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  • Writer's pictureGolden Heart Wellness

A Mother's Story About St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital & Why We Really Are “Better Together”

As I woke this morning, I yearned for another hour of sleep, or a restful hour of sleep, I should say.  The muscles in my jaw are throbbing from clenching and grinding my teeth all night and despite my mouth guard and botox injections in my masseter muscle, there is not much more I can do.  Stress, anxiety and fear drive the grinding and clenching and restless nights. Yet I brush my teeth, lace up my sneakers and head out to the gym.  It’s the first thing I do, it’s the most important thing I do, not just for my physical health but for my mental health.   After losing 80 pounds in 1998, I wanted to share my fitness journey with others.  I wanted to inspire and influence other’s physical and mental well-being and encourage their fitness fortunes.  I began teaching group fitness in 1998 and continued learning my craft and furthering my knowledge and skills in the years to come.  In 2012, I began instructing at Lifetime Fitness in Scottsdale, both in group fitness and cycling.  The facility, their team members, other fitness performers and members were outstanding, and I thoroughly enjoyed my position. I gradually increased the number of classes I taught, all while continuing my full-time job, as well as being a wife and mother of two children.  In 2015, Lifetime began a nationwide effort, Ride for a Reason, to support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.  All Lifetime’s across the country would ride together and raise money to help children fighting cancer and fighting for their lives.  I taught the Ride for a Reason event at the North Scottsdale Lifetime in 2015, 2016 and 2017.  I also began involving my 5-year-old daughter, Bridget.  I wanted her to understand this disease and how she could help children fighting cancer.  After raising over $20,000 in 2017, I was flown to St. Jude to see how the money raised helped these children and their families, as well as research to one day eradicate childhood cancer.  With Bridget by my side, we kicked off the 2018 Ride for a Reason fundraiser on January 20th with a cycle class.  I hopped off my bike and went to Bridget’s soccer game.  That would be the last time I saw my daughter run on her own two feet.  Just two weeks later, Bridget was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, an aggressive bone cancer.  Our connection with St. Jude quickly changed from fundraisers to a patient family.   On February 11, 2018, Bridget and I packed our bags and moved to Memphis, Tennessee, the home of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.  This time, I walked through the door as a mother of cancer patient, not a fundraiser.  Those swirling doors at the entrance felt so different with Bridget standing next to me.  The fear inside me was tremendous, but the faith was strong.  I knew God has a plan for us and our mission at St. Jude was not to treat Bridget but to cure her.  The doctors here could do it and I had to believe.  Just weeks after arriving at the hospital, I participated in Ride for a Reason.  This time my reason was greater.  Every pedal stroke counted, every bead of sweat was symbolic and every dollar raised went to something I knew first hand.  I rode on the front lawn of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and was live streamed into Lifetime.  We all rode together that day and forever in my heart. The ten months were grueling.  I left my husband and 12-year-old son back in Scottsdale, while I cared for Bridget.  I left them without a wife and without a mother; I left part of my heart back in Arizona.  Bridget started with 10 weeks of chemotherapy, followed by amputation of her right leg below the knee, and then another 30 weeks of treatment.  After troubling setbacks and several medical scares, Bridget and I moved home at the end of 2018.  Bridget was free of disease and full of awful treatment side effects. A blood clot in her heart, permanent hearing loss, osteoporosis, amputation wounds that wouldn’t heal, anxiety and more.  But we were home, free of disease and together as a family.   Bridget has continued to battle many issues, including two broken femurs, surgeries and learning to walk again for the third time.  Bridget means strong in Gaelic and she lives up to her name, every single day.  I am so proud of her; I am in awe of her as she climbs over the walls she is continually facing.   On March 7th, 2020, the fifth anniversary of Ride for a Reason, I will be teaching and riding alongside of Bridget.  We will be riding together to raise money for the children and families of St. Jude, but more so for a cure.  I never want a child to go through what Bridget has endured.  I never want a mother to witness the pain I watched Bridget endure, a pain I couldn’t take a way.  I will be surrounded by my community, my friends and my cheering squad at Lifetime.  The family that supported our family during Bridget’s battle and today.   So each day as I wake with jaw pain, anxiety and fear, I lace up my shoes and head to my home away from home.  A home I missed for almost a year.  I know my community is there to fill me up, to fill my heart and to make me forget my fears.  I hope you will come join our community on March 7th, to make a difference for children like Bridget. If you are interested in joining us or donating for Ride for a Reason, you can click on Article by Jamie Korn

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