Sunday, September 30, 2012

Ode to Bald

For those who are not aware, today marks the first of October, breast cancer awareness month. This day means that I have only 27 more days until I will walk 39.3 miles. Today also begins a month of pink. While doing some research about breast cancer awareness month, I came across Pink for October, a website filled with stories of those who have and are still battling breast cancer. While making my way through Pink for October, I came across a particular story that I believe is the most appropriate story to share with you all to mark the beginning of breast cancer awareness month. So here is to Sherry Smyth, whose words are not only inspiring, but are the words of a truly strong woman.

Dear breast cancer:

Once again it is October and your name is one everyone’s lips.  The world has turned to a sea of pink and large and small corporations and companies look to make money based on your infamy and the fear that lurks in the hearts and souls of women the world over.  So many women, who buy this, support that, donate to this fundraiser, walk for 2 days, run for 5 kilometres and all the while, hoping and praying that you and they never come face to face.   They can run from you but sadly too many cannot hide.

You are a sneaky, insidious devil aren’t you breast cancer.  You hide where you can and then when someone least expects you, out you come ready to wreak havoc on the life of the woman (or man) you have claimed as “your own”, their family and their friends.  You think you rule with the upper hand but remember this breast cancer...we know so much more about you now and we are prepared to do battle with you and show you that we are not to be trifled with.

It’s true that some of the people you visit are not aware of your presence and you manage to get a firm grip into their lives and for that I say shame on you.  But remember this...we are educated now about early detection and having yearly mammograms and doing breast self exams and we are well informed about how you operate.  Oh yes we are.

After seven years, I still refer to you as breast cancer is small letters because even though you claimed a large part of my time and my energy and my life, you are still just this small, insignificant, bothersome little runt.  You do not deserve to be spoken to with respect.  You need to remember that whatever else you have brought into my life and the lives of so many others, what you gave me was the biggest gift of all.

You made me remember how much life is to be savoured and appreciated.  You reminded me of all the small and large things to be grateful for in my life, every single day.  You gave me freedom and you taught me how to deal with fear.  You gave me the gift of every day – that this day; the one I am in is the one that matters.   Not yesterday, not tomorrow but simply today.

When my hair started to fall out, I had my hair dresser shave it off and I loved being bald.  True, I wore a wig when I went outdoors and I lived in bandanas the rest of the time, but the minute I hit the front door, you know that wig went flying onto the bench in the hall.  And how many times did I open the front door to guests bald as a billiard ball?  And how comfortable were people with me...with the real me, the open, honest, bare to the bones this is who I am me?  But most importantly breast cancer, you taught me to love myself and to see myself right down to my soul.

You arrived thinking you were going to be my final nemesis.  You left knowing that I had the gumption, the spirit, the courage and the strength to say “not just yet”.

With fists up,
Sherry Smyth

If anyone is interested in making a donation towards breast cancer, please visit my Avon Page. And please take the time to help spread awareness this month about breast cancer. Change the background on your twitter page to pink or make a facebook post dedicated to breast cancer awareness. You will be surprised how something so small, can mean so much.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Where It All Began

Although I have been blogging for several weeks now, I have yet to really explain what the Avon walk is. As many of you know, I will be walking 39.3 miles for breast cancer at the end of this October. However, most people do not truly understand what this walk is about. So, today I want to share with you all the history behind this amazing event.

The Avon Foundation was founded in 1955 in the hopes of improving the lives of women and their families. Over the past fifty-seven years, this mission has been brought to life through two key areas of focus: breast cancer and domestic violence. Many people do not realize that the Avon foundation aims to help women with numerous types difficulties they may face throughout their life; most people only know about their crusade to end breast cancer. To fully understand the massive impact the Avon foundation has made on the world, here are just a few of the programs they have funded in the past decade:

1. The Avon Heart of America Fund - to support the families of those lost on September 11, 2001.
2. The Avon Yellow Ribbon Fund - to assist military service personal lost or wounded in Iraq and other armed conflict.
3. The Avon Heart of Asia Campaign - to assist victims of the tsunami in southeast Asia.
4. The Avon Foundation for Haiti Relief - to assist the American Red Cross response fund and Doctors without Borders who saved countless lives.

