Sunday, July 5, 2009

Colondar -- Day 4

I awoke on the last day of the Colondar shoot, but instead of showering and packing right away, I headed over to spend some time with the first wave of people due to depart for the airport. I discovered that Dom and David never slept. They stayed up all night and went for a kayak ride early in the morning. That was a pretty cool idea. The dinning room table that was constantly covered with food, still had food on it, but it wasn't the same. What once was freshly made lasagna, fajitas, or BBQ was now lonely packets of Frito-Lay snacks that most had ignored the previous days.

The morning was really calm. There was a sadness mixed with a happiness. I guess the combination of those two produce a calm. Everyone was scheduled to depart Lake George in waves to the airport. I took a stroll around the house. I walked into the living room where we all gathered the first night to get acquainted and play games. It was also the same room we gathered to hear Kathy's story, see our slide presentation, and tell our favorite moments. There was no laughter, talking, or video in the room, now...just memories.

The quiet ended quickly as Molly started a round-up in a frenzy! "Okay, everyone who is leaving first, sit down and sign this pile of thank you notes. Do NOT get out of order, so help me!" (I'm paraphrasing.) Cards were passed around for everyone who helped throughout the weekend. They were for the people who gave us the run of their homes, photographers, editors, chefs, little helpers, elves, fairies, etc...

The clock moved quickly and it was time for the first carpool to drive to the airport. Everyone gathered outside of the garage that was used for the photo shoot. Now, there was no more photography equipment or computers. It was only a home for the recycling bins.

Krista was driving the first car filled with Trish, Jill, Joe, David, and Dom. It was sad to watch everyone step into the van. We knew we wouldn't be seeing them for a while and it was so much fun to have them around! Simon jumped on the hood of the car, face down and spread eagle. He did it in jest, but we all wanted to do it for real and make the goodbyes not have to happen. The car went up the driveway, leaving behind a bunch of waving people. That was hard and that was only the first set of goodbyes. Being in the last group to depart, I'd have to do this a couple more times.

There was a little bit of time between trips, so I grabbed a shower and packed. This next round was Andrew driving Eve, Candace and Lori. Greaaaat... another set of goodbyes. One of the goodbyes that stands out to me was one I shared with Lori. She had told us the story of the extremely hard time she had being diagnosed at age 16 and being treated like an outcast by her friends. So, when I hugged her, I said, "I wish I could have given you this hug when you were 16." I think I almost made her cry. I didn't mean to...honest!

Now all that remained were my carload and the organizers who were sticking around for another day. This wasn't planned, but all the stage IV survivors were still there. Below you'll find a photo of Todd, Erika, Heidi and me each showing how many years in remission we were. I say "were" because now I have to start over. I'll never catch them, but I'm going to compete because I don't like to lose!

Finally, it was "that" time. I had to get in my car and secure my neck brace (remember that thing?) Todd and Tammy drove Eric, Heidi and me. There was constant chatter the whole ride. I dosed off for part of it. When I woke up, we were back in cell phone range and I checked my messages. I had a text from a friend who had just done a colonoscopy and it was clean as a whistle. I thought it appropriate to share that news with the car.

Once at the airport, we said goodbye to Todd and Tammy. Heidi's flight was first, so I sat at her gate with her and chatted. The boarding call came and I waited around until I could no longer see her going down the tunnel to the airplane. I walked over to Eric's gate and he wasn't there. Was his flight earlier than I had thought? I was bummed...I didn't get to say so long to him. I went to the airport sports bar and as luck would have it, Eric was there watching baseball. I hadn't missed him! He told me that he had already given away a 2009 Colondar that Molly stocked us all with before she let us leave Lake George. (Me? I was a little hesitant to hand out anything in an airport because I once had a flight delayed because someone handed out fliers. You know...the whole, "did you accept anything from someone unknown to you?")

I had a little food with Eric and then walked him to his gate. His plane boarded and there I the airport alone. The last one to leave. I had a pit in my stomach. Guess what came next? If you don't know, you haven't been following my blogs. The four-day Colondar shoot was over. We all had new friends, but we would never have that same type of experience again. It was once in a lifetime. And I want other survivors to have this experience, too. So, when I advertise the Colondar in September, please help by buying one (or 30)!

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