If I had to describe this year in one word it’d be WHEW! Funny how 2015 came to an end and what I thought would happen didn’t. And that’s ok. What unfolded instead was a year full of meaningful experiences that I never saw coming which made them even better. Here are my Top 5 personal moments in 2016!
In December I had the honor of sitting on a panel to discuss my experience as a cancer caregiver and the importance of clinical trials. As a part of the Standing in the Gaap program, I was able to tell an audience of state representatives why it was important for them to take information about myeloma (the number one blood cancer affecting African Americans) and clinical trials back to their constituents.
In January, Bevy Smith invited me on her podcast to talk about widowhood, the part of married life no one ever thinks to talk about until it happens! I was nervous! But being transparent with her is easy and she helped make talking about the worst experience in my life a bit easier with the hopes that it’d help others.
When I was asked the chair this event I was excited, but scared because anyone who knows me knows I don’t half do anything. With the cause being near and dear to my heart, raising money for blood cancer research, I was totally dedicated. The group of candidate and my committee were amazing! I was so proud of all of them, especially the Man of the winner, Dr. Brian Berryman, my late husband’s oncologist and Shannon Ridley, my brother in law who raised over $60,000 on his own in memory of my husband.
Talk about an emotional roller coaster! When I was asked by Celgene to attend the dedication of a conference room they’d named in honor of my husband in their new building, I didn’t know what to expect. I was stunned!
While I looked forward to seeing my youngest son graduate from high school, what happened next is by far the biggest moment of 2016 for me! Less than week after he walked across the stage to receive his diploma, my son was drafted by the New York Yankees. We were both stunned when it happened, even though we knew a week prior it was a possibility.
Thank you to those of you who kept up with me during 2016! I didn’t blog as much as I’d hoped, but I had a few good excuses. In 2017 I will be here more! Happy New Year to you all! I wish you nothing but peace, prosperity and positive thoughts!!! See you next year! xo
September is a meaningful month for me because it’s Blood Cancer Awareness month. It’s no secret that I welcome any reason to engage in conversation about blood cancer and share information, especially Multiple Myeloma. With events like the North Texas Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Blood Cancer Conference coming up on September 10th, and so much more, this month will be have me busy. There’s also the Meet Us at The Bar event I’m hosting to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital on behalf of Off the Field. But as I get all fired up over those events, I have to admit that last month was remarkable too, quite to be honest.
August was the best kind of blur. I spent the start of last month jumping headfirst in to an event I’d always wanted to attend, but never had the opportunity to, the National Association of Black Journalist (NABJ) convention. This year it was a joint convention, they’re partnered up with the National Association of Hispanic Journalist (NAHJ) making Washington D.C. quite to hub for media folks for several days.
As a newbie, I game planned, wanted to be a sponge, put myself out there and take it all in. I came back to Dallas inspired and feeling invigorated…as well as preparing to hit the convention again in 2017 when it’s in New Orleans. The opportunity to learn from and meet some of my industry favorites let me immediately realize importance of attending the conference. I’d always wanted to, but life happened. The week my youngest was set to graduate from high school a tweet about the NABJ conference just happened to pop up on my timeline. I immediately went to the website, booked my trip and the rest is history. I call it in investment in myself, I trust me, won’t miss another one.
This year Bar Method Plano is partnering with Off the Field, Players’ Wives Association to support our registration push for the St. Jude Walk/Run To End Childhood Cancer. Show up in your yoga pants and socks and be prepared to sweat it out for a great cause! We’ll be there getting our legs ready for the big event!
The Bar Method is famous for creating long, firm thighs, lifted seats and flat abs. It is a fun, high intensity, no-impact 1 hour class combining isometrics, interval training, dance conditioning and physical therapy. Your muscles will become more toned, sculpted and elongated, and your stamina and flexibility will increase.
Reserve your spot today and 100% of the proceeds will benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. There will also be information for you to sign up for the Walk/Run to end Childhood Cancer taking place on Saturday, September 17, 2016 in Victory Plaza.
Bandier, the first curated luxury fitness, fashion, and music boutique located in Highland Park Village, will be on with a pop up shop and special offer to registered attendees.
SPACE IS LIMITED!!! Register today and get your space at the bar saved at the Early Bird rate of just $45!
The registration fee will increase to $60 once the reserved early bird spots are snapped up.
While digging through a box I came across a dvd I hadn’t laid eyes on in six years. It contained a few video clips from my husband’s NFL playing days, between 1993-2001. I popped it in the disc drive and waited for the memories to come flooding back. It was great to seeing him in action. The video had no sound making the images more powerful. I studied him.
