OCF Run for Jeremy Blevins

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”
-Muhammad Ali

Shelley OCF 2

I first connected with Shelley Blevins in the fall of 2014 after we both participated in the Blue Ridge Relay. Two months after the race Shelley sent me a message letting me know that we had much more than running in common. Like me, Shelley is a graduate of East Tennessee State University. Unfortunately, Shelley and I also share the heartbreak of losing a loved one to oral cancer.

Shelley lost her husband, Jeremy, in August of 2013 after an eight month battle with oral cancer. Jeremy was 42, a non-smoker and ran every day. Shelley described Jeremy as “having perfect health” and in the 25 years that they were together he barely ever had a cold. Jeremy’s form of oral cancer was so aggressive that even major surgery and treatment at MD Anderson in Houston, TX could not save or prolong his life. Jeremy and Shelley have two young children who now don’t have their dad because of oral cancer. Oral cancer does not discriminate and often there are no known causes.

Shelley and I at the OCF Run for Jeremy Blevins

Shelley has been an active member of the Oral Cancer Foundation for the past two years. On February 6th, I had the opportunity to walk in the OCF Run for Jeremy Blevins in Fort Mill, SC. Shelley did an amazing job organizing the event and the turn out was great! Thank you, Shelley for all that you do to raise awareness and support the Oral Cancer Foundation.

Oral Cancer Foundation

Thank you, Jess and Beth, for waking up so early and driving 6 hours round trip to attend the event.  You two are the best!!

Thank you, Jess and Beth, for waking up so early and driving 6 hours round trip to attend the event. You two are the best!!

OralID

Photo by: Tony Weeg Hair and Makeup by: Patty Preston

Photo by: Tony Weeg
Hair and Makeup by: Patty Preston

Thank you OralID and the Oral Cancer Foundation for sharing my mom’s story. It’s an honor to be affiliated with both of these organizations and I cannot thank you enough for all that you do for patients, survivors and families affected by oral cancer. I hope that my mom’s story helps others learn how critical early detection and screenings are in saving lives and preserving the quality of those lives.

Oral Cancer Foundation- Giving Tuesday

www.oralcancerfoundation.org/givingtuesday

www.oralcancerfoundation.org/givingtuesday

Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday, the global day dedicated to giving back. I feel incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to donate, support and volunteer for the Oral Cancer Foundation. When my mom was battling oral cancer the founders and members of the foundation provided support and comfort for my mom. I think one of the reasons my mom was able to fight the disease for over nine years was due to the camaraderie she found through the OCF. While oral cancer stole my mom’s voice and ultimately her life, the OCF has allowed her fight and voice to live on with their constant efforts towards eradicating this horrible disease. I cannot thank the members of the OCF, founder Brian Hill and the amazing volunteers and workers enough for all that they do. Thank you to all my sweet friends who support Carol’s Fight and help spread awareness!

Brain Hill

“Be it through helping people behind me in the disease process with their questions on OCF’s online support group, working with researchers (both through direct funding and through my position on a National Cancer Institute immuotherapeutics oversight committee) that are making progress in our understanding of not only the disease but important new ways to interrupt a cancer cell’s ability to evade our own immune system, to working on efforts to reach kids before they adopt tobacco as a lifestyle choice through our rodeo outreach program, to helping convince the CDC to allow on label vaccination of young boys against HPV, a virus that will cause over 600,000 new cancers in the world this year including oral/oropharyngeal cancers, to working with politicians that finally passed a landmark bill to allow the FDA more control over tobacco, I give my time and donations to support OCF.”

– Brian Hill
Oral Cancer Foundation Founder
IV Oral Cancer Survivor

My friends helping spread the message

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Carol's Fight Big Sur

Courage

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
― Lao Tzu

Thank you Tony Weeg for the awesome photos!  Loved every minute of our session and getting to spend time with you, Andrea and Patty.  I'm so excited for your third daughter to get here!

Photo by Tony Weeg

The word courage is derived from the Latin word for heart. This makes a lot of sense because to me you can’t have courage without a tremendous amount of heart. My mom exemplified heart and courage everyday during her nine-year battle with oral cancer. Even when my mom was suffering from unimaginable pain she still took the time to constantly think of others before herself. My mom loved to send uplifting cards and support causes. I’ve tried my best to carry on her thoughtfulness and love of people, along her passionate fight against oral cancer through Carol’s Fight. Seeing my mom’s courage and fight for life is one of the main reasons I believe that I was able to fight my attacker off the night of the attack and start Rising Strength.

Photo by Tony Weeg

Photo by Tony Weeg

Last month, I was missing my mom so much and just wanted to talk to her. While thinking about her love of people, her sense of humor and her knack for always knowing how to make me feel better, I looked up her birthday on World Vision. That’s where I found Courage, a five-year old from Ghana who shares my mom’s birthday and a name that could not have been more perfect. World Vision is an incredible organization that allows you to have an impact on a child’s life in areas of the world where children desperately need our help. I am so honored to be Courage’s World Vision sponsor and carry on my mom’s love of supporting others. To me, the best way to direct your pain from losing someone is to honor the person that they were. Somehow, when you do this the pain eases and the presence of your loved one is palpable.

www.worldvision.org

www.worldvision.org

We are less than two months away from the Blue Ridge Relay! I can’t wait to join my Blue Ridge Relay teammates and take on 208 miles to raise awareness for women’s health and safety! It takes a lot of heart and courage to run those mountain goat hard legs in the dark and I can’t thank everyone on the team enough! HUGE thank you to our sponsors Evco, Interstate Resources, Appalachian Community Federal Credit Union and OralId! If your interested in supporting the team please contact me.

