Update via Waylon: My best friend’s wife—healthy, young, a mother of two—has cancer. It’s time for community to show up—if so inspired after reading Richard’s letter, below, please pitch in. ~ Waylon.
Via Richard Schuh:
We Love Gabe: connection, compassion and the power of community.
My good friend David McLaughlin sent me an email a couple of weeks ago. It read: “Gabe has cancer.” It was a moment of stunned disbelief when my head processed what I had just read, but it took about three seconds before it hit my heart. Then it found my stomach and it felt like I was falling off of a cliff.
Gabe is David’s amazing wife. She is a mother of two young children—Serrana who is eight, and Quentin who is four. If you know the McLaughlin family you know they are an amazing family. They have been married for 10 years.
David was one of my first friends after I moved to Boulder in September of 2006. We met playing poker up at City Club here in Boulder. He intimidated me at first because he had it all. Intimidation quickly faded away as I found his life was something to look up to. He had a beautiful wife Gabe. A family—Serrana was just 3 at the time—and he ran his own business. He also carried himself with a laid back confidence that I admired.
He called me a couple of days after the first poker game and we hung out in the amphitheater at City Club on a beautiful October day. Our first big connection happened that day. We both had survived addiction. David had been clean and sober for over 20 years. I was coming up on three. David and I shared one of the best conversations that I had ever had. It was not a long conversation, and it was not one of advice or stories about tortured childhoods or unresolved pain. It was just a deep connection and admiration that this guy that had gone through exactly what I was going through. That day David had become my first significant connection in my new community of Boulder.
David and I hung out, played poker and shared a ton of mutual friends as I quickly learned about the three degrees of separation in Boulder. David also liked to ski. Actually he boards and I ski. Then a year and a half after I met he asked me, “Who ya dating” one day after we were rolling down the canyon after a perfect day at Eldora. Not the right one, I replied. Laughter filled the air when he said, “Then I’ve got someone you have to meet. Her name is Kelly.” David set us up on a blind date.
It was the best date I have ever had. It was also my last one. Kelly and I got married on June 20th 2009. It goes without saying that David has a special place in my life.
So when I heard about Gabe having cancer it just shocked me to my core. Gabe is about the same age as Kelly and a great mother and wife. I don’t know her as well as I know David, but every time I saw her, we always had a great conversation. I always liked that you felt like she was listening to you. Gabe was not one of those who talked over you or pulled the conversation back to herself. She knew who she was. I liked her immediately. David and I both married up—and we know it.
My wife Kelly and I just kept coming back to the same place after hearing about Gabe. It was the feeling first of—how can this be, to we have to help. We just did not want to sit back and after the initial shock wore off in a day or a week to forget about Gabe as we fall back into our day to day lives. We all have just so much bandwidth.
It is so easy to get overwhelmed with our jobs, obligations, social media and everything else we get bombarded with in this digital age. It’s necessary sometimes to shut down.
But not now.
David and I spoke on the phone after his email and he sounded good, but tired. He seemed overwhelmed with all of the unknowns of his wife, mother of his children and best friend having breast cancer. The cancer had spread to her lymph nodes and the doctors were not sure if it had spread to her lungs. More tests needed to be done and second opinions needed to be heard. They were open to all ideas and modalities, traditional and alternative to cure Gabe’s cancer. Without David saying a word I knew everything came with a price tag attached to it.
I shared this all with Kelly, who is a doctor herself. We knew The McLaughlins had a high deductible health insurance policy and that they were facing all kinds of unknown expenses. Kelly had an emergency appendectomy earlier in the year and we know firsthand how insurance companies will pay out what they damn well feel like. or can get away with. For Gabe, we knew that everything adds up from missed work days to medications and second opinions that are not covered to an organic diet. We always hear people say—let me know how I can help. I know everyone of them is well meaning and sincere. I also knew that David and Gabe have a large circle of friends and connections in our community of Boulder.
This lead to an idea. I called David back and told him I wanted to create a medical fund for Gabe. “I don’t know,” he said. He did not need to say it but David did not want to feel like he was asking for help. I said—You’re not. We are. Kelly and I would write the request in our own voice and ask our community, and all of our shared connections collectively to point everyone toward a website for Gabe. If they felt moved, they could make a gift of compassion to another family who is just like yours and mine. Or, they could just leave a thought or prayer in Gabe’s guestbook. Whatever felt right.
So I set out to build a website, welovegabe.com. It was more work that I had expected. I had bookmarked a site that offered free websites from templates about a week earlier. So I sat down on a Friday afternoon with the intention of building a beautiful and functional website, fast. After three hours all I had was a technology headache. So I reached out to some of the freelance designers this website offered to just hire it out. I had come to the conclusion that speed is what we needed to get the site up fast, and I was not the guy. Within an hour, two designers had quoted me prices that had me reconsidering my skill set to just do it myself.
Then the first act of compassion graced our way. The third designer from this company contacted me and said she would do the site for free. She was also a mother of young children and was moved by Gabe’s story.
Gloria was amazing. She designed the site and had it up and running within days. She never asked for a thing. The website turned out beautifully.
We went live with welovegabe.com and the response is overwhelming. The community came together instantly and contributions, large and small came from everywhere as social media helped spread the message. Then more compassion came forward as people who did not even know Gabe or David contributed or signed the guest book. We added the guest book so people could add their thoughts, prayers and well wishes to the family.
The last thing any person needs at a time like this is to feel overwhelmed or isolated.
The website was able to bring everyone together to support the McLaughlin family in a trying time. Everyone of us know Gabe or David in one way or another. They are caring and compassionate people on the first steps of an unknown journey. If you are a parent, Gabe’s story hits close to home. The message—help if you can.
I must say that it has been great to see “The Community” come together like they have to show the compassion that they have towards Gabe. I’m proud of Boulder. This message has gone way beyond Boulder, but it started here. This is “Home” for The McLaughlin Family. The website also has a tab to check back for updates on Gabe’s condition and sign the guest book to leave a note for her. The guest book was designed to be a landing page in place of calls, texts and emails to the family so as to not overwhelm them. I know Gabe reads every one of the messages and appreciates them all. If you think you don’t know David or Gabe, check out your Facebook page and search their names. Be prepared to be amazed at all the mutual friends you have in common in our three degrees of separation in Boulder.
Our request is to keep Gabe on your mind. Say a prayer or light a candle. Keep her in your thoughts and meditations as she goes through this most difficult time. The website says it all. If you have not already visited welovegabe.com—please do.
Stay strong Gabe. Kelly and I think about you every day.
Kelly & Richard Schuh
PS: If a friend wants to set you up on a blind date…accept the invitation.
Visit: We Love Gabe.