Back then I knew less about football. I understood the basics, but in all honesty it was just his job to me. I hated being asked, “What’s it like being married to a football player?!” My answer was always the same, “Well I’ve never been married to anyone else so I don’t have anything to compare it to.” I was honest. I didn’t. Since that time my football IQ has raised significantly. When we were in the thick of things I didn’t get it, had no real appreciation for where we were in our lives or where we’d be going. Chalk that up to youth.
During his time with the Denver Broncos when he went to work, I went to school. I was studying journalism at the University of Colorado, I wanted to be a news anchor. We got married between my junior and senior year, so while my classmates got out of class and went to hang out with friends, I drove home to my husband. My concerns? Making sure dinner was ready and knowing all about who the Broncos would be playing on Sunday. That was it. HBO’s Inside the NFL was my favorite form of reality TV.
I’ll never forget one of my professors standing up in front of the class to tell us what to expect after graduating with a degree in journalism. He ran the list down just like this:
I did my internship at the NBC affiliate in Denver later that year. After it ended I couldn’t watch a local newscast without picking it to pieces. It was due in part to something I heard while manning the phones in the newsroom, “…if it’s not dying or bleeding, I don’t want to know about it.” Ughhh. Hearing those words from the news desk editor made my zeal for being an anchor wane. Needless to say, my dreams of being an anchor all but ended there. Elijah’s job meant I didn’t have the flexibility to establish myself in the news industry and I wasn’t sure if that was the right path for me anyway. I put my career aspirations on the back burner and focused on our family without regret.
I felt like if ever given the opportunity to jump into journalism like I’d originally wanted to, becoming an investigative reporter would suit me. I’d want to tell the story from top to bottom, identify the good guys from the bad and learn what makes them tick. Unlock mysteries. Solve problems. Oooh.
To find this dvd, reminding me of our football life just days before I head to NABJ, is a bit symbolic, perhaps a sign. It reminded me of what was and will always be most important, family. It also let me know that some endings aren’t endings at all, they’re detours. Maybe I needed to live some life to make me a better storyteller. Maybe I needed some depth. Whatever the reason, I’m embracing it. It’s time to pack my suitcase and prepare to dive in.
When I lost my husband Elijah to cancer, I vowed I’d always stay connected to the cancer community. We’d met some remarkable people during his diagnosis and treatment, people that became family. With there being no cure for his type of cancer, called myeloma, but several treatment options that can leave patients and caregivers confused, anything I could do to help those facing what we’d experienced, I’d do.
So when I was asked to chair the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society – North Texas’ 2016 Man & Woman of the Year campaign, I was honored and excited, but nervous (LLS also serves myeloma patients). Sure I’ve orchestrated and participated in different fundraising efforts for other organizations over the years, but this was extremely personal. Two of the candidates were very special to me. They were my husband’s younger brother, Shannon Ridley (pictured above next to me) and his oncologist Dr. Brian Berryman, who lost his mother to myeloma (pictured below). There were eight candidates in total, all of which were heroes in my eyes for stepping up to the plate to fund raise for blood cancer research. The myeloma connection between Shannon, Dr. Berryman and myself had me particularly emotional though, all the way up to the night of the Grand Finale. That’s where we learned how much money the candidates raised during the 10-week period.
The nature of the campaign is suspenseful. The men compete against each other, the women compete against each other, but none of them have an idea of how much the others have raised until the very last moment of the night. The man and woman who raise the most money walk away with the titles. One of the incentives candidates were given was that if they raised a minimum of $50,000, they would have a research grant named in honor of someone of their choice. It could also be earmarked for certain type of cancer if they’d prefer. So to learn that night that my brother-in-law, through the support of his wife and friends, surpassed his goal of $50,000 and that Dr. Berryman did as well and ultimately walked away with the Man of Year title, made me especially proud. Helping those affected by cancer is important to me, but having the opportunity to impact the myeloma community is a passion. Watching what the disease did to my husband just a few years after he’d retired from the NFL will always burn in my stomach and serve as a reason to stay involved.
I’m appreciative of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society – North Texas staff, the Man/Woman of the Year committee and the candidates: Loan Huynh (2016 Woman of the Year), Amanda Whitelaw, Leigh Costa, Jeanne Buck, George Meza and Michael Douglas. With this event in the books I’m already looking forward to the next time I can do something special for my cancer family.
Video by Rafael Barlowe
Christian Louboutin opened its doors after hours to host a special shopping night benefiting the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of North Texas. Guests were served bubbles (champagne) and desserts to enjoy while they shopped. Louboutin donated 10% of purchases back to LLS.
A special thanks to the Louboutin team for helping coordinate this event and giving back to cancer community. This meant a lot to me and LLS!
