Monday, December 22, 2014

faithful friends who are dear to us

just pausing for a few moments tonight
amidst all the hustle and bustle
to thank you for helping us
Scatter Kindness toward our patients again this month
your generosity impacted 40 individuals today
in the radiation oncology departments
at Hinsdale and LaGrange Hospitals
i'm virtually sharing the smiles, kisses and hugs with you 
patients received
yummy hot cocoa, biscotti and peppermint candy
in festive red mugs
wrapped in bags with pretty white snowflakes
and tied with a bright red bow 
here's hoping all of you...
have yourself a Merry little Christmas

let your heart be light
next year all our troubles will be out of sight
(if only!)
faithful friends
who are dear to us
gather near to us

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

so thankful for you!

I'm sitting here in my jammies tonight, typing away, thinking about the Thanksgiving holiday and feeling all warm and fuzzy.  A little teary-eyed too.  I know, I know!  Keep reading, and you might feel the same way.

We love to tell our patients how much we care about them,
so the theme of this month's treat is a real no-brainer! 

There's a new store in the 'hood, up at the corner of Ogden and LaGrange Road. 
Have you been to Nothing Bundt Cakes yet?  If not, check it out!
I wandered in there last weekend, looking for ideas for
a Thanksgiving treat for our patients. 
There it was - Hello Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cakes! 

I explained Scatter Kindness to Todd, the store manager,
and he kindly discounted my order to help the cause.
Seems his dad has cancer too. Yes, it's everywhere...
I added a little lemon ginger tea and some festive ribbon.
Ta Da
We gave them to the patients at Hinsdale Hospital on Monday
and at LaGrange Hospital yesterday.
The rave reviews poured in!  DELICIOUS!!!

It's so much fun to tell you about the comings and goings of Scatter Kindness in this blog, and tonight while I have you here I want to share a couple more stories because, considering tomorrow's date, they're both quite relevant.  

The Fund is used in several ways.  One is shown in the photos above and also below as you scroll through previous blog posts. 
In elementary terms, cancer treatment is difficult. 

We Scatter Kindness on an ongoing basis using carefully chosen, creative little goodies with the intention of making our patients feel special. The resulting smiles and hugs tell us we're doing something right!

What I don't often talk about are the serious challenges some patients face.  Often, the ripple effect of a cancer diagnosis includes job loss, financial devastation, family discord, depression... I could go on. 

Recently, one of my fellow navigators shared the financial hardships of one of her patients - single mom, one child, lost her job, struggling to live day-to-day.  Using Scatter Kindness funds, we purchased gift cards for groceries and gas.  The basics.  Below is the thank you note my colleague received -


What a God sent you have been in my life.
I got up checked mail and found your card.  Needless to say I'm crying.  He knows the perfect time when to provide for each of us.  I'm in the car on the way to the food pantry and then was worried knowing I need to be in Desplaines today at 1 for an interview.  The fuel level light in my car is on.
How Great is our God.
I love you dearly for the kind and compassionate heart that you have.  I'm not use to being on this end.  I was the one like you that always gave.  I just want to tell you thank you for being who you are!!! As I can no longer see what I'm writing from these tears in my eyes.  I pray you have a happy and blessed day knowing you've touched my soul today.


Thanks to all of you.  Your generosity made this happen.
* * *
My second story includes none other than our favorite coach of the Hawks.  Q!!!

I met a patient for Part One of a cancer-related procedure about three weeks ago.  Through the course of conversation, this gentleman told me he'd had "a rough couple of years leading up to his February diagnosis".  He proceeded to tell me he first lost his mother-in-law.  Then his wife died suddenly.  Both of his parents died.  And, last but not least, his dog of 15 years died.  Yep, the dog part put me over the edge.  Not to worry though - this man was smiling and hope-filled, and he assured me he was well supported at home by his six (yes six) children ranging in age from 22 - 34.  My Lord, he was an inspiration. We agreed he was long overdue for some good things to happen in his life.

