Wednesday, October 23, 2013

That morning in 1999...the beginning of Wish for Wendy

The first Wish for Wendy logo

Dear Friends,

As we approach our 14th Wish for Wendy, I'm reminded of that morning back in 1999 when I woke up, put on a suit and tie and drove down to North Druid Hills in Atlanta. I parked my car and walked in a building I hadn't been in since I was a kid when I used to crouch behind my mom because of my excessive shyness. I was there to see Maureen Fraser, the Director of the CF Foundation of Georgia.

As I walked in, I didn't know what to call her. As a kid, I knew her as Ms. Fraser. I was an adult now so I figured a first name was fine.

"Maureen," I said, "I have an idea for a fundraiser. I want to raise money for cystic fibrosis in memory of my sister."

I could see Maureen looking at me. I was a 26 year old who had no idea what he was about to get into. Maybe she didn't see that though. Maybe she saw a younger version of my mother.

My mom had started the Santa Claus House decades ago to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Imagine a Jewish woman working on an event with Santa Claus in the title. She did an amazing job though. My mom told me the story of how she was driving down West Paces Ferry and saw renowned singer Isaac Hayes running in a jogging suit with his entourage. She stopped and asked if he would help with their charity event. Most people would be reluctant to try but my mom was not afraid of the word "no." Soon after, a few large men came in the morning of the Santa Claus House event and brought autographed memorabilia generously donated by Mr. Hayes. That's when I learned to never fear the word "no." Because of that story, we have raised nearly $2 million today. Thanks Mom!

Maureen asked me how I was going to go about raising money. All I knew was I had the motivation in my sister. I had the resources in my family and knowing so many people through softball. What I had no idea was how to find sponsors. Still I had a few great friends who helped me to create the event and even more friends who volunteered the day of the event. I'll never forget our first volunteer umpire Joe shouting "Play ball!" as the event started nearly a decade and a half ago. We raised close to $30,000 that first year. I honestly thought it was going to be a one-time thing but as we were leaving to go home that night in October of 2000, one of the players said something that turned the event from a one-time money-maker to a 14-year philanthropic giant.

"Can't wait till next year!"

Every year following the first shout of "Play ball!" and the close of the event, I think about hanging it up. I really do. Each year I grow a few more gray hairs, something that was considered impossible for a CF patient to ever have when I was a kid. I focus on other joys in life but I can't give up on this event. Not only is it fun but it funds a cause that myself and my family are dedicated to. I lost my sister to cystic fibrosis. My children are carriers of this disease. I have CF. Wish for Wendy is kind of like my baby. It will never be as big a priority as my wife and children but it will always mean a lot to me.

It's hard to believe that I've given this speech for 14 years.

I know a lot of people who are fighting every day to beat cystic fibrosis. Just in the last few months, I have known several people who have lost the battle to this disease including Ana Stenzel who I wrote a blog entry about. Ana, ironically, didn't die from cystic fibrosis but a symptom of it as you'll see from the entry.

I continue to battle CF and my numbers, sadly, have gone down the last few weeks. I am working my tail off to get them back up but I will be at the doctor the Monday after Wish to see if I need to go on IVs. Regardless I will continue to fight and fundraise and I will be playing again on the Wish for Wendy Warriors. I don't just intend to go out there and go through the motions. I plan to get a few hits while I'm out there and maybe a diving catch or two.

Put me in coach!

Wish for Wendy has played a significant role in my life. It was the event that brought me closer to my sister, a person who I never got to meet but I'm sure is at the event every year judging by the amazing weather we have. It brought me in touch with so many amazing people and for that I am truly blessed. One day, I hope it will also help to bring us a cure for this devastating disease.

I will see all of you on Saturday as we make A Wish for Wendy come true for the 14th time!

Play ball!


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Goodbye Ana Stenzel

A person like Ana Stenzel comes around once in a lifetime. I have enclosed her obituary. She lived an amazing life despite so many obstacles. Last year she allowed me to use her picture for our Wish for Wendy program. Ana, you will be missed but your legacy will live on. Thank you for being a role model in the fight against cystic fibrosis.


Monday, October 14, 2013

My numbers may be down but my outlook on life is far from it...

"Andy, your numbers are down. What's going on?"

Those eight words bring up so much anguish.

Those were the exact words spoken by my doctor this past Friday.

I didn't know what to say when the doctor asked me that question. "What's going on?"

I hate the CF cough!

When I was younger, I knew what it was. I was lax in taking my meds. I wasn't getting enough exercise. I wasn't doing my treatments everyday. I could just say "Ready or not, here I come!" and I'd be back on my feet as long as I was complying with my doctor's plan. It was that simple.

It's not that easy anymore and it has nothing to do with me not complying.

It's age.

I'm 40. CF is coming for me. I know it. My doctors know it. My body knows it. That means I have to work that much harder to beat it. I caught a virus over a month ago and I can't seem to shake it. My numbers are down 8% and if this continues I'll be on IV meds right after Wish for Wendy. This comes at a tough time because we're in the midst of moving.

CF is winning right now but unlike the past I won't let depression get to me. I will prevail.

I know that I have to take a stand and fight this and so I began last Thursday (one day prior to my doctor's appointment) as I knew my appointment was not going to be very positive. I started by hiring a personal trainer. Jumping rope nearly killed me. I was coughing up a storm. I had to stop 25 minutes into a 40 minute workout. I know that if I keep working, I'll get there. I'm doing a few other things to get better. I'm eating a little more to get my weight up. When fighting an infection with cystic fibrosis, it's important to have some weight behind you. Can you say "Hello Gummy Bears?" Ok, maybe not that extreme but I am grabbing smoothies after every workout session and eating more snacks during the work day (mostly gluten-free).


