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!