A Blackhawks hat covered his fuzzy hair-growing-back-from-chemo head, and I asked if he was truly a fan.  He proudly showed me Tony Esposito's signature on the bill of the cap, and assured me he was a devout follower.  I told him I'd met Coach Q in the lobby of the hospital after they'd won The Cup, and I'd actually snapped a picture of him with my phone.  A few minutes later, Greg was whisked off to his procedure.

Well, I have a gift for him when he returns for Part Two of the procedure next week.
Check out the autograph, my friends!
I am so crazy excited to give this to Greg! 
How did I do this, you ask?  I have my ways :) hee hee
I love my job!
And now, I'm sending all of you a virtual pumpkin spice bundt cake
to say I'm so thankful for you!
 And I'll leave you with a simple thought.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

You're Simply "Eerie" sistible!

It's almost Halloween, and you know what that means.
Time to share some treat bags with our patients. 
Remember our September bags? 
We had a harvest theme, and included some
healthy fruit and grain snacks.
This month, healthy?  Hmmm... not so much!
Well, maybe a little bit.  Peanut butter is good for us.
But, that chocolate calls out -
"Come on, have just one!"
Who can resist the temptation?
Not me.  Weak! Very weak!
Do your teeth hurt yet?  That's OK.
This is very important therapy.
* * *
We really want to tell our patients...
Don't you agree?
Thank you again for your generosity.
Because of you, we can help our patients feel
Simply "Eerie" sistible!
* * *
"I generally avoid temptation unless I can't resist it."
- Mae West -

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Time to Reap

Happy first day of autumn!
We have such beautiful weather this week
to help us make the shift into the season.
It's harvest time, so this month's care bags
include some fruit and grains. 
We packed a little applesauce
with some Nutri-Grain Bars,

 and popped in some baked Goldfish crackers.
Simple and YUMMY!!!
I started handing out the bags yesterday.
Today, one patient said...
"Thanks so much for the treats. 
That bag of Goldfish crackers was the perfect thing
to munch on during chemo today!"
The spouse of another patient said...
"My husband hasn't been eating much, but I want you to know he was really excited about the treats.  He ate all the applesauce, the whole Nutri-Grain bar and half the bag of Goldfish crackers when we got home. 
I couldn't believe it!"
Another one said...
"I ate the Goldfish during the Bears game
and then had the Nutri-Grain bar and applesauce for breakfast this morning."
Simple acts of kindness go a long way
when someone isn't feeling well.
Thanks to YOU we can make this happen.
Sow a thought and you reap an action;
sow an act and you reap a habit;
sow a habit and you reap a character;
sow a character and you reap a destiny.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson -

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Some Special Favors!

In July, I received the following message from a young lady I've known for quite some time.  Oh my...
After much discussion, Curtis and I realized that we wanted to do something special for our guests.  We have been to many weddings where the favors are left on the table and the money goes to waste.  So we decided to donate the money we would spend on favors instead.  We would love to write a check to the Scatter Kindness Fund, and we'll have a bouquet of sunflowers with a special note dedicated to Erin at our reception so guests will understand what an impact she has made, and continues to make on this world. 

Dave and I were thrilled to attend the wedding of Emily Hagen and Curtis Cribben yesterday. 
The ceremony was beautiful. 
The reception was a blast. 
And, look at the gorgeous bouquet of sunflowers
that was displayed on the table as we walked in the door to the clubhouse at Cog Hill.

I met Emily during my St. Cletus days, and became well-acquainted with her when I was her volleyball coach. Of course I had to pull out some old photos this morning and do a little reminiscing! Erin, the mascot in the bandana wearing war-paint, is leaning on the coveted Hodgkins Tournament trophy that my 7th grade team had just won.  Emily is the first girl on the left in the bottom row.     
She has changed a little since then! 
Emily is now an ER nurse at a hospital in Iowa where she and Curtis reside.

