“There is not one big cosmic meaning for all; There is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person.”
Last week we lost a dear friend to cancer, someone we had known since college who was not even 50. Sadly this was not unexpected but losing a friend so young and so full of joy was and still is beyond difficult. It is moments like these that make us all stop in our tracks and hit the reset button to think about what is truly important? I found myself asking how am I using my precious time and what really matters?
I came home from the service a bit numb, sad and depressed. I decided to read to try to take my mind off the days events. I began to read an article about Paul Allen, Microsoft’s co-founder who had also just passed away. The article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy talked about Paul Allen’s passion for life. It discussed his love of learning, of music, sports, exploring ideas and the world’s unknown. Paul Allen donated over 2.3 billion dollars in his lifetime and in addition to that he also took the Giving Pledge, vowing to donate more than half of his estate to charity.
When he took the giving pledge he had to write an essay and in it, he said, “My philanthropic strategy is informed by my enduring belief in the power of new ideas. By dedicating resources that can help some of the world’s most creative thinkers accelerate discovery, I hope to serve as a catalyst for progress in large part, by encouraging closer collaboration and challenging conventional thinking. When smart people work together with vision and determination, there is little we can’t accomplish.”
Each life, whether our friends, Paul Allen’s or our own is ultimately only as good as the meaning we give it. We are the author, we have the pen and now to script that meaning, our individual plot, our novel, and our book. The meaning is for each of us to find and to live.
YOUR REFERRAL IS OUR GREATEST COMPLIMENT, IF YOU ARE INSPIRED, PLEASE SHARE AND INSPIRE ANOTHER.
Have you ever seen someone walk into a room that radiates a bright light? That is exactly the impact that Amie Satchu has when she enters the room. It isn’t her physical beauty (which she has) but something bigger within that catches you immediately. When we met through a mutual friend recently at a lunch, I was not surprised to discover that she had founded a nonprofit, most appropriately called The Foundation for Living Beauty.
Amie and I had a chance to catch up earlier this week to discuss her inspirational journey and mission to provide women with cancer emotional, physical and spiritual support throughout their cancer treatment. The Foundation for Living Beauty uses a holistic approach to educate, uplift and empower women dealing with cancer whether newly diagnosed, in mid treatment or beyond.
Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start your non-profit?
Amie Satchu: In my early 20’s I started a hair care line that specialized in wigs and hair extensions, that quickly gained notoriety in the ethnic hair care market. With that came hundreds of letters from women telling us that we had transformed their beauty by transforming their hair, many of whom had cancer. So, as a result of those letters I decided to start a nonprofit in 2005 to serve these women.
The week after we received our 501c3 nonprofit status, my mother was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a terminal cancer and given less than two years to live. I crawled into my mom’s hospital bed and told her we were going to get through this together. The Foundation for Living Beauty truly came out of providing her with a quality of life and each program was built out of her experience.
A few weeks later my mom (who was a social worker) and her two best friends were also diagnosed with cancer. The connection between these three women, the sisterhood and coming together truly formed the inspiration for the women we serve to find a place where they can thrive and heal.
charity Matters: Tell us a little about your work?
Amie Satchu:The Foundation for Living Beauty does over 30 events a year all 100% free to support women with cancer. We do wellness workshops, yoga for cancer patients and sisterhood support events. All of the support services we currently offer, address the complex needs my mother faces along her cancer journey and help women understand that the lifestyle choices they make can help them feel and live better.
charity Matters: What fuels you to keep doing this work?
Amie Satchu: My mother died four years ago and she lived eight amazing years after her diagnosis. I saw her emotional wellness after our events, seeing the impact of our work first hand. My mom is still the guiding light even though she is no longer physically with us. I see the impact from the women we serve, in their renewed sense of hope and well being, and that in turn supports their families through this journey.
Charity Matters: When do you know you have made a difference?
Amie Satchu: There are so many moments and people that remind me of the difference we have made in hundreds of peoples’ lives. One person that stands out to me is Sandra Yates Thompson (who is in the video below), we were not only able to help her through her battle but to support her and her family in ways that shifted her and all of us. Her heart was so beautiful and it is people like Sandra that inspire us to keep going.
Each life we touch reminds me of the importance of our work. We had a client named Cassandra who was a single mother, and an attorney who was such an inspiration that we had a donor create a Cassandra fund to help single mother’s with cancer.
Charity Matters: Tell us what success you have had? What has your impact been? Number of people impacted, funds raised?
Amie Satchu: Our success is truly about each life we touch, whether the woman with cancer or her family. We currently serve 650 Living Beauties that are a part of our program. These women can attend over 30 events for free that focus on increasing their physical wellness and emotional stability while coping with cancer. 97% of our participants gain a new understanding of their body and immune system and 92% of the women we serve agree that they have more tools to strengthen and heal their body because of our program.
charity Matters: How has this journey changed you? What life lessons have you learned from this experience?
