Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Amber's SURPRISE cancer free party

The story has been a long time coming and finally I time to blog about it. Most of you know my Amber….she is the most inspirational, giving, kind person I know. Once you meet her, she is instantly your friend. Some of you know her as my friend that had cancer. Although she isn’t fond of me introducing her like this, people really do know who she is as I have run two half marathons and a full and fundraised twice and she is the reason.

What I’m getting to is that Miss Amber Vance has been cancer free for 5 years!!! May 5th 2009 marked this big anniversary. This is so exciting and a huge milestone.

This party started the weekend of October 19th, 2007. Anne Nail, a really good friend of Amber’s that she used to work with and I had just finished a half marathon. We were sitting around in the finishers’ tent waiting for our marathon running champion Amber. We talked about throwing a party for Amber for her 5 year anniversary. Amber isn’t the type that wants to celebrate anything for her, or be the center of attention or have anyone spend money on her…which means, it had to be a surprise. Fast forward 1 year, to October of 2008….the party planning began. Anne, amazingly, got the passwords to Amber’s email and facebook! We now had access to email addresses for everyone in Amber’s life. I thought this was going to be the hardest part. In January of 2009, we gathered the emails, and sent out the Save the Date. We were so excited:

A Surprise Part for Amber Vance

Raleigh, North Carolina

Saturday May 9th (Mother’s Day weekend)

The Red Room

3:00 pm

In Lieu of gift, please make a donation to the Leukemia & Lymphoma society

Over the next few months, we planned, decided on food, a champagne toast, conjured up reasons she couldn’t drive Chryssie (her little sis) across the country the week before Mother’s day weekend, had conference calls with her mom, selected theme colors, plotted an event to assure she looked as cute as possible…etc. She gave us a run for our money.

The closer we got to the party, the more excited I got. Seriously, it was the only thing I could think about. Anne and I talked about how we each thought she had no idea, and even her family thought the same. I just couldn’t believe that with every person in her life, in her email and on facebook NOT ONE PERSON slipped. Impossible!

Meanwhile, Anne is a medical device rep, so just like Amber, she is on the road. I, on the other hand, am sitting at my desk in front of the computer and had time to get things printed out and pasted together. Amber had a website and blogged during treatment. I thought it would be really cool to print those out so people could read them. I came up with a page layout and copied each of her entries from the site. I cut foam core to 11x17 to match the paper size, created a stand so they would stand on their own, and craft hour was on.

On Thursday May 7th, Mom, Kel and I headed to Raleigh. Mom had never been, so we decided to play while we were there. Thursday we checked into the hotel, and headed out to grab a bite to eat. We found this great area called North Hills and had a nice dinner. It was a gorgeous night, mild humidity, warm and it’s patio season! While we were playing, we had to be mindful of where we went. Amber didn’t even know we were in town, so we were constantly on the look out.

Friday we slept much later than expected, blame it in the time difference, went to the Farmer’s Market….a must if you are in Raleigh and had lunch at NC Seafood, DELICIOUS! My policy when on vacation is do and eat what you can’t at home…..hushpuppies….I love them! We shopped at North Hill after lunch, and met a reality tv star. I was very excited about it, but mom and Kel didn’t know who she was. The Biggest Looser’s Heba from last season. I knew she lived in Raleigh as she and Ed, her husband belong to the same gym as Amber, but to run into her…so fun. We talked to her for 15 minutes, she was so nice! Part of our conversation was places to eat in Raleigh, and she suggested Humble Pie, which is where her chef husband used to work. We shopped a little while longer, had a glass of wine at this cute French place and then headed to dinner.

It was delicious food! There wasn’t a crumb left on the plate of everything we ordered. Here is where the story gets very “Up With People”. We were sitting on the patio and there is an outside bar. There was a group of two men and a lady and one of the guys looks at my mom and says, “are we being loud?” She jokingly said, “yes”. Next thing we know, they have joined our table (it was big enough for 8 people) and we found out that the lady, Andrea, had Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. “You meet them wherever you go”. Previously, we had told them why we were in town….which is when she told us that is a survivor as well. It was very cool, she and her soon to be husband Keith, are planning on visiting Denver after they get married in November. Needless to say, we invited them to our celebration of life party.

On to the party….Saturday we woke with many things to get done…hot glue stands to the back of the journal entries, get creative with the surprise sign, eat lunch, shower and get to the Red Room by 2:15. Anne and husband Eric stopped by the hotel to give us the donation box and card box.

We arrived and started setting up and not 15 minutes later, people were showing to arrive. I have to admit I was really nervous all morning, and once we got there and people started to gather, I was feeling better. I had so much emotion about the entire event. We had about 60 people all around the front door and “SURPRISE”…she was shocked. I just couldn’t believe that Anne and I pulled it off. She had NO idea. She cried, we all cried….all these people from all part of her life were all in one room together. It was AWESOME!

We partied, had toasts, met new people and put faces to names, raised $580 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma society and celebrated that our dear friend is still with us today.

Sunday was Mother’s day, so we celebrated at brunch at Big Ed’s City Market. It was southern eating like I LOVE!!! Biscuits, grits, collared greens, candied sweet potatoes and sweet tea, I love the south. We shopped in Cameron Village which is by Amber’s house, then walked to the Rose garden and said our goodbyes.

It was a wonderful weekend, and I’m so happy it all turned out perfect! Love you Amber!

Shock has set in...

The Party planners with our guest of honor!

The Banfells...Mother Teresa, Amber, Skip and Chryssie

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