We Can Be Heroes (or at least do 60 good deeds)

This last year was a tough one.  It seemed far too many people I care about were leaving this world and far too few were coming in.  I suppose that goes with the age, being over 50 and closer to AARP than INDIE.

On the upswing, this is the longest I’ve been in remission (over 7 months) in 5 years. It’s the kind of milestone that makes you want to jump up and down for joy, but it’s hard to do when so many others are struggling or worse, have lost the battle.  This last year alone, 2 friends from different parts of my life, gone to cancer and several others were diagnosed.  Just when the heart wrenching sadness was starting to lift, WHAM, one of my greatest inspirations in music and film, David Bowie dies, cancer. WTF people ?? WTF~ Though I do like what Simon Pegg said about how lucky we should feel that during the earth’s billions of years in existence we got to be on it the same time and place as them, sometimes being a stage IV survivor is a frustratingly lonely thing to be.

David-Bowie-postI was laying there in bed that morning, mulling over my daily pep talk, strolling through emails and Facebook, waiting for the smell of coffee brewing to waft in from the kitchen,  when I saw the news about David Bowie.  I was crestfallen.  Then I was obsessed with which cancer (there are over a hundred y’know) he died of, but they didn’t release that information. Given that he was a smoker most of his life it’s a pretty educated guess, but still. This is something we cancerous people think about.  Always trying to connect the dots.  I looked up to the ceiling, feeling helpless and asked myself, “What do you do when your hero dies?”  Now, maybe I’m going a bit senile.  Maybe I can hear the dead, or maybe my conscience is just that creative because I can totally imagine my dad up there, dragging him by the arm and saying, “You need to tell my daughter this. She’ll listen to you.” But what I heard back was definitely in David Bowie’s unmistakably quiet, yet commanding voice, “You become one.”

There are a lot of ways to take that.  Design and wear a costume, running around like a vigilante.  Join the Peace Corps or just keep doing what I’m doing, beating the odds and making the best of my extended life, e.g. the 12 Adventures. You say maybe I’m already a hero, but I don’t quite feel heroic. I feel like I need to do/be more.

So I came up with something to help create a counterbalance; 60 Good Deeds. Throughout 2016, every month I’m going to give a total of $X to 4 different places helping others in need.  It’ll be a combination of supporting the arts, health, friends and community.  Without big fuss, after I’ve chosen one and done my part, I’ll post it on Facebook.  Not a “Look at me. I did a good deed,” and I’ll try to stay off the soap box with just a simple “I like this.” or “This is cool.”  But you’ll know what it means. I say “X” because I don’t want to put a number in anyone’s head in case they are inspired to follow suit.  “X” should be whatever number you’re comfortable with whether that’s 20, 50 or 500 (or more).

Before you think that something as small as $20 won’t make a difference, check out Alex.  Never met him, but someone I trust brought his situation to may attention and his struggle is all too familiar. 509 people (and growing) got together to help a young man at the end of his life give his mother one less thing to worry about. The average donation was $25, but some were $20, some were $100, each giving what they could, which took the mountain of a $25,000 need and turned into proverbial mole-hill.  If everyone who gave $20 thought their smaller donation wouldn’t make a difference, they wouldn’t have made their goal.

I was already on my kick when I saw it, so I made my donation and plugged it into my new spreadsheet along with the other three signs of support.

Alex's-Funeral-costs

  • (RED) – Aids awareness/support
  • (Komen 3Day) – Supporting friend who’s walking the walk
  • (Alex) – Fundraiser for terminal patient’s funeral costs
  • (Sandra) Fundraiser for a good friend fighting cancer

Next month there’ll be more of a balance between art and health, but this month it seemed fitting to focus on creating some kind of balance in my c-world. I’ll peruse the crowdfunding sites like Rockethub, Indiegogo, Kickstarter and GiveForward to name a few and invest a little in other people’s dreams while striving to reach my own, because every time I do, I feel just a little less alone, a little more empowered, maybe heroic even.  C’mon, let’s do it. Let’s make 2016 the year for being heroes.

That’s my New Year’s resolution sorted. Now, to figure out what heroes should make for dinner…

P.S. – Get screened.

P.S.S. – Within a week of writing this, actors Alan Rickman and Dan Haggerty (Grissy Adams) died from cancer, so

P.S.S.S. – Fer fkssake, go get screened~

12 Adventures

It’s been a while since I’ve written an update and I think this is a first, me writing across both platforms (theccardandme.com/cancer and aligilmore.com/music n photography). It’s a clear sign that my worlds are finally converging.  For a while now I’ve been able to take off the gloves, put the sword down and focus on what I love most, inspiring others.

