I never in a million years would think that I’d be able to raise $50,000+ for the LLS, but this season it happened. I had one goal in mind and I not only nailed it I CRUSHED it. Thanks to all of those that donated, those that believed in me and solicited their friends and family members for me. To say that I’m thrilled would be an understatement. I’m a mixed bag of emotions. It’s hard enough to be in DC in the same exact hotel on the same exact week that Gary and I were here the very first time with Mikey, but to know that I’ve got a medical grant in his name makes this all so bittersweet. He’d never have thought in a million years that a medical research grant would ever be named after him, and I made that a reality. It wasn’t something on his bucket list, but it was on mine the minute I knew that there would be a half marathon in DC and Team in Training would be training for it.

Tonight I will be going to the inspiration dinner like I do before every TNT race and I’ll be going in there as the #1 fundraiser for this event in the entire nation, and tomorrow morning I will run DC like I’ve never run before. Tomorrow’s run and this entire weekend has been about the man that I married that lost his fight to lymphoma. I want nothing more than a cure to be found so that no one else has to endure the loss that my family has had to endure.

May the Gary Thomas Zullo Research Grant be THE money that the doctors need to finally put an end to blood cancers once and for all!

Dear Lymphoma…

When I was younger I was told that HATE was such a harsh word to use, so I did my best to not use it, but today I say screw what I was told as a kid because I HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE You! Back in 2010 when you took my husband on New Year’s Day I was so numb from the loss that I couldn’t yet understand the depths of my hatred towards you, but I went on because that’s what us widows-single-parents now have to do, chug forward because you really don’t have time to grieve when you have a 2 year old wondering why you are sad. I drowned myself in everything that I could for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society because I refused to have another family walk in MY shoes. My horrible shoes, those that you wouldn’t even wish your worst enemy to walk in.

I could have been the bitter widow…the one that said why help the LLS? They sure as hell didn’t help save Gary’s life! Instead I felt this need, this desire, to make sure that no one else had to go through the loss that we did.

You’d think that my family had enough of you when you took Gary’s life, our head-of-household, my rock, the only father that Mikey would ever have, but no Lymphoma apparently you weren’t done with my family. It’s almost like I was mocking you with all of my fundraising efforts for the LLS, so instead what did you do? You attacked another loved one of ours, our beloved dog Max, and might I add your timing was IMPECCABLE! You decided to rear your ugly ass head the day before my Wine and Dine Half Marathon with Team in Training. I remember sitting in the parking lot of our hotel after having picked up my race bib and getting the dreaded call from the vet saying that they are pretty sure that Max had lymphoma. Ouch….LYMPHOMA! It could have been ANY other freaking disease or cancer but nope it just HAD to be LYMPHOMA!

What did I do then? Well the only thing I could do keep fighting. As long as Max felt better while getting his treatments I kept putting him through it. I knew I wasn’t buying a cure, I was buying time. I just didn’t know how much time I was buying in the end. I was delaying the hurt….the emptiness….the raw PAIN of loss again.

After 3 different chemo protocols and me silently waiting for Max to “show me a sign” that he was ready for me to let him go he did. This past Sunday he started getting nauseous, so much so that he threw up and then didn’t want to go anywhere near food for 3 days. Even with shots and medicines to help with his nausea and hopefully help stimulate his appetite nothing was helping him. As selfish as I was to want to hold onto Max I knew he needed me to let him go.

Last night before bed I sat in front of him with my head touching his crying. Telling him that he doesn’t have to fight anymore, and that Mikey and I would be fine. It was ok for him to go and be with his daddy and his big brother, Mozart. I know Max was holding onto life because of me. We had a bond like no other after Gary had died. I’ll never forget the way he cried when I came from the hospital after Gary passed, and to think my poor sweet Max who couldn’t tell me he was suffering had to endure the same fate his daddy did just 3 years earlier.

