Everyone is pretty much the same…

ImageI blog, I tweet, I stumble, I Pin and I Facebook.  I spend hours ‘connecting’ with the world through my computer.  Friends from yesteryear as well as new ones, the internet has given people an international audience to promote causes, share lives, seek new friendships and reconnect with old ones.  The things I write about have been written about before, there are no new messages that haven’t been spoken already.   The triumphs and struggles of people, the loss of loved ones, the excitement of new things, all part of the human condition.  My words, while to some may be annoying others may find enlightening.  The thing I find most fascinating is it really does not matter where you are people are pretty much the same.  We laugh, we cry, we celebrate, we mourn and we face challenges with the same apprehension.  We have families, friends, colleagues and co-workers.  I was recently asked to write some words to be printed with my book Alicia’s Updates, addressing the people of Japan.  Words of encouragement and hope to families dealing with pediatric cancer.  I thought long and hard trying to find the words that might resonate with people a half a world away.  I came up with the following because we all really are very much the same.

Life is a gift with the hope for tomorrow, but without any guarantees. Cancer can strike anyone at anytime and it knows no international boundaries. Whether in the United State or Japan people are diagnosed with cancer each and every day, for children being diagnosed that is the most devastating.  We all know those who have battled cancer successfully like Alicia, and also know those who did not.  Cancer should never define a person, but how they handle their cancer should.  Determination, strength, unrelenting optimism and a great sense of humor are universal earmarks of a successful cancer experience.  The journey through cancer affects not just the patient, but everyone surrounding them.  Education and inspiration come from everyday people and everyday things; the challenge is to recognize them.  I never would have wanted Alicia to get cancer however, her journey through treatment and beyond, the people we have met, the experiences we have had and the road we have traveled has been an inspiration and motivation to truly embrace and be grateful for the gift of today!

Shame on Good Morning America


September is quickly coming to an end and even before the last day of childhood cancer awareness month is over, ‘pink’ is already being promoted in the media. Magazines, advertisements, television and everywhere I look I am overwhelmed with ‘pink’. I understand raising awareness for breast cancer, I don’t understand the total lack of support or recognition of ‘gold’ and pediatric cancer. This evening while Tweeting to anyone who will listen to my plea to support childhood cancer, I came across a Good Morning America Tweet Special day coming up – GMA will #GoPink Oct. 1 to empower Americans in the fight against breast cancer. I have tweeted GMA along with many other shows, regularly about September being childhood cancer awareness month and I did not even receive a re-tweet. In fact, the ONLY celebrity who acknowledged pediatric cancer awareness is Mark Herzlich of the New York Giants who happens to be a pediatric cancer survivor himself. Everyone else has ignored my pleas.

So tonight on September 26th as I see a Tweet from GMA come across my Twitter feed, I find I am appalled and disgusted that children with cancer are the overlooked unsung warriors in the world of cancer. As the mother of a survivor, the co-founder of the Honeysuckle Foundation for Children with Cancer, the author of Alicia’s Updates A Mother’s Memoir of Pediatric Cancer and a spokesperson raising awareness I will Tweet, blog, write and speak until someone who can help me with this cause will listen!

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness month, ‘Gold’ is its color because kids get cancer too!

I Wrote a Best Seller!

I love to write.  I blog, I tweet and I wrote a book.  I know people read my work, as I can see from my followers, subscribers and those who have purchased my book.  I do not have the notoriety however, to make my book a best seller.  I always thought the toughest part would be writing.  Sitting down to write, organize and make sense of my thoughts.  It took a fairly long time to write, edit, then rewrite again.  I worked long and hard trying to perfect my book and make it the best it could be.   The day it was finally published gave me a  great sense of accomplishment when I received my first copy in the mail.  Of course my friends and family have all read my book and a few months ago my book was turned into an e-book, another milestone.     I have not however, been able to get the media, literary or online viral attention I know my book deserves.  My story is uplifting, my message is powerful and when my book sells, a portion of the sale goes to help fund my charity the Honeysuckle Foundation for Children with Cancer.  So why is it that tell all books from celebrities make bestseller lists and a true story of a young child’s successful battle against cancer who started a Foundation does not?  Is the material not compelling or interesting enough for today’s readers, or do I just lack the money and marketing firm that can promote anything?  Does the substance of a book matter or is it the star power behind it?  Do author’s like myself who work hard on our craft have a chance in a media driven world where  celebrity means everything?