Amie Satchu: This journey has changed me in so many ways. The exchange between the women we serve reminds me to live only in the present. Bringing hope into others lives, learning to be open and to make everyday count are invaluable experiences that have changed me. When I do those things I feel my mother’s presence and know this is where I want to be.
The life lesson I have taken from this journey is that what really matters in this lifetime are the connections you have with other souls. The positive things you do in this life are the only things you take with you and the only things that are truly important. Being with my mom at the end of her life for her last breath is a daily reminder that love is all that we have and all that matters.
Sharing is caring, if you are so moved or inspired, we would love you to share this to inspire another.
On a rain soaked day, a couple of weeks ago I met the most remarkable woman for lunch, her name is Katie Quintas. Katie is a living example of C.S. Lewis quote, “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.” Katie’s hardship re-routed her destiny.
Katie’s life was fantastic. She had a husband, Silvio, she adored. A wonderful son, Bryan and a fantastic career consulting non-profits. Then all of that changed in 2006, when her husband Silvio was diagnosed with leukemia and six months later, her only child Bryan, was diagnosed with Stage Four Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma at age 16.
Katie’s employer was supportive as she tried to manage a full-time job and the two most important people in her life’s cancers. What Katie didn’t realize was how was she going to manage to cook, clean, do laundry, grocery shop, update everyone on Bryan and Silvio’s conditions, deal with the offers for help, all while working and driving between two hospitals over an hour apart from each other? She was overwhelmed, wondered how families manage and didn’t even know where to look for help.
It turns out that she was not alone.
As 2007 came to an end, and both Katie’s husband and son were finishing up their cancer treatments, she began looking for organizations that help families through daily life during an illness, especially the illness of a child. In 2009, when she still hadn’t found an organization that fit the need, she began discussing the idea of creating one with her husband Silvio. With her husband’s encouragement, she did just that launching Here to Serve.org in 2011.
The Quintas family had been through so much but realized that there were so many people who had less. With Silvio’s support Katie set up her non-profit to connect and create online care communities that come in at the beginning of the health crisis to organize, friends, resources, medical information, funding, support all without overwhelming the caregiver, who is typically the parent.
As I sat at lunch and listened to Katie’s story, it was almost too much to process what she had been through but even more to grasp what she does for others. When we both went onto her web-site together and I saw what a care community looked like for a family, it was unbelievable. Once I was part of a sick patients community, I could sign up for everything from walking the dog, bringing a meal, doing laundry, running an errand, donating groceries and the list goes on. The services Here to Serve provides is everything that Katie needed when she went through this and didn’t have.
Sadly, Katie lost her beloved husband to cancer, but she said his memory still keeps her going. Katie told me, “I can’t imagine not doing this. Here to Serve gets me up in the morning, it motivates me and I was created to do this work. This is my purpose.”
On Sunday night I curled up on the sofa for one of my favorite TV nights of the year, to watch The Golden Globes. Unlike the Academy Awards, this show feels like you are at a party you were invited to. So when I saw this story on last night’s news, about the Golden Globes and an amazing non-profit’s photography program, I had to share…. especially since this week was already devoted to photography and how it makes our world better.
In 2008, when Jo Ann Thrailkill and Jeff Castelaz’s son, Pablo, was diagnosed with a rare childhood cancer they wanted three things; to fund research for a cure, to help educate families dealing with cancer and to improve the lives of children living with cancer through the arts. Pablo lost his battle at only six years old but his family was determined to help others and in 2009 began the Pablove Foundation to continue their mission.
So what does this have to do with the Golden Globes you ask? Well, one of their programs is called Pablove’s Shutterbugs and the goal is to give pediatric cancer patients a new perspective through the lens of the camera, in order to learn to express themselves and find a new way of seeing things. Well one of these little shutterbugs was the cutest paparazzi on Sunday’s Red Carpet, take a peek…
Pablo’s legacy lives on in the over 1,000 students who have been reached through Pablo’s Shutterbug program since 2011. The foundation has funded over 19 research institutes worldwide with over 1.9 million dollars given to find a cure. Now that is a picture worth smiling for.
No matter how many post I write, the miracle of the human spirit always continues to inspire me and leave me in awe. The one I am about to share, is no exception. It is the story of an Orange County, CA teenager named Tim Vorenkamp who was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer called Synovial Sarcoma. A cancer so rare that is only strikes 1 to 3 out of every million. The boy as rare as his cancer, determined to make a difference with the hand he was dealt……which is exactly what he did.
Sadly, Tim lost his battle on January 10th, 2016 but his legacy lives on in the foundation he and his family began. As he said in the video, ” Battling cancer you never lose, and you will never lose. Even if one day the fight ends! Once something like this happens, you never lose, you just start a new journey.”
