Nov 232014

Hello everyone! Great news from the running trails… our team is beginning to grow, and we have already put thousands of dollars on the board for for Gilda’s Club Nashville.

Wait a second.

You might not be aware of Gilda’s Club and their mission. Gilda’s Clubs are located in many cities around the country, named after the late and truly great Gilda Radner. Gilda, fighting ovarian cancer, wanted to do something for other people fighting cancer. So, along with her husband Gene Wilder, they decided to launch something great– where everyone would be welcomed warmly and aided in their battle against a wretched disease, which rages on, 25 years after Gilda passed. She died in 1989.

Gilda Radner, one of the original SNL cast members, would be smiling down if she got a glance at the Gilda’s Club in Nashville. The building sits on Division Street right off of Music Row. You may have heard that there’s a hotel going up right beside it (Lord knows we need more hotels, condos, apartments and overrated-overpriced-pretentious restaurants for the many who are moving to ‘It City USA’).

When I fought lymphoma I was actively involved with Gilda’s Club.  However, I didn’t want to be at first. The day I walked in, because a friend talked me into going, it was early on in my battle. I was skinny, weak and didn’t really want to talk with anyone.

I sat on one of their big comfy couches, my ball-cap pushed way down over my eyes, and the Gilda of Nashville, Felice, sat down next to me. I did not want to be there, but she was really nice, in a caring way. She asked about my cancer, what was going on, and how she could help. I told her I was visiting because I promised someone that I would, but that I probably wouldn’t be coming back. Even though I was pretty close to the grave at that point, I was still in that denial stage that hits a big percentage of cancer patients. I didn’t want to say the word. I didn’t want to be around a bunch of other people that were also dealing with cancer. I wanted to be in one place…bed.

I have forgotten so much that transpired during that period. Other memories are etched in stone, like a bunch of selfies stuck in my brain. This recollection happens to be one of those. “You promise me you’ll come to a support group here just once, and if you don’t like it you never have to come again.

When a passionate woman gives me an order I’m not one to fight, so I told Felice I would.

She wrote down the date and time of the meeting, handed it to me, and said she’d be expecting me. I almost backed out. The meeting was on the same day as a chemo treatment and I wanted to rest. But a promise is a promise, so I got myself there. After that, I went every week for the next 2-years at least, continuing until after I was in remission. Not only that, but no matter how sick I was on meeting day; I couldn’t wait to get there. Gilda’s became a ‘safe place.’ You could tell everyone you were sick of the whole stupid ordeal– or felt like absolute dog crap– they’d understand. We told each other our major fears and what we were angriest about. There was never any judgment or lectures, just support.

After I started getting healthy, I started running again. To say that was a long and trying process would be an understatement. I ran my first half marathon in my new life, in 2009. Almost exactly 2 years after going into remission. The battle to run again was not as difficult as fighting lymphoma, but pretty damn hard. I would jog for a couple minutes, my legs would shake…sometimes I’d fall from being dizzy. I’d get up—do it again—then it was 5 minutes, 10 minutes, and finally, a mile.

I think that anyone that wasn’t affected by cancer doesn’t understand and finds it difficult to wrap their mind around this one big fact; the damage from chemo stays with you forever, many symptoms don’t show up until years later. Eventually I did the half marathon and then other races. To date, I have run 6 full-marathons since going into remission. I have also raised a good amount of money, about $100,000. All of it went to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and their fitness program Team in Training. Later on I became a Coach, and became very attached to the program. And no secret here, in some ways, I still am.

When I was with TNT, I’d see Felice from time to time and I’d feel guilty (I grew up Catholic). Once she kiddingly said something like, ‘when are you going to raise a little money for us?’