I am an eternal optimist and spend my days promoting and introducing my book to anyone who will listen.  I also  believe that one day my book will get the attention and notoriety it  deserves.  If it doesn’t, it certainly won’t be from lack of trying!


The end of National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Kids Get Cancer Too

The end of September is here and National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month is almost over.  Another year passes and more kids are getting sick.  October brings Breast Cancer Awareness month and everything will be pink.  The NFL dedicates itself to it with pink hats, cleats and gloves.   The Empire State building will be flooded with pink lights and everywhere you turn ‘think pink’ takes over.  I admire the work done to bring such awareness to breast cancer, but I want that same level of awareness for pediatric cancer.  Children are our future and deserve that same level of awareness and commitment to help them get through a battle for their lives.  Please read these statistics they are alarming, especially if it is your own child or someone you know:

Facts about Cancer in Children and Adolescents

  • Every day, 36 children are diagnosed with cancer.
  • One child out of five who is diagnosed with cancer dies.
  • Children’s cancer it affects all ethnic, gender and socio-economic groups.
  • The average age of children diagnosed is six.
  • More than 40,000 children undergo treatment for cancer each year.
  • Three out of five who survive children’s cancer suffer late-effects, such as infertility, heart failure and secondary cancers.
  • There are approximately 350,000 adult survivors of children’s cancer in the United States.
    • That equates to 1 in 640 adults ages 18-45.

So as September comes to a close, I ask you to join a pediatric cancer awareness group, volunteer, attend an event and do not forget until next September that each and everyday another child and his or her family are told, ‘you have cancer.’


To learn more about how a family can survive and conquer cancer read Alicia’s Updates A Mother’s Memoir of Pediatric Cancer:

www.aliciasupdates.com   also available at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com



I wrote a book…

I wrote a book.  I guess it is really no major feat nowadays, since everyone including ‘Snooki’  and ‘JWoww’ have written books, in my opinion much about nothing.  I think my book is good and those who have read it tell me so, but my book gets no attention.  I have no morning news shows wanting to feature my story, no bookstores to take me up on my offers for book signings and no shelf space at Barnes & Noble.  You see I am not a celebrity.  I am a mother whose story is about my daughter’s tough, but successful battle against cancer.  My book is written from a place of raw emotion and tough times.  Before this experience I believed I had nothing to share that I thought was worthwhile for anyone else to read.  After my daughter’s battle with cancer however, I wanted to share my story and so I wrote.  I wrote and wrote and edited and revised and tried to make my story as good a book I could possibly make it.  I actually thought my book would catch interest from those who read it and believed all those television and radio shows I wrote to would also find interest in such a serious topic as childhood cancer.  I was mistaken.  I was fortunate enough to do a radio spot on Jordan Rich’s show in Boston, a gracious and classy host, but he was the only one.  I am not a public figure.  I do not have a reality TV show nor am I  a badly behaving celebrity the masses clamor to read about and therefore my book gets no publicity.  I have gotten over the initial shock of it, as my small following of people who read my blog and follow my tweets have given me great feedback about what I do, however, it is a sobering thought to think how we have devolved into a society where true struggle and triumph like children battling cancer are ignored while ridiculous and stupid behavior is news worthy.

5k/10k Honey Run

I want to host a fundraiser for the Honeysuckle Foundation for Children with Cancer (www.honeysucklefoundation.org) in September one in South Carolina and one on Long Island.   I already know the month since it is national childhood cancer awareness month, a little known fact in this country, but I am not sure how to get started.  I have a lot of experience running other fundraisers, golf outings, cocktail parties and school sponsored events, but I am clueless  on how to host a run.  I have an incredible volunteer, as are all my volunteers, who is not only involved with Honeysuckle, but she is the driving force for a run.  She is a runner!  It was her idea and it is her enthusiasm that tells me we can get this done so I have faith in her convictions and will immerse myself in getting this thing done.  I am very lucky to have people who step up whenever the call is made to work hard, devote countless hours for an event that raises money for us to provide things to families battling cancer.  I need help however, as we enter an arena we have never been in before.

