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My Hope Chest

” When you come to the edge of a forest and there is no path-make one that others will follow.”

Author unknown

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I had a friend who has recently undergone a mastectomy. Well sadly, since I wrote those words, yet another friend has experience the same loss and this time a double. Breast Cancer isn’t something that only happens in October it is something that happens every two minutes every day. One in eight women will develop breast cancer over the course of her lifetime according to the American Cancer Society. Breast Cancer does not discriminate from the rich or the poor. To be honest I had never thought about what happens when you get breast cancer and have no insurance? I assumed that Medicaid and Medicare covered everything. Well, I was wrong.

Last week, I had the most inspiring conversation with nonprofit founder, Alisa Savoretti, a women who lived this journey of having a mastectomy and no insurance for reconstructive surgery. The result was the creation of My Hope Chest, the only national nonprofit in the country that takes these women and helps to fund their reconstructive surgery. Alisa and I had an incredible conversation and I left feeling inspired by this amazing warrior who fights for women who truly need one.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew that you needed to act and start My Hope Chest?

Alisa Savoretti: Hearing you have cancer is a devastating moment. It’s one thing to hear you have cancer but it is another thing to realize you have cancer, you do not have insurance and you do not qualify for Medicaid. This is what happened to me at 38 years old. I had been working in Las Vegas as a showgirl and had recently moved to Florida to begin an online furniture  business, before companies like Pottery Barn exsisited. I had borrowed funds on credit cards to launch Retrohome.com in 1999, when I found out I had cancer. The doctor said to take care of the cancer, focus on surviving and worry about the reconstruction later. 

I survived but lived without my breast for almost three years. You have no idea what this does for you as a women, for your mental well being. During those three years I reached out to organizations all over the country, government, nonprofit, anyone who could help me to become whole again. I discovered that there wasn’t anywhere to go. I felt deformed, depressed, frustrated, had metal anguish and enormous financial stress.

I went back to Vegas to work at The Rivera and the 1998 government law now mandated that their group policy could not decline me insurance in order to get my reconstructive surgery. I realized how my own self esteem, confidence and self worth as a woman returned when I could look in the mirror and could see my whole physical being once again. It was my healing, a restoration in body mind and spirit.

While I was in Vegas, I volunteered for a NAWBO (National Association of Womens Business Owners) event. I told the women from NAWBO my story and these women rallied around me and with their help I was able to start My Hope Chest and had my 501c3, six weeks later on December 3rd, 2003. We will celebrate our 15th anniversary this year.

Charity Matters: What fuels you to keep doing this work?

Alisa Savoretti:Some days it feels as if I am pushing a boulder uphill with a toothpick. And fifteen years of doing this at the grassroots level, the work is very hard. What fuels me is knowing that thousands and thousands of women are missing their breast and this shouldn’t be happening in our country. Making women whole again is our mission. I think about more women are surviving breast cancer and thats true, but what about their quality of life if they are not whole?

These women are sick and often lose their jobs because they can’t work. They are now disfigured, deformed and depressed. The ripple effect of not being whole is devastating  on marriages and families. This work has become my life’s mission. I am not married, cancer made children no longer an option and for the past fifteen years this work has been my life.

Charity Matters: When do you know that you have made a DIFFERENCE?

Alisa Savoretti: We pick up where the government programs leave off. That is why we exist.  Our biggest referrals come from nonprofits such as American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen and Care.org.  We get referrals from them weekly and we can not tell our clients if or when they are going to be helped. They sit on a wait list while we try to raise the funds to make their reconstructive surgery happen. Helping women to become whole again is what fuels me and just knowing that there is always a list of women waiting for us to find the funding.

I know that we have made a difference when we can help them with whatever they have asked for and the letters they send us.

Charity Matters: Tell us what success you have had?

Alisa Savoretti: We help women every year in a small way and I feel blessed that God picked me to do this task. Every time we get the word out about our work it helps fund someone’s surgery. Shining a light on this cause is SO important. We have been able to fill a gap where other breast cancer charities leave off. If there was another organization doing our work we wouldn’t do it but sadly there isn’t anyone else. The women we help are eternally grateful for all we have done and to me that is the success.

Charity Matters: What is your vision for My Hope Chest going forward?

Alisa Savoretti: We will only exist until there is a cure for breast cancer. Of course the big dream is that there is day when our services are no longer needed. Ten years from now I dream that we have enough resources, funding, surgical partners and angel warriors that we can help women as quickly as they are referred to us. I dream of no longer having a wait list and being able to have a more efficient meaningful impact on these women’s lives.

Charity Matters: What life lessons have you learned from this experience? How has this changed you?

Alisa Savoretti:God had a different plan for my life. I have a quote on my desk that says,” When you come to the edge of a forest and there is no path-make one that others will follow.” I feel like that is what happened with My Hope Chest. My life’s lesson is that when you persevere you will make a difference. The fact that this even exists in 2018 and is still flying under the radar that there are women, thousands of women in this country living without their breast.  I have refinanced my home three times to keep the funding going for My Hope Chest. I have taken extra jobs at the grocery store to fund this. I have learned that I have to persevere to help these women in any way I can. I cannot give up on them.

I think that changing even one life is important. Things are bigger than us, this mission is bigger than me and I have tied my life to making a difference. For me, I am grateful I was chosen for this journey. I am grateful to keep doing this work and I pray the Lord that My Hope Chest gets to leave a legacy on this earth until there is no longer a need for our services. That is my utmost prayer.