Last summer I suggested to my running friend and good pal, Jim Brown (who lost his awesome wife Dori to cancer), that we try to start up a little team, train for a marathon, and raise some money for Gilda’s. Jim has already raised thousands for Gilda’s, and for TNT. But he immediately said he was in. From there we contacted other running friends/fundraisers, and started recruiting. My first call was to Ted Sanft because I can’t help start a team without Ted. I’m not very technical. He does all of that for me (including the posting of this blog). I thought that Ted, Jim and I would balance each other well. Jim is Mr. Positive; a great guy, fantastic fundraiser & recruiter, and always even handed yet passionate. Ted does all of those technical things I just mentioned and a lot more. He’s also a great fundraiser and recruiter. My role… is to be a major pain– make people feel guilty if they don’t join the team, fail to show up on Saturdays etc.

But here’s the deal. I brought them both in, we enlisted a bunch of teammates, chose a marathon to run (Louisville), and then I abruptly decided that this was not a good time for me. “I’m out boys.” Yes, I left my buddies holding the bag, after suggesting the whole thing in the first place.

Truth is, I’m not in the music industry anymore, and besides, I have tapped out my friends. I’ve been to the well way too many times. And I’m really in a place where a lot has to be worked out personally. I wasn’t up for raising money for anyone, no matter how great the cause, even Gilda’s.

Then I thought about Felice, promising her that I would raise money for them at some point. A promise is a promise, and even though a lot of people don’t want to hear about it anymore—I’m still a cancer survivor—stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I know that I probably can’t raise as much money as I did in my best seasons with TNT; $25,000 when I ran Dublin, $40,000 (with Ted), the year we were supposed to run New York (Sandy got in the way), plus $17,000 here, $11,000 there. I have bugged a lot of people for donations.

But what the hell.

They can say no—some already have. Other old friends just ignore, maybe even discard my emails. That’s not okay with me either…I take everything personally. On the other hand, many have already come through again. They’ve been there time and time for me. I’m hoping others will too. Like I said, I’m still a cancer survivor, so I’ll keep asking. Truth is, I don’t know how many more marathons I can do—we never know when it’s our last race. Also….Gilda’s is a great cause… and way, way, way too many people are still fighting cancer.

So here we go people.

We‘re already out there on the trails—slogging it out. We ran 8-miles this morning. I use that word ‘run’ in the loosest way. To be honest, it’s kind of ugly—Lord knows I feel chubby…older…fatigued…etc. But life, as in fighting cancer, is about putting one foot in front of the other, for as long as we possibly can.

Also, the great news about this, our little team has already raised over $8,500 for Gilda’s Club Nashville. That’s awesome, and it’s mainly because of Ted and Jim B. I’m doing okay– I climbed over $1,000 this week. Plus…what I am really excited about, we have some very good fundraisers on our team. They are just about to get rolling. I’m really happy that we’ve got Erin Stryker with us…that girl can raise some money, and we have the great Carol Rolfes, my awesome friends Jenaca Smith, Kristen Parker, and many more that I’ll be talking about in future posts. All of these folks are the kind of people that chip and help, even if it’s someone else’s fundraising event, like a concert or auction. They’re really selfless, generous folks; the likeminded type of soul that gravitates to a journey like this. And that’s the best part about showing up early on a Saturday morning to bang out 10 miles or so, even when it’s 20-degrees and snowing.

We’re gonna make some noise with this group. It’s TEAM DORI by the way, named in honor of Dori Brown, Jim’s late wife. She fought this horrible disgusting thing with more dedication, strength, and grace, then anyone I have ever seen. I know Jim and his family miss her terribly. I only knew her a short time. But I do too. In fact the last time she texted me; shortly before she passed—she said, “keep raising money.”  And how do you say no to a tough passionate woman. You can’t.

Now I’ll ask you. Can you give a few bucks?

I know it’s the holidays—but it’s never a good time to ask for money. If you can give $5 or $500, we appreciate it just the same. Just click this link and give what you can to a great cause… and thank you!


Donate by clicking HERE!

  2 Responses to “Here Comes Team Dori”

  1. Jim, you are both hero and miracle! My Charlie and I briefly experienced Gilda’s Club … a very special place. Great work, Team Dori!

    • You’ve always been such a great support in my fundraising and my events Claire. I so appreciate you. And since a lot of my former donors are sick of hearing from me, anything you can do to spread the word would be so appreciated!

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