When Despair turns to Hope and Hope turns to Change

Today marks one year from my most despairing moment…

On February 17th at 4am in a Melbourne hotel room I joined Abby via FaceTime for her three month post-cancer check-up. We were certain we had left cancer in our wake and were shaken to our core when Abby’s doctor described her cancer’s rapid recurrence. Alone, halfway around the world, unable to comfort Abby, I felt completely helpless as I scrambled to unwind my first business trip of 2016 and board the next flight home.

A year beyond that most despairing moment and 10 months after Abby’s death, my grief still comes in waves. But the waves are calmer and kinder. I’m finding my old self again but also recognizing a new me emerging – stronger, wiser, more compassionate. I am thankful for all that I’ve learned; for these terrible unintended gifts that I can’t return, but that I can use for good. It’s with this learning that I have great hope and I’d like to ask once again for your support and love to create change.

Here is my hope and dream for 2017. Imagine with me… On August 13th, 6 months from now, you will be riding Obliteride 2017 with more than 75 Abby’s Army riders. We will celebrate life and friendships and raise over $110,000 for cancer research in 2017 – tallying our total progress over three years to $200,000! Our story will be played out on local news, through social media and through our individual communities and friendships inspiring hope in all those who have felt hopeless at times in their journey with cancer. It will be serious fun.

You’ve already helped turn despair into hope. Now join me to ride, recruit and raise money and turn hope into action and create the change that Abby taught us to embrace every day, even when we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Cherish that gift for good. Here’s how:

Ride:

  • Register for Team Abby’s Army today – set an ambitious goal for yourself in terms of recruiting and fundraising
  • Second guessing yourself right about now? STOP! Just sign up. You won’t regret it for a minute. If you do, call me and I’ll personally send you a refund for your entrance fee. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Recruit:

Raise:

  • We’ll have lots of opportunity to raise money and do all sorts of creative ways to engage our community. Last year we had pop-up dinners, charity concerts, and more. 2017 will be bigger and better and oranger!
  • For now, give yourself a pat on the back by donating to your own ride once you’ve signed up.

Here’s to leaning into those hard, despairing moments, finding hope and inspiration from those you love, and creating meaningful change together. Join me and Abby’s Army for Obliteride 2017.

Love and healing,

Justin, Jaren and Miri

A New Year Ahead

Last December Abby and I sat on a Kona beach to celebrate her 38th birthday. We couldn’t believe after the year of treatment she had endured we would be enjoying sunshine and fruity drinks. We were so grateful of the love and support our community showered on us.

In 2016 you helped our family get through our most challenging year yet.  From playdates and school shuttles, to sleepovers and meals, walks and bike rides, to fundraising and supporting my musical aspirations and plans, you’ve done so much for us and we want you to know you are loved and appreciated.

In lieu of printing and mailing holiday cards, I have made a donation to Fred Hutch in honor of Abby and her amazing army of family, friends and supporters.

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We wish you all a very happy holiday season filled with happiness and joy and look forward to spending more time together in 2017.

Love and healing,

Justin, Jaren and Miri

 

Exploring the 6 Month Mark with Music

Time heals. The thick fog of loss has given way to a more manageable haze. Sometimes the sun even peaks through revealing its glory – reminding me of a day spent exploring Tel Aviv, a walk around Green lake, the University of Washington quad on a spring day, the day Abby and I married, the day she left us. The fog comes and goes with these memories. New ones have now been created now. Singular memories.

It’s hard to believe today marked 6 months. More than 180 days have come and gone and the great challenge of each new day has become finding ways to hold on and finding ways to move on – reminding myself I am right where I am.

I started writing music again this summer. I’m not sure where music will take me in this journey, but it is helping me heal. I want to explore it and I’m curious if my music has the power to help others heal too. So over the next six months I plan to produce a series of songs and stories that I can share about these experiences of love and loss. To make a mark for Jaren and Miri and many others, half of the proceeds will go to support cancer research.

If you want to be a part of this musical journey and would like to hear what I’ve got to share, please make a donation via my GoFundMe campaign and you’ll get access to whatever songs and stories find their way to me.

Many of you are musicians and artists, so if you’d like to participate in some way towards my effort, please reach out. While I don’t exactly know where this journey will take me, maybe you have some ideas we can explore together.

To celebrate making it to this 6 month milestone, here’s one song I wrote recently about transformation and discovery. It’s called “Driftwood Fire.”

Abby loved you all so much and I hope this song helps you reflect and heal too.

