Friday, July 30, 2010

Helping a research study to find a cure for Type 1 Diabetes

Next week, starting on Monday, I will be helping out a 9 1/2 year old boy by the name of Jerry from Washington State with his battle with Type 1 Diabetes. Jerry was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes right after his second birthday. There was never any history of diabetes in Jerry's family prior to his diagnosis. After years of research and trying to find answers and a cure, Jerry's family came across Dr. Faustman, Director of Mass General Hospital's Immunobiology Laboratory, who was conducting a clinical trial to test for a potential cure for Type 1 Diabetes. The Phase 1 trial began in 2008, and in June of 2010, Phase 1 was completed. The safety data was submitted to the Food and Drug Administration and now plans for Phase II are underway.

Donations of blood are taken between a diabetic and that of a non-diabetic control. The samples for this study are processed blindly and together with the control sample. The control donor must be of no relation and a non-diabetic without any autoimmune diseases.

I am happy to help toward this incredible research as Diabetes has entered into my life with my husband Rob being diagnosed in 2008 as a pre-diabetic and later as a Type 1 Diabetic. With diabetes running in his family, there is a chance that our daughter could become a diabetic, and it is up to us as parents and a family to do everything we can to help prevent and teach. Jerry and his family are very lucky that he at a young age took control to learn the right things to do with his diagnosis and has faced it head on. His participating in this research study will help not only him, but so many others. I am blessed to meet him and his family next week and to do what I can to help not only my family but others as well.

I look forward to letting you know more next week as this process of three days of blood donations starts on Monday. To learn more about Dr. Faustman and her research, please visit her page: and

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Merrimack Valley Mom Bloggers

As I come off of a week of spending time with some of the most amazing women in the world, I got to meet another group of equally amazing women. Today I met with all the Mommy Bloggers I will working with for the Merrimack Valley Mom Blog. I'm so excited about this opportunity as we are all very different, but we have the common bond of being moms. Each of us will bring to the blog something unique and new, and I cannot wait to start reading the posts in August. I know that not only will I be able to share what I have learned becoming a new mom and as Mrs. Massachusetts, but I'll be learning new things from these amazing ladies as well.

To learn more about each one of us, please visit http:/ Keep an eye out for out blog posts! Also, don't be shy, feel free to share ideas on what you would like to see written about.

Visiting Children's Hospital

The day after I returned from the Mrs. International Pageant, I had the great opportunity to visit Children's Hospital. My first visit was coordinated by Dr. Edward Neilan to meet with one of his patients, Derick Penney, who is taking part in a study for medicines for his condition of Cockayne Syndrome. Derick is a 6 years old boy with such a great little personality. I was able to sit with him while he was having blood drawn for testing to go along with this study he is part of. While he was going through this process, he held my hand, and even turned around and gave me a kiss on the cheek. After he was done, he took me by the hand and walked me to the playroom to get some trucks and play food. We then came back and got to spend time playing and also speaking with his parents. Derick and his family are here from Arizona, and he has a 5 year old little brother back home. They were telling me about the retreat that they had attended recently and met other families that have children with Cockayne Syndrome. I was so happy to hear that there is such a strong support group for families affected by this syndrome as many of us have never heard of it. When it was time to leave, Derick gave me a huge hug and then ran over to my husband Rob and gave him a hug as well. This boy give so much love, and I feel so blessed to meet him and his family. I know that I will see him the next time he is in Boston for another treatment and I can't wait for that day. To learn more about Derick, please visit: To learn more about Cockayne Syndrome, please visit:

My next visit of the day was to see my beautiful friend Bella Tucker. I was so excited to see her bright smile when she saw me in the doorway and reach out her arms to hug me. Bella's favorite animals are monkeys, and I found one that I thought she would enjoy. The squeel she let out said it all, and she named him Brownie. We watched some Disney TV together, talked about her physical therapy, and also talked about our shoe shopping date someday soon. Bella will soon be transferring to Spaulding Rehab before traveling down to Philadelphia to get fitted for prosthetics and be trained to use them. I have said it before and I will say it again, Bella is the strongest person I know. This little girl exemplifies so much strength, courage, and determination. We all have so much to learn from her. Her attitude is all about "I Can!" and "I Will!".

