Why I joined the Cancer Support Community’s Young Leadership Council

This fall, members of our Young Leadership Council (YLC) will share their stories in a guest blogger series leading up to the YLC’s signature event, the Red Ball. The YLC is a group of young professionals who are advancing the Cancer Support Community’s mission. This week’s post is by YLC Chair Mike Rocks.

When my grandmother was diagnosed with terminal cancer I thought, “Not another one.”  As if it were an everyday occurrence.  Hearing that a family member has been diagnosed with cancer shouldn’t be met with such a lack of surprise.  But, it seemed like everyone in my family had some form of cancer: two grandmothers, both terminal; a grandfather, now in remission; my mother; all my remaining family members just seeming like they were awaiting their turn.

It was that mental check list that started me wondering about what I could do – other than wait and pray.  When you’re met with adversity, you can either take action; or let thoughts drive you to despondency.  I chose to take action – and I reached out to the Cancer Support Community to get involved.

When I wrote to the Cancer Support Community five years ago, it was because I remembered attending a fundraiser of theirs a year or two prior – a fundraiser that surrounded a unique kind of cancer care – care that focused on coping and managing your life, versus medical treatment and research.  At that time, the concept seemed nice to me, but also seemed a little too “hippie.”  It was when I sat back and thought about the toll cancer had taken on my entire family that I realized just how incomplete medical care really was.

If you come down with the flu, medicine helps.  But, how great does it feel when someone is there for you – offering empathy, soup, and holds a cool cloth on your forehead?  And that’s just for the flu!  When you have cancer – you have nurses working around the clock, doctors adjusting medications, and all the latest medical equipment monitoring your health – but, you still have your thoughts.  Both of my aunts took the brunt of the responsibility, and the emotional burden, of caring for my terminally ill grandmothers.  I do not recall anyone offering my aunts counseling – other than some cursory pep talk, or a caring nurse offering an ear to allow these strangers to grieve.  I felt a constellation of emotions: guilt, sadness, fear, denial, apathy, anger, and even detachment; so I can only imagine how much more severely distressed my aunts were.  I am sure they could have benefited from social and emotional support – my grandmothers included.

When all of this was happening, I had limited ability to do anything for them.  But now, by supporting the Cancer Support Community, I realized that I could help build a movement that would lead to standardized psychosocial care, and help future cancer patients and their caregivers – beyond the medical treatments they were receiving.  Cancer research is wonderful – and necessary.  But it’s tomorrow.  People living with cancer are living with it today – and so we must support them today.

That is why I joined the Young Leadership Council (YLC) of the Cancer Support Community.  Currently, I have the fortunate responsibility of serving as Chair of the YLC, and to serve on the Board of Directors.  While I value that honor, I value the effort that the YLC and the Cancer Support Community puts forth every day even more.

The Young Leadership Council hosts a signature fundraising event each year – the Red Ball.  The event helps to raise awareness and funds for CSC’s mission.  Each YLC member works tirelessly and creatively to ensure the success of this event – because one way or another, they have all been touched by cancer.  It is more than volunteer work for us – it is missionary work that we believe is truly imperative to ensuring that psychosocial care is integrated into the medical standard of care in cancer.  I certainly do not want others to feel what my family felt in the face of a cancer diagnosis.  No one should have to face cancer alone.  So I thank the Cancer Support Community for their work, and for embracing me and allowing me to be just a small part of it.

Please consider joining us at the Red Ball on Friday, October 19, 2012.  It promises to be a fantastic evening of dancing and shopping, and most of all – fun.  Visit our webpage for more details on the event, or to purchase your tickets: www.CancerSupportCommunity.org/RedBall.  I look forward to seeing you there!

About Young Leadership Council

The mission of the Young Leadership Council (YLC), a group of young professionals, is to represent a new generation of leaders who are advancing the cause of social and emotional support for people living with cancer by raising awareness and organizing philanthropic initiatives to benefit the Cancer Support Community. The YLC is tasked with ensuring that the support for the Cancer Support Community continues. It was established in 2004 by GCWW Board Member Evan Berkley, who lost his father to cancer at age 19 and subsequently created the Be a Buddy Foundation to improve the lives of people living with cancer. YLC members work in the fields of film, television, marketing, entertainment law, corporate law, finance, and publishing. Since the group's inaugural event in September 2005, the YLC has successfully raised over $850,000 and brought the mission of Gilda's Club, and now the Cancer Support Community, to hundreds of new friends.

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