Baldies' Blog began originally in the UK by a 26 year old journalist with a blood cancer on a mission to inform the world about bone marrow donation.

He has since died, and I took on the cause of making cancer care more transparent for everybody.

Cancer is a disease that will touch everybody through diagnosis or affiliation: 1 in 2 men will be diagnosed and 1 in 3 woman will hear those words, "You Have Cancer."

I invite you to read how I feel along my journey and
how I am continuing to live a full life alongside my Hodgkin's lymphoma, with me controlling my cancer, not my cancer controlling me.

I hope that "Baldies' Blog" will prepare you to handle whatever life sends you, but especially if it's the message, "You Have Cancer."

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Monday, February 13, 2012

Frank's Eulogy (Bigger Than Life, Bigger Than My Words)

Team St. Pierre-Ford Bigger Than Life. 
A Lesson In Courage … Caring … & Family A tribute to Hillary 
 5 years ago … life as I knew it changed.  My father, then 90, was admitted to the hospital with 
congestive heart failure. 
 He was a determined man.  He knew what he wanted, how he wanted it & when … he left little 
room for negotiation.  For example he was never far from Shasha his beloved German Shepherd. 
 However hospitals have rules.  So I parked the car where he see her out the window & I’d go out 
every hour or so all week … to walk the dog & warm up the car. 
 During one of those jaunts, a shy little 3 year old boy approached me carrying a Tyrannosaurus 
rex.  I told him I used to play with a real T-rex when I was his age because they lived in my 
neighborhood then.  Although only 3, I don’t think he bought that. 
 He then asked if he could pet Sasha & I of course agreed. 
 I learned later, that I was the 1st stranger he had approached on his own to talk with.  Of course, it 
was the dog … not me … but it still makes me feel special. 
 As we walked across the parking lot, he asked if I was there to visit my Mommy too?  His dad told 
me his 24 year old wife had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma & was at Mary Hitchcock where her twin sister 
Heather was donating bone marrow. 
 Little did I know that chance encounter would change my life.  He was the connection that brought 
Hillary into my life … & into the lives of so many of my friends.  He was none other than Xander … 
World Class Frog Catcher Extraordinaire. 
 And today … I want to thank my buddy Xander … for giving me a gift that I shall cherish for the 
rest of my life. 
 Thank you for introducing me to your mother and inviting me into your family. 
 When Vic asked if I’d give a Eulogy, I quickly told him I would be honored. 
 However, after agreeing to speak today, the reality set in.  The enormity of the task dawned on me 
& brought back memories of a drive I had to make in the middle of the night in 1999 to tell my dad 
that his daughter, my sister had been murdered.  What words would I choose? 
 I have struggled, in like fashion, with what to say today. 
 What could I say that could capture the essence of Hillary? 
 I’m not going to attempt to recount Hillary’s accomplishments … we’d be here all weekend & I’d 
likely miss many of them!!  They were legion. 
 Instead, I’m going to talk about what the Hillary experience has meant to me. 
 She was bigger than life!!  She was in fact, bigger than my words 

 Eileen, a friend from Keene State, wrote suggesting 3 words that symbolize Hillary … Hope … 
Faith … & Grace.  3 simple words, but not so simple concepts.   
 Hope … can mean many things... a wish, a dream, a desire, a feeling when you are down and 
out.  Over the years, we’ve all had hopes for Hillary … many of them realized ... albeit sadly the 
hope for a cure was not.  But she continued to push forward right to the end. 
 Faith ... the dictionary describes this as the ability to believe in something you can't see … but it 
means so much more.  For Hillary and her family, it helped them through some of the darkest 
days when no matter how hard they tried, they couldn't control the situation & were forced to 
accept it, not in a complacent way, but in a faithful way which brings a form of inner peace.  Faith 
is continuing treatment, even if it isn’t likely to work & may in fact make you feel worse because it 
may help someone else. 
 Grace … is the hardest and most mysterious.  Hillary showed grace as she put all the symptoms 
and illness complications aside to write in her blog … to design and make jewelry … to coach or 
attend Xander's games … to laugh with a college friend … or to humor an old War Horse like me.  
Hillary showed grace when she continued to live … chin up … helping others less fortunate then 
herself even as all that she hoped to accomplish got yanked out from underneath her.  We saw 
grace before she died, when she seemed to make peace … with herself … her world … her life … 
& she passed peacefully out of this world into the next where there is no pain. 
 She was bigger than life!!  She was bigger than my words 

