Friday, May 11, 2012

When Giving Back and Fighting Back Feels So Good

Yesterday was a pretty stellar day for me. The weather sucked, but this is New England and the weather has already changed to something much more palatable. The day was as great as it was because I had the pleasure of meeting people who hate cancer as much as I do, and are fighting it in their own way.

Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) announced the 2012 edition of The One Hundred, an annual event that recognizes individuals whose “diligence and discoveries, philanthropy and passion have helped advance the fight against cancer.” And boy, some of these people are really fighting back!

The first group of people I introduced myself to included Adrienne Harrison, Laura Hencke, Beverly Snell and Cathleen Poliquin from MGH’s Bone Marrow Transplant Center. The efforts of these cancer fighting ladies directly save people’s lives. Patients who undergo hematopoetic stem cell transplants have a complex set of procedures, tests and appointments laid out in front of them. Adrienne, Laura, Beverly help patients  navigate that complexity with care and compassion. Cathleen is a nurse practitioner, and also a cancer survivor, who is being honored for her exemplary manner with patients, training of nurses in the unit and long-term volunteer efforts with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. It was an honor to meet them and spend a few minutes sharing our stories of how we are fighting back. Take a moment to read their full profiles at The One Hundred web site. Adrienne, Laura, BeverlyCathleen.

The One Hundred is a fundraiser, you can’t fight cancer without money afterall, and in the five years since it began it has raised over $3 million dollars to support programs and services at MGH. Recent and future funding is expected to support the installation of a second proton therapy machine, extending MGH’s world leadership in this type of treatment, allowing them to treat twice as many patients and save more lives. A new cancer care center with its own building is also envisioned. Funds from The One Hundred are being used to make these advancements possible. The inspirational work of the honorees is the lead story in the campaign to raise these funds, and after hearing just a few of the stories I have no doubt wallets will open.

In the last ten years I have come to realize that you can’t truly celebrate, remember or fight back against cancer without a few tears. I prefer tears of joy, but I’ve got plenty of people to remember and will let the emotions fly as needed. The next story that was shared with the reception attendees had a mix of loss and celebration in it, and I doubt there was a dry eye in the room.

India and Henry Claudy are 10 and 12 years of age, but don’t judge them for their age or size. These two have it all figured out and have a long life of giving back ahead of them. Their father passed away from colon cancer 5 years ago. Before I continue I should mention that they told their own story on stage in front of a couple hundred people for about five minutes. Anyone else want to try that at their age? Every year since their father’s passing they have organized an event called “Family 2 Family”. The Family 2 Family  program anonymously matches families who have loved ones in active treatment at MGH with families from India & Henry’s network of family & friends. Their friends purchase holiday gifts to bring cheer to the families who are going through difficult times during the holiday season. In 2011 they matched 55 families! These two are rock stars in my book. I introduced myself afterwards and could only say one thing, “Thank you.” I hope to meet them again in June at the Gala Event where all 100 of the honorees will be celebrated and thanked. If you do anything today you have to read their profile at The One Hundred web site. If you don’t tear up I’d have someone take your pulse!

In the last ten years I have done things in the fight against cancer that I would not have believed would be attributed to me before my own cancer battle changed my life. Cancer has been a gift. Yes I said that. That is one of the most sick and twisted thoughts I have ever had. I love fighting this thing I hate so much. It feels weird, but it gives me motivation.

I was also honored by MGH this year. And it is a huge honor. I do what I do because I want to make a difference. I’ve never chased after press or the limelight for my efforts, but I have been lucky enough to have had many opportunities to speak at events and share my story. My name has also raced through many of the local newspapers over the years, and with the success of the fundraising team I helped start we are always talked about with high esteem. We’ve always hoped it would inspire others to get involved. The picture to the right is of me and Jen Pitts having just finished our 2011 Relay with a sprinted lap. We were tired and sore from walking all night, but nothing could have been a better symbol of how we fight back than two cancer survivors booking it around the track as the event wound down.

First and foremost I have to thank my friend Marie Payton for thinking so much of my story to put the nomination in for me. When I was contacted about the nomination and selection I had no idea where it came from. A quick blast to friends and Marie raised her hand. This honor is rocking my world right now and I will be forever grateful to her for placing me in the path of this wonderful event.

Yesterday when the web site went live I sent messages via e-mail, Facebook and Twitter sharing my profile and thanking everyone who has supported me.  I’ll close with that message and the link to my profile. You can read it, but I will think so much more of everyone if they spend some time reading the other 99 profiles too. Those stories are at least as inspiring as mine, and the efforts of all of the honorees can teach us about the power of giving back and fighting back.

The MGH One Hundred for 2012 has been announced. I am immensely honored to have been nominated and selected for this incredible recognition. This is for all of you have supported me; I wouldn't have a story worth telling without your support. This belongs to Margot, Mom, Dad, Tim, Abby, Missi, Melissa, all of my family, all of my friends and the many donors who have offered their support over the years. We did this, and we should be really proud of it!



p.s. I wouldn't be keeping in the spirit of my profile if I didn't share the link to the current fundraising effort I am soliciting support for. My team is racing towards having raised over $100,000 since 2003. You can help us with that through a donation. Support Jason in the 2012 Relay For Life.

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