Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Making of an Activist

Two things have defined my adult life -- cancer and motherhood.

My Hodgkin disease diagnosis came at a pivotal point in my life -- just after college, right when I trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. My cancer experience was a emblematic of how far we've come in the war on blood cancers. Despite the fact that my disease was diagnosed at a very late stage, I had an 80+% chance of beating my cancer. Still, I endured chemo, nausea, hair loss, the prospect of infertility and several other fun side effects. Coming out of a life-threatening, yet strangely life-affirming experience at that stage in my life helped me see that that I didn't just want a job or career -- I wanted a purpose. I eventually found a job at a major cancer organization and have so far devoted my career to fighting the disease.

I often say that becoming a mother is strangely similar to having a cancer experience. You're thrust into a world of unknown medical terminology, strange things happen to your body, you suddenly become a special, "fragile" being and everyone around you heaps love and attention on you. Ultimately, your life and your outlook completely and irrevocably change. Motherhood expanded my purpose to make the world a better place not just for me, but now for my girls.

My work in cancer has taught me that continued funding of research is critical, particularly for cancers like lymphomas for which no cause is known. But it has also taught me that there are other very powerful weapons in our arsenal against the disease. Ironically it was my job fighting cancer that showed me how difficult working motherhood can be. In realizing how much our world is built for a man, and not a mom, to succeed, I found one of the most powerful weapons in both the fight against cancer and the fight to create a family-friendly America -- my voice.

The federal government is the largest funder of cancer research in our country. Our federal and state governments enact policies that keep us healthy and lower our risks of cancer. Our government also has the power to mandate paid family leave, flexible working policies and time off. But these important policies and programs only get attention if we elect the right people and hold them accountable for making the issues we care about -- those that ensure the health and well-being of our families -- priorities.

Once you've made your monetary contribution to worthy organizations that are dedicated to the causes you care about, I encourage you to continue contributing by making your voice heard. Real progress and change will come only when we demand it.


Goodies for Mom said...

Thank you so much for helping raise awareness and for all you do to help those with cancer!

Anonymous said...

My late husband's illness and death have not made an activist of me. I wonder why sometimes though maybe it just hasn't done so yet.

Anissa Mayhew said...

I have a 4 y.o. still in chemo treatment, it does my heart a lot of good to see women with the voice and passion working hard to raise the funds and awareness to make cancer cures 100% effective, because nothing less is acceptable.

I enjoy you on SVM, but I really wanted to come here and touch base with you.

PleaseRecycle said...

My 4 y.o. is also in chemo treatment for leukemia-- with 2 years to go. I would say, so far, that becoming a mother and finding out my child has cancer are the two most defining moments in my life.

I have an advanced degree in Biology so I could be on the frontline of cancer research, but I feel I can make more of a contribution by educating people and being an advocate, for both mothers and cancer victims. I am certainly at a crossroads- career on hold to take care of my daughter- but the future is wide open.

I love reading your perspectives!