 Team St. Pierre-Ford, is about courage … it’s about forging ahead in spite of the challenges. 
 The 1st day I met Hillary, I also met her mother Nancy.  Things were kind of rough so to cheer 
them up, so I bought a huge rainbow colored Dragon!!  When I gave it to Hillary … I said I don’t 
believe in free lunches so there is a condition that comes with this dragon.  You can take it & give 
it to Xander … but you must promise me that you will never EVER give up fighting!!  If you do … 
you will have to take that Dragon away from that cute little boy & give it back.  Because I don’t 
give Dragons to quitters!!  She never blinked.  She said “It’s a deal.” 
 And she lived up to that deal … over the next 5+ years, she NEVER once quit fighting!! 
 In one of Vic’s last Updates, he described how the Hodgkin’s kept finding ways to mutate & come 
back after every type of chemo they could give her.  After radiation, the cancer moved.  She had 2 
different types of bone marrow transplants & the 2nd one created a complication called Graff vs. 
Host disease which caused problems with her eyes, lungs, kidney & liver.  In spite of beating the 
cancer 13 times, it came back for a 14th time!! 
 Yet even then, she talked of getting more chemo.  I always believed that while she was realistic 
about her chances, she always hoped that maybe they would learn something that would help 
someone else. 
 She was bigger than life!!  She was bigger than my words 

 Team St. Pierre-Ford is about making the most out of every moment. 
 A couple of years after I met Hillary, there was a video that went viral on the Internet … it was 
called “The Last Lecture” … by Randy Pausch, a Professor at Carnegie Mellon.  Remember it?  
He had inoperable cancer & was saying good-bye to his students. 
 He started his lecture talking about his childhood.  He realized as he went through family pictures, 
there wasn’t a single one of him as a kid when he wasn’t smiling.  Does that sound like someone 
we all know?  Have you ever seen a picture of Hillary when she wasn’t smiling? 
 And oh how she could smile.  When I 1st started hanging around Hillary, her mother Nancy, like all 
“she bears”, was protective of her cubs.  She wondered why was an old white haired guy was 
hanging around 1 of her beautiful daughters? 
 She even made me give her references!! 
 I assured her my intentions were honorable … however, today I will admit that Hillary’s smile had 
me from the 1st.  So Nancy was in fact, wise to question my motives. 
 However, it took only 1 look at Hillary’s husband Jon to keep me on the straight & narrow.  Man, 
that guy is BIG!! 
 But your troubles aren’t over yet Nancy.  You do have another beautiful daughter. 
 Hillary packed a lifetime of accomplishments into 29 short years!!  Yet she never stopped living 
with gusto … right up to the end. 
 She gave new meaning to an old biker saying about living life … Ride it like you stole it. 
 And she did it ‘til the end.   
 She encouraged us to live each day because you never know.  I was again reminded of that 
lesson last night.  After the Visiting hours at the Funeral Home, I drove to Dartmouth Hitchcock to 
visit a dear family friend.  When I got there, I learned I was 10 minutes too late.  He died just 
before I arrived. 
 Live as if there were no tomorrows. 
 She was bigger than life!!  She was bigger than my words 

 Team St. Pierre-Ford is about caring for one another no matter what the challenges.  
 There aren’t many people whom I truly admire.  That is saved for a select few. 
 Today, there is such a person among us - a co-captain of Team St. Pierre-Ford … Hillary’s 
husband Jon.   
 Over the last 6 years … when medical bills outstripped insurance … when the woman he loved 
couldn’t do the things she signed up for because she was fighting for her life … Jon always had 
Hillary’s back. 
 He stuck by her in his quiet, unassuming way … never complaining.  He would step in to pick up 
her share of the load when it was necessary … at times being primary care giver to both Hillary & 
to Xander. 
 Conversely, when Jon struggled with his own serious medical issues, Hillary, in spite of being sick 
herself, stepped forward to care for Jon. 
 How many of us can honestly say we’ve been as self-less as Jon & Hillary? 
 They are bigger than life!!  They are bigger than my words. 

