Surgery is set for July 10th. Carl will be undergoing surgery with the most incredible team of surgeons. We cannot express in words the gratitude that we feel for all the support at The Cannery. The venue was gorgeous beyond words. The turnout was insane!!!! We felt so much love that evening, and so many of you telling us personally your positive thoughts and prayers for us was energizing in a way that I cannot describe. Yesterday we watched our two children fly off with their aunt and uncle, and this of course has been harder on us then on them. It has been oddly quiet in our house today, and I wonder how I am going handle not having them to buffer my fearful thoughts. They are off to vacation and Lego Land, and are happier then ever. Carl and I have quickly realized that our children bring forth a purpose in our life far beyond measure , and one which we never comprehended until they flew away on that plane. Below is the speech written by Carl, and read at the benefit. It is an attempt to represent our thoughts on being able to thank all of you supporting us. We are in fight mode at this point and gearing up for surgery. Carl had a recent PET scan revealing that his tumor has responded well to treatment, as well as the positive lymph nodes. This news was so relieving to us. God is on our side, and we have felt his presence through all of your love, prayers, donations, and support. Today a special thanks goes out to The Loews Hotel, The Drew Rodrigue Foundation for their incredible push to create this beautiful event, Commander’s Palace for their intense marketing and amazing contributions, the incredible donations, and all of the amazing food/chefs at the venue!!! The list goes on and on!! We pray every night with our children for the day that we are cancer-free and able to pay-it-forward. The love, support, and philanthropic effort of this city is why New Orleans is so special. Please know how thankful and loved you have all made us feel. Together we know that we will Kick Cancer in the GUT!!!!!
Carl’s Speech June 28th, 2014:
Since the diagnosis that I received on April 1st, everything has seemed rooted in hyperbole. With a few exceptions throughout all my treatment of chemotherapy, radiation, and the poking and prodding of my great medical team, I heave felt pretty normal physically. I have not lost my hair, but have actually gained a few, most of which are either on my face or grey, of course. I stand in front of you a very sick individual by definition, but I feel mentally stronger than ever. Most importantly, I feel unbelievably loved.
To stand up and thank everyone who has contributed would not only take the entire night making the band quite frustrated and could not even be properly conveyed through simple words thank you. We have also given and received no shortage of cliches though this process. One of my favorites has been the old adage that my parents used with vigor as I grew up which is, “Actions speak louder than words.” We are here tonight because of the actions of so many people in this great community and across the country. They have been in forms of family, friends (both past and present), colleagues, and even total strangers. These actions for us have come in forms of prayer groups, cooking, cleaning, home improvement projects, baby holding, and financial support to name a few.
It has been with much reluctance that we have accepted this help. I feel that we are by nature givers, and are not used to, nor have ever thought we would be on the receiving end of this support. If you could think of anything a family dealing with this type of hardship could want or need, we have gotten it. For that, I will be forever grateful beyond words. Many people do not even have the opportunity to get proper health care in the face of death let alone have a support system as large, intense, or unconditional as ours. So often, people pass on without ever really seeing or hearing of the impact they made on people’s lives. It have been so humbling to see that what we have thought as simply living good lives and trying to be good people has affected so many other people who now want to return the favor. “Do unto others as you would have hem do unto you.” I promised myself there would be no bible quoting through all of this, but this golden rule has been key in my ability to accept much of this support, especially that coming in the financial form.
I feel that good people surround themselves with good people. I married an amazing woman, with an amazing family. I was blessed to be born in a loving home with great parents and siblings. We live in a city with friends that have a culture of unconditional love for our fellow New Orleanians. My colleagues and employers selected me and I them based on a culture of just being damn good people. That is why we are all here. These people by nature are good. They want to help those who need it. Just as I have and will continue to do. This is the love and support I hope to provide for the rest of my life for those living and dealing with cancer. Our battle is not close to over. In many ways it never will be. But I know for certain that I am surrounded by love and support for the rest of my life throughout this lifelong battle. It is a blessing to be enlightened to know that.
