costumes so she taught me how to sew and know because I wanted to be a fashion designer. She taught me so many things growing up that have really helped me. I was really close to her because when I moved into my new house, her and my grandpa stayed in the in law suite.

In October 2011, my Nanny got colon cancer. I was devastated. She stayed really strong always smiling bug she got weaker and weaker. Eventually, they put her in a Hospice because she was really weak. My family and I visited her every day. I told her all of the stories that happened on my Ottawa trip, because this was around the time. Every night before I left, I would read her a prayer that came from her prayer book. One night I was with my aunt when we got a call from my mom. She was crying, telling us to get straight to the Hospice. We got there and she was really weak. My dad didn’t want me to see her like that so he took me and my brother home. She passed away that night on Monday February 17th, 2013 and I took it really hard. I looked up to her and because we were so close it took me a while to get back to myself again. Even though she’s not here anymore, I still consider her the most important adult to me because she’s taught me so much and made a big impact on my life.” By Faith Parsons, Betty’s granddaughter.

Our Mom was the kindest, loving and selfless person we knew. As her daughters we can only hope to grow into the person that she was. We are at peace knowing she was so strong in her faith……We Miss you Mommy……we love you, we miss you each and every moment of the day. I know you are with us and watching over us, protecting us and keeping us healthy and strong. We aspire to be you and follow in your footsteps. You are an inspiration to us and everyone that you have touched. We will always love you.

We as a family are honoured that you dedicated a portion of Sophie’s run in memory of our Mom Betty. Both our Mom’s are looking down cheering your girls on and we are all so very proud to call you one of our sisters.
Xoxo
Betty’s Daughters and Grandchildren

Sophie’s Angels

Sophie’s Angels

It is hard to believe that we are about ¾ of the way to Ottawa. Where has the time gone? Although we feel our toughest days are behind us, the next few days will be filled with excitement and sore feet as we make our way to Parliament Hill.

Even though we had two tough days of running in cold and rainy conditions (running on the side of a road in mud that sinks poses a few challenges), it was all worth it after being welcomed by Kingston General Hospital (KGH). We had the honour of being greeted by Matthew Del Grosso and Dr. Hugh Langley of KGH, as well, we met Dr. James J. Biagi, Deputy Head, Department of Oncology at Queen’s University. The warm welcome was beyond our expectations and a moment I will remember forever. If there is anything positive that I can take away from being touched by cancer, it is it the wonderful people I have met who are fighting to make a difference in our world. Thank you KGH for your support in helping to fight this terrible disease.

I have been thinking a lot over the past few days about my next blog. I pretty much write my blogs in my head while trying to forget the 20km ahead. Today’s blog is very special to me because I am writing it on what would have been my mom’s 69th birthday. I am thankful that my mom was able to live long enough to see my brother and I grow up into independent (my friends might laugh when they read about me being independent) young adults. Although this eases the pain, it still doesn’t take away the regret I sometimes feel about moving forward in my life without her. The “firsts” after losing a loved one are always hard to go through. I remember going to buy my mom a birthday card the first year after she passed away. I felt odd trying to find the perfect card for her. After I bought a card, I had planned to visit her grave and bring her a small coffee (black with just a touch of sugar). I wanted so badly to sit there and enjoy a conversation just like we had before she passed away. Unfortunately, I never made it to her grave. In almost 10 years, I have only visited my mom less than a handful of times. This bothers me since my mom made sure I promised to visit her after she passed away. One day I will visit and will make sure it will be often, but for now I am not ready to go. Although I have healed the anger that turned me into someone I barely recognized, I have yet to heal the part of me that acknowledges that my mom is truly gone.

I titled today’s blog “Sophie’s Angels” because there are three women I have thought a lot about during one of my runs this week. After my mom passed away, I had a wonderful support system from many of her friends and from my family. Although I pushed and resisted allowing many friends and family from being a part of my life, today I am thankful for the angels my mom left to take care of me. Selfishly, I only wanted my mom and not someone else to fill in. I thought that showing my love for my mom meant shutting other people out. I was wrong.

One of Sophie’s angels was my sister-n-laws mother, Betty. Betty was always there for me to talk to and to help guide me through many rough patches (you will read about her more in my next blog). Another of Sophie’s Angels in my life is my Chocha Pat. She is truly my mom’s sister and has been there for me my entire life. Just like my dad, she too has taught me about unconditional love. My Chocha Pat loves me like she loves her own children. Although I might have resisted in the beginning, it is healing to be hugged and loved the same way my mother loved and cared for me. Finally, my third Sophie’s Angel is Fran. I have lived in the same house for my entire life. Through the most important parts of growing up, I lived next door to the Prisniaks, truly remarkable neighbours. I never realized how close we were as neighbours until after my mom passed away. Fran, who had since moved to a different part of town, instantly took me on as her fourth daughter. The phone calls I missed from my mom were now from Fran calling to see if I was ok and if I needed anything. When my plate is too full, there is Fran helping me get through it all. She truly treats me like one of her own daughters and my relationship with her is a special one. I am thankful that I didn’t push these ladies out of my life and resist the love they all wanted and want to give to me on behalf of my mom. Accepting love from others does not mean that I have forgotten about my mom. My mom would not have wanted it this way. She would want me happy and I truly believe she handpicked these women to take on the roles that she was unable to fulfill on earth.

The best gift I can give my mom on her birthday is not material, but instead to continue to live my life the way she wanted me to, both happy and loved.

xoxo