tales from the windy city
The SAM team has arrived back safe and sound from a whirlwind jaunt to the Windy City. We embarked on a mini road trip to Chicago with 4-time cancer survivor and honorary SAM team member, Mikey Thompson, who is crushing life and inspiring the masses everyday with his zest for life. The excursion was a snap-shot of the incredible relationships that can form from such terrible circumstances. In a jam-packed 2 days, the SAM team had the awesome opportunity to experience the camaraderie between survivors, capture on film a reunion between bone marrow transplant recipient and donor, and meet new friends joining the SAM movement. It gets us all jazzed up again when we can see the restorative power of light coming out of a dark place- what Sharing America’s Marrow is all about.
After a few important stops on the road (read: McDonalds and Dairy Queen), we ended up in a Mexican restaurant with salsa tunes in the background persuading us to dance just a little. There we had the opportunity to meet up with Amy Schamper, who is a leukemia survivor and regional coordinator for our partner organization Delete Blood Cancer. Amy was diagnosed while she was pregnant and had an incredible story of sacrifice and a mother’s love to share with us. Don’t worry, we will be posting that on our website soon! In addition to her interview, we got “all the feels” seeing three survivors interacting and sharing stories of their experiences. Amy, Mikey, and Sam got to talk about their different treatments, how they coped, and even showed each other their almost identical scars from medi-port sites and central lines. There is always something special about scars and how they physically represent a story and healing. We caught some awesome footage of all of this thanks to our new friend and film extraordinaire, McKenna Hynes (who we have dubbed “Kenny Scribbles”). She generously joined the SAM team to help us capture these experiences in the best way possible.
Day two was dedicated to Mikey and his bone marrow donor/hero Steve Gerding. It was a very powerful reunion, to say the least. It is easy to see they have become family since their first meeting 16 years ago, when Mikey was 13 and had two bone marrow transplants from Steve to fight his leukemia. When we pulled into Joliet, Illinois, we walked into the Gerding’s front door and were right at home. In those first moments, it was impossible not to notice the genuine love in the first hugs exchanged or the framed pictures of Mikey sitting in the windowsill. The house was filled with the feeling of family and the smell of delicious food as we whipped up breakfast tacos and chatted. We talked about their initial meeting, what their relationship is now, and everything else in between. It was mind blowing to be witnesses to the relationship between a cancer patient and his hero. How many times are you in the presence of a friend and the person who saved his life?? We certainly took advantage of this unique opportunity and asked every question we could think of. But the best moments came organically while Mikey and Steve caught up, made fun of each other, and talked about future plans for both families to get together on New Years like they had done in the past. They are family in every way- Steve and Mikey even share the same blood now- and the SAM team is over the moon that they let us be a part of something this special and personal. We are so grateful for our friend and the people who made his life today possible. Cheers to Mikey and our new friends Steve and Sue Gerding!
In conclusion, be on the lookout for some sweet Kenny Scribbles film footage of these incredible humans and keep spreading the SAM movement so we can make more moments like these possible!