Casseroles for Cancer Part I: How Not to Go to South East AsiaCar, Dispatches from the Road, Family & Kid Travel, Lost Girl of the Week, Spiritual Travel, Travel Philosophy, United States — By Blair H on November 17, 2009 at 7:00 am
This summer, Blair Hickman retraced a 12,000 mile cross-country road trip in memory of her mom, who died from cancer in 2003. Along with her sister and best friend, the three girls retraced a path their mom had taken in 1977, serving dinner at 9 Ronald McDonald Houses and raising money for the charity along the way to raise awareness about the importance of non-medical support for families living with cancer. They blogged and vlogged the whole way, raised over $7,000 for the charity and in the end, found a little more than they’d bargained for.
On January 7, 2009, I fell off my oven and broke my foot. I’d spent the day wandering around Manhattan, looking for a spark of enthusiasm over the fact that I’d just subleased my apartment to travel in South East Asia, but I’d just picked up books on Vietnam as if they were moldy bags of cheese. So really, it’s only fitting that when I climbed on the counter to get a spice, as I had so many times before, I stepped on the oven door, which opened, slammed my foot into the cabinets on the other side, and rendered me disabled for 6 weeks.
To understand the rest of this story, you have to know about my mother. She passed away from a 6-year battle with cancer in 2003, when I was 17 and my little sister was 13. Since then, I’ve lived my life as her legacy, guided by logic, integrity and responsibility. That’s why, after I graduated college, I got a job as a headhunter for banking and financial services, even though I wanted to be a bum with my boyfriend all summer and then travel the world.
The second thing you need to know-and what’s really crucial to this story-is that my mom was/is a controlling, bossy bitch. I say this with the utmost love. Our lives together were an endless screaming match, each trying to convince the other she was right, but every fight, at least on her end, revolved around what was best for me.
From the day I graduated to the day I broke my foot, she’d been screaming at me. I started my job on July 7, 2008 and hated it, so she made sure I was laid off on November 7. Then I chose to South East Asia for all the wrong reasons, a topic far too complicated to get into here, but she knew it was wrong and made sure I broke my foot on January 7. Now, I’m not particularly religious, but I have to believe that if I got laid off, planned a trip to the tropics and then broke my foot because I fell off the oven, then my mother had to have been involved.
So instead of tubing in Laos, I spent 6 weeks on the couch in my fourth floor walk-up during a Manhattan winter. I thought a lot, and ate a lot of Oreos, and long story short, my sister and I decided that my post-graduate, post-corporate world time would best be spent retracing a road trip that my mom and three college girlfriends had taken during the summer of 1977. We would serve casseroles, the ultimate Southern comfort food, at 9 different Ronald McDonald Houses along the way to raise awareness about the importance of non-medical support for families living with cancer. And we’d do the whole thing as a fundraiser in her name.
The local paper in Chattanooga, TN picked up our story and ran a feature in the Lifestyle section. FOX news saw the write-up and asked to do a series of webisodes and Stephanie, our childhood best friend who now lived in Canada and would join us on the trip, was a broadcast major who knew how to shoot and edit video. In retrospect, planning a major fundraiser in six weeks is not the smartest move, but fate…or at least our mother…seemed to be on our side.
On June 7, we packed Kelsea’s 2001 Chevy Blazer, affectionately dubbed Black Betty, and took off from Chattanooga, TN to New Orleans. Right after we spent three hours in a Wal-Mart parking on the roof of the car, trying to put the topper on the right way. God help us all.