So Lymphoma…..I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU with a passion so great right now it’s not even close to being funny. You thought you were done with me after Gary passed? Clearly you couldn’t get rid of me that easily…..and don’t you dare think you will get rid of me now. You hurt and hurt and hurt me yet my heart is now as hard as a rock, and all I want to do now is make it so that NO one else has to endure the pain that my family has to go through because of YOU. As long as my legs work and my mouth can demand donations I will continue to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society until there is a CURE! I’ll be damned if you take another one of my loved ones!

RIP my sweet Max it was a great 11.5 years with you…I take comfort in knowing that you are watching over us with your daddy now and Mikey and I will continue the fight against Lymphoma for the both of you from down here.

Zullo 023

$50…..

Donate $50 or more and earn a sport on my race singlet! Donate here –> Click Me to Give $$$

My first season with TNT I started off with just a few ribbons on my singlet, but now I’m up to 10. I’m determined to not only fill up my singlet but end up having to pin names and ribbons all over me. All it takes is YOUR $50 or more donation to get your loved one’s name attached to me for my big race :)

singlet

Back in November while at the Inspiration Lunch for Wine and Dine one of the speakers happened to be a survivor AND participant that had managed to raise $50,000! Well what really stuck with me besides his amazing story was the fact that he was going to have a named grant because of the amount that he raised.

Then back in December some Colt’s cheerleaders shaved off their hair because their mascot raised a certain amount of money in honor of their Coach’s fight against Leukemia. At the time I asked myself what would it take for ME to do something like that. Yes it’s a crazy idea, but it is just hair and it will grow back. Plus what a way to honor all of those that we’ve lost (like Gary) and those that continue to fight on.

Well it took some thinking and then I figured it out. If I raise $50k this season I will shave off all of my hair. I couldn’t think of something more fitting especially with the fact that DC is somewhat full circle for me since that’s where we got Gary’s official diagnosis and that’s where we traveled every 2-3 weeks the summer of 2009 for his treatments. It would be amazing if I could go back to DC this April and know that I will be able to have the Gary Thomas Zullo Research Fund named after him. If I do manage this then I plan on seeing if we can get the national folks at TNT to let me shave my head on stage in front of all of the other participants that are there. How cool and motivating would that be??!?!?

So yeah…I’m going Big this season! You can follow my journey to going totally baldacious here on my blog, as well as on facebook and twitter, just click on the links to the right. :) It’s going to be an AMAZING season!

Go Team!

Next TNT Event :)

I will admit I’m addicted to Team in Training. It’s a good addiction actually but an addiction none-the-less. During my fall season there were talking about Nike having an event in DC. For those that don’t know, Nike has their Women’s marathon and half in San Fran every year. It’s supposed to be GREAT, even with all of the hills. Besides the views one of the highlights of the race is the finish line when you have these hot firefighters in tuxedos handing out your bling which happens to be a Tiffany necklace in the traditional Tiffany blue box on these silver platters. So yes, as soon as I heard they were doing that in DC I just waited to hear the date and I was IN! When I saw the course map there was no doubt about it that I’d be doing this race.

nwmdcmap

I know it won’t be easy for me, not because I can’t do 13.1, because I can. It’s going to be that emotional hit because a good portion of the course passes by areas where I walked with both Mikey and Gary on April of 2009 when we went up to DC for his 2 days of testing up at the NIH. I have plans to take the metro up to the NIH and take a picture of myself in front of the sign with my purple TNT shirt on. It’s going to be an amazing experience and I couldn’t be more excited to do it with my TNT family.

Lymphoma Strikes again

On November 9th, I was heading up to Orlando for the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon with Team in Training. I had to board our golden retriever and was really hesitant about it because he wasn’t acting himself. Luckily the place where I board him has a vet on staff so I had them check on him. As soon as I checked into our hotel I got THE call from the vet. I NEVER expected to hear what I was about to hear though. The doctor said that Max had a fever and his lymph nodes were all swollen. They suspected lymphoma :( So there I was up in Orlando getting ready to run 13.1 miles for the fight against leukemia and lymphoma, yet for some reason lymphoma decides to continuously plague my loved ones. Little does blood cancer know that you can hit every single person/being that I love but you will NOT stop me from doing what I’m doing to help the doctors out there find a cure. I will continue to raise money for the LLS because I know that there is a cure out there.

