Is it a blessing? A curse? A bump in the road or a life-altering ordeal?
Like me, many cancer survivors don't know (or want to) qualify the experience. However, what many of us find is that we can't do it alone. Throughout my journey, I've stumbled upon amazing organizations that have helped my family and others navigate through cancer. So if you are looking for a thoughtful gift to celebrate "Giving Tuesday" or the holidays, I've listed some of my favorite cancer charities. Their missions serve people in different ways. Some focus on research to find a cure, while others promote early detection to prevent it altogether.
People often ask me what to give a friend or relative who has been recently diagnosed. Thoughtful cards and gifts are always kind. I also suggest donating money (or time) to a cause related to their cancer. It's powerful to think that my life may have been saved because of breast cancer awareness campaigns. After discussing the lump on my chest in 2004, my husband told me to get "one of those mammogram things." Thank you to Susan G. Komen Foundation, Avon, #SU2C and all the people who have participated in their events promoting the importance of early detection.
New surgical techniques and medications available through extensive research and trials (often supported by grants and donations) are key to improve a patient's quality of life. I've experienced this first hand. My first surgery, performed in 2005, was slightly less invasive, due a new technique. Also, the medication combination I take today is relatively new.
I can't even begin to thank and promote all the wonderful services and products available to support cancer patients. These organizations need volunteers, funding and often publicity to continue to serve those in need. So, for all the times you have wondered how to help a friend fighting cancer, here are a few of my latest favorite cancer charities/organizations that I've found legitimate and helpful for the patient, their family and the cause.
Holiday Donation Ideas to Honor Cancer Survivors
As a cancer patient, I've spent nearly 11-years in hospitals. Both Greenwich Hospital
and Yale New Haven Hospital raise money to support their respective causes. Their efforts improve public health for the local and global community. I've seen the awareness campaigns, educational events and research trial information readily available for the public to embrace. I know many other hospitals around the country could use donations to improve programs, as well.
Big Cancer Research Hospitals
The big cancer research hospitals like MD Anderson, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Yale New Haven Hospital all conduct research to find new treatments. The drug trials tested here are often offered across the country, once they have been approved by the FDA.
CancerCare's goal is to take care of the patients' needs outside the medical chambers. They provide phone, online, face-to-face counseling, support groups, education, publications and financial assistance. Oncology social workers offer personalized care, free of charge. When we were trying to decide whether or not to tell our 5-year old about my re-occurrence, a well-informed, sweet oncology social worker guided us to our decision. (We decided NOT to tell him now with her advice.) She also provided a fun, family, pillow-making package.
The V Foundation for Cancer Research
"Don't Give Up...Don't Ever Give Up," taken from Coach Jim Valvano's ESPY speech, inspires me and many others daily. Those exact words were said to me with such hope and authenticity from an executive at The V Foundation on the day I was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic disease. So, I have a special place in my heart for this organization. The V Foundation funds critical cancer research at prominent cancer centers nationwide. Valvano's dream of curing cancer might be a reality someday, with the help of research grants and talented medical professionals.
The Get in Touch Foundation
The Get in Touch Foundation is near and dear to me because the founder was one of my first cheerleaders (and a fellow breast cancer survivor) when originally diagnosed in 2004. The mission of the Get In Touch Foundation is to provide breast health initiatives to educate kids about their bodies and provide information globally to help inform them about the importance of early detection. If detected early, many diseases are treatable. So far, I can relate. Both my cases were found relatively early and because of it, I have a lot of treatment options.
Runway for Recovery or Other Local Events
Every month, there are events promoting fundraisers, which typically fund local research or services for cancer patients and caregivers. A few years ago, I
I walked in the Runway for Recovery fashion show in Boston because I was touched by how passionate the founder was about her cause. After losing her mother to breast cancer, she wanted to raise funds to help children and families who have lost their mothers to the disease by assisting with financial, logistical and emotion burdens associated with caring for a loved one with cancer. The proceeds primarily benefit the Massachusetts General Hospital Patient and Caregiver Fund.
As you're running through malls to find the coolest gift or scouring the internet for a creative present, consider donating to a charity or service organization that truly works tirelessly to make the world a better place. For those of us dealing with hardship, one of the most thoughtful gestures is to support the organizations that have helped us live, cope and hopefully thrive with our disease.