What hasn't changed a whole lot through the years is Emily's character.  Back in those St. Cletus days she was an intelligent, athletic, competitive, sweet girl who did not always follow the crowd.  She was independent and confident; sometimes uncommon traits for one so young.  I would still use those words to describe her today.  I'd just ramp them up a bit, and then add things like... poised and generous of heart.   
To coin an often used phrase, "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.".
This is certainly the case with the Hagen family. 
Those of us who are members of the St. Cletus community know Emily's mom, both in the formal sense as Dr. Hagen - prominent surgeon with Adventist Health, and also as simply, Colleen - mother of four kids (now grandmother to one really cute little boy), Parish member active in so many causes, Girl Scout leader and lunch mom back in the day... basically, plate juggler extraordinaire.  
I know her as -
Dr. Hagen from whom I received professional care.
Colleen, the St. Cletus MOM pictured below.
And, Colleen, the dear friend who showed up on our doorstep with a homemade apple/sausage breakfast casserole a couple of days after Erin died.

We can't predict the path our lives will take.  Many of us have been slapped with this realization quite sharply.  The best we can do is to try and accept what is handed to us (hard work), rely on the community of family and friends to support us (amen) when we hit the speed bumps and be willing to offer ourselves to those in need, with the awareness that it could be/has been one of us already. 
Emily and Curtis - Mr. & Mrs. Cribben! -
thank you from the bottom of our hearts for supporting our cause
and inviting Erin to be part of your special day.
Thanks to donations such as this, we've been able to provide many intentional acts of kindness that are unique to the needs of individuals.  Here are just a few...
v Gift cards were purchased for the husband and son of a patient who passed away.  The cards were for groceries and a toy for the child.
v A patient who was experiencing back pain was seeing a massage therapist.  A gift card helped with the cost of the next massage.
v A patient became a grandpa!  He was given a teddy bear and a gift card to take his daughter to lunch.
v While going through chemo treatment, a patient’s son was admitted to AHH Pediatrics for pneumonia. Mom was given some pampering items (lotion, etc.) and a Panera gift card so she could grab a sandwich on the run.  Her son was given a Lego Superhero set.
v A patient who loves baseball was treated to two tickets to a Cubs game.
v A patient’s ride to his radiation CT/Sim appointment fell through, and Scatter Kindness paid for the cab fare to and from the hospital.
v The Olive Garden was a favorite monthly gathering spot for a patient and her friends. She was given a gift card for the restaurant.
v  Gift cards for groceries and gas were given to a patient who could no longer work.
v A chocolate lover was given a box of Fannie Mae candy.  Yum!
v A movie buff loved to attend afternoon matinees with his wife.  He was given a Cinemax gift card to see Godzilla!
v A White Sox fan was given a coffee mug and a “Home Sweet Home Chicago” sign.
v A patient with a sweet tooth was given some Mrs. Fields cookies.
v The spouse of a patient admitted to the hospital was feeling down. A chocolate shake sounded good to him.  Scatter Kindness bought a large shake for him.
v While at the infusion center for treatment, a patient’s daughter (who had accompanied her to chemo) had a seizure and was brought via ambulance to the AHH ER.  Scatter Kindness paid for lunch for the patient while her daughter was tended to in the ER.
Really great stuff is happening! 
Stay tuned for more news.
Oh, by the way. 
I started working in a new department three weeks ago. 
Patient Navigator - Oncology Services.
I'm just a little excited!!!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Joe Cool Says...

...Kick back and take a break
from the dog days of summer!
This month, I've asked one of the coolest dudes around town
to help me with a little treat
for our oncology patients.
Who is this cool guy, you ask?

And, who is one of Joe Cool's good buddies?
As York says, "Get the sensation".  Minty and refreshing!

And what else do you crave on a hot summer day?
Hmmm... how about an ice cream cone?
Meet Dominic, the General Manager
of the McDonald's in Hinsdale
who generously donated gift cards
for free ice cream cones!
Special thanks to Dominic and McDonald's Corporation
for helping us Scatter Kindness.
You're the best!

One more item completes our special treat. 
A paw fan to keep handy to get a breeze stirring
on those lazy, humid days.
Ahhhhhh, it sure is a dog's life!
Just remember...
The time to relax is when
you don't have time for it.
-Sidney J Harris, Chicago Journalist
Thank you for helping us Scatter Kindness
through your generous donations
to the Erin Potts Memorial Fund.
You're helping us touch so many lives
with simple, random acts such as these.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Home of the Brave

It's nearly the 4th of July!
I want to share some photos with you today
of Scatter Kindness in action.
This is a little project I just finished for our patients in Radiation Oncology.

