My Grandma, Lois, passed away from beast cancer on April 23, 2014. We called her “Bubba”, I’m not sure why, but I think it was because my cousin couldn’t say “Grandma”. There are a lot of stories about my Grandma, but I’ll never forget how she helped me during my own difficulties in the months prior to her death. Several months prior to her short fight with breast cancer, I was diagnosed with the most severe form of an auto-immune disorder called Alopecia Areata. The form that I have is called Alopecia Universalis. Basically, your body attacks your hair cells causing your hair to fall out, sometimes permanently. In my case, I lost every hair on my body, head to toe. At the time, I was 14, and one month away from my freshman year in High School. I was, of course, very upset and wondered “Why me? Why Now?”. On the outside I pretended that it was no big deal. Inside, however, I was kind of a mess. “What the heck”, one month before High School and my hair falls out. I was scared but didn’t dare show that. I buried myself in my dream of playing High School football. I worked out, practiced, and dove into it full force because it made me feel better about myself. Even though I hid it well, my Grandma knew that I was hurting. When I saw her, she rubbed my head and told me it looked great. She told me that if anyone could handle it, I could because I didn’t let things bother me, and I was comfortable in my own skin. The truth is that she was right. I could handle it, and her telling me made me realize that. My parents were totally focused on trying to figure out how to fix it. After a while, I told them to stop. It’s who I am and I could handle it. My Grandma knew that, and, after a while I knew it too. She came to my first football game that fall, and my Dad told me that when I scored a touchdown she cried. She told him she knew how much it meant to me, and she wanted me to be happy. She told me that she cried because she always wanted to hear the announcer “Touchdown, Noah Weiss” during a game. It was probably all of those things that made her cry, but mostly it’s because she loved me and my twenty cousins as much as any person could love another. It was mind blowing how she could make all of us feel like we were the center of her universe. She called us, texted us, sent us valentine cards with $2 bills and really just let each of us know we were loved. She was a special woman with a big heart.
About four months after she cried at that football game, I found out she had breast cancer. It never occurred to me that she wouldn’t be ok. She was young, and I just saw her over Christmas and she looked great. When she started losing her hair from the treatment, I called her my bald buddy. I have a picture of her and I both looking happy and very bald. That’s really what she was, just happy and always there for everyone. A few months later I got called to the office at school. When I walked down and saw my Mom standing there, I knew it was bad. I knew that my Grandma was sick from the treatments, but my parents said she would be ok. As soon as my Mom told me that we had to go to the hospital “Bubba is really sick”, I broke down. This couldn’t happen. Not that quick, not without me being able to talk to her. We went to the hospital, and I knew right away, she was going to die. She couldn’t talk, but we talked to her. I know she heard us. A few hours later, my “Bubba” my precious Grandma, passed away.
“Bubba” was a selfless person who raised her family with one goal in mind: “Love each other”. To her children and grandchildren she was peacemaker, a friend and a confidant who, against all odds, raised a family of eleven children who are not only brothers and sisters but “friends.” She taught her children and grandchildren that , despite your differences, you have one family, and that family should be treasured above all else.
When “Bubba” passed away, the initial emotions of fear, anger, and sadness were exactly what we knew she would not want us to feel. Within a few weeks, my Aunt Kim, came up with the idea of hosting an annual running event which allows us to honor “Bubba’s” legacy by helping others facing the devastating effects of cancer. This year we decided that the proceeds from the event that we call “We Fight For Bubba” will be given to the Kelly Cares Foundation which is an organization which we feel exemplifies the love and selflessness that “Bubba” exhibited in her life. Bubba loved children and her heart ached when she heard of a child or a family that was suffering with an illness or tragedy. If she heard about someone suffering from an illness like cancer she would often make a point of reaching out to that family to offer encouragement and love. It is our goal to continue that tradition of selflessness and love in a way that honors our Grandma, our friend and our “Bubba”. We are excited to work with an Organization that shares our goals and beliefs, and we know that “Bubba” would be excited too.