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Love and healing,

Justin

Complete Wonder

I’m still in awe of what happened at Obliteride this weekend (see video); The bluest of skies, endless love, personal connections, Abby’s enduring spirit. I rode in complete wonder of Abby’s magnificence.

Turning grief into action in such a public way has been an incredibly powerful and emotional process for me and my family. Thank you for coming together to hold this space for me and help make our family’s healing process such a rewarding one for all of us.

Our work is far from over. Just last night I learned of a Bellingham family similar to ours who has moved to Seattle to fight Ewing Sarcoma. As you reflect on what we’ve accomplished together in the past few months, please look into your heart and ask yourself if you have the capacity to give more. It truly is our turn to be the change this world needs. My promise to you, to myself and to Abby is to continue giving our community the opportunity to make this change possible. I hope you’ll continue to join in and ride onwards with me.

Love and healing,

Justin

 

 

Obliteride Speech

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Good morning Obliteride! I’m Justin Calvo.

I’m humbled and honored to ride with you today.

Like so many of you, my wife Abby and I love to ride bicycles.

Abby and I began racing for the local Seattle Cancer Care Alliance / Starbucks cycling team when we lost Abby’s mom to an 18-year battle with breast and ovarian cancer.

So we started spinning our pedals to create a world where children wouldn’t have to worry about cancer taking their parents too.

Second only to spending time with our 6 year old son, Jaren, and 3 year old daughter, Miri, Abby’s favorite thing in the world has been to ride and race her bike.

Abby was a young, athletic, 37-year-old mom when she found herself at the starting line of a very different endurance event.

Instead of wearing her Seattle Cancer Care Alliance racing kit, Abby found herself in a Seattle Cancer Care Alliance patient room listening to a team of doctors explain the treatment plan for her Ewing Sarcoma diagnosis.

Immediately, taking a note from her cycling days, Abby’s doctors and nurses became her coaches. Her treatment plan was her training plan. And her family and friends became her army of teammates and fan club.

We were swept away in an entirely new peloton, and our vocabulary changed overnight…

…From ‘how’s your day’ to ‘how’s your white blood cell counts?’

From ‘just a minute dear’ to ‘every minute dear.’

From ‘I want or I need’ to ‘I’m thankful for.’

As I stand here today, like so many types of cancer, there is no cure for Ewing Sarcoma. In spite of this, thanks to Fred Hutch and the many breakthroughs pioneered right here, our vocabulary also changed…

…From ‘I don’t know’ to ‘I believe’.

The work happening at Fred Hutch gave us such hope, optimism and focus. It gave Abby the focus she needed for a very challenging nine-month treatment plan.

Sometimes I’d walk into a chemo treatment and Abby would smile as if on her bike trainer at home saying “I’m doing the work.” Other days weren’t so easy and I’d find Abby focused deeply on her breathing, eyes closed – “I’m on a hillclimb” she’d exhale.

Eight months ago, after spending 50 days and nights at UWMC and countless more with her SCCA team, Abby tightly clamped her eyes shut and blew out birthday candles celebrating her new post-cancer life.

Today fifty of Abby’s domestiques and all three of her bicycles will cross this starting line.

Abby won’t.

Cancer takes and takes and takes.

A few months after that birthday celebration, Abby’s Ewing Sarcoma returned. Since Abby died in April, I’ve lost a beloved uncle, a business mentor, a community leader.  Last week the aunt of a close friend.

Linda, Abby, Harry, Alan, Pauline, Marylin and so many more beautiful names.

Too many. Too soon.

When I look into the eyes of my children, those who have lost so much, those who survive, those who fight on, and those who do the heartening work here at Fred Hutch, I know we’re all in this together. And it’s our turn to be the change the world, to build a new vocabulary.

From ‘chaos’ to ‘cure.’

From ‘fear’ to ‘love’

From ‘someday’ to ‘today.’

So as you turn your pedals, as you zero-in on your breathing, as the wind glides through your helmet and you feel completely alive, find your word for change, hold on to it, and ride onwards!

View Abby’s Army Team Video

Birthday Love

The love just keeps coming. Over the past few month so many miracles have happened. We celebrated Jaren and Miri as they completed their year of Kindergarten and pre-school with a trip to Disneyland. I’ve returned to work.  This week Jaren, Miri and I spent time in Mazama, one of Abby’s favorite spots, reflecting on these past three months. And in my case, I spent the day today hiking to the summit of Goat Mountain reflecting on what will come in the next year as tomorrow, July 22nd, is my 36th birthday (double chai!)