I dipped some pretzels in white chocolate and covered them with red and blue sprinkles.
Then, I put some Hot Tamales cinnamon candy in little bags
and grabbed some red Twizzlers.   

Do the pinwheels below look familiar? 
If you were at last year's blood drive, they do!
What do you think of the little tag that says, "Home of the Brave"?
Seems pretty appropriate for the 4th of July AND our cancer patients!

Thank you for your donations to Scatter Kindness.
Because of your generosity, we're able to give our patients
little treats such as these.  Each month, we'll have a different theme.
My mind is already buzzing with one for August!
Home of the Brave
She stood in the storm,
and when the wind did not blow her way,
she adjusted her sails.
- Elizabeth Edwards -

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Counting My Blessings

Yesterday's 2014 Erin Potts Memorial Blood Drive
was a tremendous success!
Thanks to all who chose to make time in their busy day
to stop in and extend an arm.  
Seventy units were collected, and that raises our total number of donations to approximately 700!!! 
This number includes our memorial drives, as well as units collected at LifeSource facilities by now-regular donors who stop in to remember Erin with our 556C Group Code. 
Earlier today, Keenan and I headed to Bronswood.  I had to eat a cookie with Erin.
Thank you Karen Licitra of Sugar High Cookie Company.
 It's beautiful out there at this time of year when the grass is so green and the flowers so fresh and bright.  The sun shone brightly, the breezes blew the wind chimes, birds chirped, squirrels ran from dog in pursuit and, thankfully, no skunks interrupted our visit!
I relaxed and let all of yesterday soak in.
Just as every Volleyball Invitational is different,
such is the case with each of our Memorial Blood Drives.
The cast of yesterday's characters played in my mind, and I must say I think this was the most eclectic group of donors to ever grace our event.
Seasoned veterans as well as first-timers walked in the door.
We had -
  • family members - Erin's siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins
  • neighbors from my childhood home on Kensington Ave
  • Erin's friends/volleyball teammates and their families
  • neighbors from our present 'hood
  • former co-workers from St. Cletus School and the LaGrange Paulson Center
  • friends of Erin's siblings
  • our favorite volleyball referee
  • St. Cletus parishioners/school families who had seen our notice in the Canticle
  • a couple from Compassionate Friends who walk a similar path to Dave's and mine
  • my best friend from grammar school
  • young adults, who were students (little kids!!!) when I left St. Cletus in 2006
  • LifeSource donors who stopped in because our location was convenient
One such donor, whom I'd not met until yesterday morning, rode back on his motorcycle a couple hours after making his donation with the gift shown in the photograph below.  He told me he makes rosaries (decade bracelets) for people who've lost loved ones, and he wanted me to have one.  Oh my, yes, thank you! (said, eyes brimming with tears)  How amazing and touching and grace-filled.    

I was just recovering from that gift when another gentleman, a patient actually, who I met three years ago while working in the Paulson Center and who I registered just this past March at Hinsdale Hospital, walked in the door with a platter filled to the brim with fall-off-the-bone, sticky, gooey, heavenly, hot ribs.  After a conversation three years ago about blood donations (and Erin - not sure how we got there), he's been using 556C at LifeSource on a regular basis.  He wasn't eligible to donate yesterday, but wanted to "help out and be part of the drive in some way".  I've spoken with this man maybe four times in my life, including yesterday.  Again, tears!

Those of you who know me well are used to hearing me say, my grief has to go somewhere, and I make the conscious choice to channel it into actions that help others that currently face the challenges we once did when our world blew up with Erin's cancer diagnosis and ultimate death.  
The success of my endeavors is possible, only because
of your ongoing generous response to my pleas. 
I ask for money for Scatter Kindness, and you open your wallets.
I ask for blood donations, and you extend your arms.
Blessings show up, unexpectedly, in the form of rosaries and barbequed ribs
offered by virtual strangers. 
Yes, talk about Scatter Kindness.
It's everywhere, isn't it?
Today, I'm counting my blessings,
and I can do so on my lovely pink beads. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Be the Giving Type