Max

This is Max, my lymphoma patient. I have no idea how long the chemo will keep his lymphoma in remission, but I do know that as long as he is not suffering I will do everything possible to help him fight his cancer.

My 2nd Half Marathon

On November 10th I joined my Ft. Lauderdale Team in Training teammates to take on 3 Disney parks. I was afraid that running past 10pm would be hard for me since most of our late night runs ended before then. It was such an amazing experience. Hard to compare it with ING because it was a completely different environment.

It was cold at the start so I had layers on that I was ok with throwing to the side of the road. The great thing about most races is if you throw clothes to the side they’ll pick it up and donate it to those in need. Surprisingly the race wasn’t that bad. It probably had something to do with the fact that Disney has entertainment and things to look at throughout the course. The course was pretty cool too. We started off at Disney’s Wide World of Sports and than ran to Animal Kingdom. Went through that park and then headed back on the road on the way to Hollywood Studios. Went through that park too, the coolest part was the fact that they had the Osbourne lights up. After we were through that park it was onto the last stretch. We had to go past the hotels that are between Hollywood Studios and Epcot. Mile marker 12 was on the back-side of Epcot, it was a welcome sign to see but there was still 1.1 to go.

At mile 13 something hit me….this season during training I’d always shuffle my music and ALWAYS on the way back the song Faithfully by Journey would come on. This song was the song that Gary and I danced to at our wedding for our first dance. Well at mile 13 of the almost 300 songs on my phone that could have come on Faithfully came on. I started to tear up and get all choked up. My teammates that I was running with told me to push on. Push on I did. As I crossed the finish line, the song came to an end. It’s almost like Gary helped get me through that last .1 miles and tried to tell me that he was there with me :)

Here is a pic of me proudly showing off my Wine and Dine medal :) Hard earned and with a PR too…. finished in 3:08 :)

winedine

13.1 Conquered!

After almost 2 years of on and off training I finally can say that I successfully completed my first half marathon!! This past Sunday I participated in the ING Miami Half Marathon with Team in Training. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Event weekend started on Saturday night at the Inspiration Dinner. There, all of the various TNT teams from around the country came together for one last dinner before the big race. Not only did they help carb load us but they also had various speakers sharing their stories. If you needed further inspiration to get you through your race that sure as hell was a good starter. At the event we learned that there were 212 of us participating and collectively we raised over half a million dollars!!!!! Absolutely AMAZING!

The next morning I was up bright and early for the big race. Of course I wasn’t really aiming to win this….I just wanted to finish it…with a semi-decent time of course ;) We walked as a group from our hotel to the American Airlines Arena where the start line was located. The adrenaline started kicking in as soon as I saw the 24,999 others waiting at the start line by me.

There were a couple of memorable things from that day that I did want to share (things I will never forget)….

- The TNT support on the side of the road throughout the entire course was so incredibly amazing. Coaches from other teams would even cheer me on, but when I’d see someone I recognized from my team it just made me perk up :) it made me feel great to be apart of such a great team. At mike 10 one of our walk coaches who has been so supportive this past season was on the side of the road. She came and checked on me and was happy to see me doing so well, even with a smile on my face. :)

- Around mile 5, I was walking along side our team head coach. All of a sudden this lady runs up to us and starts thanking us for what we are doing. She then goes on to share her story about how she is a blood cancer survivor and how if she can do this half marathon so can we :) we walked together for about a mile or so. It was so incredible because she had no idea who we were yet we connected because of a cause so near and dear to our hearts.

- At about mile 12 I started thinking about why I was doing this and how close I was to actually finishing it. I started to get all choked up that I had to change what was on my mind because I needed to be able to breathe.

