Taking on the Fight She Didn’t Get the Chance To

Leonards 1

Leonards-1

Jacque

One moment captures who my Aunt Jacque truly was. It happened three days before she passed away. Jacque had made one rule for visiting her; no crying. We were alone and try as I might, I was breaking her rule. I had been holding her hand and rubbing my thumb along the top of her fingers to let her know I was there but stopped when the tears started. I focused on the floor to try to pull myself together, embarrassed that I would cry after Jacque asked us not to.

As I blinked back the tears, I felt Jacque’s thumb rubbing along the tops of my fingers. I lifted my head and she looked at me with the same tenderness she had hundreds of times before. Even now, she was stronger than me.

Jacque was the epitome of strength. She was 58 years old but didn’t look a day over 40. Every morning she went to a Hard Exercise Works class and then “cooled down” with Bikram Yoga. Jacque also dedicated most of her time to helping the community. She had touched nearly every charity in our area and had even revolved her career around encouraging people to become involved in community outreach. She was funny and kind and determined and made a difference in thousands of lives.

On January 1st, 2013 Jacque was diagnosed with lung cancer. Four days later she passed away. She never had the opportunity to fight back – and I know she would have.

Melissa and Kelly Leonard at the Lung Love Run/Walk West Palm Beach event

Melissa and Kelly Leonard at the Lung Love Run/Walk West Palm Beach event

After Jacque passed, my mom Melissa (Jacque’s sister), decided to take on the fight she didn’t get the chance to. Mom did some thorough research on lung cancer associations and quickly realized the best organization in the field is Lung Cancer Alliance.

We have spent the last year working with this incredible organization and preparing for the first ever Lung Love Run/Walk in Florida. The work they do is unmatched in its dedication to patients and caregivers and raising awareness.

In September, we spent a life-changing two days with the organization and some of its many inspiring survivors and advocates in Washington D.C. storming the capital. We knew then that we could not have picked a better partner and we are so happy that they decided to open the Lung Love Run/Walk to West Palm Beach.

Our walk took place March 7th and the one word that comes to mind when I describe it is ‘magical’. For months, we had watched the teams increase and our funds raised grow. We cheered when the five person team, “George’s Crew”, hit $1,000. We had never even spoken with these people – but we were now forever connected to each person that signed up.

I could not be more proud of the incredible movement my mom has spearheaded in West Palm Beach and I am so thankful she has shared this experience with me. What started out as a way to honor and memorialize an incredible piece of our family has turned into a responsibility to allow others to do the same while we celebrate the increasing amount of survivors in our area!