I usually like to write something humorous and encouraging here, but not this week.
Today I’d like to tell you about two women I love very much.
This first is my sister-in-law, Mary Jo. We lost my brother’s wife, MJ, to cancer in 2015. She carried the BRCA mutation and spent most of 20 years fighting breast and ovarian cancer. She bred English Bulldogs, rode horses, was a practicing dog behaviorist, played multiple instruments, had fiery red hair that could only be tamed with copious amounts of hairspray and was an absolute badass. MJ was one of the strongest, bravest, most direct women I ever knew. She got her first bulldog for security, because she wanted a dog that lookedlike it would take your leg off but wouldn’t. I pity the person who ever tested that theory, because they had way more to fear from M herself than her dogs. But she also taught me that you never work with a dog with anything but love in your hands, even when you are correcting them. She was a bright, smart, funny woman, whom my brother loved deeply, and we still miss.
The other is my aunt Sharon. She’s actually my mother’s best friend since they were in college, and one of the people who shaped my understanding of creating a family of love, not just blood. Sharon was always the adult that I wanted to be when I grew up (I’m still working on that). Another of the funniest, smartest women I know, and I admire her deeply. One of my favorite pictures of her and her family is from one of her daughters’ wedding: it’s black and white, they’re all in their wedding formal dress, and every member of the family has their head thrown back in deep, honest laughter. This is how I always think of this family. When I was young, Sharon underwent treatment for breast cancer. For months, my mother and I found or made every creative, beautiful or ridiculous hat we could to send to her while she underwent chemo. Today she lives on a beautiful lake in New Hampshire with her husband of more than 40 years and is grandmother to 6 amazing grandkids who probably don’t understand how lucky they are to be born into one of the best families anyone could hope for.
Monday is the first of October, and as we have all been made VERY aware, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM). According to BreastCancer.org:
Here’s what rarely shows up: breast cancer is expensive. It’s time consuming, and costly. On top of all of the physical pain of the disease and the worse pain of the treatment, patients have to figure out how to pay for everything: doctor’s visits, treatment, testing, procedures, transportation, child care, prescriptions, prosthesis, wound care, wigs…
MJ and Sharon were fortunate to have good insurance to cover many of their needs, and the best kinds of spouses that were there with them through all of it, who had jobs that allowed them the flexibility to support their wives as they went through treatment. Not everyone can afford their disease. There’s an old joke that Hawai’i is one tanker ship away from being Amish. What’s not so funny is that many of us are one medical crisis away from poverty.
In October we will be partnering with the Saint Agatha foundation to raise money to support those battling breast cancer. The Saint Agatha Foundation provides financial support to breast cancer patients in Onondaga, Cortland, Cayuga, Madison, Oneida, and Oswego Counties in Central New York. The founder’s endowment covers all of the administrative costs of the foundation, so every dollar we donate will go directly to fund the needs of patients in Central New York. I’ll be donating 10% of sales in the first week of October to the Saint Agatha Foundation. We will also be collecting continuing donations through the month of October if you would like to give a little more.
If you or someone you love is undergoing treatment and need help, please contact the Saint Agatha Foundation at (888) 878-7900 or visit www.saintagathafoundation.com.