- Crossing that finish line and realizing…..I DID IT!! And it was my fastest pace to date too! :) I finished in 3 hours and 19 minutes. Not too bad for my first go at this.

I will definitely do this again and definitely will do it again with Team in Training….Go Team!!!

Updates! :)

Wow I didn’t realize how long it’s been since I last updated my blog. A lot has happened in the last 5 months. I’d venture to say its all been pretty darn good too.

The most notable is that I changed jobs. I totally left my old company and moved to the same company that Gary used to work for. It was the only company that I would ever leave for and I managed to land a GREAT job there. I couldn’t be happier. It truly is as great as a company as he told me it was :)

The next most notable is that I have been training with Team in Training again since the end of August. I’ve had some bumps along the road and have had to see a doctor or two or three but I’m officially less than 1 month away from my first half marathon! I have decided to keep my first half closer to home and will be doing the ING in Miami. :) it’s great to have come this far without reinjuring myself.

I may be 3 days away from the 2nd anniversary of Gary’s death but I finally feel like things are going my way. I just hope this momentum sticks :)

An Amazing Read….

A few months ago, Matt Logelin came out with his book Two Kisses for Maddy/ It’s his story about losing his wife Liz shortly after the birth of their daughter Maddy. I started reading the book soon after I got it. It was really hard for me to put down up until I got to the part where Matt was in the hospital outside of Liz’s room as the doctor’s were trying to save her life. I hit a major reading road block. So I put the book aside and read other books until I was ready to conquer the book once again. Well a few weeks ago I figured that I’d do just that. I’d finally finish this book. There were lots of moments where I flat out cried, and others where I laughed. LOTS of moments where I could completely relate to Matt. Our losses didn’t occur under the same circumstances but the emotions you go through are the same. They are RAW and they hurt like HELL. I did want to share some quotes from his book that I found very powerful…..

Matt talks about how sometimes strangers can be the greatest source of comfort….

I went to my bank to make a depost, and as I approached the bulletproof glass that cascaded from the ceiling to the counter, I couldn’t help but think about all the times I had visited Liz at her college summer job as a teller in Minneapolis. I did my best to hold back the tears, but when I was about to speak to the young woman at the counter, I completely broke down. “Are you okay?” she asked. I looked up and made some sort of unintelligible sound that clearly indicated I wasn’t. I’m not sure if it was the noise I made or the sadness plastered across my face, but the teller immediately started crying and looked at me with an expression I would never have expected from someone I didn’t know. It wasn’t pity – she didn’t even know my story, so it wasn’t shock, either. It was the purest and most sincere form of sympathy a human could relay.

Matt talking about constantly flashing back to events in the past, something I could totally relate to….

Time was passing so much more quickly than I had anticipated. I found myself constantly flashing back to what Liz and I had been doing exactly a year earlier – it was impossible not to. As much as I loved thinking about the trips we’d taken and the fun we’d had together during our time together, it hurt so much more to remember what it had been like just the year before: our last vacation, birthday, whatever, together, and without our knowing.

Matt talking about how going Christmas shopping and seeing happy families, and almost wanting to tell them to cherish what they have because it could very well be their last. This is also something that I’ve wanted to do (especially around holiday’s like Christmas, New Year’s, and Father’s Day)…

As happy as I tried to be for Madeline, the shopping trip was excruciating. There were dads and moms and kids everywhere, pointing and running and laughing, and my heart was just…broken. Obliterated. Ground up into a fine paste. Their Christmases would be perfect, their families intact. They may not have appreciated that, and I daydreamed about telling them that they should.

Like I said this is a very powerful book. It does bring a smile to my face to see a widow writing what it feels like to be a widow. Our lives are not all peachy and just because time has passed doesn’t mean the hurt will ever be forgotten. There will be certain events that will probably trigger the dreaded Grief Monster to hit me like a brick wall. It’ll happen, I know it will.