As I’m writing this, it’s the 1st day of my birthday month and believe you me I am ready to celebrate.  This month marks 5 years since I was diagnosed with what was once and for some is still sadly, a death sentence; Stage IV cancer. Through the marvels of modern medicine and sheer force of overly optimistic will, I’ve beaten it 3 or 4 times since then and about to again.

If that’s the first you’re hearing of this, all I can say is don’t feel sorry for me because since my diagnosis my life has taken a huge upturn.  I’ve taken more chances and risked more in these five years than I have in the 45 that came before them. I’ve jumped out of a plane, swam in the Mediterranean, sang at a festival in Positano, Italy, stood on the Cliffs of Moher, floated along the canals of Amsterdam, become a sports photographer with highlights of photographing greats like; Beckham, Keller, Ronaldo, Donovan, Keane and Kaka, written and published two humorous cancer survival guides, was the subject for an original TV program (My Human Case:Cancer) and professionally recorded a full length CD of my original songs.  Some ventures, like the book and CD were crowdfunded, while some were a combination of generous friends/family and wholly unaware creditors who were foolish enough to bet on this lame, yet opportunistic horse.

DSC_4095 proof positano2 cliffs of moher

Six years ago the only obstacle I had was time. I was always too busy with whatever I was busy with.  Now, the limitations are more fiscal, physical and mental due to the cost and side effects of nearly 50 cycles of chemo and radiation therapy and yet, again, I’ve accomplished more in these five years than in the 45 before.

Right though.  We were talking about 12 Adventures or about to at least.  To tell you about them I needed to fill you in on what came before because I’m pretty sure its all been building up to this…

Every three months I get a CAT or PET scan.  It screens my body for any signs of active/growing cancer cells.  If there are then I have to go back into treatment. If there aren’t then I get to be free to go about my business (apart from monthly blood draws) until the next scan.  Today marks my 7th month without chemo.  The second longest I’ve gone in the past five years.  The first was about 11 months.

So last month I’m on the train to the airport, on my way home for a 3 week visit to see friends and family when I get a call from Dr. H’s (my Oncologist) office.  It’s Annie, his head nurse and she’s telling me I need to come in.  The results of the CAT scan run the day before didn’t look good. I told her in the most head-in-the-sand kind of way that I was busy, on my way to see my family and my dad isn’t doing well (CHF), so I don’t have time to come in, but I’ll be back on the 18th. She calmly (as she often does with me in the way a mother or teacher does with a thick student) explained that wasn’t an option.  I said Ok, but I don’t want to do chemo. She also calmly, but with a sadness in her voice said that also wasn’t an option.  Shit. this is it (I thought).  I’m toast.  Apparently there’s a mass in my right lung.  You can’t just zap a mass like they did with other little dots that cropped up over the years…

We compromised and I was able to stay long enough for my sister’s bday plans, my dad’s bbq plans and other things I’d hoped for, but I missed out others and seeing many friends because I was in my cave.  I didn’t want to see anyone for fear I’d burst into tears and give up my story. I was desperate to stay in my “happy place” and to keep them in theirs (for if you don’t know Seattle. Summer is our happy time and don’t anyone dare impose upon it~).

Now that you know my mindset, here’s what happened next…I’m sitting across from my best friend (who is the mastermind behind SHINE PR Etc.) and we’re talking about my next bucket list adventure (because that’s what we do when faced with adversity, think up far more pleasant things)…how cool it is, the responses I get from people following along and how many have said they’ve taken more chances because of it.  I love it.  I love that it’s a positive thing and it’s not about cancer, but about saying #NeverSayNever, that even with these kinds of hurdles you can still lead an adventurous life. You don’t even have to fly halfway across the world to find adventure. Sometimes, it’s literally across the street or down the road from you, but our heads are too often buried in our laptops, cell phones and such to see it.

On a whim I had registered 12adventures.com a few days before, then I secured Facebook | Twitter | Youtube. I thought I’d document my adventures in more detail this way, with tips and guides on how to get there for those who want to follow suit, but like me, were unsure of how and needed a push from a trusted source. Michelle being the natural promoter pushed it out further (where I see an acorn, she sees a grove of oak trees), “Why not put it on the screen, don’t just tell them, show them.  If a picture is worth a thousand words, imagine how much a video series could say.”  And, we’re off~

This is how it works with us.  Energy bouncing across the desk at each other and back like a mental game of hyperspeed pong until there’s a 6 page document detailing the venture and a letter of sponsorship request out to none other than John J. Legere, high king of T-mobile (hey, if you’re going to dream, dream big I say). I love T-mobile.  Especially since he took over and I wanted to personally invite them to be the primary sponsors of my hair brained, but potentius (as in man, that actually has a lot of potential) scheme.  After all, they were with me on most of these adventures and I want to take them with me on the rest, so made sense to me…I can say proudly that I heard back within just a few days…and it was…seriously the nicest rejection letter I have ever received.  It even recommended I hit them up next year (yes, I do have a note in my calendar to write to them again on January 1, 2016).

