With Gratitude

I say it again and again, but running with Team in Training and fundraising for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is such an incredible, humbling experience. I highly recommend it.

While I haven’t written here in about two weeks, I have been thinking a lot about what I have to say and what I want to write. That hasn’t gotten me very far, but a few things continue to bubble to the top of my thoughts and there are three points on the top of my to-do list next to TNT blog:

1. Nigel
2. The Grand Hyatt New York
3. Ibby

When I moved to Boston three years ago I started in my first sales position with a full quota, no business on the books and a long way to go. Nigel Pickett was one of my very first clients and quickly became a favorite. For starters, working the local financial market, I was able to book my goals almost exclusively on Nigel’s Federal Reserve bookings, which was a plus. Aside from our business relationship, though, I knew that Nigel was a thirty-something year old man who had recently overcome brain cancer and was one of the most articulate, genuine, and funny men I had ever met. We spent summer nights drinking beers at Fenway Park (Nigel was with me on my first trip to the stadium!) and we were on each other’s office speed dials: he would call me when he was desperate for rooms or needed to make attrition go away and I would call him when I was just short of quota on the last day of the month. As market conditions have changed Nigel and I stopped working together, but as recently as last fall we sat out back at the Hyatt and drank martinis and laughed as we caught up on each other’s lives. A few days later I called to say how much I enjoyed his company and it was the last time we spoke. I found out last week that Nigel passed away in late January and I never even knew. The obituary said he passed away after “a brief and courageous battle against his last illness.” Perhaps I’ll never know if his brain cancer returned or if he knew he was sick when we sat out overlooking the Boston Harbor six months ago, but I know I’ll never forget him and feel even more bound to working towards a cure for cancer than ever.

As I have found through my involvement with Team in Training over the last several years, you never know who else is linked to your cause. “Ask everyone to donate!” the LLS encourages us. “You never know who will want to give you their money!” And, of course, it’s true. Last month the coordinator for Massachusetts Team in Training team asked me if there was any way I could come up with a free night at the Grand New York over the Marathon this fall. Having worked at the Hyatt Downtown over our Marathon for two years, I know that a free night is a joke from any revenue manager’s perspective and it would be an understatement to call it a long shot. Regardless, I e-mailed the Director, explaining the organization and it’s mission and asking if there might be any way she would be willing to donate a comp night. Her response was brief, but left me stunned: We will be happy to donate. I lost my mother to Lymphoma. She was only 46, so I cannot thank you enough for helping others.

Each chapter of Team in Training group has an “Honored Hero” and I was fortunate enough to meet ours last month. Her name is Ibby Caputo and she prefers to be called our Mascot than our Honored Hero. Ibby’s story is remarkable–she was originally given only 6 weeks to live after her diagnosis–and her outgoing and healthy manner seems a far cry from the story she shared of two years ago. In the summer of 2007, at 26 years old, Ibby was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia, an aggressive and fast-growing cancer of the bone marrow. After back-to-back-to-back chemotherapy failed to put Ibby into remission, she underwent a stem cell transplant that saved her life. Ibby’s oncologist was paid, in part, by funding from Team in Training and the LLS. At practice when I met Ibby she told us that having passed her two-year cancer-free milestone, she is more likely to be hit by a bus than to have her cancer return and that while she appreciates our dedication and willingness to run in her honor, she has friends who could use our enthusiasm and support more than she does and would love for us to wear their names on our jerseys instead of her’s. I cannot stop thinking about the fundamentals of gratitude and humility and how incredible Ibby is to have emerged from her illness still thinking of others instead of just herself. It’s really no wonder she’s our Honored Hero at all.