Hi! I am hoping you got to this page because maybe you know me and know the journey I have been on for the last 16 years. If not, I will share a brief history with the hopes that you will feel inspired to help in the fight to make sure no one faces cancer alone and help us realize our goal to raise $1,000,000 by this years 10th annual Bras for a Cause event!
Shortly after graduating from MSU in December 2001, I found a bump on my neck. Not ever remembering it being there before and seemingly coming from no where, I was concerned and my parents luckily told me I should get it checked out. I went to the doctors thinking, maybe I have had this my whole life - but how could I miss something the size of a golf ball on my own neck my whole life? Within days I was having surgery to biopsy the area, knowing that it was likely to be a form of Lymphoma. My family turned to our trusty medical dictionary to see what the heck Lymphoma actually was. I was scared, my family was scared and when the diagnosis came, I was told it was "the good cancer" - Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
I went on to have Chemotherapy and Radiation in 2002 and met Sara Kaye Larson at an event my sister in law Amanda encouraged me to go to at the hospital called "Look Good, Feel Better". I hadn't met anyone my age going through cancer yet and when I met Sara, we instantly had a connection. Sara also had Hodgkin's and was only a few weeks behind me in treatment. I realized quickly that she came into my life for a reason. We talked frequently about all of our crazy side effects - everyone talks about hair loss and nausea from cancer treatments - but no one talks about bowel movements, bone pain and dry mouth! Sara introduced me to a non-profit organization that changed the trajectory of my life - Gilda's Club.
When I first came to the clubhouse, I was skeptical. I had never gone to a support group, nor did I think I needed it. I had my family, I had my friends and I had Sara. I attended the Young Adult Survivor group, which was made up of anywhere from 5-15 cancer survivors between 18 and 40 with all different types of cancer. I realized in a very short time that not only was I there to get help myself, I was there to help others going through a similar diagnosis as a young adult. I met Jessica, a then 16 year old going through Leukemia and not feeling quite like a typical teenager, but also not feeling like an adult. She thrived in our "group" and I created a special bond with her mom Karen over the years. I also met Rebecca, my BCFF (best cancer friend forever). We were similar in age and found humor in some of the most ridiculous things that we were going through. The connection with Rebecca is so strong that we honestly don't need to use words when we are out together - we just give each other a glance and start to laugh or cry.
When treatment ended, I had a journey to find my "new normal". Going back to work, starting a new job, and feeling all along like I needed to give back. For a long time, I worked with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society doing Team in Training events and Light the Night walks. All of these were great but not seeing the funds go back to support the local community drove me to want to start raising awareness and funds for Gilda's Club, who was still helping me with life transitions as I faced medical and emotional issues post treatment. I worked with friends in and outside the Clubhouse to create a Young Adult Networking Group to host local events to raise money for Gilda's Club. Around this time, I met Shannon Watson at "group" one Tuesday.
Shannon was going through treatment for Breast Cancer and was beautiful inside and out. She wanted to give back to Gilda's too and had this grand idea to have "Bras for a Cause" to hopefully raise money for the place that had been giving her support. I ignored her many requests to help her with this event, as I was going through so many life changes at the time - getting married, buying a house, having babies, you know, all those important life changing moments in a young adults life. I did however attend the event and was blown away by what she had created. The night featured live and silent auctions, art bras made by individuals in our community with ingenious creativity and the highlight of the evening - the survivor runway show, where members from Gilda's that had breast cancer take the stage and strut their stuff.
Shannon was taken from us way to soon. She passed away between the first and second event. Her faithful committee ensured that the event would still go as planned and made a pact to keep it ongoing year after year. For my 10 year "cancerversary", I decided that I wanted to get back to helping this community that I benefited so much from. I joined the planning committee in 2012 as a tribute to being a 10 year survivor. Little did I know that shortly after the event that year, my friend Nan who had been leading the committee, had other plans for me. She pulled me aside and said "I think you need to take over as chair - Shannon would have wanted it this way". I wanted to cry and punch her at the same time. I knew that I could do great things with the event if I had the right people around me, so I took on the task and called upon all my close friends and asked them to join me. I couldn't have done it without them.
And now, here we are, approaching the 10th Anniversary of Bras for a Cause - my 7th year on the committee and over $850,000 raised by this event over the last 9 years. My hope is that my story will inspire you to help us reach $1,000,000 donated to Gilda's Club by the time our event is here. I am so grateful for this journey and for you to help support this amazing organization in Metro Detroit.
P.S. If you or your family has or knows of a business that also may want to sponsor the event, be a food vendor or donate to the auction, please let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org).
P..S.S. If you would like to attend the event - let me know! :)