June 2012

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It hardly seems possible that The Sussy Project is already a year old. I remember sitting in Au Bon Pain with my partner, Pete, and proposing this idea to him. It was rough at first with a lot of holes and scratchy edges. But the more we thought through it, the more we loved it. And with some fine tuning, The Sussy Project was born.

In 12 months, we have surprised 31 people with kindness. And the people we have encountered, both nominators and recipients, have enhanced both of our lives tremendously.

I think about the parents we have met who have lost their children or who have stood by them as they suffer unthinkable pain. I remember those that have lost loved ones – brothers, mothers, siblings, pets. I have read nominations and laughed. More often, I read nominations and cry.

The Sussy Project has given me such perspective on life. No matter what I am dealing with, no matter how big or difficult or frustrating or painful it seems. Someone out there is dealing with something worse. Someone else has more strength. More faith. More determination.

But what we do have here at The Sussy Project, is love.

If you’re new to TSP, I encourage you to read through some of our past blogs. You won’t be able to get through Mia’s Story without tears, or Avery’s. But I don’t ask this of you because I want you sitting in your cubicle crying like a baby. I ask it of you because we want this thing to grow. And to do that, we need you to think like we do. When you see a friend who has had a bad day, nominate him/her. When a co-worker has inspired you by their strength or passion or attitude, nominate him/her. When your family member needs a pick-me-up. When your neighbor could use a smile. When a stranger faces pain. NOMINATE. We want to honor a lot more than 31 people over the next 12 months. We have an entire squad dedicated to helping deliver the sussies.

And finally, a very big thank you. To Pete for helping me make this project a reality. For the Sussy Squad for helping us grow exponentially. For everyone who has nominated someone for a sussy. For our loyal fans who follow us on Twitter, like our page on Facebook and share our stories with their friends. Big things are coming for TSP. We can’t wait to continue this journey with you.

 

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A few weeks ago, a friend of mine, who wishes to remain anonymous, directed me to a story on caringbridge.org.  The post was written on May 13 by a man, Nick Keller, honoring his wife, Elizabeth, for Mother’s Day.

The Keller’s son, Joey, has been battling medulloblastoma for the past year and a half.  Medulloblastoma is a highly malignant primary brain tumor that originates in the cerebellum or posterior fossa.  The things Nick said about Elizabeth brought tears to my eyes.  Here is a small portion of their story, outlining Elizabeth’s strength and the struggles they have gone through with Joey’s disease:

Here’s the thing, she doesn’t get a break. Think of the most demanding jobs in healthcare or “caregiver” jobs…they get to go home at the end of their shift. No matter how demanding, after 8 or 10 hours, they clock out, and go about their lives. Certainly it’s a calling, but there are professional boundaries. Elizabeth has slept with Joey since this started. I know in many ways apples and oranges, but Elizabeth is at his side every minute, of every day, of every month. When the radiation caused the skin over his spine to crack and bleed and he’d cry all through the night, she was there. When he passed a kidney stone and screamed so loud EVERYBODY in the huge lobby of Riley turned, looked, and ran to help (I was there, I saw it), she was there. When his brain shunt pushed through his scalp and exposed the deep ventricles of his brain to the outside world, rushed him to the ER on a Sunday morning…she was there. When the “routine” (so I was at work) MRI showed he had relapsed and his chances for survival dropped, in an hour, from 30-50% down to 5%, she was there. When he had thrown up from the chemo every hour for basically 2 days straight, she was there. When he had appointments starting at 7 in the morning until 7 at night, and I had work commitments I simply couldn’t get out of…she was there. When he relapsed a second time, and he could read the looks of despair on our faces and Dad had no words (shock)…she was there, with love and encouraging words of how we’ll get through this together…somehow, we will. As my wife, when I wanted to wrestle God like Jacob one night at 3am, or argue with Him like Moses late one night after she’d been up all night the night before…she was there, telling me of God’s love, and why I could trust Him; she was there. When Joey got C-Diff, and had water diarrhea every half hour for a week and half, no break, Joey writhing in pain, sometimes punching his stomach it hurt so bad. We’d clean him up, put him back to bed, then minutes later the pain would wake him up, and we’d run to the bathroom. Sure I helped when I could. But when I was at work, or too tired to hold Joey up on the toilet…she was there, doing the heavy lifting. You know, it’s funny. Our culture seems to worship beauty, and wealth, and “I don’t care what they’re really like, they seem so cool in the movies, or on TV.” Symbolism over substance kind of thing. Or, “They’re so HOT,” outward appearance obsessed, etc. I have seen this woman when no one is looking. Seen her after 3 days with no sleep. Seen her when the doctor has said, “You’re son isn’t going to live.” Seen her when her son looks into her eyes and says, “I would rather die and be with Jesus, than go through this…I want to die.” My wife is a ROCK. She is as beautiful on the inside as I think she is out. She is patient, kind, and always prefers others over herself. The only time I’ve seen her confront somebody or use firm boundaries, is when someone is threatening Joey. I am a blessed man.

Elizabeth and Joey

Find the rest of Nick Keller’s journal entries at www.caringbridge.org/visit/joeykeller.

My friend was so touched by Nick Keller’s tribute to his wife that he said he wanted to do something special for her.  He wanted to purchase a gift card for her from Salon 01 (www.salon01.com) so that maybe sometime she could get away, even just for a couple hours, and maybe take her mind off the struggles she faces daily.  Being a member of the Sussy Squad, I suggested to him that he nominate her for a sussy.

