Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Guilligan's Cancer Free Island - Here is the Relay Team

This Saturday through Sunday a team of friends and I will be walking/running/jogging around a track at a local high school throughout the night to raise money and awareness for cancer and to also honor all who have been inflicted with the disease.

We are pretty excited. At this time there are 7 of us (including me). I will chronologically list how I came to have the fantastic opportunity to form friendships with all of them.

Yumi, my hiking partner and friend, I naturally met on a mountain top. OOOH I just loved to hike! Being on top of a mountain top was my sanctuary and my insides ached if a nice weekend day went by without taking the opportunity to be on a trail. When I turned 30, Harley got me our dogs (a very loving gift at that) and I would trek with them frequently to the top of Tiger Mountain overlooking Seattle and all of Puget Sound.
Back when I still had some hearing, I never wore my hearing aide on the trail because I would sweat too much. While taking a water break and admiring the late afternoon view, a woman came up to me and tried to communicate. Normally, in that situation people would walk away but this person was more persistent. I did have my aide with me in my pack and we chatted some before she wrote her name and number on a receipt from inside her wallet. Ever since then we have been friends and enjoyed many hikes together (one where we even got lost and had to run out of the woods and ended up in a nearby town!).
Yumi and her husband Dan have also joined me in the NF Challenge in the 3 years that I participated. It is a walking/running event held in Redmond, Washington to raise funding for Neurofibromatosis research towards finding a cure.
Yumi is also taking a glacial climbing class currently and will actually be in the Cascade Mountains the day after the event to practice self arrest skills on ice.
Recently, Yumi and her sister made a trip to Japan and Malaysia to care for her father who is battling lung cancer. We wish him well!

Melody is the second team member I came to know when I started to learn sign language again. After completing my graduate degree and for all practical purposes becoming "audiometrically deaf", it was apparent that the large growth spurt of the tumor on the side of my residual hearing was going to mostly likely leave me in a life of silence. Harley and I took a class at the Hearing Speech and Deafness Center (HSDC) in Seattle with some friends and one of my real time captioners. It was there that we met Melody.
When the class ended I transfered over to the community college and did not meet up with Melody again until we ran into each other at the Bellevue Community College ASL coffee night. At the time (in February of 2005), I had found an online a group of people interesting in sign language but I had not gone to a meeting yet as I was having trouble driving at night. Low and behold, Melody and I discovered that we did not live that far from each other! Thus she graciously offered to pick me up and bring me to the ASL meetups! How could I be so fortunate?
Melody will be leaving us soon and we are all pretty sad but also happy for her at the same time. She has been accepted by Western Oregon University in their Interpreter Training Program. For those who don't know what that means, she will become an American Sign Language Interpreter of the Deaf.

Ok, now we back track a little. After attending the HSDC, I transfered and took ASL II at Bellevue Community College. It was there that I became friends with Kristy. Of all the students there, she was the most interested in SINCERELY getting to know me. We would have good conversations before class, after, and during break using sign. Bless her heart! She really helped me out through that class as I took the class in the summer and that is when I went for treatm
ent. She diligently took very good notes for me and even typed them up! When I got back I was kind of sick and lethargic. Some days it was hard to concentrate but
Kristy was there for me.
Kristy also knows many other languages including Japanese. She is afflicted with a very rare blood disorder called porphyria. Sometimes it makes her very tired and sick but I always see her with a sunny smile on her face and a cheery disposition. http://www.porphyriafoundation.com/about_por/index.html

It is hard to remember exactly, but during the fall of 2004 I took both ASL III at BCC and ASL IV at SCCC at the same time. On a night when the classes did not conflict, I had a chance to attend a Silent Voices Club ASL games event. It was there that I first met George and learned that he LOVES to snowboard.
George is one of our Deaf friends who is really patient with us all learning ASL. George moved from the Philippines where he was born. There, he learned Filipino sign language which is different from American Sign Language. Thus, when his family moved here, he and his brother (who is also deaf from birth) had to go through the same classes we have gone through to learn American Sign Language. So actually, George is Tri-lingual (knows two sign languages plus English).
George works at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle which is an important organization that conducts research and develops new treatments to fight cancer. George and I also share a love of Thai and Indian food. :o)

