Triumph and Tragedy: Our ‘Wings & Strings’ Series Begins

Back in May, Scott Marshall and I were talking about collaborating on some upcoming events, including his Concert for the Kids pediatric cancer benefit in June, as well as his recent First Friday performance. While on the phone, he approached me to have Lehigh Valley Underground be a part of something that, in our region, is the first of its kind.

The event? The American Cancer Society’s Wings and Strings benefit, taking place Saturday, July 28 at Hellertown’s Dimmick Park. From 12-8 p.m., the park will be filled with local music, local food, and local beer, all in the name of cancer research and advocacy performed by the Berks, Lehigh, and Northampton Counties chapter of the American Cancer Society. Several familiar names will be on the bill, and I was honored to have LVU included in the day’s festivities. Without hesitation, I accepted the offer.

Of course, a big part of my willingness was due to the fact that this cause hits home for me on a highly personal level. I am a 15-year cancer survivor, after a severely malignant tumor caused my left ring finger to be amputated in April 2003, when I was 16 years old. I can’t look down at my left hand without a reminder of that battle, and about how fortunate I was to receive a second chance at life that not everyone gets.

I’ve since tried to use it to help others. For one thing, I am no stranger to American Cancer Society events, having participated in a total of 25 Relay for Life events, and speaking at 15 of them, since 2007. I’m always down for the cause, because it allows me to share my story, and to offer others going through similar ordeals – either personally or via a loved one – some support and inspiration to keep fighting.

My ties to the cause stretch beyond my own personal battle, as countless other people in my life have been impacted by the disease in some way. The first one who always comes to mind is my mother, who battled twice (successfully) after malignant tumors were found, both times in her left wrist. She and I are forever bonded by our similar stories – on her second go-round, we would even come to share the same surgeon, in the same hospital, nine months apart from one another. We would return to Philadelphia together in the ensuing months and years for our periodic follow-up MRIs and, with the worst seemingly behind us, those day trips would become some of our most cherished memories.

My mother has since passed due to unrelated causes. She was my best friend and the most influential person in my life, ever — largely in part due to this shared experience. In the years since, I have taken the responsibility to carry that bond with me, for as long as my second chance should last.

Today, it seems that we all have stories about cancer. Some have happened to us personally, while some of us have witnessed and supported others going through their fight. Some of those battles have been won. Some have been lost. Together, we are brought closer by the triumph and, yes, even the tragedy of it all.

Between now and July 28, Lehigh Valley Underground will share stories from the people set to make Wings and Strings what it is to be. We invite musicians, organizers, and anyone else involved to share their reasons for supporting the cause, and we already have a handful of these folks lined up.

Please stay tuned for these stories in the coming weeks. And, if you are able and willing, join us at Dimmick Park for a day of music, refreshment, inspiration, and hope on Saturday, July 28.

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