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The Breakfast of Hope

My tips for how to have a successful speech:

1. Stay up ALL night long obsessing about whether or not you know your speech well enough.
2. Wear a dress with a floor length skirt so that you can also stress about whether or not you’re going to trip on your way up to the podium.
3. And most important, make sure you eat a nice healthy dose of Mexican food so that you can mask your stomach full of butterflies with the churning of Enchilada platter #4.

The [url=http://www.fastercure.org]Breakfast of Hope[/url] was amazing. It was one of those days that you just know you’ll remember forever. I was so nervous, I was a sweaty-palmed, twitching mess. I felt great about getting up there to represent parents of cancer kids, but wasn’t sure if I’d have to run and throw up first.

The room was huge, around 500 people. It was bigger than I’d anticipated and that didn’t help the nerves.

But once it got started, I calmed down. I was able to just focus on what I had planned to say and I was happy that with each moment I was nearer to being done. The first speaker was Cindy Gruden, wife of coach Jon Gruden of the Bucs and the event Community Co-Chair. One of the founders, Melissa Helms, got up to speak after Cindy. She spoke eloquently about the need for research, the progress being made in the clinical trials and projects currently underway and spoke of her personal experience as a mother with a child battling cancer.

Then I was on.

I got through my speech without any tears, which thoroughly amazed me because I was on the brink the entire time. I managed to keep my “ummms” and “uhhh” to a minimum. I had printed off my speech on an enormous font size so that I’d be able to read it easily, which was great because even with 20 words a page, I would lose my place. I kept thinking of the friends that inspired my speech, the experiences that shaped the words that I shared and the children for whom I was speaking. I only had to stop once to pull it back together, so I was pretty proud of that.

I also made it on and off stage twice without tripping and landing underwear side up on the floor. Yeah me!

After I spoke, Catherine Creek gave a harrowing speech about the tremendous struggle her daughter Soraya went through with her cancer. Not only fighting a cancer with few treatment options, but developing a secondary cancer on her face that went undiagnosed for months. She shared Soraya’s strength of heart, even as her body failed her, and told of her continual grief in her loss. She gave a compelling speech that brought the reality that so many of these children don’t win their battles and then we are left behind to pick up the pieces and move forward in their honor to work harder for research.

Dana Bertoch got up and blew the room away with her speech. There is nothing like looking at a vibrant, beautiful 20 year old and hearing her say “I am a cancer survivor”. I know she touched a lot of hearts. She shared what her treatment was like, she gave the stories of special friends that she went through treatment with…only she came through a survivor and many of her friends are in heaven. She went on to tell of her passion for funding research so that the future of children with cancer can be one of effective, safe treatments and cures. She said a line I will never forget “I will never regret being called to fight cancer”. She is amazing our Dana.

Dana’s dad Dan got up to do the official “ask” and he was so wonderful in his efforts, he was gracious but let these people know that these are not some random children we are talking about. These could be anyone’s children, they are certainly ours, we pray they are never yours. He had all the families that had been touched by cancer join him on stage and we were an emotional bunch. MIND YOU, not a box of Kleenex to be found ANYWHERE in the room!

This was a highlight of my morning. Cody Bertoch got up and stood with his family as his father made his speech and when the families joined them, Peyton took up the spot right next to him. Poor Cody is trying to be dignified and solemn, but there’s Peyton, dancing on stage and twirling and cozying up to him to get his attention and finally she just reaches up and grabs his hand and holds it in her little one. She turns to me and whispers, “I’m going to marry Cody.” I hope so!

Jon Gruden got up to introduce a young man named Harris Armstrong. Harris is battling a particularly aggressive form of brain tumor and his outlook is not a bright one. His chance at survival is so very slim. But when his community rallied to have a golf tournament for him, he chose instead to share that with all the kids battling cancer and made the Pediatric Cancer Foundation the recipient of the proceeds from that tournament. It was such an honor to meet his extraordinary young man who is working so hard to make a difference in the world when his time is so precious.

It was just a day of tears, of hope, of reaching out to those who were unknowing of the lives we live and trying to make them understand.

I will be getting a dvd of the breakfast speeches and I will put them up for you to view as soon as I have it available. But I thought that I would share with you the written form of my speech.

I first gave a brief introduction of myself and Peyton and her cancer. I talked about why I was invited to speak and then this is the rest of it:

There are pivotal moments in our lives when certain words are redefined and changed forever.

The first year you are old enough to look under the Christmas tree and realize what those presents are, EXPECTATION takes on a whole new meaning.

The day you get married, many words take on new definition…DEDICATION, RELATIONSHIP, COMMITMENT.

The very second you hold your child in your hands, the word RESPONSIBILITY takes on a depth that you weren’t capable of comprehending before.