A few years ago, I was worked to put on a Women’s Entrepreneurial Conference, that highlighted amazing women who had started incredible companies. One of our guest speakers was a woman named Lee Rhodes, the founder of Glassbaby.
Her story and business, a true social entrepreneur, where beyond inspiring. I never forgot but just recently received a Glassbaby candle as a gift and thought her story was worth sharing with you. When Lee was diagnosed with lung cancer she had an epiphany. She began to, “see the inequities of cancer, people who could not afford their chemo, the bus to get to chemo, or a lunch to sustain them through their treatment.”
So in 1995, when she was going through her third battle with cancer, as a mother of three…her husband came home from a glass blowing class with a little jar. Lee dropped a votive in his homemade creation and knew it was something special. In 1997, she began making these beautiful votives and giving them as gifts to dear friends and by 2001 Lee was selling Glassbabies out of her garage with the goal of donating as much as she could to support those with cancer.
Today, Glassbaby has donated over 3 million dollars to charities and has started their own 501c3, non-profit called the Glassbaby White Light Fund. The goal is to continue their mission of lighting the way for those in need.
When actor Gene Wilder passed away a few weeks back, I was reminded of his beautiful love affair with Gilda Radner and their subsequent involvement in cancer support. Wilder’s death coincided with a lunch catch up with a friend, who works for the organization that helped Gilda Radner through her battle with ovarian cancer, Cancer Support Community.
As I caught up with my friend, Meg Symes of Cancer Support Community, she told me her own story of watching her mother go through cancer in the 70s without the support, community or a place to go where it was “socially acceptable to have cancer.” When cancer struck Meg decades later, she was blessed to have the resources her mother did not. When the opportunity presented itself to be a part of supporting those with cancer Meg was all in.
Meg explained that Cancer Support Community was founded in 1982 by Dr. Harold Benjamin to provide free support, cancer education and hope. “So no one needs to face cancer alone,” patients and their families learn skills to enable them to regain control and restore hope. Patients and families can attend workshops, classes, yoga and come to a safe warm welcoming place that feels like home and gives the support needed to take on cancer.
In the Pasadena chapter alone, Cancer Support Community serves over 1,100 people a year, all free of charge. Today, Dr. Benjamin’s concept of providing support, education and hope for people with cancer has expanded to over 100 locations worldwide. Regardless if you were Gilda Radner, who attended the Santa Monica location or in Tokyo or someone here in Pasadena, because of people like Meg and thousands of donors and volunteers…..no one has to face cancer alone.
I don’t know about you, but I have always adored Katie Couric. I follow her on Instagram and for the past two weeks every day she has posted a picture and told the story of someone’s life affected by cancer. Each story more devastating than the next, with faces of children, mother’s, grandparents….each one of us knows someone who has been affected by this horrible disease.
Katie has been involved with an organization called Stand Up 2 Cancer. It began as an idea in 2008, to bring the entertainment industry together to raise funds for cancer research. Tonight, once again they will do just that.
Since 2008, Stand Up 2 Cancer has raised millions of dollars that have funded over one thousand cancer researchers and 19 cancer dream teams put together to end this disease. So, tonight turn on your tele to be entertained, inspired and to join in this fight that Stands Up 2 Cancer.
Have you ever read a book that haunted you? Spoke to you and really made you stop and think? I just finished one and I have to say, it felt as if the universe had given me a gift. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, a truly beautiful autobiography of a Stanford trained neurosurgeon who discovers he is dying of cancer.
An extraordinary view of life, from someone who spent his trying to save others. A man who loved literature and found himself pondering the question of what makes a human life meaningful? He writes early on the book, “If the unexamined life was not worth living, was the unlived life worth examining?”
Paul Kalanithi wrote of his experience of both living and dying, and how his perception of both changed through his journey with cancer. One of my favorite quotes from the book was, ““There is a moment, a cusp, when the sum of gathered experience is worn down by the details of living. We are never so wise as when we live in this moment.”
Such wise a beautiful words from a life well lived, and a legacy for all to learn from.
This week is the beginning of Movember. No, this isn’t a typo but rather a movement. I was reminded last week, when my second son asked me to sponsor his fraternity’s fundraiser in support of the cause. You may recall that last November there seemed to be an unusual amount of facial hair and beards. Those beards and unshaven faces were not by accident, but rather a statement for men’s health.
A statement that all began in 2003, when two mates in a bar ( Travis Garone and Luke Slattery) were having a simple conversation about whatever happened to the moustache or the Mo, as they called it, and a joke about bringing it back. These buddies from Melbourne, Australia decided to talk their friends into growing a Mo for a purpose. They were inspired by a friend’s mom who was raising funds for breast cancer and decided to direct their efforts towards men’s health and prostate cancer. They sent an email titled Are you man enough to be my man? The result was 30 guys willing to take up the challenge and pay ten dollars each, towards their cause and the beginning of Movember.
