Now that the manuscript of Changed by Chance…Champion by Choice is complete, I’d like to send a shout out of Thanks to everyone who has helped me over the years on my book quest journey. During this happy Holiday season, I was to recognize and give thanks to all of the caring individuals that I have noted in the book’s Acknowledgements.

This story isn’t necessarily just about me or my challenges or accomplishments. It’s about the journey and the life lessons learned in becoming a champion. It’s about how each one of you has supported me along this long and difficult path with your love, kindness and care. I want to express heartfelt thanks to all of you!

I’ll start my chain of gratitude from the beginning, with my family.

To my parents, who sacrificed to provide for us and instill good values. To my four siblings, especially Rosemarie, thank you for your ongoing love and loyalty. For my dear husband Jim, thank you for your unwavering dedication to and love for me. For my sons James and Bryan, you are each the light of my life. For all of my in-laws, your love and acceptance into your family is indisputable. You have been a rock for Jim and me over the years.

To our many good friends who have remained so throughout the years, as we have all navigated through our busy lives, we have been steadfast to one another. In particular, I want to recognize my gal pals from Mount St. Joseph Academy and Jim’s buddies from St. Joseph’s Prep, our respective high schools. I want to mention our wonderful neighbors from the Thornhill Drive/Briar Lane group. I offer particular appreciation to: Jeff Barker and Deborah Moorehead Irons, (Lauren’s godparents); Dan and Ginny Mulhern; Carol Sztukowski Ponzek; Tom and Denise Toland and all of our Roxborough group members from back in the day.

Perhaps I was distracted, tired, upset or anxious at times over the years, but after reading this book, I think that you may better understand why. Forgive me if I wasn’t always on or there for you. Please know that your care and companionship gave us the strength to cope.

I have nothing but gratitude for my employer during these difficult years, Equitable/AXA corporation. Without their fine health and disability benefits and accommodation of my absences, Jim and I would have been ruined financially. I especially want to recognize my Equitable mentors, Hank Gartner and Bernie Encarnacion, Sr. who gave me my initial chance and a helping hand to success. I also want to remember Bridget Ferraioli, who was an outstanding assistant and a good friend for years before she succumbed to breast cancer recently.

After Lauren’s birth, new friends welcomed us into the world of special needs, especially our mentors Dave and Pat Patterson. We would have been lost and despondent without all of the wonderful acquaintances and staff from The ARC, Ken Crest, The Down Syndrome support Group and Special Olympics. Special needs teachers and therapists are truly special themselves. Thank you for being there for us and our children. Warm regards to The ARC’s Connie Viens, Kate Kurtz, Charleen McGrath, Scott Camilleri, and Paul Stengle who were instrumental in the success of the 2011 Fun(d)raiser in Lauren’s memory that inspired me to move forward with my book quest journey.

Later on, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, we again needed help in finding our way in a new world. This time it was LBBC, Living Beyond Breast Cancer, that offered us support and guidance. This non-profit organization is a godsend to those newly diagnosed, as well as long time survivors like me. Thank you Marissa Weiss for founding it. I also want to thank Patty English for being a mentor to me throughout my treatment.

There are two very special people in this story who literally swooped in to save both Bryan’s and my life. One was a complete stranger I have called Robin out of respect for her privacy. The other was a longtime family friend, Scot Fisher, DO. As the book will explain, Robin saved my life, while Scot saved Bryan’s life. I sincerely hope that you both understand the magnitude of your acts of kindness and how you have changed history and my life in particular, in doing so.

I want to note that my original idea and inspiration for this book happened shortly after Lauren died. It came from astrologer KB Mann, who is now in India. It was he who gave me a prophecy for this eventual book quest journey. He also guided me to homeopathic care and gave me sage advice that has helped me become a 20-plus-year survivor now. I hope that he is alive and well to read this. We lost touch when he moved back to India many years ago.

Additionally, I’d like to recognize a few professional women who have been mentors and instrumental in encouraging me to restart my book quest this past year. They are: author, speaker, Barbara Greenspan Shaiman; PWR President Melissa Dietrich; Forum of Executive Women members Linda Stone, Renee Chesler, and Judy Grossman; social media expert and my blog mastermind, as well as friend extraordinaire Shannon Myers; Gina Bacci for her proof reading and encouragement; and speaker and author promoter Nancy P. Ottaviano, who introduced me to my writing collaborator.

My most important thanks go to Tim Vandehey, professional writer and “book doctor”, who collaborated with me on this project. Tim, thank you for taking a chance with me and to making this book a champion. Your skills and expertise, coupled with enduring patience are very much appreciated. Your professional guidance has allowed me to realize my long-term dream of writing this book and doing it well.

Lastly, I want to thank three people who helped me create my image: Expert stylist Gus Marrone of John Augustine salon, phenomenal photographer Joanne Posse, and makeup artist Robert Francis from La Bella Vita Salon.