Cancer, Tacos, and Community!

Right now at this time, I’m 34 years old. I’m a married man and a father of 4. My oldest is 13 and my youngest is 7. I like to think that with the four of them and my bride, who is 29 (side note; she’s been 29 for more than a few years) that the 5 of them keep me “hip”. In April of 2013, my bride convinced me to get the Facebook. It wasn’t until recently I learned just how powerful this tool is.

When I first signed up I would scroll through occasionally while I was bored. From time to time I’d update my status with some football fact or a happy birthday shoutout. Shortly after I opened the Facebook, I celebrated my 3 year anniversary of being sober from alcohol. I was flooded with “likes” and well wishes on my status. It was very overwhelming. From there I wrote a piece regarding my families experience with the Philadelphia Eagles. That reached over a thousand shares as well as several tears from me and my family. My third act would be a challenge to my hometown. That response humbled me to my very core as it set up a night in GPL gym that will forever be thrusted into my memory.

Tonight I write to the tens of people that may, or may not read,this and I’ll tell a tale of friendship, cancer, and a community backing the fight of 2 brave people. I’ll start this off by apologizing for name dropping as I rarely do that in anything I post. These strong people deserve to be recognized if only by the few people that will actually read this.

I first met Maggie Einrem at an NFL draft party at my apartment several years ago. She walked in unannounced and made herself at home. I remember very vividly turning to my friend and saying “who the *%?!#% is that?!?!” Turns out she just started dating a very good friend of mine. Maggie and the rest of the girls hit it off right away and we would all establish a friendship that would see some hard times to stay the least. Today, several years later, Maggie is fighting the fight of her life as she battles breast cancer.

I was 13 years old when I met the best man in my wedding, Tim Brown. Tim and I were thick as thieves through a majority of our school years. Seemed like every weekend he’d stay the night at my house and we spent our nights playing video games, staying up all night, laughing, and irritating the heck out of my parents. Many times my dad would yell from the basement “Boys!! I’m trying to sleep!!” Tim and I would just look at each other and just laugh harder! I set his leg on fire one night and he beat me up with a spoon! We were just a couple of kids enjoying life without a care in the world.

Through mutual friends, Tim and I would meet a pretty young blonde name Tori Gaukel. Tori would later marry and be known as Tori Simon. I was a shy 14 year old teenager and felt awkward being around such a pretty girl. Later as I grew up and got closer to Tori, I would find out how truly amazing she is. Tori was also diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age. She, like many others, opted to not stand idly by as cancer attacked. Tori went on a attack of her own and started Codington County Cares or CCC. Through this organization she would help so many people who, like her, want to fight and find a cure. Today, she is a staple in our community leading the charge against all sorts of illness with “Tori’s Army” firmly behind her.

Prior to today, the only thing that I know that these three people have in common is I destroyed our friendship through my alcoholism. Through my own selfishness I would lose touch with all three of them. Maggie would lose touch with my bride due to my antics. I pushed both Maggie and her boyfriend away with my own selfishness. Like many others both Tim and Tori grew tired of my ways and eventually we lost touch. Since I’ve gotten sober, I’ve slowly started building these relationships back up. What happened today proved to me that true friendships will stand even the worst things if you truly love someone. I can proudly say I love all three of these people.

To my knowledge Tim doesn’t know Maggie (yet). Out of no where I called Tim and shared Maggie’s story against cancer. I asked him if he’d be interested in hosting a benefit for Maggie. Tim is the proud manager at our local Taco Johns. He’s been there for years and has several awards for his hard work with that restaurant. Tim didn’t hesitate to say “Yes! I’d be more than happy to help!” So on November 12th, Tim and his company are donating 50% of the proceeds at Taco Johns to Maggie. From 4-9, you can accomplish a few different things. You can have some amazing food, help Maggie and her fight against cancer, and shake the hand of one of the best people I’ve ever had the pleasure of calling my friend.

After Tim does this selfless act, he simply starts a Facebook status and shares Maggie’s story. He “tags” our good friend Tori in it. As far as I know, they haven’t had any discussion about Maggie and her fight. Tori responds by saying she is working on something as well. Tori responds shortly later with “Codington County Cares will match the proceeds up to $1,500!” Can you imagine donating that kind of money?!? Why does she do it? She does it because she knows what Maggie is going through. She does it because she has a soft heart. She does it because she’s been a mom her whole life and she is always taking care of people. She does it because she’s a walking angel on earth! I was literally brought to tears as I headed back to my desk after finding this out.

I had the pleasure of calling Maggie and giving her the good news. Now for those of us that know Maggie, she’s never one to not speak her mind. For a few long seconds, silence rang loudly in my ear. Maggie thanked me for my very small part and I disconnected the phone with a smile on my face and a tear in my eye. So today I feel like I came full circle. I feel like I rekindled three friendships that I had feared were dead forever. These 3 people are not your average everyday people. They are hardworking solders of God that will stop at nothing to better our community and the people in it. They are also my friends.

Cancer is scary. Maggie has a boyfriend of many years that she loves dearly and he her. She is a daughter, and a mother of two. I talked to her almost daily and she never complains. She came over to my house to pick up her daughter as my beautiful bride watches her for a couple hours after school. Maggie had to shave her head due to the chemo. She popped off her hat with a smile on her face with the fight of a prize fighter in her eyes. Maggie needs a belt. Champions wear belts and she’s a champion. She goes through her everyday battle with courage that very few of us know. That being said, she, or anyone else for that matter, can not fight cancer alone. She needs our help.

On Wednesday, November 12th, I invite you to the Watertown Taco Johns from 4-9pm. As much as I love my friend Tori, I’d love nothing more for her and her amazing organization to pony up that $1,500 and I know she would to. That can’t happen without you. I want my best mans hand to be swollen and have finger marks on it from shaking so many hands. Tim is not a small dude, I know he can shake that many hands! That can’t happen without you. I want Maggie to know that the community she lives in, has her back and supports her unconditionally. That can’t happen without you. I’ll be there doing my best to keep tables clean, floors walkable, and traffic flowing. Nothing would make me happier than to go home with a sore back and feet. My bride will be next to me making sure I don’t screw up. That can’t happen without you!

I can’t think of a single thing better to do on a Wednesday night than battle cancer, have a taco, or two, and hang out with our community as we all fight the good fight; can you?

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