“Overwhelming” is a word we have used a lot and goes back to that hyperbole I spoke of earlier. I told a good friend after about a month of letters, stories, prayers, relics, meals, funds, and stories of encouragement that we have been overwhelmed more in a positive way through all the support that we have been overwhelmed in a negative way by the diagnosis and illness itself. And it is when the positives out way the negatives that victory prevails. And the imminent victory that will come our way after recovery from the surgery in a couple of weeks could not have happened without the love and support of so many people both here and all over the world. Thanks you and enjoy your evening.
Benjamin Franklin said, “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.” Suffice it to say ole Ben, though great man he was, never traveled to South Louisiana. He might have rethought his simile. First of all, good fish would never last three days without being turned into a good pot of courtbouillon. Secondly, we cherish our guests, for good reason. Family and friends are the lifeblood of our culture. We are a social bunch of people and we really do not like to be alone. We embrace one another’s company, in good times and in bad. We come together in times of strife just as much as times of joy. I was recently descended upon by not one or two but about eight of my closest, high school buddies a couple of days ago. They brought a computer to help with this blog, a video camera to diary my experience, and a bunch of useful hands to help “hunker down” for this fight we are about to face. Amazingly, I still had all six beers that were in my fridge when they arrived. There was no pretense, no motive. I did not ask them to come. They just wanted to be around their buddy who was going through some hard times. Alix’ sisters and best buds from back home have been in and out of the house as well. They have traveled hundreds of miles to spend the weekend and provide us with help that is appreciated beyond words. They have left behind babies, husbands, and jobs in an instant just to give us a hand, a shoulder, and a hug. Family dinners every night that I was never really able to enjoy or often took for granted are now so much more meaningful. I truly feel like sometimes we get too caught up in our own lives and we lose touch with those we love. Sometimes pain or joy reunites us and we realize that the love for our friends and family never leaves, it has always been there. It shows up stronger than ever right when you need it. We are blessed to go about this journey with family and friends. Not everyone has that blessing. So I will end this post on a lighter note with yet another quote, “If you threw a party, and invited everyone you knew, you would see the biggest gift would be from me, and the card attached would say ‘thank you for being a friend.” Thank you all for the love and support. The fight is just beginning and we could not do it without you. Kicking cancer in the gut one day at a time!
Sitting in a surgical waiting room, trying to breathe. In one short week our entire life flipped upside down, and we’ve spent the interim trying to suppress the constant low-level anxiety that comes along with the severity of what we are facing. Today is the beginning of “the fight,” one to which we will give every ounce of life we have. I watch him wheel away for the surgical insertion of his central line, and it becomes so real, the fragility of life staring me down through those beautiful dark brown eyes…a life with so much purpose, passion, and love. Carl is my soul-mate. He is everything and more that you could ask for in a partner. He is the beat of my heart. The years we have had together, making two tiny perfect humans, our house into a home, our marriage into a strong and thriving partnership. It is painful that such a gentle man could be faced with so much loss, given that his daily focus is giving to others and perfecting their dining experience. He has lived his life through his stomach, mastering all his senses, and making food art. Now ironically, it is his stomach that threatens that very life.
I remember the first time Carl and I met and had our first real conversation. Even then, it was as if he was speaking to my heart. I became alive in a way that I never knew possible through the growth of our relationship. Carl, never settling for anything but the best for himself, and for those whom he loves, has pushed me to be the best person I can be. His love has made me want to be a better person, wife, mother, nurse, friend, and sister.
Our love story is one that came out of tragedy. He, displaced and homeless post Hurricane Katrina. And myself? I was lost, drifting through my life after a nasty divorce that broke up my family, and in so many ways my entire path of life. Circumstances sent us both to a beautiful sleepy beach community located on Florida’s 30-A coast. It was through our love our hearts mended and a new family was created. Our two beautiful children embody not only our love for each other but God’s love for us. Those little people have all the best qualities of their daddy (thankfully much more focus than their mother).
Today is the beginning of our fight. Today (and every day hereafter) I must remember to cherish the joys and victories, however small they may be. I mustn’t forget the everyday delight of hearing our happy children waking up for school or their excitement at seeing us when we pick them up at the end of the day, or hugs and kisses and prayers and one more story after the last story at bedtime. I must remember that our love has brought us to this place and trust that this, too, shall pass…but love remains. Always.