Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Help Yourself Breathe: A New Kind of Challenge For The Cause

Much has been said about challenges in recent days. People around the country have stepped up to the plate, offering themselves for dares in order to challenge donors to do their part. A friend in Richmond danced in the supermarket wearing little more than a tutu and a sign that carried the rallying cry “#HelpTuckerBreathe.” An “Uncle” in San Diego with an unusual amount of strawberry-blond hair on his back suffered the humiliation and pain of standing in his driveway (looking particularly sexy in his boxer shorts, I might add), while his friends and family ripped the natural sweater from his body with hot wax. Ouch! Okay… this wasn’t really a pretty sight. Another friend, in San Diego had the handle “#HelpTuckerBreathe” shaved onto his scalp, making him a walking billboard for the cause. And at the time of this writing, numerous people from California, to Virginia, up to New Jersey and New York, and down to Florida, are having tattoos placed on various parts of their bodies, in a permanent, visible tribute and show of support to their friend Tucker, and other loved ones who have been lost to CF.

It has all been an important and integral part of our campaign to Help Tucker Breathe. It has kept people excited and motivated to keep pushing. It has allowed us to wipe away the tears from time to time, and lift us up in laughter just when the reality of Tucker’s situation attempts to pull us down into despair. We just cannot allow that to happen, so we make this important campaign interesting, exciting, and even fun. We take all those photos, holding all of those signs, and post them on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. They make us smile. We get friends in Spain, Ireland, and Egypt to hold up those signs, shouting “#HelpTuckerBreathe,” showing our struggling friend support from around the world. It makes Tucker smile. It makes us smile. It makes us wonder what exotic land the next message will come from.

For so many of us, this cause has become all consuming. It’s all we talk about. “What’s the total up to?” is the question asked about every five minutes in my house. “Did you share that?” “Did you see So-And-So’s comment?” “I wonder how Tuck is feeling today.” “When will the video be up on Youtube?” We spend time on our computers, posting, commenting, liking, sharing, Tweeting, re-Tweeting, Pinning, messaging, chatting, blogging, and refreshing that amazing donation page ($43,343.00/846 people/7 days right now!). We have coffee with friends and discuss the next great fund-raising idea. On our cigarette break at work, we convince a coworker to pose for a photo with the sign we always have ready. When we stop at the convenience store for a Coke, we ask the manager if we can put up a poster in the win— Wait. What? Back up a second. Cigarette break? What’s wrong with this picture? Oh, man.

Tucker Gordon was dealt a bad hand. Born with Cystic Fibrosis, our friend now struggles for every breath he takes. All of the “tune ups”, the medications, the doctor and hospital visits, have gotten him to this point. The point where all of his loved ones have come together to shout in one harmonious and beautiful voice, “Help Tucker Breathe!” The point where he has been whisked away in a helicopter to the New Lung Factory we know as Duke University Medical Center to be evaluated for a double lung transplant. A double lung transplant! The ultimate “Tune-up,” folks. Take a moment here, and say those words aloud: “Double lung transplant.” Do you get it? Do you get how serious that is? Our friend Tucker is about to go through a life-threatening (there, I said it), yet potentially life-saving procedure in order to take the simple breaths that all of take for granted.

Your shouting (your pleading) “Help Tucker Breathe” has made this evaluation possible. Yet who among us have shouted these all-important words between drags from a cigarette? Which of us pleaded while breathing through our own tainted lungs (the healthy lungs we were born with yet choose to taint)? How many have coughed while uttering this phrase? I am ashamed to say that I sat in my backyard on one of the most beautiful days of the year, breathing in glorious fresh air through my cigar smoke. Um… See where I’m going with this?

My challenge to you is simple. Stop.

This isn’t a challenge like the others. No “You do this/I’ll do that.” No “If someone coughs up a million bucks, I’ll quit smoking.” Skip the “When we reach 40-million dollars, I’ll throw away my Newports.” I am challenging you to say, “I get it. I get that God gave me what Tucker wishes for every day. What he will put himself through to have. What Chantel had for such a short time. What so many people with CF will never have. I get it.” And when you get it, put down the cigarettes and breathe easy.

Today I vow to put my money where my cigar can usually be found (that means where my mouth is for those of you who missed my clever play on words). I get it. I get that I can’t ask others to Help Tucker Breathe while not helping myself to breathe. I get that nobody wants to start a @FundBob campaign on social media. No one wants to hold signs in front of cameras in Ireland, or Egypt, or Bangladesh that read “#HelpBobBreathe.”  No one wants to wait for the helicopter to transplant Bob to Duke.

And no one wants to do any of those things for you. I’m sure they would, but lets not even go there. When you get it, make some signs for yourself that read “#HelpInsertNameHereBreathe.” Hang them wherever you need… by your computer, in your living room, from the rearview mirror in your car, around your neck if you need to. Whenever you want a smoke, look at that sign. Think about Tucker and what it would mean to him if you resisted. Tell Tucker and Chantel that you get it. Tell all those people who came before that you get it. And tell the young children who are checking in for their “tune-ups” that you get it. But mostly, tell yourself: “I get it!”

Then get on Tucker’s Facebook page (if you are connected there) and tell him, “Tucker, in your honor, and for my lungs, I have quit smoking. Together, we will Breathe Easy!”
(Refresh: $43,988.00/869 people/7 days)

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