The economic downturn has hurt charities just like everything else.  Every dollar raised now has even more meaning and impact as the usual sources of funding and donations have dried up.  I have a belief however, that no matter what the circumstances people  still want and will  do anything they can to help.  If I didn’t believe that I would have closed up shop a long time ago.  I know that what we do makes a difference, and while we are not a huge powerhouse not for profit with staff and real estate to manage, our work does make a difference as does the countless small-scale charities throughout the country.  So the Honeysuckle Foundation is looking for help, ideas, donations and guidance as we embark upon our next big fundraiser a 5k/10k run.  We will research, organize, ask, implore and shout out loud in order to get this event executed.  We have faith and hope that we can raise not only funds but awareness to the plight of kids battling cancer and hopefully one day get the national support and attention so desperately needed for the future of our country, our children!



The tragedy in Arizona is all over the news. We have been inundated with media reporting any and all aspects of it and the heroism many exhibited during this time.  I am happy for these stories of courage, but I also feel we should remember those who are heroic each and everyday of their lives.  Pediatric cancer is the number one cause of non accidental death of children in the United States.  Each day 46 children are diagnosed with this deadly disease.  Life for these children and their families will never be the same.  One day your child isn’t feeling well and the next he or she is fighting to live.  The battle is grueling the journey is never-ending.  Treatment takes time and it is tough.  Not for the faint of heart, the procedures and medications these children endure are toxic.  Parents sit and pray day after day, month after month, year after year for their children.  The children are heroes, the parents are heroes and the medical professionals who keep them alive are heroes.  You won’t see many media reports about them.  St. Jude does some wonderful pieces on these incredible people, but there are far too few. 

I know many of these heroes personally and not a day goes by that I don’t think about them and all they do.  The Jill’s, Antonella’s, Nancy’s and Meg’s of the world who actually chose to treat and work with kids with cancer.  They could have chosen any other field, yet chose to help these kids.  They are faced with the horror of pediatric cancer, yet believe in the good they bring in helping others.  There are good days and bad, yet each day they go to work to help a family devastated by this disease.  The Matt’s and Marissa’s of the world who lost their child to cancer and now devote their lives to helping others fighting this deadly disease.  I wish our society and media would pay attention to these stories and these people and give them the recognition they so deserve.  National attention to a horrible problem and it goes unrecognized.  These people do not do it for attention.  They do it believing they make a difference and they do. In my mind  true heroism is something that people exhibit each and everyday and I want everyone else to know it!

New Year’s Resolution

2010 is almost over and a new year about to begin.  I am ready to take the Christmas decorations down and get life back into some order.  After a busy two weeks with my family around to celebrate all that is good in our lives, they have left and I need to get back to normal, whatever that may be.   As we  get ready to ring in the New Year the thought of a resolution is in many people’s minds, mine included.  We hear the standard lose weight, get organized or start eating better, but most of us fail.  I however will step out on a limb and make my New Year’s resolution one that is both challenging and engaging to not only myself but to others as well.  After eight years the passion that once ignited my pet project the Honeysuckle Foundation for Children with Cancer (www.honeysucklefoundation.org) is held only by a few.  When we were right off the battle field of pediatric cancer there were many supporters, volunteers and donors.  Time and life has seen them dwindle away and our core group has grown smaller and smaller.  I am very lucky to have some truly dedicated individuals who work tirelessly for our cause, but it has gotten difficult especially once the economy tanked.   I want 2011 to be the year that the Honeysuckle Foundation takes off and makes a mark in the world of pediatric cancer patients.  Like pink is to breast cancer awareness, I want to utilize social media, mainstream media and network marketing to spread the word that there are too many kids battling for their lives and they need support today.  We want to collaborate with other not for profits in helping kids throughout this country fighting this deadly disease.  This mighty feat however cannot be done by just a few.  There is strength in numbers and I will seek out and find anyone who is willing to roll up there sleeves and get the message out.  Quality of life is just as important as the number of days in the life of a child with cancer. 

