TWENTY TWO. Twenty two years ago, on February 12, 1999, I woke up and everything was normal.
By the end of that day, the world as I knew it had disappeared.
In the days, weeks, and months to come, I would find myself looking back to that day trying to remember what it felt to not feel afraid. It was as if a thin veil hung between my life “before” and my life “after”. I could see that life before and, later, I could almost remember it, but I would never be on the other side of that veil again. That was innocence. By the end of that day, innocence was shattered.
I return to 1999 every year, reliving my diagnosis of Stage III Breast Cancer, as I prepare for our largest fundraiser of the year, the Pink Ribbon Walk & Run. But this year feels very, VERY different. And we are very, VERY afraid. Try to IMAGINE receiving a diagnosis of breast cancer during a global pandemic! COVID-19 has added to the fear and uncertainty experienced by breast AND gynecologic cancers. I know what it’s like to free-fall without an organization like the Breast Cancer Coalition to catch me, because that was the case back then…. but this organization is more vital than ever during COVID-19.
I began my role as Executive Director on October 1, 2001, exactly 20 days after the devastation of September 11th. Life was uncertain then, just as it is uncertain now. But in so many ways, there is certainty. When faced with a diagnosis of breast or gynecologic cancer, the Breast Cancer Coalition will continue to be a safe landing place for all. BUT… our ability to serve and serve well is bound to be impacted by the success or failure of this event.
During my years (coming up on 20 as Executive Director) with the Breast Cancer Coalition, I've met so many, too many, women (and men) with diagnoses caught earlier than mine that we've since lost to this disease. I've been joined by a cadre of others since my own diagnosis, thousands of others, worlds rocked, trying to make their way through the maze of decisions. Most of them get to walk away, thank God. If I’ve learned anything at all in these years, it is this: Breast Cancer cheats. It plays by no rulebook. But I, at least for now, am one of the lucky ones.
I am grateful to be here to help them navigate the unfamiliar terrain of a disease that we can't seem to figure out. I am grateful that the Breast Cancer Coalition has been here for them. I am asking YOU to be there for them too. Please support my fundraising efforts. Give something… whatever you can. And never forget that this mighty organization was built by YOU. The givers.