 Team St. Pierre-Ford is about teaching … & making a difference. 
 In 2007, Hillary suffered a major setback & we almost lost her.  She was back in the hospital for 
an extended stay when her computer crashed.  And anyone who knows Hillary …knows her 
computer was an extension of her. 
 I had an old laptop I agreed to give to her, but there were conditions.  She had to promise to do 
something for someone else.  She gave me one of those beautiful smiles & said no problem. 
 After thinking about it, she called to tell me she was wanted to chronicle her battle with cancer by 
starting a Blog.  I didn’t know how to spell Blog!!  And I never imagined what that would grow into. 
 She chronicled her battle so well, that her site was subsequently listed by The American Cancer 
Society as one of The Top Ten patient-written cancer resources.  And along the way, she helped 
us understand the challenges patients face in the American health care system.   
 And throughout the last 6 years … Vic kept us abreast of the situation.  In the process, we came 
to recognize the total love of family that he & Nancy have.  They taught us to focus on the positive 
… even during the darkest hours. 
 No matter what was going on with his family, whenever I talked with Vic … his 1st questions were 
about me & others.  Along the way, he showed us that life, even when it isn’t easy, can be lived 
with kindness & generosity. 
 While I wasn’t able to be with her at the end … I took inspiration from Vic & Nancy who set the 
standard in courage for us all.  I learned sometimes we have to accept things we cannot change. 
 Throughout the last 5+ years I’ve known this family, Team St. Pierre-Ford has had a consistent 
theme … their quiet dignity made me want to be a better person. 
 They are bigger than life!!  They are bigger than my words. 

 My friend Dianne, also from Keene State, wrote that Hillary may have lost this war with cancer, but 
she surely did win a lot of the battles along the way.  While she is no longer here with us in body, 
you can still see her in the things she left behind.  You can see her in her biggest legacy … her 
wonderful son Xander … who gave me the gift of Hillary. 
 Xander … I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the gift you gave me by introducing 
me to your family.  Thank you for teaching me to catch frogs & I hope you will come up to VT this 
summer & give me another lesson & maybe we can go for a ride on the old ’48 Harley. 
 Heather … thank you for your bravery … for enduring the pain of being a bone marrow donor … & 
for your hours sitting in countless hospital rooms with your sister.  You are truly a gift girl!! 
 Patrick … thank you for also being there through this struggle & for supporting your sister.  You 
meant a lot to her. 
 Jon … thank you for your strength & unwavering support for our girl.  You have been there for 
Hillary … quietly & without fanfare.  I admire you for that.  It was not an easy journey & there were 
no road maps to guide you.  Now you face new challenges.  It is up to you to teach the lessons 
Hillary would have taught Xander … to ensure he grows into a responsible, strong young man. 
 Vic & Nancy … thank you for adopting me into your family … & for sharing your gut wrenching 
journey.  Thank you for your caring & wisdom that helped us all through this journey.  You have 
set the standard for courage … class … dignity … & love. 
 Team St. Pierre-Ford … you have had a HUGE impact on MANY people's lives. 
 You are bigger than life!!  You are bigger than my words
 While Hillary is gone from us physically, her spirit will always be here.  My friend Dianne said it 
best when she wrote about a country song … a father calling home when his son, who missed 
him, asked … Daddy, when are you coming home?  He said the first thing that came to his mind: 
I'm already there … 
Take a look around … 
I'm the sunshine in your hair … 
I'm the shadow on the ground … 
I'm the whisper in the wind … 
I'm your imaginary friend … 
And I know I'm in your prayers … 
I'm already there. 
 To Hillary … I say thanks for touching my heart in a very unique way … thank you for making me 
want to be a better person.  Thank you for making a difference … & for daring to dream big. 
 In closing … where we once hoped Hillary would conquer this ugly disease, let’s hope that it will 
be cured before more die.  Let’s hope that Vic, Nancy, Heather, Patrick, Jon & Xander will find the 
strength to deal with the days ahead.  Let’s hope that this family, whom we've all come to love, will 
find peace.  And let’s hope that we see Xander grow up in the image of his mother & father. 
 When people who work for me come up with a suggestion … I frequently ask So What?  So what 
will be different?  So what will be the outcome? 
 As we leave here today, I ask each of you to take a moment & answer so what? 
 So what are you going to do, to keep Hillary’s legacy & Team St. Pierre-Ford alive? 
 Will you volunteer to coach youth soccer? 
 Will you listen to your kids a little more? 
 Will you take care of your spouse or significant other even when you don’t feel well? 
 Will you speak out against injustice & fight for what you believe in? 
 Will you comfort a stranger? 
 Will you find ways to make a difference? 
 Will you find ways every day to leave things a little better than you found them? 
 I hope you do. 
 Let’s keep Team St. Pierre-Ford & Hillary’s legacy alive 
 Thank you. 


Noreen said...

Pretty good post! I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I'll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon.

Anonymous said...

This is absolutely beautiful...

Emerald76 said...

Tears are streaming down my face, this is beautiful!

Lori C said...

Very well said! Words really can't sum up what an impact she made on the lives of so many countless people. She'll be missed, but her memory will be everlasting. Her courage a tribute to all who endure,and Her smile is ingrained on our hearts.
Love and blessings to all,
Lori LC