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  • Writer's pictureAmber Miller

Laps of Love #teammiller

The story all began with the love of two high school sweethearts, Carolyn and Cliff Bernard. Carolyn, also known as “Mama Griz,” was the beloved principal of Grassfield High School in Chesapeake Virginia. Her husband, Cliff, was diagnosed with Lymphoma in 2006 and lost his battle after 2 years of fighting this disease on October 16, 2009. The Chesapeake community continued to get struck by this horrid disease. Another high school principal, Woody Koonce, lost his battle a few weeks later. One of our teachers, Mr. Jones 10 year old daughter, Darby, was currently undergoing treatment and the cases kept coming. My brother, Jordan Miller, was a part of the Student Council Association and came up with the idea to hold a walk-a-thon in memory of Mr. Bernard and to support the Lymphoma Research Foundation. He decided to name it “Laps for Lymphoma” Jordan and the SCA spent countless hours in preparation for this event.

After months of hard work, Lymphoma ironically hit a lot closer to home than my family had expected. I remember the day so well. January 13, 2010… I was in the 8th grade at Hickory Middle School. I got a message to ride the bus home instead of going to gymnastics practice with zero explanation. When I got home, I walked into the living room where my parents and brother were next to each other on the couch. Jordan was crying, my heart started racing, I was confused and terrified. I looked at my parents and they told me to have a seat. Trying to ease the news my dad said, “I haven’t been feeling well for a while now and today after a few tests, it was confirmed that I have Large B Cell Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma… it is a form of cancer…. And it is in stage 3B…. meaning it’s on the line to stage 4.” My heart dropped, it didn’t feel real. I could see an unusual bandage on my dad’s throat and the worry in my mom’s eyes. We were frustrated with the questions of why this could happen to us and how can we fix it… and sadly, no one really thinks of those questions until it happens to them. We researched the rest of the night about the diagnoses and the differences in stages. My family was so worried he would not be able to beat this disease and all my dad kept saying was, “watch me.”

My dad started chemotherapy a few days later. His hair began to fall out, some vomiting, yellow tint on his skin, zero energy, and the change in taste buds all started. It wasn’t long before he looked like a completely different person. After completing even more tests, the doctors told us that my dad had cancer approximately 3 years before finally speaking up about his symptoms. Jordan had done so much research on lymphoma to prepare for the walk. He said "approximately 20,000 people died last year from this dad.” My dad had the best response I could have ever heard, “Well go on and look up how many survived and add me to that list.” Hearing that made me feel some comfort because I knew my dad was strong and he would never let something like this defeat him. However, cancer is not always in our control. We knew we had a long battle ahead, and it wasn’t going to be easy.

The crazy part about all of this is, my dad never missed a work day. I know, he’s insane. He lied to all the doctors saying he was at home watching TV, when in reality he was landscaping during the day and running the business aspect of the company at night. He never stopped. Eventually the community came up with a hashtag of their own for my dad, #teammiller

During Laps for Lymphoma, my dad was still undergoing treatment but was able to come walk. It was a magical day and Grassfield High School raised over $11,000 for the Lymphoma Research Foundation. Over the past 9 years, Grassfield High School has raised over $165,000 for Lymphoma research. Have chills?... Yeah me too. We still continue this tradition every year in memory of Mr. Bernard, others that have lost the battle, and those currently fighting this disease.

After 6 months of treatment, we heard the best news we could have ever imagined. My dad’s lymph nodes were back to their original size and he was officially declared in remission. My dad continues to go back regularly to get scans and blood work, but I am happy to say several years later that his lymph nodes have NOT grown in size and he is living his absolute best life.

My wish for you all, is to never give up or settle for less than what you are. You are not promised tomorrow, so make every day count. Be your best self, every single day.

I highly suggest watching the full video of the "Laps of Love" story, click here.

To register for the 10th annual Laps for Lymphoma, click here! You will receive a free t-shirt, free giveaways, and many memories!



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