Spring

Boston Marathon Finish Line
It’s hard to believe that it has been over a month since the Boston Marathon! I had such an incredible experience at Boston and enjoyed every moment running for the causes that are so important to me. I can’t thank my sweet college teammates and friends enough for surprising me with the video below! I was blown away by all of the support I received from my friends and family and couldn’t stop smiling the entire marathon! Thank you Jamie O’Day from the Oral Cancer Foundation for the awesome care package! It is an honor to support the OCF and I feel so lucky that I can help carry on my mom’s memory through an incredible organization like the The Oral Cancer Foundation. Thank you Go-Shake, Team Kattouf, and OralID for everything!

Thank you Bil for being the BEST and organizing this awesome video that made me smile and cruise through an entire marathon!  Love you!!

Thank you Bil for being the BEST and organizing this awesome video that made me cruise through an entire marathon! Love you!!

Bucstrong!

Less than a week after the Boston Marathon I had the opportunity to be a speaker at The Justice in Motion 5k in Jonesborough, TN. The Justice in Motion 5k raises awareness for the rights of victims and all proceeds go to local domestic violence shelters. It was an honor to be a speaker at the race and to be back in an area that I love so much! Thank you, Todd Hull and all of the organizers of the race for your support of Rising Strength. Thank you We Run Events and all of the runners that came out to participate. As a victim of violence it makes such a difference knowing that there are communities coming together to not only support victims but advocate for change.

Justice in Motion

As we get ready to start preparing for talks this fall and another Blue Ridge Relay, I can’t thank my friends enough for their support of Rising Strength and Carol’s Fight! I am so lucky to have such amazing people in my life who constantly blow me away with their friendship and love!

Thank you Meredith for being an amazing friend!!  Not many would come out and cheer ia friend in 40 degree, rain and wind while being almost 9 months pregnant !  Thank you for ALWAYS taking such great care of me, love you!

Thank you Meredith for being an amazing friend!! Not many would come out and cheer a friend in 40 degree, rain and wind while being almost 9 months pregnant ! Thank you for ALWAYS taking such great care of me, love you!

Thank you for the generous donation to Rising Strength!  We will use this towards the vans for the Blue Ridge Relay team, that will take on 208 miles again to raise awareness for the violence that occurs against women.

Thank you for the generous donation to Rising Strength! We will use this towards the vans for the Blue Ridge Relay team, that will take on 208 miles again to raise awareness for the violence that occurs against women.

Oral Cancer Awareness Month

OralID

April is an important month for anyone who has been touched by oral cancer. My mom, Carol Layer, lost a nine-year battle with oral cancer in August of 2011. Throughout my mom’s fight against oral cancer, her involvement in the Oral Cancer Foundation helped her immensely by allowing her to form friendships with people who were enduring the same hardships she was. After my mom passed away, many members of the oral cancer foundation reached out to me to offer their support and let me know what an important role my mom played in helping them get through their own fight with oral cancer.

The experience of losing my mom changed me in many ways. I value my health, family, friends and time more than any possession I could ever earn. It wasn’t until after the attack, when I realized how quickly my life could be taken from me, that I started to ask myself these questions:

“What is my purpose?”

“What am I passionate about?”

“If I had died the night of the attack, what would I have been remembered for?”

“What do I want most out of this life?”

“How am I making a difference?”

I continue to ask myself those questions everyday and many of the answers led me to start Rising Strength and Carol’s Fight . I hope anyone who is reading this right now asks these questions of themselves today.

While I never would have wished the attack to happen, I am grateful for how the experience led me to start living with more purpose and passion. At the time I asked myself those questions, I wanted nothing more than to talk to my mom. Not having my mom for one of the hardest and most intense experiences of my life really drove home that she was gone. However, I felt my mom’s presence constantly during that time and I know without a doubt seeing her fight cancer is what gave me the strength to fight off my attacker. I saw first hand for nine years, that no matter how hard and tough things can be, this life is worth fighting for. This is when I started to get more involved with the Oral Cancer Foundation and start a fundraising campaign in my mom’s honor.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to share my mom’s story with a company, OralID that is determined to save lives and prevent people from suffering the way my mom did. Thank you OralID for traveling to St. Michaels and giving me the opportunity to tell my mom’s story. It wasn’t easy to describe the hardships and all of the details of what my mom endured because of oral cancer but I am so honored that her life will hopefully save others through early detection. I hope that anyone who hears my mom’s story knows that any day you have the ability to eat, drink, speak, laugh, smile and kiss your loved ones is a good day. Oral cancer stole those abilities from my mom. No matter what else is going on in your life, if you have the ability to do those things you are okay and things will get better.

The next few weeks are packed with amazing events for both the OCF and Rising Strength. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for all of these opportunities and for the people that make them possible. Thank you just doesn’t seem adequate, but Thank you to all of my friends and family, OralID, the Oral Cancer Foundation, Team Kattouf, Lon Latiolais for your continued support of Carol’s Fight and Go Shake!

Carol's Fight 1