Wednesday, July 23, 2008

In Columbus, Ohio to help the LAF

While waiting at the airport from my flight to leave I met Jeff Bennet from Maine. Jeff was at the 2006 Summit, LIVESTRONG Day 2007 in Washington, D.C. and was also with me on the Steering Committee for the 2008 Summit. Jeff is a breast cancer survivor. Breast cancer in men is rare, accounting for less than 1% of all breast cancer cases. In 2008, there will be an estimated 1,990 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed in men in the United States. An estimated 450 men will die of breast cancer this year.

Jeff and I were staying at the same hotel (The Columbus, a Renaissance hotel) so we got a cab together when we landed and then checked in. After check in we met downstairs to go eat a quick lunch and then head over to the Hyatt Capital Square to start our work to help the Lance Armstrong Foundation prepare for the Summit.

Once we entered the room we found out several other people were there to help and we had a little introduction telling how cancer affected our lives. As we went around we heard some amazing and inspiring stories. As I started my intro with “My name is Brian Dowd” I was immediately cut off (in a good way) by Brenda (LAF staff) and she congratulated me on just finding out I was cancer free. She said my blog post on Tuesday was sent to all of the LAF staff and they were very happy to see I remained cancer free. It means a lot to me. Knowing that the LAF cares and keeps and eye on what I am doing and going through :-)

After the intros we were off to work.

Our job was to move over 1000 summit bags filled with goodies such as water bottles, pens, note pads, LIVESTRONG pins, magnets and other cool stuff. These bags were mostly in card board boxes so we had to put them on dollies and move them from the hotel to the Ohio Statehouse which was across the street. It took a 4-5 trips but we were able to move all of them extremely quick. Mid way through moving the boxes I saw a man who I have been talking to via email and a few conference calls, his name is Ronald Bye.

Ron is a 33 year testicular cancer survivor. He attended the Summit in 2006. After that Summit Ron and I started talking as he was organizing a committee (which I initial joined but shortly thereafter had to leave do to the birth of Annabelle and other prior commitments) to start planning a regional northeast summit. Soon the committe formed the Cancer Advocates Coalition which Ron became Chairman. Ron stays active and helps many other cancer survivors and caregivers. He is a great guy and I was happy to have finally met him. A true inspiration to all testicular cancer survivors!

We moved the boxes so quickly that we finished around 4:00pm and could leave to have a dinner and then head over for the LAF’s Summit planning meeting at the Blackwell hotel at 7:30pm. Jeff, Ron and I agreed to meet at our hotel at 5:15pm for dinner before heading over the to the LAF meeting.

When we met in the lobby Ron had found to other Steering Committee members, Marcia Banta and Vicky Fletcher. They both attended the 2006 Summit. We found a nice little restaurant near our hotel and enjoyed dinner and talking about how cancer affected us and what we are doing now. After dinner Ron, Marcia and Vicky headed over to the hotel a little early to walk around while Jeff and I decided to stay back and take a walk around downtown Columbus. We quickly found that there was not much to see where we were and we did not want to walk too far so we decided to get a cab ride over to the Blackwell.

The Blackwell is across the street from The Ohio State University football stadium (I will have pictures to put up on a later post – a few of us had the opportunity to access the stadium on our last day – awesome!) Jeff and I walked over to the stadium and took a few pictures and then went back to the meeting.

I will not post on the details of the meeting only to say that the LAF staff was very prepared for this Summit and I was honored to be a part of it. The meeting ran a little past 9:00pm. When it was over Jeff and I were the first people down stairs waiting for a cab. We ended up meeting another Steering Committee member Laura McCalla and since she was also staying at our hotel the three of us shared a cab.

As we waited who walks by, but our General – Lance Armstrong. He gave the head-nod to me and in return I did one back. I am not one of those people who freak out over celebrities so that was a perfect way to say “Hi.”

For those of us who do a lot of work for the LAF we know to respect Lance and not bother him. I support the LAF because of their mission and the great people like Lance, Doug, Missy, Tara, Brenda, Brian, Glen, Kathryn, and all of the other great LAF staff and supporters. It is Lance’s name on the Foundation, but it is the entire team that makes it work and without them the LAF would not be the success it is today.

Jeff and I had to wait 30 minutes for a cab and we headed back to our hotel and went to the bar. We stayed there until 11:40 and then went to bed. After midnight I heard someone trying to access my room. It was a women who just got in and was trying to access the room she was given. I told her I had it until Sunday and I would clal the front desk to ensure no problems. Nice way to end the night!