I love both these children and feel so lucky that they have been brought into my life. I can't wait to see you both really soon! Thank you to Dr. Edward Neilan for introducing me to Derick and for helping me to get educated on Cockayne Syndrome. I do hope that with the power of the title of Mrs. Massachusetts International, I will be able to bring some awareness to this syndrome.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Mrs. International - My Thoughts!

Althought I did not come home with the title of Mrs. International, I am still so blessed to have had the experience. The ladies that I have met are some of the most amazing people with hearts of gold. I learned about platforms which include Make A Wish Foundation, Kidney Disease, Organ Donation, Domestic Violence, March of Dimes, Mentoring Young Girls, We Get To Foundation, Alzheimers, and that is only a few of them. Each woman has a story and when you get a chance to know them and their story, you have a deep admiration for a program like the Mrs. International Pageant that brought us together, and as a unity we make a difference in our communities and other people's lives.

The week was amazing which began with orientation and being able to finally meet after months of preparation. The very next day we got to tour the city of Chicago and visiting many landmarks including Michigan Avenue, The Bean, Navy Pier, and many other stops along the way. The thing I enjoyed most about Chicago was the amazing skyline and the combination of architecture of the old and the new, including the new Trump Building which is an amazing structure in itself. Following the tour, we started our rehearsals. Our opening number was to the song "Tonight Is Going To Be A Good Night". I have to say that this was the most intimidating process of the whole week as I am not a dancer at all. However, after several run throughs with our choreographer, Lauren, I felt more and more comfortable. The production crew was simply amazing with all of their support and encouragement. They put together an amazingly professional opening number and general production of the entire preliminary and final shows. A special thank you goes out to Scott Seidl, Rebecca Shubart, Kyle Henry, and Laine Berry for being such a huge part of our success on stage and for making us shine and feel like stars.
Interviews came on Thursday, and I was so happy to be part of the first group and have my interview first thing in the morning. I was so excited to be able to share my platform and the reasons why I have chosen to champion Breast Cancer Awareness and the Importance of Early Detection. For me it is a the personal story of losing my mom due to her not having a mammogram to detect her breast cancer at an early stage. Sharing her story allows me to put a face to the disease and share something so personal to show people the effects non-early detection can have on a patient and their family. I will always advocate for awareness, detection, prevention, and celebration of life. Self breast exams are a must for women of all ages along with mammograms after the age of 40 or earlier if you have a family history of breast cancer. Eating healthy and maintaining an exercise program is so important too. In the United States, we have 2.5 million breast cancer survivors, but there are still 1 in 35 women diagnosed with this disease that lose their battle with breast cancer. Spreading the world about awareness will hopefully help many women reach that 98% suvivral rate through early detection.

