Tampa Times & Relay for Life Speech

It’s been over a week since I’ve written a blog post and it feels like an eternity. But that’s because I WAS ON VACATION! First vacation since being diagnosed. First time being on an airplane and getting to see palm trees and plop my butt in the sand and just relax. It was such a wonderful few days and something Mike and I really needed.

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We were greeted in the Tampa airport by multiple members of the fraternity I was a part of, Delta Sigma Pi. Their excitement to have me down and meet all the new members was infectious and something I felt so lucky to be able to experience.

So after deciding we no longer wanted a boring rent-a-car because we were on v-a-c-a-t-i-o-n,  we hopped in a mustang convertible and headed down to Clearwater!! The drive was perfect– the warm wind was in our faces, the music was on loud and I felt happy at its purist. We got so lucky as we were able to stay in a GORGEOUS condo that my friend Kelly’s family owns and were so nice enough to let us stay there for a few days. It’s right on the water, has a fantastic pool and jacuzzi, and the best balcony view of them all. We were so lucky to be able to have that opportunity! (so thank you thank you thank you to the Fitzgibbons!)

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We spent the next few days lounging on the beach, doing yoga in the sand, going for long walks hand in hand, sleeping with the doors open to hear the waves crash down, watching dolphins play in the water while we ate grouper sandwiches, spending time with some of my best girlfriends who came up for a day to visit, and watching the sunset go down atop the beautiful white sands! We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect few days.

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We then headed to Tampa so I could show Mike my old stomping grounds and get ready for the Relay for Life event that I was speaking at on Saturday. Friday night I got to meet all the wonderful students who have worked so hard over the past 6 months to fundraise in order to get me to Tampa and also to put on this incredible event. I was greeted by so many smiling faces, including old professors that came to support me– it was truly heartwarming. We then went out with some great friends for dinner and ended up at World of Beer for old times sake. It’s funny, WOB is right across the street from MacDittons, my favorite bar in college, and as I watched college kids go in and out, I felt old and almost like “could I do that anymore?” Funny how times change. Overall, it was a really special night to see so many close friends that I don’t get to see nearly as much as I’d like and just catch up and laugh together.

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Then came Saturday– the day we were down here for. I was anxiously awaiting my speech all day, reading it over and over by the pool and practicing too many times in front of Mike. Being the perfectionist I am, I wanted it to go smoothly and really make it worth everyone’s effort of getting me down there. The night came and my family, of course, was there to support me! Mom, Dad, Court, Stratos & Eleni were all there to cheer me on as I took the mic. With over 1000 people in attendance, I started to get pretty nervous– I haven’t public spoken like that in quite some time. But once I started speaking, I was reminded  that I’m talking about my journey– something I know a lot about. I could do this. And I did it. There was sense of relief when I ended but also real excitement. Overall, the ceremony was beautiful and so touching. It’s a night I will always remember.

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I’ve included the video below where you can watch my speech, hope you enjoy!

Again, thank you to all my brothers from DSP for making this trip a reality and to all my Tampa family who made being back so special to me. I love you all!

XOXO,

Jess

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