So, I got an old Fiat seven-seater, half broken down, uncomfortable, with a grumbling engine. I removed all the seats and I assembled a bookstore inside: I named it "Leggiu," which in the Sicilian dialect means "slow." Then I called some independent publishers and got over 30 of them to provide books. And that's how Pianissimo - libri sulla strada, or "Books on the Road," was born: a mobile bookshop that travels around southern Italy with hundreds of books for adults and children.
I watched my daughter lose her hair and her appetite. She was tired and nauseated, experiencing vomiting and weight loss. We lived through what the St. Jude's commercials don't show. Starla was in the hospital for six months with only three short visits home. She went through five rounds of intense chemotherapy, with each round carrying its own set of side effects.
I stayed at CARIH for almost two years. When I was released and sent home, my friends and I exchanged addresses and promised to write, and we did for a while. But people grew up, moved, married and changed their names, and could be impossible to find. Over the years, I wondered what happened to my old friends.
Our initial success was exciting, even though it meant a ton of work for us. Meredith and I, along with our husbands, worked through the night on auction days manually tracking orders and processing invoices. Our side project was becoming a 100-hour-a-week job as we were every facet of the company from photographer/model, shipping/receiving, AP/AR, buyers/stylists, customer service and the list goes on. It was imperative that we begin hiring our first staff, many of whom are still with us today.
I dedicated the last 99 days of my training to a different individual with NF. Through Facebook I highlighted 99 different heroes over the course of 99 days. I shared stories and photos of these kids and their families, along with a link to my donation page. I would also tag the parents so they would share my post with their friends. In the end, I raised more than $13,000 for research.
I thought the symbolism of the crossing was fantastic. Mardi Gras was born out of a gay rights protest on Oxford Street in 1978 where many arrests were made. To see our community's flag proudly painted on that road just a few decades later demonstrates how far we have come in Australia. History aside, the crossing was a fabulous colourful addition to our city. I thought it would be fantastic for tourism and local businesses.
My heart skipped a beat when I received a message on Facebook from him a couple of days later. We messaged back and forth, and eventually I gave him my phone number. That first day, we talked for seven hours. Over the next few weeks, we continued to catch up and it was clear that there was still something between us -- even after all those years.