When I was growing up "cancer" was rarely ever heard of and/or discussed. Most people didn't know anyone who had it. If you did, it was whispered and avoided. There weren't walks and charities and ad campaigns discussing every type of cancer imaginable. There were definitely not numerous cancer centers popping up at every hospital.
Today, who doesn't know someone who has cancer? Who has not been personally effected by one of these awful types of this disease?
There was a time when October was regarded as "Breast Cancer Awareness" month. Each month eventually was designated with a certain kind of cancer awareness tag. The hope was that people would learn more about cancer. That they would do what is necessary to prevent it and donate toward charities and learn where the best facility was to go and treat it. To get educated.
This is no longer necessary. People are all too aware of cancer - every type. They have it themselves. Their sister, father, child, neighbor, co-worker or friend had it. A cousin, uncle, teacher, or brother has been lost, way too soon, from it.
While it is heart breaking to see how common cancer has become, it is wonderful to see how educated we have become as a community. People research their diagnosis and treatment options. Patients now search for the best doctor for their type of cancer and get second, and even third opinions, when warranted. They try alternative treatments and change their diet and lifestyle.
There are cancer centers every where. There are support groups and cancer charities and year round fundraisers. It's discussed on TV and in the newspapers and magazines. It's no longer "taboo."
We know it's not contagious and nothing to be hidden with fear. We rally together and support each other when a diagnosis is given. Schools support students. Churches help parishoners. Neighbors assist their own. Employees reach out to co-workers. Families come together. The bond that is created during these times cannot be put into words. You know this for yourself if you fought cancer or helped someone who did.
We don't need October to be made aware of cancer. Or any specific month. It is every where you turn. That's why your help is needed. Volunteer for a cancer charity. Donate your time or even a monetary donation. Research continues daily and funds are needed to help discover the treatments and hopefully some day a cure!
I have not had cancer - to date. I have been surrounded for more years than I can count by it. Many family members, friends, clients and colleagues have all battled the disease. All fought the toughest fight of their life. Some came out on the other side of the journey, while others did not. I have been touched by each and every person and circumstance. THIS is why I became a patient advocate. This is why we wrote our book and do our TV show and why I even write this blog!
I volunteer with the American Cancer Society and have spent many years deeply involved in the "Relay for Life" events. I became a hospice volunteer for " The Center for Hope Hospice" and donate time to in house patients, as well as assist with fundraising events. I volunteer for "Peppermints & Ginger Comfort Kits" to provide kits filled with healing products for chemotherapy patients of all ages. I participate every year in "Care to Walk" in North Brunswick, NJ. A high school club sponsored event to raise money for The Cancer Institute of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ. This year I was also able to participate in "Celebrating Life and Liberty" an event held by The John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center for cancer survivors and their families and it was truly amazing! There are also so many more, but my point here is, get out and get involved.
Every town and county has an adundance of cancer charities and groups that could use your help. The people you know who are battling cancer, as we speak, need you more than you know. A kind word. A laugh. A home cooked meal. A ride to their medical appointment. A pep talk to bring them out of their darkest days. Do it. Don't feel funny or awkward. Don't wait until things slow down for you. Help NOW. Make the time.
I know all too well the devastating impact cancer has on the patient and their loved ones. I continue to provide advice and information, comfort and assistance, to all those I can. I will for as long as I can and hopefully until cancer is just a bad memory for all. You can too. We need to continue to stick together and win the fight against this disease.
EVERY DAY is Cancer Awareness day. What will you do to "pay it forward?" Little or big - each and every gesture is appreciated by anyone effected by this monster of an illness.
I want to take this time to dedicate this article to all those who have crossed my path in some way and lost their courageous battle with cancer: Natalie, Jennie, John, Diane, Gabriela, Maryanne, Diane Frances, Claire, Irene, Karen, Jill, Michele, and too many more to name individually.
I want to send strength, love and courage to those currently battling with everything they got: Kathie, Sam, Doris, Susan and Andrea. You got this and we are all right behind you!!
In closing I want to salute ALL of the survivors. Young and old. Man or woman. Those who are changed forever because even though cancer has left their bodies, it will never leave their minds! It is because of YOU that we know that there IS hope, that miracles DO happen every day and that sometimes there IS a happy ending at the end of an awful long journey: Debbie, Pam, Alyson, Michael, Mary Kay, Darlene, Lucy, Mario, Maureen and luckily many many more :)