A reminder of why I fight

TJ, Josie, Tommy and Jen in front of a sign that reads "Thank you for helping my daddy get better."

“They say you’ll have nightmares if you don’t have some dreams; It’s another Grand Bar Scheme.” - Scott Kirby, “Grand Bar Schemes”

From what I understand, it started the way many great ideas do – a group of friends sitting around over drinks. Someone was struck with a moment of inspiration, and soon everyone was all-in developing it. Plans were made as the next round of cocktails arrived, and the later the evening got, the better the idea became. Creativity and energy flow as freely as the happy hour specials that inspire them.

Those dreams usually wither away as the crowd dwindles and the sun rises the next morning; the “grand bar scheme” from last night a slightly hazy memory. In Scott’s song, he describes a sailor’s Friday night plans to sail the world, only to wake up Saturday to the same mast-less, rudder-less boat he imagined taking on the seven seas with the previous evening. Many a great idea has taken the plunge back to reality the next day; luckily for us, a group of Jen’s close friends came up huge when it came time to set sail – they had a mast, rudder, full sails, and a couple of four-stroke engines to boot.

The girls were all out one night, and Doreen came up with the idea “Hey, we should do a fundraiser for Jen and T.J.” Unlike the drunken sailor in the song, though, this went from a bar napkin production to reality in a few weeks. They secured a Saturday night date at The Parrot – our (well, my) favorite hangout pre-children, and the “home” to all things Philly here in South Florida. Donation of goods and services for a raffle poured in. The RSVP listed 120 Yes replies; there were at least 160 who showed up. By the time Saturday night rolled around, the only concern was if there was enough room (there was) and parking (there wasn’t).

Take the significant amount of money raised out of this for a minute, which is tough to do, as everybody was extremely generous. But bringing everyone together for a fun night was something special. There were so many different parts of our life that made an appearance, it was tough to get time to talk to everyone – a “problem” most people (much less cancer patients) would love to have. Being the social butterflies we are, getting dozens of family and friends to come out and spend time together was such a boost. Jen and I treasure those moments, whether they're football games in the park across the street (which are mimosa parties for the girls), Fourth of July fireworks at the beach, college football bowl games on New Year’s Day at the house, birthday parties, or even just “bring the kids over” and play in the yard. Those are the times we build our friendships and, now, have our children build theirs.

There have been a few defining moments that are seared into my mind – Thanksgiving dinner with my immediate family and Jen’s family in Indian Rocks Beach; the sea of Team TJ shirts for the Melanoma International Foundation walk; the family beach day in Ocean City with a sunset photo and video session done by my family friend Cindy Guessford (check out the short and full version of the video she made; it’s awesome), the pool party at Mom and Dad’s. And Saturday night at the Parrot was one of those nights – a tiny reminder of life before last August, and a huge reminder of those who have kept us going.

So when I sit here, getting my sixth infusion, after my second scans, on my second trial, writing my fifty-first blog, and with my first case of shingles still lingering (the itch kicked in – fun!), I remind myself why I continue to fight. It is easy to remember Saturday night, easy to recall the love and care that so many brought with them. I talk a lot about Jen and Josie and Tommy being the inspiration that keeps me going, but not enough about the enormous – bordering on ridiculous – support I receive outside my immediate family. Everyone has taken a turn doing something, anything to help. Saturday night, “the girls” took another turn, and boy, did they knock it out of the park. The financial support will help with the physical recovery; the lasting memory of smiles and laughs with so many good friends aids the mental and emotional healing just as much. Thank you all for helping with each part of my journey back to good health.

T.J. Sharpe shares his fight against Stage 4 Melanoma in the Patient #1 blog. Read more »