I sent Nick an email, explaining the Sussy Project, and explaining how it was that Elizabeth came to be nominated.  Nick replied:

I just, finally, had some time to jump on your blog…wow, that is REALLY cool! What a creative and generous effort. Love it!…. I know how cheesy this sounds, but she is really unbelievable. And as I told my parents after writing that one Caring Bridge blog about her, I am in the cat-bird’s seat, in terms of seeing her in action. She never talks about herself and b/c of our situation and Joey needing to be in isolation so much, nobody ever sees all that she does. All those times I spoke about where she serves him tirelessly, I am the one who sees it. Who better to tell the world than me. She is amazing. Thank you for wanting to recognize her publicly. That is very cool.

The gift card was sent in the mail, and the other day I received a response.  Nick wrote me another email on behalf of Elizabeth.
Elizabeth was both surprised and blessed by the gift card. I explained the background and rationale for the gift and organization/blog you guys have started, and she was so impressed. Said, “what a great idea!” You may have heard, we had a really tough week, spent a night in Riley ER, and got less than the news we’d hoped for on Joey’s most recent MRI. This gift is a shot in the arm, encouragement to get through another week, and keep fighting for Joey.

Thank you so much!

There are many lessons to be learned from Nick and Elizabeth Keller, including strength, faith and perseverance. Even as I sit here writing this post, I am overwhelmed with admiration and pure emotion for the Keller’s, whom I have never met, but who have touched me beyond belief with their pure desire to persevere.  They are an inspiration to anyone going through struggles, big or small, and I am glad I am able to share this story of their’s.

The Keller Family

Yesterday, Nick Keller wrote an update.  Here is a small portion.

Once again, for those of you new to our Caring Bridge page, after 2 relapses, Joey has a 5% chance of survival…but we serve a big God that has made many promises to us in His word….we are standing on those promises.

Unfortunately, our arsenal against certain kinds of cancers isn’t as strong as it should or could be, and Joey is certainly in that category dealing with relapsed medulloblastoma. It breaks our hearts. We are fighting, and very much feel like we’re in a battle. In war, there are no breaks, there is always the threat of death, and the battle monopolizes ALL of your time, energy, and emotional resources.

 

He went on to thank many people for the texts, notes, help, support and prayers they have received.  Nick also recognized the Sussy Project for what we have done for his wife, and thanked the anonymous friend who nominated her.

First, what a GREAT idea, The Sussy Project. In day where it feels like everybody has an agenda, wants something from you, or is trying to sell you something, how refreshing is this? An organization that exists to “call people out” doing something admirable or kind, or special leadership skills, service, or just doing the little things, to serve people and make the world a better place. I had never heard of The Sussy Project before and really love the concept. I said all of that about war, and battle imagery, etc. to say, that this was really a shot in the arm for Elizabeth. I know (hope :p ) it meant so much to her to know that her husband sees first hand how hard she works, literally around the clock, to get Joey healthy again. All of our focus and energy is spent on this. But to be recognized in the public forum like this, and receive a gift like that, really meant the world to her. She has no idea when she can use it, maybe if Joey stabilizes or better yet, goes into remission, she’ll have a chance to get more than just a quick hair cut, her nails done, or more, this place does all kinds of stuff, including taking care of the grooming needs of dudes. I will likely go with her and check it out. Again, when things let up a bit. Anyway, what a great gesture, and a shot in the arm to my wife. THANK YOU. Whoever you are, you have no idea what this meant to my wife, new energy and zeal to carry into the next battle, that is our week, this week.

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Please think of someone you know who needs that “shot in the arm.” We want to honor them. Email us at info@thesussyproject.com

 

 

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Everyday around us are people working hard and putting on a great smile, but you would never guess what they are going through. A person, who wishes to remain anonymous, nominated Stephanie Bradley for a Sussy.

When I saw the facebook post my friend wrote about thinking of someone who is always kind, thinks of others, has had a rough time, and is an inspiration, my friend came straight to mind. Her name is Stephanie Bradley. She is one of the kindest, most selfless, amazing people I know.

She just graduated from Indiana University with a double major in psychology and sociology. She has been a Resident Advisor and continually helps students at the campus and has volunteered many times. Stephanie inspires so many there as well as at home (Fort Wayne, IN). She always has an ear to listen, a hug, or advice to give if someone needs it. She always does the right thing and keeps that mentality in every situation, which is so rare these days.

The reason I feel all this is so remarkable and should be recognized is because she was recently diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. It would be very easy to let the symptoms, self pity, and frustration of the disease make someone have a really bad attitude, but Stephanie has used this to reach out to people and really be thankful for all the good we have on this earth. She is so positive and is full of so much love and kindness. She not only has the disease, but it affects her entire GI tract, which is pretty rare. She is getting another endoscopy soon and may have to be put on drips or self shots.

She has been going through so much these past few months, I just really feel she could use this kindness, to show her how much the world appreciates her amazing attitude and service to others, and to give her motivation to keep her remarkable optimism through and through.

The nominator also told us that Stephanie works two jobs and is currently working on her Masters to transition to teaching. Stephanie is trying to pay for college and keep up with medical bills which have put a damper on some of the smaller pleasures in her life.

The nominator let us know that Stephanie loves carmel macchiatos from Starbucks. We sent Stephanie a gift card to her favorite coffee joint. Stephanie stated that the gift put a smile on her face and she thought it was an awesome random act of kindness.

Thank you Stephanie for all your hard work and keep your head up through this rough time in your life! We have no doubt with your positive attitude and outlook you will reach many children through your future teaching.

If you know of a person who could use a little pick me up, nominate them for the Sussy Project today! Email us at info@thesussyproject.com