Please join us again this year for our
5th Annual Blood Drive.
If you haven't donated with us in the past,
please consider doing so on Saturday.
Remember, I LOVE first time donors! 
  • You're eligible to donate if you are 17 years or older (16 with a signed parental consent form) and weigh at least 110 pounds.  Calling all young and healthy kids!  Start the habit of giving now. 
  • There is no upper age limit.  Our most senor donor was a Sister of St. Joseph who joined us last year.  She was 84!   
  • Less than 10% of the national population donates blood.
  • Someone needs blood every two seconds.
  • One unit of blood can support up to three lives.
Come and kick off the beginning
of the summer months with us.
Stop in and donate before heading
out to the hustle and bustle of the weekend.
Bring family members, co-workers and friends.
Whether you're Type A, B, O or AB...
Be the Giving Type!
It's so easy to Make a Difference.

We're Group Code 556C.
Looking forward to seeing you
in Morrissey Hall! loving memory of "e"

Thursday, May 22, 2014

They Made the Cut!

Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to be part of an exciting event called "Make the Cut" at The MAX - McCook Athletic & Exposition.  Sponsored by The Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University and hosted by 1st Alliance Volleyball Club, ponytailed club members were encouraged to step forward to have their hair cut for the purpose of making wigs for cancer patients.    

As the mother of a young daughter who had lost her hair during cancer treatment, I was asked to share my personal experience with those in attendance with the hope of inspiring as many girls as possible to step forward to cut their ponytails.  I was thrilled to do so.

I told them about Erin, who had been a spirited, fifteen-year-old athlete (who had begun playing volleyball with 1st Alliance/Lions in third grade) when she was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma in December of her sophomore year at Lyons Township High School. 

A cancer diagnosis impacts so many facets of an individual's life, and one challenge many victims face is the effect it has upon their physical appearance. For the typical teenager who is very concerned about fitting in with the crowd, looking good is at the top of their checklist.  Shortly after beginning chemotherapy, Erin's long, beautiful hair began to come out in handfuls.  Attainable items on her personal checklist fell away, one by one.

She couldn't attend school due to her treatment protocol.  She was facing radical surgery that would take away her ability to participate in the sport she hoped to play in college on a scholarship.  Her system was trying to adjust to the cocktail of prescribed chemotherapy drugs, AND she was quickly becoming bald.  No, she most certainly did not fit in.  She sat, hooked to infusion pumps, while the crowd moved forward.

In time and with the support of family and friends, she began to make progress toward accepting this altered path of life that stood before her.  Adjustments were made, attitudes were reshaped and the concept of perspective was gaining recognition.

Not yet convinced that anything could make her look "normal" with that white, shiny, hairless head sitting atop her shoulders, she finally agreed to go to a wig store with me... just to look around mom!!  God bless the woman who owned the place because this voice of experience took my tearful, self-conscious daughter by the hand, sat her down in a chair in front of a huge mirror and gently placed a box of tissues in her lap.  After asking Erin what type of hairstyle she liked, she went into another room and came back with wigs that varied slightly in length (long and longer) and color (brown, medium and dark).  She explained that they were all made from real hair that people had donated.  They could be washed, conditioned, blow-dried, curled, flat-ironed, dyed, highlighted and/or cut. 

As Erin tried them on, one after the other, I noticed fewer tissues coming from the box in her lap.  She began to ask questions about the styles - layered or blunt cut, what do you think mom?  This one?  And the sadness and tension that had initially dominated her corner of the room were slowly being replaced by, dare I say, a shred of confidence?  Wait, there's a smile!  One was finally chosen.  Medium brown, long, layered.   

As we drove home, I looked over at my daughter who was staring out the passenger seat window, running her fingers through the new hair on her head.  I asked what she was thinking.  She said, "It truly does feel almost like my real hair."  And, in a moment she added, "I wish I could thank the people who donated their hair to make this wig.  It was really generous of them."  I bit my cheeks and wished I had that box of tissues that was sitting back at the store.