Okay now we will skip ahead back to where I left off with Melody. I met Laura through Melody that same night she and I reconnected again (at the Bellevue Coffee Night). They were in the same ASL class and we all started going to the ASL meetup together. I would ride with Melody from out where we lived and then we would meet Laura in Redmond and ride together from her house.
If you read back in my blog to last June, the 3 of us went to an annual Deaf community picnic. Melody drove. At the picnic I was still not well and my balance was just horrible. I staggered from tree to tree trying to support myself and by the reaction of some, they must have thought I was drunk. After eating the three of us walked down to the beach and I literally just lost it sitting on a log watching everyone play in the water and on the driftwood. All I could think of was how I used to rollerblade on the path, run on the cliffside trail, scuba dive in the water and walk over the rocks and wood with all my equipment, and just generally walk along the shore with ease.
I became totally depressed and hit with the reality that all of that was gone. I was totally traumatized at that moment and broke down. I tried to withhold my emotion but it was uncontrollable. I can't produce tears so I was kind of hyperventilating and it became extremely hard to breath. Melody and Laura immediately came to my side to calm me. LOL Then the strangest thing happened, like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat Laura whipped out some sort of tool out of her purse. She picked up a piece of driftwood and began to carve away until she has created a sailboat with record speed. Like a toddler, I calmed down and sat dumbfounded and amazed! As you can tell, she is a mother and a fantastic one at that to two beautiful children: Cody, an aspiring 13 yr old football player and Destiny, a 9 year old accomplished writer and budding artist.
Laura has the energy of a marathon mother. Not only is she a single mom, but she also works, attends the University of Washington fulltime (studies anthropology), is taking the final ASL level 6 class at Seattle Central Community college to obtain a minor in Deaf studies, is a caregiver for her children's grandmother who is battling cancer, but also found time to join our team in walking in the Relay and has done an amazing job raising funds.

Diana, I met through our sign language meetup group. She is the co-organizer and also attends many Deaf and ASL functions in Seattle and on the east side where we reside. Diana will be soon leaving us too and transfering to the same school that Melody will be attending (Western Oregon University). She is very interested in becoming a teacher of Deaf children and I think she will be a wonderful one! For being much younger than the rest of us, Diana has a rare gift of learning empathy at an early age. She is very in tune to the needs of others and has a profound understanding that would make her an excellent educator.
She is also a very dependable friend. We have gotten to know each other more as we were in the same ASL class last quarter. Over spring break I went to visit my grandpa who is battling cancer. Not only was I taking the train for the first time but I was also traveling alone for the first time as a deaf person. I was very worried about communication obstacles with the train agents, getting the wrong information, and missing the train. Thanks to Diana, I was able to get on the right train at the right time and she was there to bring me home on my return trip. If she had not brought me to the station and came in with me, I most likely would have gone to the wrong place or missed the train. Communication is really harry when people are unwilling to understand that you are deaf, need assitance due to balance, and are unwilling to take the steps (such as writing more specific information about where and when to get on the train) to help you get where you are going.
Diana has also been a God Send with giving me rides home after MY (not hers; she has a different one in the morning) ASL class (due to lack of a car from recent mechanical problems) and to ASL events at night (when it is more difficult to drive). She will also be greatly missed by my team and I.

Last I will mention Josh who is a real sweety. I also met him through our ASL meetup. He has been helping us spread the word and Laura with her donations. Josh put it many hours last year at the Redmond Relay. He is the only person out of all of us who has done a Relay event before. This year he can't walk with us because his senior prom is the same day. However, he is strongly with us in spirit. Josh is a hard of hearing student in the running start program. What that means is that in his last two years of high school he takes classes at the community college for credit. Thus, by the time he graduates high school, he will have either an associates degree in liberal studies or his two years of liberal classes required for a 4 year degree. Josh has been taking ASL at Bellevue Community College and is a member of their ASL club "Silent Voices". He is also smart with computers and has a side business with a friend and is an avid soccer player.

And there you have it........Our fantastic team!!!!!

I am very blessed to know them and have their friendship and support. I can't thank them enough and I keep asking myself and God how I got so lucky. :o)

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