I'm delegating many of my responsibilities for Wish for Wendy to the CF Foundation. I used to hate delegating. Now I'm giving myself no choice. I'm fortunate to be working with Linda Murphy who does a great job there. I'm also making sure that I keep to a strict regimin by doubling up on Pulmozyme, making sure to take all of my antibiotics on time and keeping in good shape by walking Magic everyday and working out to the best of my ability. I'm very fortunate to have Andrea who has taken the bull by the horns with everything around the house and who is amazing with the kids. I love her so much. Thanks honey for all you do.

It's difficult coughing and seeing people around me notice. Andrea asks if I'm ok. My trainer is concerned and is worried about pushing me. My mom and dad are constantly checking on me and telling me to rest. The thing is I can't lay in my bed and just accept the fact that I'm sick. I need normalcy. Of course, I also have a sister who is a reality TV star so I'm not sure I even know what normalcy is anymore.

I need to live my life. People who don't have terminal illnesses don't get that. When I get sick, I don't stop exercising, I certainly don't lay in bed and I don't call in sick to work. I do the opposite. I work out harder. I constantly think of ways to get better. I never want to say that I could have done something to get better and didn't. I have to be mentally strong when battling a physical issue. In the past, I would have collapsed onto my bed, pulled the covers over my face and hoped that life would just end. I can't do that anymore. I have too much responsibility. I have Andrea, Avery and Ethan and I cannot and will not let them down.

I will not let these three down!

I wish I could just repeat those words from my youth, "Ready or not, here I come!" It's just not that easy. Not anymore.

The doctor e-mailed me Tuesday with my culture results which is always scary. Imagine waiting to hear if you are really sick or worse, need to be hospitalized. That's what it's like waiting to hear if I have pseudomonas or some type of bacteria that is not antibiotic-sensitive. The bright side is that both bacteria that I cultured are sensitive so I'm on two more oral antibiotics. The good thing is that I finished a previous antibiotic and just finished my 28 days of TOBI. Just call me CVS.

I'm trying to deal with all of this while dealing with a move, running Wish for Wendy, captaining my softball team, working a full-time job, being a dad and being a husband. The latter two are my top priorities. I have to be healthy for my family. I'm not asking for pity. I chose all of these roles and to be honest I enjoy them all. It just sucks when CF rears its ugly head and I'm forced to make changes.

I am starting to see mild improvement. My cough is slightly better. I do feel a little bit more energy. I'm able to get through my workouts with my trainer without being too winded. Things are moving in the right direction and I will make sure that they continue to do so.

My plan is to be 80 to 90% by Wish for Wendy which is in another 10 days or so and I'd like to play for my team in the tournament. I've been down and out for more than a month now so I realize that my goal to be relatively healthy in a third of that time is pretty unrealistic. Doctors would probably be a bit skeptical. Of course, if I believed in medical books and doctor's predictions, I would have died years ago...

But I'm still here!

After much thought, I now have a response for those words "Andy, your numbers are down. What's going on?"

A comeback! That's what's going on. Cystic fibrosis is going down! Ready or not, here I come!

Maybe it is that easy.


Friday, October 11, 2013

Atlanta sports rears its ugly head again

I knew it!

They tried to reel me in but I didn't fall for it. The Braves lost in 4 games. The Falcons are now 1-4 and lost arguably their best player for the year. The Atlanta Dream was swept in the finals. All of this in ONE WEEK!!!

I don't want to hear it anymore from Cubs fans because they have the Bears, Blackhawks and Bulls.

I don't want to hear from Boston fans. They have their titles now.

The only fans I simpathize with are Cleveland, Philadelphia, Buffalo and San Diego fans. They get it.

This sucks.

Now here is my fool-proof plan to fix the Braves so they can get back to October and barely miss winning a title again.

1) Get B.J. Upton some help. Hire a hitting coach to work exclusively with him this offseason. Get him to a sports psychologist as well. It helped John Smoltz.

2) Let Brian McCann go. I love the guy but you can't give a guy a 5 to 6 year deal when he is almost 30 and plays catcher. Gattis and Bettancourt will be the catchers next year.

3) Bye Bye Uggla. You have 2 years left on his deal. Call the Dodgers and see if they'll split it with you. Call the Yankees if Cano goes somewhere else. He is just not good for the team anymore. He has gotten worse and worse the last few years. A change of scenery will help him and the team. Bring up LaStella. He is killing it in winter ball and is an OPS machine.

4) Fire Fredi Gonzalez. I like Fredi. He seems like a good guy but his decisions for the most part are awful. Starting Garcia in Game 4 was terrible. He was lucky he pitched as well as he did. Not bringing Kimbrel in for a 6-out save with your season on the line was just not smart. We need a manager who is familiar with sabremetrics and also can work a bullpen. No one should be out-strategized by Don Mattingly. No one! I can't tell you who my choices would be right now but I would look at organizations like Oakland and Boston and see who they have in their system.

5) Sign the following guys to long term deals NOW: Kimbrel, Simmons, Heyward and Freeman. TB is very good at doing deals like this.

6) Trade for David Price. If you have to lose Lucas Sims, so be it. Imagine a rotation of Price, Medlen, Minor, Teheran and Beachy. That's pretty sick. I think Beachy will be 100% next year. I would not re-sign Hudson.

7) Go get some arms for the pen. You have Kimbrel but Walden is always hurt. Venters won't be back till May. O'Flaherty is a free agent. I like Carpenter but he shouldn't be the setup guy. Go find a great lefty arm. Wood may end up being that guy if we don't trade him.

There you go! Now it's time the Hawks season to begin. Someone put me out of my misery.