After interviews were completed, I was so excited to welcome my family to Chicago. It had been a few days since seeing them, and as most new moms know, our children change on a daily basis, and Sierra's hair was longer and she seemed to have grown a little bit too. It was so good to hug her and see her smile as well as to see my husband Rob. Later in the afternoon it was off to more rehearsals. On Friday the husbands got the chance to meet with Eddie Peterson who is one of the most amazing and inspirational speakers. I still love his story of "You don't know my life!". Folowing the husband's meeting, they came to the North Shore Convention Center to join us for rehearsals of the evening gown competition. The Mrs. International Pageant is the only married women's pageant that showcases a married couple as a couple. I was so proud of Rob walking the stage with me. Preliminary night began with our opening number and we all looked stunning in our purple Sherri Hill dresses. We then changed and started the fitness wear competition followed by the evening gown. I loved my gown so much as it was a gown that my mother had gotten me years ago in hopes of wearing it someday when I got married and competed in a Mrs. pageant. I certainly had my mother on stage with me wearing this dress, and was thankful that at the end of the walk, Rob was with me to hug me as I did have emotions run through me of missing her so much. Rob did an outstanding job on stage and I was so proud to showcase us as a couple. Saturday brought us back to rehearsals, but this time practicing for the finals show preparing us for top 10. I was able to share my platform on stage and was so proud to speak about my mother and platform with confidence and love. The finals show was wonderful, and although I didn't make the top 10, I completed what I set out to do. I was able to make new friends, share my platform and personal relation to it, and have the time of my life. I want to congratulate Shannon Devine, Mrs. International 2010. She will do an amazing job representing the wonderful arena of adoption having her own personal story with Haley Grace, also known as Miss Magic. I wish Shannon a year like no other, and I hope that her travels bring her to Massachusetts so that we can meet again.

I want to personally thank Mary Richardson for guiding me through this journey and being the best director a girl could have. You are a woman who has taught me so much about class, hard work, and believing in yourself. Being Mrs. Massachusetts International 2010 has changed my life for the better. I have been able to share this year with my daughter and husband, and I know that the experiences brought with it will help shape Sierra's life in a positive way for years to come. I cannot say thank you enough, and I can only hope to have made you proud.

To the Class of 2010, you are the most amazing and inspirational women ever! I love you all and miss you so much! I have been asked by many to coordinate a reunion, and there is nothing I would love more. Please be sure to let me know your thoughts of anything you would like to do and we can share them to get a general consensus on what is best for us as far as time and place. I can't wait to see you all again one day, but till then, I look forward to following your journeys in life. Thank you for being such huge supporters of me as Mrs. Massachusetts and staying true to who you said you were prior to Mrs. International. Being an only child, I view many of you as sisters now. My roommate, Mrs. North Carolina, Cynthia Griner, I thank you for the fun and endless hours of conversation even when we were most tired. I miss you!

Now it is back to being mom, wife, career woman, and Mrs. Massachusetts. I look forward to all the wonderful opportunities this title has yet to bring to my family and I. I will continue to share my year with you and thank you for all the support through it all.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mrs. International - Day 1

The morning started off very early with my dad picking me up at 4:00a.m. to catch a flight at 6:50a.m. from Boston to Chicago. The travel was so easy, and I was so excited to finally meet Mrs. Michigan, Toni Joerres, who was picking me up at the airport. After all the months of connecting on Facebook, my fellow New Englander and I were able to catch up in person. As soon as we walked into the Doubletree Hotel in Skokie, there was Mrs. Tennessee, Cydney Miller, who let out the biggerst squeel and ran over and gave me the largest hug. She's another beautiful lady who is doing her part to support cancer awareness, outreach, research, and making a differenct for those afflicted. As I spent time in the lobby, I met so many more ladies who I have gotten to know over Facebook since winning my crown in October. The hugs came naturally as it was more of a reunion rather then a first time meeting. I finally got into my room around 1:00p.m. and was able to rest after a long week of final preparations and travel. At 6:00p.m., we all met in the Monaco Ballroom for our Orientation. Once again, it was all hugs and hellos. After being introduced to the staff of Mrs. International, we were able to introduce ourselves and share the funniest part of our reigns to date. I of course shared the time that I brought my daughter to a fashion show at a Senior Center, and after not wanting to be put down all afternoon, she got down and started walking around and waving to all the residents. What made this story really funny is that she was such a hit, that a few of the residents wanted to buy her from me, or gave me the homework assignment of going home and creating another one exactly like her. It makes me chuckle to think of it again and about the wonderful experience to see my little girl put such a big smile on people's faces and brighten their days. We got so much information about what to expect from our week and the best advice of making this experience all that we can from all the speakers. When I got to my room, I finally got to spend time with my roommate, Mrs. North Carolina, Cynthia Griner. She is lovely, and I look forward to sharing my time with her. We have a week full of activities ahead and a lot of rehearsals, but one thing is for sure, the Class of 2010 will produce one of the most amazing Mrs. Internationals ever! I am very much looking forward to sharing this experience with all these ladies. I feel like I have friends for life in many, and although we may not live close to one another, there's a thing called vacation and getting together. I love to travel, so I have so many wonderful states to visit now!