Their goal started small but never wavered. These four friends wanted to recruit men who would support Movember, who by the way are called MoBros. The Mo Bros, would begin by registering at Movember.Com and start Movember 1st clean-shaven, then grow and groom their Mo, for the rest of the month, raising money along the way. In addition, these men become walking, talking billboards for their cause. Not to exclude the girls, they also started Mo Sistas, who champion their Mo by registering and supporting the Mo Bros in their life.
What started as a fun bar conversation in 2003 and 30 MoBros in Melbourne, Australia has morphed into over 4 million participants globally, who have raised more than $649 million to date. Movember, is more than a month, but rather through the power of the moustache, it has truly become a global movement that is changing the face of men’s health.
As you know I have been thinking a lot about dreaming big and continuing on my quest living a life full of purpose. When I think about the combination of these two together, my mind immediately goes to thoughts of my amazing friend, Ann Louden. Ann is a breast cancer survivor who took her diagnosis and turned it into a purpose fueled mission. The result is her non-profit TCU Frogs for the Cure.
Ann has worked at TCU for over twenty years and over a decade ago when she heard the words, “You have cancer” she knew she needed to do something. As the ultimate connector, she engaged her Fort Worth and TCU community in finding a cure, supporting those with breast cancer and partnering to support the cross town organization Susan G. Komen Foundation.
Her organization was the first to engage college football with breast cancer and now today you can’t tun on a game in October (pro or college) without seeing pink, it all started with Ann. However that dream wasn’t big enough, she went further in creating inspiring music videos with thousands of survivors to bring everyone together in support for this cause. When the videos are downloaded from itunes, the proceeds go to fight breast cancer.
This years video will debut at the Thursday, Oct 29th at the TCU football game vs West Virginia and is aptly done to the song,”Ain’t No Mountain HighEnough.“I cannot think of a better song to describe Ann Louden and all breast cancer survivors journey to overcome and fight this disease.
The other day I went to the dentist for my annual appointment. My dental hygienist, who has become my friend over the past decade of having my mouth held captive, did not look like her usual perky self. I only see her twice a year but she somehow feels like a dear friend every time we visit. I asked her about her children who are the same age as mine and as the tears began to flow, she shared that her college age son was just diagnosed with cancer.
I came home devastated and in shock at how quickly lives are altered by the words, “You have cancer.” As I scrolled through Facebook as a distraction, I came across this and felt compelled to share.
Having spent over a decade at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, supporting families in crisis, this spoke to me on so many levels. Coincidentally, September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Life can change on a dime, one never knows and it is the power of love, compassion and a fight song that makes it all worth the fight.
I have to say that in almost four years of blogging, I have rarely been at a loss for words. I sat down to write the other day and there just wasn’t anything there. I mentioned this challenge at our family dinner table and my sons said, “You don’t have to write Mom, its ok if you take one day off.” A thought that truly had never occurred to me.
I had resigned myself to the fact that with two graduations next week and a very full plate at work, I would take today off. However, the universe had different plans, no sooner had I made that decision, when a friend sent me this video…which of course I needed to share with you.
Tired or not, seeing compassion in action, simply never gets old. It is moments like these that inspire me to do more, give more and use my time showing the world that it is actions not words, that really matter.
Just hearing the words, Let it be I begin to hear the song..speaking words of wisdom, let it be…let it be. Sometimes letting it be is the most difficult thing of all. Those words were the singular wish of a young girl named Karla Rosen who was diagnosed January 7th, 2005 with a rare brain cancer. Her heartfelt desire was to “just be.”
During that year, their community rallied around their family to take care of meals, Karla’s two siblings, yard work, and all of life’s task that shift in the wake of a child’s health. The community support was overwhelming, wrist bands were made and sold to help pay the medical bills. After a year of fighting this horrible disease, Karla Rosen lost her battle with cancer on February 5th, 2006. She was 15 years old.
Her parents, found a letter in her room shortly after her death that said, “I have only known two other people with my condition: one passed away, and one has been struggling for life in the hospital for many months. I now know, because of what I am able to accomplish once again, what miracle God wanted me to pass on – the miracle of life. Thanks to my cancer, I now do not sweat the small things in life and live it to its fullest.”
With the help of the community, within months of Karla’s death, her family decided to celebrate what would have been Karla’s 16th birthday with the creation of the Let it Be Foundation. Their mission is to provide ongoing support and services to families and children diagnosed with life threatening illnesses throughout the child’s treatment, with a focus on the entire family.
The Rosen family has taken their unbearable loss and turned it into a legacy of compassion for others. As the song says, “there will be an answer, let it be…let it be…..”