This photo was taken 3 days ago with my very dear friend Colleen.
We’ve been friends for over 20 years and have gone on several adventures together; among them a swamp tour in the bayou where we got to hold a baby alligator, a birthday cruise where we met up with another friend and sailed from Miami to Cayman Islands and swam with countless Stingrays, a side trip from Jamaice to Havana where Colleen taught me how to light up a cigar (first & last time) and a nighttime pub crawl through the mossy tree lined streets of Savannah, Ga. while our guide related creepy scary story after story. Colleen is an inspiration; she doesn’t take life for granted and she’s the first person to say “YES” to going somewhere and doing something fun. She has no time for sweating the small stuff. Her family is amazing. The only time I don’t want to be around Colleen is when I’m feeling the slightest bit rundown. But there’s a reason for that.
We first met 27 years ago, just before she left for London, England to undergo a heart & double lung transplant; a surgery that was not performed here in Canada at the time. She was celebrating her 27 year anniversary which was on October 22nd. Colleen suffered a deadly disease called cystic fibrosis (commonly known as CF) and London was where her knighted surgeon, Sir Magi Yacoub (of Egyptian & English descent) was located. Along with her mother, Colleen waited there 2 months before receiving her transplant. Colleen always had a good heart but at that time the surgeon felt it better for the lungs to keep same heart attached so he gave her the heart and lungs as one unit. Colleen’s donor was British and Colleen’s good heart went to a Greek man who was so grateful he gave her a gold heart pendant and earrings as a thank you. Organ donors can give people a second chance at life. Colleen is one of only a few living heart donors. She has been back to visit both her surgeon and her heart recipient (he had two kids and lived 17 longer years) since.
Colleen is Canada’s longest surviving heart and double-lung recipient and many stories have been written about her. At the time, she travelled to London with her best friend Brandy who also received a heart/double-lung transplant but her body rejected it and very sadly Brandy did not survive. In a few more weeks from now Colleen will be celebrating her donor kidney replacement (from a different donor). Some may think she’s taking advantage of too many celebrations but she has good reason to celebrate, don’t you think?
She posted on Facebook: it’s great to be alive and well. I miss all my friends along the way that were not so fortunate, but have wonderful memories. An auspicious and reflective day.
And I have met many people since with this common, fatal genetic disease that affects mostly young adults and children. I met an incredibly strong natured young woman, a beautiful red-haired actress Eva Markvoort who tragically passed away after a long fight five years ago. She chronicled her combat with CF via a daily blog which people from all over the world followed religiously, many whom had no connection to CF.
It is because of people like Eva and Colleen that I volunteer every year by rounding up live and silent auction items for a fundraising event called “65 Roses” to help raise money towards finding a cure for cystic fibrosis. As it stands right now there is no cure.
CF is not as widely recognized as Cancer. While I know more people close to me who currently have cancer, or are in remission from it, or people who have died from having cancer, this along with the SPCA, is my charity of choice. We are starting to see some progress here.
So I thought I’d share with you a little bit about CF and the fundraising event called 65 Roses – because I think it’s important to raise consciousness regarding this.
What is CF?
It is a multi-organ disease, primarily affecting the lungs and digestive system. Ultimately, most CF deaths are due to lung disease. Each week in Canada two children are diagnosed with CF and one person dies from this life-shortening disease. In 2010, half the Canadians who died of cystic fibrosis were under 26 years old.
About one in every 25 Canadians carries a defective version of the gene responsible for CF, and currently there are more than 4,000 Canadians living with the disease. Many people are not even aware that they have this gene. Here’s the thing; both parents must carry the gene in order for their child to get CF, and each time they conceive they have a 1 in 4 chance of getting a child with CF. Carriers may pass on the gene without passing on the disease. For instance, Colleen has a brother and sister and neither have CF, nor do their children. Although Colleen’s mother lost a baby son and a teenage daughter to this terrible disease .
What is 65 ROSES?
The annual 65 Roses Gala is Cystic Fibrosis Canada Vancouver Chapter’s signature event, and I am excited to announce that this year marks the 15th ‘Crystal’ Anniversary of the gala. This amazing event, Presented by B2Gold Corp, is set to take place on Saturday, November 7, 2015 at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel, and to honor this milestone anniversary we have some special surprises and exciting performances lined up which I’m sure everyone will love! Tax receipts will be issued for the charitable portion of each ticket.
Last year’s Gala was a great success! Over 300 guests gathered to enjoy an evening of fine dining, superb wines, delicious food, and danced the night away. Thanks to guests, sponsors, and donors, we collectively raised more than $400,000 for cystic fibrosis research and care, making this our most successful event to date. There are still some tickets available.
About the RESEARCH
In 2015/2016, Cystic Fibrosis Canada will invest more than $7.7 million in innovative research and clinical care. Researchers are attacking cystic fibrosis on many fronts. We know that this research is making a difference in the lives of those with cystic fibrosis because the median age for life expectancy of Canadians living with CF is now 50.9 years, the highest in the world! This research and care is largely funded by our fundraising efforts and events such as this one, and we cannot raise the money that we do without the help of our generous sponsors.
How can you HELP make a difference?
If you are interested in supporting CF by donating an item for auction or purchasing gala tickets, please contact the Cystic Fibrosis Canada Western Region office at 604.436.1158 Not only will you receive a tax receipt for doing so, but it will make you feel good and *way more attractive too.
There have been great strides towards finding a cure for cystic fibrosis, but we know we can do more, and with your help we can fund critical research and care to help make CF stand for CURE FOUND.
I’m delighted to do whatever I can to help support CF and it makes me feel good to do something for such a worthwhile cause. Plus I’m looking forward to another FUN evening. Because let’s face it, there always has to be some FUN involved.
*FUN FACT: According to my friend Yanive, DONATING MAKES YOU 65 TIMES MORE ATTRACTIVE TO THE OPPOSITE SEX and adds 125% more goodness to your SOUL.
A MESSAGE from EVA:
Documentary about Eva on CBC’s The Passionate Eye
Dance at every opportunity