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Who was Susan G. Komen?

It is October and with the pumpkins and beginnings of fall mark the beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness month. By months end you might not want to see another pumpkin or pink ribbon but I think learning WHO was behind that splash of pink will stay with you long after the pumpkins have passed.

This is Susan G. Komen’s story as told by her sister, Nancy Brinker and the founder of Susan G. Komen For the Cure: (I know its longer than usual but treat yourself, its worth it)

Growing up, Suzy and I were just about as close as two sisters can get. Suzy was the perfect older sister.

She was beautiful and kind and loving, not only to me but to everyone. She was the star of our hometown of Peoria, Illinois—the high school homecoming queen, the college beauty queen.

I, on the other hand, was bigger, heavier and taller than most of my friends and her friends. I was a tomboy and a mischief-maker and delighted in nothing more than spending hours galloping around on horseback. Suzy tried desperately to teach me about the pretty things in life but none of it seemed to work. The boys didn’t know I was alive, except that I was Susan Goodman’s younger sister.

Suzy came back to Peoria when she graduated from college and got a job modeling locally. Eventually, she married her college sweetheart, Stan Komen. As if it were yesterday, I can remember the phone call I received from Suzy one Tuesday afternoon. Her doctor had found a lump in her breast that was not a cyst. He recommended a biopsy.

At the age of 33, Suzy had breast cancer.

The most difficult concept to grasp about cancer, I think, is the fact that when it is first detected the patient usually feels just fine. There is rarely any pain associated with breast cancer in its early stages. So when you are told you’ve got a life-threatening disease, and the treatment sounds more heinous than the thought of a little lump in the breast, it is understandable that a woman uneducated about cancer might opt for no treatment at all.

Such was the case with Suzy. My sister was terrified, naturally, but adamant against having a mastectomy. This surgeon suggested performing a subcutaneous mastectomy, a procedure in which the outside of the breast is left intact, but an incision is made and the breast tissue is removed. He would then do an implant ten days later. Suzy would be left with a small scar but no more cancer. She felt it was her best option.

For the next five months or so, Suzy felt pretty good. She was convinced she was cured. But before six months had gone by, our worst nightmare became a reality. Suzy found another lump. This time it was under her arm. Despite everyone’s optimism her cancer had spread.

Suzy decided to seek treatment at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. When she arrived, she was a Stage IV cancer patient. This means that the disease had spread to other organs in her body and was still growing. It was a very critical situation.

Suzy’s doctor’s approach to the disease was an aggressive one. Thus began the saga of intense chemotherapy, nothing can prepare a woman for the shock and embarrassment of baldness. She bore up under the strain with all the dignity and grace she could manage, although I know she was devastated. Little did I know that even then, my sister was teaching me.

Whenever we felt as if we couldn’t go on, that the load was just too heavy, it was Suzy’s grace and humor that got us through the day. She was able to find something to smile about with every turn of the road, and her infectious, warm concern was felt throughout the hospital.

The one thing Suzy never found humor in, however, was the aesthetic conditions of the waiting rooms.   She was more concerned with the treatment of the patients while my concern was the treatment of her disease. “Nan,” she said, “as soon as I get better, let’s do something about this. You can find a way to speed up the research. I know you can. And I want to fix up this waiting room and make it pretty for the women who have to be here. This isn’t right.”

For about fifteen months, the Houston doctors were successful in slowing down Suzy’s breast cancer. But then, for reasons known only to God, the disease started to rage inside her once again.

Our time together was drawing to a close. In a flood of beautiful memories, I began to look back on the sacred relationship I shared with my sister. Frantically, I wrote my memories down, fearing somehow I might forget one later. I didn’t realize then that memories so special are never forgotten. I also didn’t realize that what I was writing that sunny afternoon was my sister’s eulogy.

It was time to begin saying our good-byes.

I quickly kissed them both good-bye and jumped out of the car. I was just about inside when I heard a funny sound that sounded like my name. I stopped in my tracks and turned around. There was Suzy, standing up outside the car on wobbly knees, wig slightly askew.

With her arms outstretched, she said gently, “Good-bye, Nanny, I love you.” I hugged her so hard I was afraid she might crumble. And then I ran to catch my plane.

I never saw my sister alive again. After nine operations, three courses of chemotherapy and radiation, she had lost her three-year war. By the time I flew back to her side it was too late. She was gone.