I have no set plan on how to do this and I will take it one day at a time.  I will write, post and implore others to join us and hopefully along the way 2011 will be Honeysuckle Foundation’s year;  we will get the support and resources we need to help these children.  It is imperative that we achieve this goal as none of us has a crystal ball and can foresee our future, and unfortunately today and everyday 46 children and their family’s lives will change forever.  We want to be able to help them and hope that maybe you do too!

Want to help or have an idea, email me:  rene@honeysucklefoundation.org

Happy New Year!

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is here and another year is almost over.  As we  prepare to spend time with family and friends eating and drinking too much and making new memories, we should remember what Thanksgiving is all about; giving thanks.  I always try to spend some time reflecting upon the prior year and remembering all the things that I should be thankful for.  It is hard when we get so caught up in the rush of everyday living to really be pragmatic and reflect upon the ‘greater things’.  Although this has been a tough year for most with a faltering economy, we still have many things to be grateful for.

I myself have much to say thanks for and so my list begins.  I am thankful for my children and their health.  It is only when their health is compromised do we realize that even our children are just mere mortals and the gift of life can be snatched in a moment. I am thankful that as a single parent I was able to give Lauren a wonderful college education and I am so proud of her.  I am thankful that Alicia is flourishing in high school and assimilated so beautifully in high school with straight A’s.  I am thankful for my parents.  How lucky I am to be able to speak to them on the phone everyday and get to see them whenever I want.  I am thankful for my friends.  Near and far the people who stand by me and my family no matter what.  Whether the neighbor, the nurse or the teacher who we ‘picked up’ as friends along the way, this intricate network of special people got me to where I am today. All of them are the backbone of our life and keep us laughing every step of the way.   I am thankful for my life.  Although I’ve had my share of adversity, it is only by dealing with problems and stress that I can now truly appreciate goodness and peace. 

I am thankful for living in a country that although we have differences, gives me the freedom and opportunity to write my blog,  do my not for profit work and live a life that is still one of the richest in the world.  I am thankful that God never gave up on me, even when I had my doubts and hit some of my lowest points.  I am thankful for my life!

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Lauren turned 21!!!!!!

My eldest daughter Lauren just turned 21 years old on November 9th.  It is hard to imagine where the time has gone, but I believe most parents feel the same way.  It seems like only yesterday our children were born then, what seems like a second later, they are adults.  I am proud of my daughter.  She is an inspiration and role model for me.  An unsung hero in a family dynamic that was anything but peaceful.  Being the eldest, the most was expected of her and even if it was never said to her, Lauren rose to the occasion on her own.  She always aimed high and put the most pressure upon herself to achieve and aspire.  As a parent, we all want to do the right thing for our children and hope and pray that they will one day grow up to be responsible and respectful members of our society.  We offer them lessons and guidance, encouragement and support both financial and emotional.  We discipline, we laugh and we spend our time hoping some of who we are will ‘rub off’ on them.  A living testament to our own existence in the actions and lives of our children.  The toughest part however, is letting them grow, therefore letting them ‘go’.  Falling and faltering, making mistakes and hopefully learning from them along the way. 

Lauren has not gotten much praise along the way, at least not as much as I believe she deserved.  Faced with a sister battling cancer, she spent her teenage years understanding that my attention needed to be upon her sisters care and treatment.  Lauren never complained.  She went through many teenage things being all too aware that her ‘screw ups’ and mistakes would divert my attention from where it was needed the most at the time.  Lauren is a rock of strength.  When my ex husband filed for divorce and dragged Lauren into the middle of his legal mess,  my then 15-year-old not only maintained her school schedule, but remained calm and composed and somehow seemed to find the humor in the absolute absurdity of it.    A college education at University of Florida was something Lauren always dreamed of.  How lucky to have a child dream of education as others dream of new clothes and cars.  She was accepted and as a single parent doing it alone, I made sure she got that wonderful dream of attending that great school.

Now Lauren is ‘officially’ an adult.  No need for fake ID’s, having to miss going out with her friends because she is the youngest  and in a months time she will graduate.  The time has gone way too fast, the lessons we have learned immeasurable.  We have laughed, we have cried and have gone down that rocky road called life with perseverance and resolve.  I have learned a lot about myself watching Lauren.  Her laughter is infectious, her strength is admirable, her compassion is enviable and her sense of style is unique.

I want everyone to know just how incredible Lauren really is!