Thursday, April 4, 2013

Long Strange Trip

Crystal light raspberry ice + iodine is THE drink at Dana L1. I always want to say cheers and clink plastic bottles with my sullen company, but I don’t think my humor, which isn’t always appreciated by people in the healthiest of states, would go over well while sitting in purgatory.

I’m supposed to get a full body CT with contrast every three months, but I decided to wait for some unspecified amount of time for this one. Part of me was satisfied with the notion that I was just too busy to spend the day at Dana, scans would just have to wait. The other part decided that scans are too stressful, and living in ignorance truly was bliss. Ignorance however is going to come to a screeching halt this Saturday when I go down to the annual American Association for Cancer Research conference. It’s hard to bury your head in the sand when waves of reality are crashing over the rest of your body.

Clean scans means a clear head when I shake the hands of my doctors as a scientist instead of as their patient. I'll be there presenting work on the zebrafish melanoma- immunology project that I'm working on, but also to spread the good word about why angiosarcoma should be the focus of much MUCH more research.

If nothing else, this has to qualify for being the least boring way to spend a couple years. What a long strange trip it's been. To celebrate all of the above, maybe I’ll trade my 0% real juice pre-scan cocktail for something a little less nerve racking and little more clink worthy.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Josephine Norcia-Riley Memorial Research Grant

I feel honored to have been able to help Sean, Josephine's husband, write a short bio for Jo. Her husband, friends and family are going to ensure that her life and legacy carry on through a memorial research grant that Angiosarcoma Awareness Inc. will distribute yearly.

Josephine Norcia-Riley was born into a life that would ultimately bring laughter, happiness, and inspiration to everyone who had the fortune of knowing her. When faced with adversity, Jo would rise so far above the occasion that she would teach everyone who knew her that there are no limits to what we can achieve, no matter how much or how little time we are allotted in this life.

Jo was born on January 26th 1967, she would die on that same date at almost the same time 46 years later. In that brief time, she was able to leave a legacy of strength, determination, grace and beauty before she was taken away from us by angiosarcoma.

Josephine graduated Pope John High School in Everett in 1985 and Northeastern University in 1989. Although she had known her husband since 1985, they didn’t begin dating until 1991 and were married in 1995. Before she became a mother, Jo would seek out fun in every corner of life. Once her children were born, her focus shifted squarely on her love for them. Every other part of her life would become a tool for raising them with the perfect combination of love, strength and tenderness. Her fun loving attitude would ultimately lead to lessons about how to live inside of happiness. Her strength would ultimately reveal to them that even when faced with her own mortality, nothing could break the bond between mother and child.

Jo was absolutely committed to her family and her friends. When she was diagnosed with angiosarcoma, she was in a state of absolute shock. It didn’t take her long to find resolve though, and when she did, she put up the most courageous fight that anyone faced with her prognosis could possibly mount. She fought for her children. She fought with a smile on her face. She fought while making hilarious videos, while cooking amazing Italian meals, while carrying on with all of the activities that made Jo Jo. During the darkest moments, when there was no hiding from her fate, she smiled because she knew that she had done everything that she possibly could do in this world.

Jo’s life is a gift for the rest of us. If we ever need guidance in this world, we need only ask ourselves, “What would Jo have done”. The answer will always come back the same, it will always be simple, it will always be one word, “Everything!”. To that end, her family has arranged for a memorial research grant to be generated in her name and distributed each year in an effort to combat angiosarcoma. Jo’s fight will continue with the hearts, hands and minds of the scientists who receive these grants. Ultimately, her life and everything she stood for will bring relief to total strangers who haven’t yet been diagnosed with this devastating disease.