Have a great day, and I'll update you with pictures and posts whenever I can. To follow the Mrs. International pageant in real time, please visit their blog at This site will be updated live the night of finals, so if you check it out, you will know the results much faster then any of us can get them to you via our calls or text messages!

Ok, its off to tour Chicago now!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Lowell Spinners Game

Last night I got to throw out the first pitch at the Lowell Spinners Game. I was star struck when I got the opportunity to meet former New England Patriot Steven Grogan who also threw out a pitch as well as Loren & Wally from 105.7 Radio. I had such a blast being driven out on the field along with them all and being treated like a true celebrity by the fans. The best part was prior to the game, kids brining their baseballs and hats for me to sign. I mean come on, I'm Mrs. Massachusetts, not a baseball player! I was completely blown away, and it was such an amazing feeling to do these little things for them. This also continued after the first pitch as I was going to find my seats to join my family. It was so much fun. Kids are always so enthusiastic and they think, speak, and act from the heart, and I always try to remember that someday that will be Sierra asking someone for an autograph, and I try to be the way that I hope someone would be to her. Thank you to the Lowell Spinners for including me in their pre-game celebrations and giving me such a wonderful opportunity and many memories that will make me smile when I think of them.

Meeting Bella Tucker

Yesterday I had the most incredible opportunity to meet a little girl that has inspired so many and has won so many hearts. For me, if I have ever admired anyone so much to call them a hero, it is Bella. At 8 years old, Bella has more strength and courage then most people I know as adults. In such a short period of time, she has gone through so much. After battling Streptococcus Pneumoniae Sepsis, Bella fell into a choma, had all four of her limbs amputated, and also got through pneumonia. I knew that going to Children's Hospital to meet her would be amazing, but I never realized how rewarding this experience would be. To meet Bella and see her bright smile as her dad wheeled her to the lobby and see her waving to us was the best feeling. We took a walk to an outside garden and talked a little bit about the things that Bella enjoys such as gymnastics, her family, Mrs. BoJangles her cat, and also shoes. Bella has been told that with her new prosthetics, she will be able to wear normal shoes, to which we invited her on a shoe shopping trip, and her smile got larger and brighter, she is such a girl! Its amazing how far medicine and technology has come, Bella's dad told us that the prosthetics that Bella will be getting will be attached to her nerves which will allow Bella's body to control the prosthetics. That is just amazing! When it got a little to warm, we went into the game room and continued to chat and get to know Bella and her family. Also visiting Bella were her neighbors, her aunt and cousins, and her grandmother. It was so nice to meet them and it easy to see where this girl gets her cheer and strength, they are such loving people. We then took a walk back to Bella's room and got to witness her physical therapy session. Bella did 12 different exercises and after each exercise, we got to give her a monkey award on her door. If you don't know, Bella loves monkeys, and she had pictures and stuffed animals all over her room. To watch her do her exercise and see her strength physically and mentally is amazing. She is such a determined little girl, and you couldn't help to notice how proud everyone in teh room was of her. When it was time to leave, we took the elevator ride with Bella as she was heading to have lunch with her family, and as we parted ways, Bella gave us all a great big hug. I was so proud to have met her and her family and also to present funds raised at the East Longmeadow Carnival and some Bella Bracelet sales. You could see the appreciation in her dad's eyes. I know that this family will be a part of my life for a very long time, and I also know that Sierra will grow up looking up to Bella for so many reasons. Bella will do amazing things in her life, and I am so greatful I got to know her and can't wait to support her in all she does.

