In 2006, our family was first directly touched by cancer. On March 31, after a very short battle, my uncle and my mother’s oldest brother, Lonnie Dolce, passed away at the age of 57 from stage IV glioblastoma multiforme.
A little over two years later, on September 15, 2008, my mother, Sandra Dolce-Chappin was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer.
Below is an excerpt from her obituary:
After nearly a three-year battle with cancer, Sandy passed away shortly following her 62 birthday on Saturday, May 14, 2011. Born May 4, 1949, in Sacramento, she was a graduate of McClatchy High School. Sandy went on to obtain a nursing certificate where she tended to the care and aid of patients as an LVN for more than 37 years at Sutter General Hospital and Watsonville Hospital. In the late 1980’s she moved to the Monterey Peninsula with her family – a place she reminded us all was as close to Heaven on Earth. Sandy touched everyone she met over the course of her life in a warm and profound way. Proud of her Italian heritage, she loved cooking pasta for her family, listening to Elvis, Dean Martin, Johnny Mathis and Barbara Streisand, maintaining her pristine home, enjoying a glass of wine while looking at her beautiful ocean and watching sports on television while cheering for the Arizona Wildcats. Sandy embodied a unique passion for giving and honesty, and above all else, had an unforgettable, charismatic smile. During her illness she showed us all the true definition of strength, will, a conviction for life and how to LIVESTRONG.
Tragically, six weeks later, my other uncle and my mother’s youngest brother, Chris Dolce, passed away at the age of 56 – also from cancer which had metastases to his lungs, kidneys and pancreas.
In a timeframe of a little over five years, an entire generation of the Dolce family lost their life to cancer.
I met my husband, Adam Lehe, in Tempe, Arizona. We worked together at the Fiesta Bowl, overseeing three postseason college football bowl games – Adam was in the ticketing department and I was in the media and public relations department. We developed a great friendship which turned into a tremendous amount of personal and professional respect and eventually, true love! Although we came from very different geographic locations on the map, a California coast girl and a Midwest farm boy, our similarities in personality were undeniable and a perfect match.
When my mom became sick and it was apparent her illness was terminal, we shared many conversations about life. I grew up an avid sports fan and pulled strength in sharing words from the infamous Jimmy Valvano speech of ‘never give up.’ But the LIVESTRONG bracelet was a visual reminder for my mom and our entire family to try and stay positive. We all immediately put one on our wrist and to this day wear them in her honor and as a reminder to enjoy life.
Every girl imagines what her wedding will look like when the big day comes. No one imagines it without having their mother there to share it with – from planning, to trying on wedding dresses and picking out colors. Looking down at my wrist, once the time came for that ‘important decision’ it was a no-brainer. The color would be yellow. Because even in the joyous times and moments of my wedding and all its planning and preparation, I had to look down and remind myself to stay strong and positive and draw from good memories in her absence.
Yellow not only represented the LIVESTRONG color and way but it also reminded me of my mom – her smile and love for sunshine. It was a positive color and I needed all the positive energy available on my big day to fill the hole in my heart.
Rather than give out a traditional monogrammed gift to our guests at the wedding, we wanted to give back to the organization and mission that inspired the look of our special day. Just as the yellow band gave strength to my family, I knew we were not alone. It seems everyone has been touched by cancer in some shape or form and we wanted to not only donate to the cause and efforts of the organization, but also share a small form of inspiration in the form of the LIVESTRONG band to our guests. I was amazed by how many people came up to me throughout the night thanking us for the kind gesture and shared their own account of cancer in their life.
Together we can continue the fight while never forgetting those who fought before us. My mother may not have been there physically for our wedding, but she was represented in every yellow flower, yellow table linen and yellow band our guests put on and wore throughout the night.
I cannot express how a simple object made such an impact on my small family. LIVESTRONG provides me with strength – DAILY – and encompasses a mission of hope I share even with strangers. I can be in an airport or at a restaurant anywhere in this country and whether an acknowledged glance or conversation – it starts with a shared bond of wearing this band. It unities people’s pain, embraces their hope and allows for constant awareness.