I had the pleasure of moderating the Mogul Moms panel during the Mommy & Me Dream Bigger Tour that made its way to Dallas this past weekend. The brainchild of Sherrie Walton, she assembled an amazing team of mothers who are entrepreneurs as well as kidpreneurs, young ladies who have started their own businesses. Walton brought them all together to share stories about the experiences and offer advice for other mother’s and daughters who attended the conference.
Guest speakers included Sandra Yancey, creator of the eWomenNetwork, Kim Gagne, Emmy award winning producer for the Steve Harvey Show, Nikki Woods of Nikki Woods Media and the Tom Joyner Show, Jacquelyn Aluotto, director of FUBU TV Socially Conscious Entertainment division and more. The tour is set to continue on to San Antonio and other cities, visit www.DreamBiggerTour.com for more information.
2016 North Texas Man & Woman of the Year (MWOY) Chair Kimberly Alexander has been a driving force in the recruitment of the 2016 MWOY candidates and the success of this campaign. Today marks the midpoint of the campaign and Kimberly stopped to reflect on what brought her to this event and what she expects to see in the final five weeks.
Why did you decide to chair the North Texas Man & Woman of the Year campaign this year?
I’d always said I wanted a more involved role in at least one LLS fundraising event, but I wanted it to be the right event. When it was announced that the North Texas Chapter was adding the MWOY campaign, the significance of it meant a lot to me. With it being the LLS’s highest honor (being named the National Man or Woman of the Year), I wanted to be a part of making it successful and seeing it grow. I enjoyed being on the host committee for the inaugural event last year and I’m excited to be chairing this year.
Tell us about your personal connection to one of the candidates this year.
I have personal connections to several of the candidates, but the one closest to me is my brother-in-law, Shannon Ridley. He’s my late husband’s younger brother and I’ve known him since he was 16 years old. Elijah loved him so much and I’m so excited that he’s gotten involved with this cause as a way to honor Elijah too. I have to stay neutral though. I’m super excited about all of the candidates because every dollar they raise will support blood cancer research and ultimately I’d love it if it lead to a cure for multiple myeloma.
What impresses you most about the current group of MWOY candidates?
What impresses me the most is the diversity of the group. I think it says a lot about blood cancer actually, it’s an equal opportunity offender and the candidates reflect people who have touched by it enough to commit to making a difference.
What advice would you give candidates during the final five weeks of this campaign?
Keep spreading the word! Continue drumming up support because every dollar raised is not only a vote, but an additional dollar towards research, all the way up to the grand finale on June 18th! While the title is the ultimate goal, their involvement alone is helping cancer patients and families, and that within itself makes them a winner.
It’s official! The 2016 Man/Woman of the Year campaign is underway which means the candidates have hit the ground running with their fundraising efforts. They have 10 weeks to raise as much money as possible and that will determine who will walk away with the LLS’s highest honor of Man and Woman of the Year.
Join us June 18th at the Renaissance Hotel in Dallas for the Grand Finale! Click here for tickets and table sales! I look forward to seeing you there!
Back in September of 2015 my friend, Pat Killingsworth, contacted me about participating in his annual Myeloma Beach Party in 2016. It’s an event where myeloma patients and caregivers come together to share experiences, fellowship and learn helpful information about myeloma. I gladly accepted and we briefly talked about it when I saw him in October and December.
Pat, like my late husband, was a myeloma patient. He was well known in the cancer community for being very transparent about his treatment and sharing information about myeloma treatments via his blog. In January of this year Pat shared that he was having some health issues, but that’s relatively common for myeloma patients. It’s a roller coaster for those dealing with the disease. Despite not feeling well he continued to post and keep his friends and family up to date. However, he took a turn for the worse in February and sadly, he passed away on his 60th birthday. I was heartbroken because I never saw it coming. I regretted not spending more time with him when I saw him two months earlier.
To my surprise, just days after his passing, I received an e-mail from Pat’s wife Patti (in photo) asking if I could still be involved in their event. She saw my name in his notes and reached out. I couldn’t say yes fast enough! This past weekend she hosted the event, along with several supportive friends and family. I spoke about my experience of being Elijah’s caregiver and had the opportunity to visit with old friends and make a few new ones. On the last night a memorial was held in Pat’s honor…it was more like a celebration of life, filled with funny stories and an outpouring of admiration for his contributions to the myeloma community.
I was appreciative of the opportunity to share my story with the audience, I knew they’d understand my perspective. Realizing after my presentation that Pat and my Elijah both passed from aneurysms really caught me by surprise. Neither Patti nor I knew in advance that our myeloma experiences had that in common. It served as reminder the importance of being open, authentic, and transparent because you never know how your truth may help others.