Along with me came Miss Massachusetts Teen USA Brooke Bibeault and Miss Massachusetts World Teen Tamara Sacharczyk. I have had the honor of sharing my year and several appearances with both, and I think that we all have to agree that this has to have been one of the major highlights of our reigns. Bella has won a very special place in all three of our hearts. Maybe we will even take a road trip to visit Bella in Philadelphia while she is getting her prosthetics.
Another great moment we had was when we were saying good-bye to Bella, a mom approached Tamara's mom to see if we could come and visit her daughter who at 5 years old had just had open heart surgery just a few days ago. When we walked into the room, this little girl's smile just beamed! We took a picture with her and she loved wearing my crown. It was so nice to see her mom smile and be so appreciative that we took the time to visit her daughter. We also got to meet a few other kids who were patients at Children's Hospital in the game room while we visited with Bella.

As Brooke and I were walking to the garage to our cars, a gentleman stopped us and asked what we were doing at Children's and who we were affiliated with. We shared Bella's story with him and told him we were there to meet her and to deliver funds we had raised for her cause. He asked if he could talk to us about research that he is involved in for Cockayne Syndrome. If you have not heard of this disease, it is a rare genetic disorder characterized by poor growth, microcephaly, progeria (premature aging), sensitivity to sunlight, moderate to profound developmental and neurological delays, and a shortened lifespan. CS is inherited in an autosomal recessive pattern. In order for a child to be affected by CS, he or she must inherit a mutation (-) in the same CS gene from both parents. The parents and other “carriers” of a single CS gene mutation remain healthy. Once a couple are known to carriers, they have a 1 in 4 (25%) chance of having another child with CS. As Ed was telling us about this, Brooke told him that a family friend's child had died of this disease. Once again, there are no coincidences in life, and things happen for a reason which is why Brooke and I were leaving the hospital with our banners still on to catch this person's attention. Today I got an e-mail from Ed expressing his gratitude for sharing our time with him to allow him to talk to us about CS. I am so looking forward to working with he and Brooke to bring awareness and meet these special little kids and hopefully make a difference in their lives in whatever way we can.

Thank you again to Bella and her family for allowing us the opportunity to come and see her and to spend an incredible day with her. We are so blessed to have met you and have you in our lives.

Mitochondrial Disease

While I attended the Chelmsford Country Fair and walked around with Rob and Sierra checking out all the booths, we came across the booth for Immune Deficiency Foundation. Mitochondrial Disease is a disease I had never heard about and I was so happy that Stefani reached out and asked if I could come over and speak with her. She told me that she was diagnosed with this disease as an adult and after carrying her daughter during pregnancy, it was discovered that her daughter also has this disease, and now her son will be tested to see if he is a carrier as well. Her story amazed me as well as the fact that I have never heard of this disease and that there is no cure. To listen to a person who is living through this tell you that there is currently no cure, makes you want to learn and see if there is anything you can do to help. That's where I hope the power of the title of Mrs. Massachusetts will allow me to provide some support as well as spread the word. The one thing that I have learned this year is that you just never know how your life can be impacted any different day and from what. I look forward to being in touch with Stefani and figuring out a game plan on how I and others interested can help.

Here is a little bit of information about what Mitochondrial Disease is: Mitochnondria are often called the "powerhouses of the cell." They are specialized compartments within almost every cell and are responsible for producing the energy needed by our body to sustain life. Mitochondria combine oxygen from the air we breathe with calories from food to produce the energy required for all bodily functions. If the mitochondria fail to produce sufficient energy, the cell will not function properly and organ systems will fail. There are more than 40 known types of mitochondrial disorders and more then 200 inherited diseases of metabolism that are known to affect mitochondria. While the majority of the cases are inherited, there are cases in which the disease seems to be a random occurence. Patients present with wide range of symptoms including strokes, seizures, gastrointestinal problems, blindness, deafness, respiratory diffficulties, lactic aciosis, immune system problems, autistic-like symptoms, and liver disease.

