Sea to Sea for MBC: Gas Monkey Garage & Welcome to Oz!

By Beth Fairchild

The METAvivor non-profit was established in 2009 by a small group pro-active metastatic breast cancer patients who felt that the lack of research and support dedicated to their disease and to those suffering from it was just plain wrong. This year, the group planned Sea to Sea for MBC, a trip across the U.S. (from kick-off party in Annapolis, MD on April 12th to the upcoming closing celebration in Santa Monica, CA on May 26th) to meet with sponsors, supporters, volunteers, and researchers they have funded to date. As they traveled across the country to raise awareness about metastatic breast cancer, blogger and metastatic breast cancer patient Beth Fairchild joined METAvivor founder CJ “Dian” Corneliussen-James for the first leg of the trip. Breast Cancer Consortium founder Gayle Sulik had a chance to meet them on the road. Beth tells the story.

www.metavivor.org

www.metavivor.org


May 6th. After a lovely day touring MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX, CJ and I set out for Oklahoma City to visit Oklahoma Medical Research Center and Stephenson Cancer Center. We had mapped out a plan that took us to see a supporter in Waco, but that didn’t pan out, so we had a little extra time in the Dallas area. I had the idea to stop and see the folks at Gas Monkey Garage. If you’re not familiar, it’s a high-end automotive restoration business that’s the premise of the reality television show, “Fast N Loud.”

The film crew was away for break (just our luck), but their no-nonsense shop manager, Christie Brimberry, who has an intricate part on the show, was there and willing to talk to us and pose for a few photos. Christie was amazing! She was kind and gracious, and before we could get out of the parking lot she posted our photos to her personal social media and business pages, which in turn, sky-rocketed our social media presence. It’s always heart warming to meet someone like Christie who takes time and interest in the METAvivor mission. Thank you Gas Monkey Garage!

Me, Christie, & CJ

Me, Christie, & CJ

The METAvivor van was back on the road, making way for Plano, TX, to meet another supporter and metavivor for dinner, Abbey Rapoport. Abbey was intelligibly delightful. Although we were only able to spend about three hours with her, there is a deep connection formed when metastatic patients come together. There are certain things about our disease that only others who experience it will know and understand, and I was happy to talk openly and share our stories. I hope to know dear Abbey for many, many more years.

with Gayle Sulik

with Gayle Sulik

Gayle Sulik is the author of “Pink Ribbon Blues,” and if you haven’t read it, you need to! She was the focus of our next stop in Denton, TX. We met Gayle, also joined by Carrie Corey, for breakfast to chat, discuss the nature of the PINK community, and brainstorm about how she and METAvivor can work in step to bring awareness to “pink washing” and the spread of blatant misinformation about breast cancer. To my surprise, Gayle is not metastatic nor has she ever been diagnosed with cancer. However, she continues to stand with us and advocate for the Breast Cancer community. That puts Gayle Sulik in the #fearlessfriend category!! Carrie, however, is part of the “club.”

with Carrie Corey

with Carrie Corey

Realizing that we had better head for our destination before the impending bad weather hit (tornado season in Texas and Oklahoma), CJ, Gayle, Carrie, and I decided to part ways, but not before hugs and selfies. There was an instant connection with these women. It was like parting company with old friends.

On the highway, making our way to Oklahoma City, the storm clouds looked ominous. We pressed on. My co-pilot, CJ, kept watch over the weather radar, and we raced north as a large storm approached from the southwest. We would stay ahead of the storm, but not by much. The sky was dark and rain drops had began to fall from the sky as we valeted the META-mobile and checked into the Oklahoma City Sheraton.

The Weather Channel screen shot

The Weather Channel screen shot

Not long after getting settled into our rooms, we discovered that the storm system was producing tornados and heading in our direction. CJ and I packed our necessities into backpacks and went to the lobby to watch the weather coverage on the local news… and to be nearer to the basement stairs. After an hour or so, the wind and rain seemed to calm. The storm appeared to have stayed to the south and bypassed the city, so we decided to walk three blocks for dinner. That was a mistake.

What would have otherwise been a short walk to Brick Town seemed to take forever. The rain started to pour buckets again, and we were soaked to the bone when we finally climbed the stairs to the entry way of the restaurant. Shaking off the cold, we ordered drinks and attempted to dry off. Just as we ordered our food, we overheard a waitress saying there were tornado sirens going off and that she and her family were heading to the cellar. CJ and I promptly followed her.

Downstairs, we found it to be quite comfortable. There were leather chairs left over from previous tenants, or possibly a remodel, and a few tables and other decorative items that had been stored away. Most of all, it was safe and warm. I was fine to hold up there for a while. I continued to monitor the weather by streaming local coverage on my cell phone. The meteorologist reported record breaking floods in the city and the tornados touching down only blocks away.

CJ & Me, dining in the cellar

CJ & Me, dining in the cellar

Soon, a waiter appeared with a tray of food and served our meal, there, below the ground floor. We were joined by the remaining patrons as the danger grew closer. We dined in the company of strangers, under the city. I’m unsure of how much time passed, long enough to clear our plates and make a few new friends. We finally emerged from our underground shelter and gathered around the TV to see the weather reports. It seemed there was another break in the storm, and the kind woman we had chatted with before offered us a ride to our hotel. We accepted.

The sun shined brightly the next morning, and I was sure glad to see it. The previous night had been all the excitement I could withstand. I was happy to spend the next few, and uneventful, hours resting in the car as we drove towards Topeka, Kansas on the way to our next stop.

Read about “Getting to Know the Real CJ” here.


There’s still time to register for the METAvivor’s closing celebration on May 26th in Santa Monica, California!


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