There’s always a thud that happens when you read or hear the words “we regret to inform you…,” but anyone of great success will tell you that these are necessary stepping stones to “yes” so try not to take them personally.  Hey, in my mind I was dying, so what did I care?  Again, sitting across the table and the subject of money came up.  “So, if you were to do this on a cinematic scale, how would you pay for it?”  “Let’s not aim for the cinema” (though it is on my bucket list to ‘sit in a movie theatre and hear one of my songs being played in the background’). I like control, especially when my life’s schedule runs on 90 day windows of time, so I countered with a web series instead.  It can run on our own schedule (filming in between chemo cycles if need be).  I also didn’t just want to run through it then present it.  I wanted everyone to have a chance to put an iron in the fire, to have a say in the direction the series goes and when I’m done with my list, start focusing on other people’s lists and how to help them realize their own bucket list dreams.  Now that seemed like a noble way to make my mark and in a refreshing way.  Frankly, though I love the feedback I get on my cancer survival guides and I’m honored to be a part of the changing face of cancer, I wanted to light a fire under some over utilized couches (including my own).  Still, funding is good, especially if we want high quality sound and video and voila, “Remember, Mike and Sofia…the ones that recorded my CD release event?” “Yes!”  One quick call and they were excited, on board and sending me a painfully realistic quote.  Funding…yes, ok, back to crowdfunding we go…

contestI did a google search on what was out there.  I funded the first book and CD through Indiegogo which was/is a great platform, but I was curious to see what else was out there.  What caught my eye first was the word “contest.”  I clicked on the link and discovered Ovation TV was pairing up with an unknown (to me) and 3 winners would get 5k added to their campaign funds.  Of course…I had that thing filled out in 5 minutes and afterward pinged across the table what I’d done. ‘Excellent!” ponged back. To prepare for it, we built a campaign on RocketHub.com to get to know the platform.  The more we built, the more it evolved into a visually interesting and engaging array of options.  Yesterday we received the promo video that R3 Films made for us and it hit us…holy crap, this “whim” is actually picking up momentum and we’d better get busy building proposals and contracts~

Fast forward to two weeks later and I’m sitting in Dr. H’s office. He explains to me that after further investigation the radiation specialist (hot doc that’s been fixing my right lung) disagrees with the radiologists findings and after a further telling PET scan, confirms that “mass” is actually scar tissue from recent treatments.  “However…(another word that makes me go ‘thud’), there is a tiny spot in right lung…”  Usually this means 6 more months of chemo, but to my surprise Dr. U. has convinced all that he can blast it with radiation only (he is now my new favorite, sorry Dr. H.) and I’ll be back to my routine in time for my birthday this year (September 22nd), so this year’s birthday month is full of all kinds of cool goodness.

Now, back to the contest…as I understand it, if you’re picked you’ll need to build a fresh campaign, but if we aren’t picked then, we are ready with one slightly feral, but in tact campaign. The contest entry closes on September 4th. Sometime in the couple days that follow selected entries will be announced.  If we are, great, would love it. If we aren’t, we are good to go and have a launch date set for September 12th.  I’ll be mostly managing the campaign while Shine PR Etc. introduces 12 Adventures to potential branded sponsors for ads and product placement. Why so many 12ves you ask?  A: It’s my favorite number (and the secret to the universe according to Neil Simon). B: I may live around and love San Diego, but I’m a Northwest girl born and raised and anyone from there knows exactly what 12 means~

So, now you know…the rest of the story, as they say. 12 Adventures will consist of 12 episodes in a web series, based on 12 adventures of a 50-something, incredibly imperfect Stage IV cancer fighter.  It’ll be interactive and collaborative, allowing all viewers to guide the direction of the series from voting on adventures, locations and even excursions. It’ll feature music from independent artists (not just mine), introducing their unique sound to new audiences. We’ll have “simul-watching” parties, share recipes of foods associated with the locale, do live streaming from location and share tips and tricks for anyone with the same ventures on their bucket list, but needs a little nudge to go for it.  There’s more, but we’ll save it for later.

For now, take a look at the promo video for a sample of the value R3 Films will bring to the project then CAST YOUR VOTE!  Polls close at midnight on September 4th, then somebody’s winning a cool hat~

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