I spent a lot of time thinking about Suzy. There is no way to accurately describe the void her absence left in my life. I also spent a great deal of time questioning my faith and wondering why such a good person was taken from a family that needed her so desperately. I often wonder, as many people do when they’ve lost a loved one, what really happens to a soul when a person dies. Was Suzy watching me? Did she hear me when I called her name out loud? After much thought I came to the conclusion that I would never know until I died myself, but I sure didn’t want to die in order to find out. Just in case, I wanted to do something to let her know how special she would always be in my heart. I was haunted by our last conversation and lay awake sometimes all night wondering what I could do to help other women with breast cancer.

Could one person really make a difference?

Charity Matters.

Copyright © 2012 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

What matters?

“We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival.”  

Winston Churchill

It’s October and Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

In 2012, it is estimated that among U.S. women there will be 226,870 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 63,300 new cases of in situ breast cancer.

39,510 breast cancer deaths this year.

Charity Matters.

Copyright © 2012 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

 

Nancy Brinker (continued)

Ok, so I mentioned that you might be sick of the pink ribbons by the end of the month? I do get it because the Pink Ribbon and the Susan G. Komen for the Cure have re-invented cause marketing for our society and our world.

Nancy Brinker, the founder and Susan G. Komen’s sister has written a book, which tells both her sister’s story as well as her journey in founding one of our countries greatest non-profits that began with a promise.

I thought you might want to see the face behind and the cause and learn more about her personal mission to end breast cancer.

Here it is:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7DarUhjOSSM]

Whether you know someone who has been affected by breast cancer or just someone who supports the cause

Stand Up!

If you have been anywhere near a radio or a television you have probably heard about tonight’s StandUp2Cancer broadcast, which will air on all major networks to raise funds for cancer research.

Where did this come from? Who started all this? I certainly didn’t grow up with a show like this. Only the president went across networks. The answer is a woman named Laura Ziskin.

Laura was a Hollywood producer who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004. She told Variety that year, “When you’re diagnosed with cancer, the last thing you want to do is join a movement. You kind of just want to crawl in a hole.”

However, she didn’t crawl into a hole she created a non-profit, Stand Up 2 Cancer, that turned into an amazing movement. In 2008,  after watching former Vice President Al Gore’s documentary she realized, “the power of the medium in which I work to affect how people think.” She used that and all her celebrity pull to create powerful change.

Janet Champ wrote this on the Stand Up 2 Cancer’s web-site and I thought it summed up the one woman force that created this change. She said,  “When you or someone you love hears the word ‘cancer’, the air is sucked out of the room. Inside your body a door closes, you can hear it, physically feel it. But Laura took that door and opened it. She refused to be intimidated or bullied or destroyed and she wanted to give others the strength to refuse, as well.

Fredrick Nietsche said ‘If you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.’ Cancer is the abyss. What did it see when it gazed into Laura Ziskin? It must have been terrified. Scared shitless, really, by her bravery, courage, utter determination to never blink, never run. Now we have to do the same in her honor. Open the door, look at cancer for the thief it is, and refuse to let it steal any other life, any love. In her name it’s the least we can do.”

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-nybSklJWk&feature=relmfu]

Laura Ziskin lost her battle last year but tonight you too can Stand Up or I suppose sit up and watch what one amazing woman created that has generated over $180 million dollars for cancer research.

Charity Matters.

Copyright © 2012 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

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Camp Sunshine

Oh, it’s here! Can you feel it? Smell it? Its summer…those glorious long lazy hot days with no homework, dinners outside and warm nights. You don’t have to be a kid to love summer, it brings out the best in all of us. Everyone needs the rest and fun that summer brings, especially children with cancer.

Pediatric oncology nurse, Dorothy Jordan, realized this early on when she founded Camp Sunshine in 1982.  She saw what happened to children who received cancer diagnosis and the change that occurred from feeling like a kid to feeling scared and alone. Dorothy wanted a place where children could be kids, have fun, feel the acceptance from other children in their situation.

Her goal was to provide these children with a fun, relaxing and traditional summer camp that had 24-hour medical care, so even kids receiving chemotherapy could have supervised treatments and join in the daily activities.

(click this video.php to see video)

The first year the camp had 44 children and today it has evolved into over 200 children attending summer camp. In addition, a year round facility called Camp Sunshine House opened in order to offer support and education for families and children year round.