To learn more, please visit

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Chelmsford 4th of July Parade

The 4th of July festivities continued on Monday, July 5, at the Annual Chelmsford 4th of July Parade! This parade is one of the largest and well known parades in the state of Massachusetts. This year's parade had many special guests including Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown who I got to personally meet and have my picture taken with. He was a very gracious person walking around meeting and greeting people and taking pictures with whoever asked. Attorney General Martha Coakley also was in presence. I was so greatful to the Chelmsford Parade Committee for inviting me to particpipate in this even, especially since it is in my hometown. I was in a brand new 2011 Shelby GT Mustang Convertible car. Everyone that I told about the care was in awe, and I have to admit I can see why when I saw the car in person. What made this ride so special to me was that the car was provided by Jim Dolan of The Dolan Funeral Home in Chelmsford. In 2007 when my mom passed away, I went to the phone book to look for a funeral home to help us with arrangements. Having never been through this process, Jim and his staff walked us through the most difficult time and made it so much easier. Our paths crossed this time for such a celebratory experience, and I was able to thank Jim personally for how much he helped us during that time.

As I rode the parade route, I was so touched by all the families that came out to watch the parade, especially in the hot weather. The kids were amazing and it was so fun to waive to them and say hello. I even heard a little girl Riley, who I met a the Chelmsford Country Fair the prior day, scream my name, and her mom was so psyched when I waved back and yelled Riley's name. Its experiences like this that I love about being Mrs. Massachusetts, I am able to put smiles on people's faces, especially the kids. I was able to share this experience with my niece Kayla who was able to ride with me. She looked adorable in her outfit with her sequined hat. She loved that someone gave her an American Flag which she got to waive around.

Thank you to the entire Chelmsford Parade Staff, you created an amazing event which the whole town enjoyed! I'm so excited to have been a part of it! A very special Thank You to our Armed Forces who give so unselfishly with all they do. I hope that each and every one that is serving overseas is able to return back to their families, and those that are no longer with us, I thank you for giving us our freedoms and you will never be forgotten!

Chelmsford Country Fair

I am so incredibly proud to be living in the Town of Chelmsford, Massachusetts. This weekend the town put together a country fair that got so many different parts of our town involved. There were booths all around the Chelmsford Common ranging from school organizations such as the music department, swim & dive team, class of 2012 to name a few. Also represented were booths for the Chelmsford Mother's Club, Chelmsford Republican and Democratic Committees, Bella's Friends, Chelmsford Recycle Program, and so many more. The Chelmsford Rotary Club had a mini choo choo traing ride around the common for children and their families. There was a lot of musical and dance entertainment. I loved being a part of my friend Maureen's booth which was doing a Rubber Duckie Adoption and raffles with all proceeds being donated to the Avon Breast Cancer Foundation. What is so special to me about events like this is when there are suvivors who open up to me after I speak to them about my platform of Breast Cancer Awareness and the Importance of Early Detection, and hear their stories. So many credit a mammogram for saving their lives which is a part of my message everywhere I go. There was one woman who stopped by and bought a few raffle tickets and she is a two-time Breast Cancer Survivor. I thanked her for sharing her story with me and let her know that she is the hope for those that are newly diagnosed with this disease. There was also a gentleman who came by and bought several raffles and told us that his wife passed away from this disease and thanked us for what we are doing. The more I do this, I realize that everyone has a story and is in some way affected, and it makes me even stronger to further pursue spreading my mother's story and advocating the importance of awareness, detection, prevention, and celebration of life. I want to congratulate Maureen and her mom Sally on a job well done and they raised about $350 by weekend's end. I had such a great time, was happy to see my husband and daughter stop by and enjoy the festivities and to see all the children and their families that came.