In the end,  I know that I have done my very best.

 

Charity Matters

 

 

YOUR REFERRAL IS OUR GREATEST COMPLIMENT,  IF YOU ARE INSPIRED, please SHARE AND INSPIRE ANOTHER.

Copyright © 2018 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.

 

 

TCU Frogs for a Cure: Follow Up

photo via: WestFWlifestyle.com
photo via: WestFWlifestyle.com

The main reason that I ended up in Texas last week was because of a remarkable woman named Ann Louden. You may recall that I met Ann through Charity Matters a few months back when she came to Pasadena to film a video at the Rose Bowl for her non-profit, TCU Frogs For a Cure.  She is dynamic, compassionate and determined to eradicate breast cancer.  She is a woman on a mission and she has the state of Texas cheering her on. It is no wonder that Texas is the home of The Susan G. Komen Foundation because these women make change happen.

The official video will be debuted later this month at the TCU Frogs for a Cure benefit with Former First Lady, Laura Bush.  I wanted to share a little piece of Ann’s story and passion because it is the story of thousands of women across this country.

Ann is a role model of what being Brave is all about and her passion is contagious. She has taken adversity and turned it into inspiration. As TCU Frogs for a Cure celebrates their 10 year anniversary, I am inspired by the continuing message of hope they bring to so many truly brave women.

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2014 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.

TCU Frogs for the Cure

TCU frogs for a cure

I never ceased to be amazed by the way that the right people always enter my life at just the right time. As you all know, this week I have been prepping for my first-born to leave the nest and head off to Texas and TCU. In all the craziness I received a phone call from a friend who wanted to introduce me to an incredible woman named Ann Louden, who helped start and drive a non-profit at TCU.

The organization is called TCU Frogs for the Cure and is dedicated to supporting those with breast cancer and helping to find a cure. Ann, a breast cancer survivor, called to chat about her organization’s new video that is being filmed this weekend at Pasadena’s Rose Bowl. She said the organization began in 2005 when TCU athletics partnered with the Susan G. Komen® Greater Fort Worth to sponsor a first-ever pink out halftime presentation at a university….which has now become a national trend.

A few years later they created a music video that combined inspirational music and hundreds of survivors and supporters.  Each year since, the music video has gotten more elaborate and included more students, survivors and community leaders. This year, the video is being filmed in 5 cities, including my own hometown Pasadena, this Saturday August 16th from 1-5pm.

So grab your friends and register here to be a part of this epic celebrity filled music video to inspire others to find a cure. It is events like this, started at TCU, that have influenced and inspired thousands to adopt a cause and come together to make a difference.

I know I’m inspired and so grateful my son is heading to TCU. Whether pink or purple is your color, it doesn’t really matter but what does, is that you care to give of yourself to help another.

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2014 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, the woman behind the Cure

On Wednesday, I posted the story of Susan G. Komen as told by her younger sister, Nancy Brinker. I thought a follow up from Nancy was fitting. If by some crazy chance you didn’t see Wednesday’s post, I’ll refresh you with how Nancy ended it, she asked this question.

Can one person really make a difference?” 

Here are Nancy’s follow up thoughts in a letter from the non-profit she founded, Susan G. Komen for the Cure:

As I look back over the more than 25 years since I founded Susan G. Komen for the Cure, I am amazed at our accomplishments. What began as a promise to my dying sister, Susan G. Komen, has evolved into the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures.

I am in awe of our victories over the last three decades.  Thanks to research, the breast cancer death rate in the U.S. has fallen by more than 30% in 20 years. Five-year relative survival rates for women with early stage cancers (before they’ve left the breast) are at 99% (up from 74%when we started). Most importantly, women today know that they are never alone with breast cancer, as they were when Suzy was diagnosed. There is a global community, millions strong, sharing our victories, fighting for us and working together to end a dreadful disease.

We began the global breast cancer movement with $200 and a shoebox full of names in my living room in 1982. We have since built a global community of scientists, advocates, neighbors and friends, working together to make this disease a distant memory.

I thank all of our friends and supporters for making so much possible. Thanks to you, Susan G. Komen for the Cure has invested more in breast cancer research than any other organization – $685 million to date.

We have fought for access to care for the poor and uninsured; funded the clinics that educate, screen and treat people with breast cancer; paid for the groceries, transportation, wigs, prosthetics and insurance co-pays to help women face breast cancer with dignity and hope. We are doing this in more than 50 countries around the world, with more to come. We have invested more than $1.3 billion to make these programs possible.

With the help of Komen Affiliates, corporate partners, individual donors, Komen staff and activists, we’ve saved millions of lives, making the 2.5 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S. the largest group of cancer survivors today.
The sad reality is there is still tremendous work left to do. We don’t know – yet – why breast cancer starts. We don’t know enough about how to prevent it. A woman dies of breast cancer every 74 seconds somewhere in the world: about half a million will die of breast cancer this year alone.

We know that we can change those numbers because we have already changes the reality of breast cancer for the better for so many women. Thank you for making the first three decades  years of progress, community and hope. Let’s make the next 30 years the generation for cures for the most aggressive forms of breast cancer, and for making those cures available to women everywhere.

Together, I know we can fulfill our Promise to every woman, man and family.

With love and gratitude,

Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker
Founder and CEO

I don’t know, what do you think? Can one person 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.

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.

 

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.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WxIt70j_SPk&feature=relmfu]

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.