A breast cancer survivor shares her experiences with the BRCA gene.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Giving 101

There is woman who works in accounting at my company. I've always liked her because she wasn't your stereotypical accountant (zero personality...no sense of humor...easily irritated by stupid questions from people like me). She was warm and friendly and helpful. She didn't roll her eyes when I filled out spreadsheets incorrectly.

We bonded over my tutorial in Accounting 101. During this time, she and her husband had their first child.

Fast forward 5 or so years, and we ran into each other a few days ago. I immediately recognized the "chemo look." The hairless scalp. The neatly tied head scarf. I was shocked to discover she had cancer.

She's incredibly optimistic. She said she's in good hands with her physicians. She has been on my mind ever since. I'm praying for her, but I want to do something tangible -- like grab hold of her and heal her. This is where we all feel so powerless...when we see someone suffering and can't do anything....and yet we can.

Here is my tutorial in "Giving 101" --

#1 - Care.
#2 - Pray.
#3 - Help...running errands, babysitting, bringing meals, driving them to the doctor's appointment...the list is endless.
#4 - Give...to cancer research.

The month of October has become as synonymous with breast cancer--and as a result, cancer in general--as it has with Halloween. The pink ribbon is as well known as the jack-o-lantern. And because of the enormous effort in raising awareness --and funds -- for cancer research, our lives are benefiting.

This past weekend, my company and our customers participated in a huge fundraiser benefiting the American Cancer Society. Called Order the Cure, it was the brainchild of a man who is beating his dire prostate cancer diagnosis due to advanced treatment now available.

We banded together to sign up participants and "decorated" our building with colored balloons, representing all cancers -- pink for women's, blue for men's, yellow for kids', red for "all other cancers." Participants called and emailed us -- "Sign me up for Order the Cure! I'm a 10 year survivor...our coworker has just been diagnosed with breast cancer...my mother (brother, daughter, sister, best friend, husband) is going through cancer treatment right now..."

A sharp young woman named Michelle with the American Cancer Society pulled together an army of volunteers who came out in force to help. We printed t-shirts and bought hot pink pens, and produced stickers that said "I Ordered the Cure!"

Stories began trickling in. One participant asked her customers to write the name of loved ones on a colored card, which she taped to her doorway. At the end of the fundraiser, she will be sending all the cards with the names to prayer groups. Another participant found checks made out for $1,500 and $3,000 in their donation jar. People were genuinely enthusiastic to pray and help and give. The final numbers are not in yet, but I know we raised thousands of dollars for cancer research.

In a few weeks, a member of my staff will be participating in a separate fundraiser -- the 3 day breast cancer walk totaling 60 miles. She's raised over $3,000 in donations and is walking in my honor. Another example of giving.

So, in addition to caring and helping and giving, I'm also praying that my coworker will have every reason to be optimistic. That she, too, will be cured of cancer so she can go back to doing "mom things" and continue to tutor people like me in basic accounting principles.