My Hilltop Hour

Written by JKM on March 13th, 2011

Wow…I just don’t know where to begin!  I think I’ll save the best for last.  Wait…don’t scroll to the bottom just yet because all the news is good!!!  You don’t want to miss out on anything.  :)

Think on this for a moment or two:  “The marvelous richness of human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome.  The hilltop hour would not be half so wonderful if there were no dark valleys to traverse.” ~Helen Keller

My hilltop hour has arrived!  Well, I guess that’s not completely true.  The past six years have brought with them several dark valleys, but many more hilltop hours:  remission, marathons, birthdays.  I consider this next adventure the culmination of all things leukemia.  It is indeed a wonderful honor to announce my candidacy for Woman of the Year in The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Man & Woman of the Year campaign (MWOY)!

Ryan Darby
Ryan Darby

I participate on behalf of a Boy & Girl of the Year for the National Capital Area, Ryan Darby (age 7) and Molly Farrell (age 5).  Ryan is undergoing treatment for precursor B acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and Molly is receiving treatment for pre-B lymphoblastic lymphoma.  From what I have learned, the treatment for children is typically a much longer process.  Ryan’s official end of treatment will be February, 2013, and he was diagnosed in December, 2009.

I have also learned, however, that the five-year survival rate for children with ALL is now 89%, up from 3% in the 1960s!   Much of this is due to LLS and the incredible amount of research they have supported since its beginnings in 1949.  When Rudolph and Antoinette de Viliers founded the Robert Roesler de Villiers Foundation in New York City, leukemia was considered 100% fatal:  “most leukemia patients, especially children, died within three months” (LLS website, “Hope Rises from Loss”).  Their own son, after whom the foundation was originally named, died at age 16.

The Robert Roesler de Villiers Foundation, now known as LLS, has invested upwards of $750 million in leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma research.  Sometimes I let my mind wander, imagining the “what ifs”:  What if the de Villiers family never took the time to start a fundraising and education organization?  What if no one supported them?  What if doctors and scientists didn’t believe in the possibilities of new research?  What if I lived in a different era?  How would my outcome have differed even ten years ago?

Molly Farrell

Molly Farrell

I’m not one to dwell on statistics, but it’s impossible not to be impressed by the numerical achievements.  What is important is to remember that they’re not simply numbers.  They represent patients.  This is where I feel my personal story will help others to realize how important LLS is.  I am fortunate that I do not have to explain how wonderful the organization is, how honorably they handle themselves and their financials.  It is very well-respected which makes my hilltop hour all the more enjoyable.

This blog post has some conflicting statements.  I am doing this in honor of Ryan and Molly and so other patients may enjoy the health that I do, but I call it my hilltop hour…kind of selfish, huh?  Well, here’s how I look at it:  as a leukemia survivor, I cannot help but feel great pride simply because I am alive.  And I’m not even responsible for my health!  I owe that to my doctors (especially Dr. Kales! :) ), nurses, Laura and the many, many scientists who have studied cancer and pathology.  Still, whether or not I had anything to do with it, I’m proud to go out there and say, “I’m still here.”  Maybe on some subconscious level, I feel like it’s my gift to all those who’ve toiled on my behalf or an inspiration for patients who feel like they will never again have the life that they once did.  I know I am lucky because not everyone survives and not everyone thrives.  Pride probably shouldn’t have anything to do with it, but it does.  Thus, I consider this campaign my hilltop hour.

I will go out onto that stage for the final gala June 11th proud and grateful to be part of such an incredible experience.  There’s something about fancy dresses that make any girl feel special.  :)  It’s the best time for me to say “Look at me, leukemia!!  I kicked your a@$ and I’m beautiful and healthy now!”  You know what else is cool?  I get to pick an at-bat song, and I chose something very meaningful…I’m not going to give it away, but if you’ve been reading my blog regularly, you’ll know what I chose!

It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be nominated, and I am incredibly grateful to Brian for thinking of me.  He is a fellow leukemia survivor and transplant patient (his brother was a perfect match, and he received his transplant the same year I got mine!) and he was a candidate for Man of the Year last year.  Thank you, Brian!!

The campaign kicks off March 31st!!  Lori, Katie and I have been hard at work getting some planning down the past few months.  They too are an important part of my hilltop hour because they are my campaign managers.  We plan on utilizing technology to the utmost, so check in to keep updated on campaign progress:

My Man & Woman of the Year Fundraising page:

Facebook:  Julie’s Woman of the Year campaign



Lucy Jean!!!

Lucy Jean!!!

And NOW for the best, most wonderful news…drum roll, please!!!  I am now an aunt!!!!!!!!!!!  Lucy Jean Tiso was born Tuesday, March 8th, 8 pounds, 20 inches.  She and Laura are both doing well, and Tiso made it home just in time!  Little Lucy is just perfect.  I am looking forward to spoiling her rotten!  I mean, look at that face!!  Wouldn’t you do the same?

OK, it’s a gettin’ late, so I’m headed to bed.  I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend…spring is almost here!!!

Lots of love,

Aunt Julie

1 Comments so far ↓

  1. Mar
    Leslie Neiss

    Julie, I was up late & thinking I should head to sleep when I came across your latest blog post. Of course I had to read it. I laughed, I cried, and came away as always with a great appreciation for your love of life and the joy you take in every day. You are definitely an inspiration and already Woman of the Year in my book.

    My favorite quote isn’t from the many other very good ones you quoted in your blog. It’s this one: “It’s the best time for me to say “Look at me, leukemia!! I kicked your a@$ and I’m beautiful and healthy now!” ”

    Yes, Julie, you truly are.

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