Erin lived for three years after her diagnosis.  Due to different treatment protocols, she lost her hair three times.  The first experience was, by far, the most difficult for her.  Throughout those years, her wig was worn to school, while coaching volleyball games, when out with friends on weekends, at prom, to graduation from LT and into the halls of Elmhurst College for a couple of months.     

I've thought of her gratitude that day in the car so many times since her passing in 2009, and thus was so happy to have the opportunity to share her sentiments with everyone at The MAX last Saturday.    

So, on behalf of my angel, Erin, I sincerely thank all of the young ladies who set personal vanity to the side and selflessly donated their lovely hair so someone else will feel a little more "normal".  I truly appreciate how difficult it is for teens to understand the impact of this gesture unless they've known someone personally who has been affected by this common side-effect of cancer treatment, so the overwhelming response (90 donors!) was extraordinary.   

Now, because of their generosity, someone is going to look really pretty!   
Erin, wearing her wig, at her LT graduation in June 2009.

  • Thank you to Sharon Markman, Director of Public Affairs and Communications at Lurie Cancer Center and two-year melanoma survivor, who organized the event and whose daughter, Alexa, was one of the hair donors.
  • Thank you to Sue Keck, Club Director of 1st Alliance and six-year breast cancer survivor.
  • Thank you to Jeff Tobolski, Mayor of McCook, and Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Board President, for their support of the cause.

Good things are happening around town!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Making A Difference

It's been a long, challenging winter season for the majority of us, and in spite of the calendar's declaration that May arrived a few days ago, the chilly weather continues to hang around. 
Thank goodness for all the excitement for us Blackhawks fans!
Keeps us energized, yes?
#88 Keenan Kane
I haven't checked in with you for a while, and I'm knocking on your inbox today to assure you that Scatter Kindness, while in its beginning stages, is already impacting our cancer patients.  Your generosity during the Erin Potts Invitational Volleyball Tournament, as well as donations made directly to the Hinsdale Hospital Foundation website, makes this possible.
Word is spreading because the Fund's total collections are now just over $11,000. 
Due to the HIPAA restrictions in place to protect the dignity and privacy of patients, I can't post names or photos of individuals without their permission.  I can, however, tell you about several avenues through which we are reaching out to folks with support as they face the daily challenges resulting from their diagnosis.  And, we've only just begun! 
  • A Keurig was purchased for the reception room in radiation oncology.  Now, patients can choose from a variety of tasty K-cups and enjoy a little treat as they wait for their appointments.
  • A box is stocked with greeting cards and gift cards (ie:Target), and this serves as a resource for staff members to look to when they want to help a patient celebrate a birthday... mark the end of a treatment protocol... offer an encouraging word when one needs a little TLC...  
  • A young basketball fan and his three guests were treated to the final Bulls game of the season. Thanks to community members Helen & Don (Mark too), four Club Level seats complete with a parking pass were donated, and Scatter Kindness funds provided a little "mad money" for the purchase of food/souvenirs. 
Per the Fund's mission statement, Scatter Kindness is dedicated to providing support for cancer patients through experiences that meet the unique needs and interests of each individual.  This Fund is a new resource for Adventist Hinsdale and LaGrange Hospitals, and eventually The Adventist Cancer Institute, and YOU are ensuring our fulfillment of this intention.  Thank you.  I'll be sure to share more good news in the near future. 
 I'm also knocking to let you know we've set a date for our annual
Erin Potts Memorial Blood Drive.
Please mark your calendars for Saturday, June 7.
8:00am - 2:00pm at St. Cletus
Contact me via email at
Call LifeSource directly at (877)543-3768.
615+ units have been collected so far under 556C
That's really extraordinary! 
Let's add a bunch more on Saturday, June 7. 
Making A Difference Starts Here
I really like the new LifeSource slogan.
It's often thought that we get over the death of a loved one.
Not so. I miss Erin each and every day. I'm not over anything. I never will be. 
 Personal soul searching after she died led me to the
realization that positively impacting others who are experiencing
what we once did is the most fulfilling way I know
to ensure her spirit continues to live.
That starts with me.  Making a difference starts here.  With me.
Thank you for continuing to join with me in support of my mission.