As I look towards a new year, I hope you’ll help me celebrate at one of the below events that our community has organized.

  • Dine out for Abby’s Army – Sunday, July 31st @ 7:30pm – Our dear friend and James Beard Foundation Women in Culinary Leadership chef, Venessa Goldberg, will host a multi-course pop-up dinner. Tickets range from $100-175. Limited to 50 seats. RSVP here.
  • Obliterock! –Sunday, August 7th @ 10am-noon – Obliteride Team Abby’s Army will be host a benefit rock concert featuring kid favorites, Recess Monkeys. The event, designed for kids and families, can accommodate up to 350 attendees. RSVP here.

There’s still time to register and ride Obliteride with me and over 40 Team Abby’s Army riders.  With your help we’re already well on our way to raising $50,000! As an extra bonus, you’ll get to cheer me on at the starting line, as I’ve recently been asked to address the riders before they depart. I’m humbled by this opportunity and am looking forward to honoring Abby, our community, and the many lives touched and still at stake as a result of our inability to cure cancer today.

Finally, there’s another project I’ve been dreaming up for the past three months that I’m calling Project Yearbook.  It’s an audacious idea that will rely on Abby’s extensive network to curate stories about Abby from many vantage points in each year of her life and develop a series of yearbooks.  The culmination of this effort will transpire on each new birthday when Jaren and Miri each get to unwrap a new yearbook of Abby’s life and spend the year learning about Abby when she was that very same age. Right now we’re recruiting for some key roles to help get organized. More details here.

On behalf of the Abby’s Army community, I hope you’ll join us for an upcoming event in the next few weeks, and I look forward to sharing an update as we get to Obliteride.

Love and healing,

Justin, Jaren and Miri

30 Days After

Wednesday marked the end of sheloshim, the 30 days since we said goodbye to our beloved Abby.  Over the past month you’ve all played an instrumental role in helping our family begin our healing process. Thank you!

In our healing process there are so many “what next” questions – and fortunately we have lots of time to unpack, examine and work through these. But one cause has been ringing in my ears every day since Abby’s diagnosis – We must cure cancer faster!

In these past 30 days, I’ve taken the time to look deeply into the eyes of family members and close friends currently waging their own personal battle with cancer and into the eyes of their hopeful, loving spouses and supporters. In each of these moments my heart cries out Rabbi Hillel’s eternal words – “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” It is with this resolve and clear sense of purpose that I’d like to ask for your individual support and the support of Abby’s Army.

Please ride Obliteride on August 14th and join me and Team Abby’s Army today.

We’ll raise money together to advance breakthrough cancer research through Fred Hutch, celebrate our community together, and show that even in the face of uncertainty and loss that love is much, much bigger than cancer.  We will also be riding with Abby – completing her work in a way as she courageously pledged to ride Obliteride at her last birthday. If you haven’t seen her appeal yet, here it is (full speech here). Let her beautiful voice speak to you. No problem if you don’t have a bicycle, don’t ride frequently, or don’t live in Seattle. Just sign up and we’ll work out everything.

Beyond riding, you can help in a number of ways.

  1. Donate to the team. Just click here and find a rider on Team Abby’s Army that you want to support. Give generously. These incredible people are ambassadors for our community of supporters.
  1. Use your communities to share Abby’s story and help raise funds.  Sadly cancer’s impact is far reaching, but this also means your friends want to do their part and support you. Now is the time to turn up the heat on your social sites.  Consider adding the Abby’s Army Crest to your Facebook profile picture between now and August 14th.Love+Healing-Icon

 

  1. Join Abby’s Army at an upcoming fundraiser leading up to the event – more details to come.

 

To make this fun, build community and meet our goal of curing cancer faster, Team Abby’s Army team members will each get a 2016 Abby’s Army water bottle for themselves and to share with their top three supporting donors. Thank you to all of you who have already made contributions.  I’m proud to ride with you and for you!

As we put our focus on the future, I want to recognize that the nature of these e-mails and of www.abbysarmy.org will naturally shift focus from fighting to healing.  Obliteride is one example (If I am only for myself, what am I?), but there will be others, including asking for help and support for Jaren, Miri and me (If I am not for myself, who will be for me?)

We’re honored you’re part of our lives and hope you’ll stay on this journey with us.  If others would like to join us in these next chapters, they can continue to register at www.abbysarmy.org

Love and healing,

Justin, Jaren and Miri