It is amazing how events can change what words mean in your life.

Cancer has forever changed words in the dictionary of my heart.

Cancer has redefined TRUST – Trust is when you hand your child to a stranger and say “I trust you to take my baby, cut open her body on a surgical table and bring her back to me alive.”

Cancer has redefined FAITH – Faith is easy when times are simple, but Faith when the path is long, dark and uncertain is hard. Faith is being able to turn to your higher power, for me my precious Lord, and say I believe that your plan is the only one that matters.

Cancer has redefined STRENGTH – Strength becomes a matter of spirit and will, being able to face each day, standing firmly and bravely beside your child ready to take on what life hands you and picking yourself back up when you fall under the weight of the burden.

Cancer has redefined HOPE – Hope is not quaint, it is not a word to be tossed around lightly. Hope is essential, hope is vital, it is indefinable, It is that feeling when I look at my daughter playing, sleeping, laughing, when I fill my heart with the knowledge that her healing will happen…that is HOPE.

I know many here today have experienced this, too many have had their lives transformed by their child’s cancer. I’m not even going to talk about the way cancer changes PAIN, GRIEF, LOSS. I truly pray and hope to the bottom of my soul that no one else ever has to go through this again, but I know that’s not going to happen and that’s why we’re here today.

You can leave this event today and not have had anything changed in your world. It’s a very sad world, these are emotional stories, these are not fun things to think about. For some, it’s easier to hold yourself back and give just the easy part of yourself.

But my greatest wish is that you would leave here today with new definitions in your heart.

COMPASSION – the opening of your soul that allows not just the knowledge of the pain of these children in, but the understanding that they are so full of life, that they are capable of the most amazing joy and happiness and that is what we ask you to help fight for.

AWARENESS – knowledge is powerful, sharing that knowledge is one of the only tools we have to work with as parents of children with cancer. We ask you to help us wield this tool with strength, we ask you to aid us in breaking through the walls that keep us from the kind of awareness that will provide the weapons that our children need to fight their battles.

LOVE – you don’t have to love our children, we love them enough, we love them so much it’s what gets us out of bed each morning, it’s what makes us drag them to the hospital so that we can have them poked with needles, pumped full of poisonous chemicals, radiated, hopefully healed, Love is what keeps us going when we haven’t bathed for days on end…1 or 2 days?! Try 4-5 days! After you’ve been puked on, pooped on, bled on, cried on. Love is holding your child through kinds of pain we’ve only imagined, laying in bed with them and hoping that you will absorb some of their pain if it will relieve their suffering. Love is what it takes to teach your seeing child Braille because you know eventually they’re going to go blind. We love our children. I simply ask that you give these kids the opportunity to LOVE. They love to play, sing, dance…they love time with their friends…they love their families…they LOVE LIFE.

Please help us give them the opportunity to continue to love life.


This is the video I put together for this special day.

Peyton had the wonderful chance to meet John Snow, father of Britney Snow. Britney Snow is an actress and my girls are her biggest fans. She plays the character of Amber in the movie “Hairspray” (what else!) and she is a local Tampa girl. Her family lives down the street from the Bertochs and they have been sharing what huge fans my daughters are. So, he came today to listen to the speeches and to meet Peyton. We are excited that Miss Snow is going to be in town in the very near future for a film festival and she wants to meet the girls!!! I am so excited for them, this is going to be the highlight of their year. I’m fully planning to get a video of the girls singing and dancing to the Hairspray movie so that you all can enjoy the Mayhew Music Hour.

Thank you all for your prayers and encouragement on my ability to give the speech. It was just a small part of a day that will change lives and I’m so glad it’s over, but I’m so glad that I got the chance to be a part of it.

f.r.o.G…fully relying on God

ps. for you local folks, catch a segment on the BOH on WFLA Channel 8 on the 8th between 5:30AM and 7:00AM.

Peyton charming the pants off Jon Gruden

Peyton and our special friend [url=http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/samanthalee]Sam Lee[/url]

3 Comments on “The Breakfast of Hope”

  1. #1 Dawn
    on Feb 8th, 2008 at 3:41 am

    Words can be very powerful things and you use them so effectively. I think you will have touched a great many hearts with this speech. And if you looked anything like your 'little Miss Cutie' you will have been very glamourous as well! Hope the event raised LOTS of money.

  2. #2 Amy Nasworthy
    on Feb 8th, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    I wanted to be at the breakfast but my husband was out of town and I have the kids. I love the video you made. I can't wait to see your speech…it was great on paper.

  3. #3 Jennifer Rivera
    on Feb 9th, 2008 at 1:54 pm


    That was a beautiful montage! You alone are responsible for keeping "Kleenex" in business!