The impact is clear. “We are changing lives,” says Sally Hale, MN, RN, executive director of Camp Sunshine, who served as a nurse at the very first camp held in 1983. “When the children are at camp, they are just like everyone else. It gives them such a confidence boost because often it’s the first time in a long time that they’ve felt normal. And after camp, many parents say that we have actually given them their old child back.”

That is a greater gift than summer. Charity Matters.

Copyright © 2012 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.


Never Ever Give Up! NEGU.Org

I just got a Facebook posts a few minutes ago that Jessie Rees passed away at 12 years old from an inoperable brain tumor. Jessie was an incredible girl, who in her 12 short years touched thousands of lives. Her motto, “Never Ever Give Up!” In her battle, she created a non-profit aptly named just that the TheNEGUFoundation.Org

Jessie was determined to help others rather than worry about herself. She wanted to be better not bitter, according to her Dad. During her battle with brain cancer Jessie created Joy Jars, jars filed with play dough, crayons and little treasures to give sick children joy and comfort during their time in the hospital.

This is her story and you just might need to grab the kleenex.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c95EUjw28KM&feature=endscreen&NR=1]

Jessie handed out over 2,500 Joy Jars during her short life, created a non-profit to inspire thousands of children with pediatric cancer, made over 50,000 Facebook friends that she referred to as her prayers and left us all a legacy of compassion, love and inspiration. Thank you Jessie for showing us all that Charity Matters. May you rest in peace, sweet angel.

Copyright © 2012 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.


Blood Cancer

With the arrival of Halloween comes all the blood and horror. While we all love to get ghoulish this time of year, the scary reality for many is that blood cancer or leukemia is a living nightmare for approximately  40,000 people each year. There is nothing more terrifying than trying to save someone you love who has been diagnosed with blood cancer.

In 1990 when Katherina Harf’s mother was diagnosed with blood cancer there were only 3,000 people world-wide registered for bone marrow transplants. Katrina’s father, Peter Harf worked tirelessly to save his wife and had 68,000 people register in one year alone. After losing her mom at 14, Katherina and her father decided to start DKMS.

The DKMS mission is to save lives by recruiting bone marrow donors for leukemia patients.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbXtC4iUmyA]

DKMS is the largest bone marrow donor center in the world. DKMS donors have provided marrow and stem cells (PBSC) for more than 27,000 transplants and now has over 2.9 million registered bone marrow donors.

Katherina was recently asked the most important thing she has learned in her journey to help others and her answer was, “Passion can move mountains and human kindness has no limits.” Now that is taking something scary and making it something beautiful.

Charity Matters.

Copyright © 2011 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.


I’m Going to Love You through It

Sometimes, there are just not words….when someone you love is sick and diagnosed with breast cancer.

I think this just says it all.

Remember to love those through it.

Copyright © 2011 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

 

LiveStrong

I’m married to a cyclist, a crazy passionate cyclist. He not only loves cycling but also Lance Armstrong. As a result, I have read Lance Armstrong’s book, It’s Not About the Bike, I spend the month of July every year waking to the Tour de France, I have washed countless loads of spandex cycling clothing and I have even been to Paris to watch Lance Armstrong win his fifth Tour de France.

Lance is a hero in our house. My sons love him and he is an American hero. His heroism is more about his fight with cancer than about his cycling. He is a man who just refuses to give up.  This past Sunday, Oct. 2nd,  was the 15th anniversary of Lance Armstrong’s cancer diagnosis.

He has taken his story, his suffering and created an example for fighting this disease and inspiring thousands of others to join him.  Lance’s LiveStrong Foundation has changed lives and the term Live Strong has become a part of our everyday vocabulary.

 

Ultimately, a real hero is someone who makes a difference. That is exactly what Lance Armstrong has done.

Copyright © 2011 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

 

Gabby Krause

Time and again I am inspired by those who take adversity and turn it into something beautiful. Kindness never gets old and always seems to multiply once it is delivered. A perfect example of this is Tammy Krause.

Tammy lost her 6-year-old daughter, Gabby, in September 2004 to brain cancer after a 19-month long battle. In her loss, she was determined to honor her daughter’s legacy in a meaningful way. Gabby always brought her “Bag of Fun” to the hospital for her chemo treatments. It was her wish that other children should have them too. As a result, the Gabby Krause Foundation was launched by her family.

Gabby Krause has been gone for 7 years now but her legacy has delivered thousands and thousands of sick children bags of fun.