While this is an impressive list, it only scratches the surface of all that the Avon Foundation has done. They have also funded programs such as Project HOPE and the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Money has also been donated to aid those affected by Hurricane Katrina as well as, those affected by teen dating abuse. It is no surprise, that the Avon Foundation has grown into the largest corporate-affiliated foundation focused on causes that most impact women. Not only has Avon provided support and shelter to those in need, but they had also raised and donated more than $860 million dollars by 2011.

The Avon Breast Cancer Crusade is what the Avon Foundation is most known for, and for a good reason. It was founded in the UK in 1992 and since then it has grown to include programs in more than 50 countries focused on advancing access to care and to finding a cure. Of that $860 million dollars, $740 million was donated worldwide to make a significant and lasting difference towards breast cancer.    Avon is using their time and money to truly focus on ended breast cancer. Their researchers aim to understand the causes of breast cancer in women, the changes in breast cells that give rise to cancer, markers for disease, and how breast cancer progresses.

A video documenting the recent Avon Walk held in Prague, Czech Republic.

The most notable fundraising effort made by the Avon Foundation is the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. Originally founded in 2003, it has now spread nationally and worldwide to more than 50 different countries. Since it began, 173,000 people have walk and have raised $445 million dollars! In 2012, eight cities in America have committed to hosting an Avon walk. Santa Barbara, New York City, Charlotte, Houston, Washington D.C., Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco will each help aid the fight against breast cancer.

I will be walking in Charlotte, NC where last year more than 900 hundred people walked. Of those 900, there were 108 breast cancer survivors and together they raised $1.7 million. Of the money raised, the Avon Foundations donates locally, regionally, and nationally to support breast cancer awareness and education, screening and diagnosis, access to treatment, support services, and academic research. Over $15 million dollars has been donated to organizations and institutions in North and South Carolina, including the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, Carolinas Healthcare system, and Duke University.

This year does happen to be the 10th birthday of the Avon Walk and the Charlotte walk that I will participate in will mark the end of the eight walks in 2012. Seeing that I love birthdays, I could not be more excited to be a part of such a historical event. I urge all of you to recognize all that the Avon Foundation has done for women and their families since it was created in 1955 and to make a donation in order to help continue their cause. You never know what life has planned for you and it is comforting to know there are countless women and men around the world who will be there to help you in a time of crisis. So, return the favor and help those who need it now.

In only one more week, Breast Cancer Awareness month will be upon us! Start planning a way to celebrate the cause wether it means participating in a local fundraiser or simply by purchasing some Pink apparel. For those interested in making a donation, please visit my Avon page. And remember, no donation is too small!

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Few Steps Closer

After feeling stuck at the $1,400 mark for what felt like forever, this past week has helped to reenergize my efforts. Thanks to the support of many great friends, I am up to $1,900. Not only did I receive some more donations, but my percent night at Cantina 76 was a huge success!

The food was delicious, as always, and the margaritas went down smoother than ever. After an exhausting day in the hospital, a little Cantina was the perfect pick-me-up. We were able to raise $300 for the AVON walk for breast cancer and I could not be more pleased. So, for all those who came out, I want to thank you for your support and helping me get a few steps closer to my goal. Stay tuned for any future fundraising events and enjoy the weekend! 

A special thanks goes out to my manager, Rob Ward, who was more than generous for donating 20% of the sales and then some! For those who could not make it out, I strongly recommend you head out to Cantina 76 this weekend and enjoy some tacos and tequila. Also, donations can still be made through my AVON page. Thanks again!!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Did you know?

So far this semester, after only three weeks of clinicals, I have had numerous encounters with cancer patients. Wether it is in a specialized heart hospital or a psychiatric hospital, cancer is everywhere. In the past month, I have met people who are currently fighting brain cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, and colo-rectal cancer. While that seems astonishing, it is the sad truth that cancer is still running rampant through out our world.

I have done some research and have discovered some interesting facts about cancer that may scare you as much as they did me...

1. Over 1.6 MILLION people will have been diagnosed with cancer in 2012.
2. In 2012, it is estimated that over a half of a million people will die from cancer.
3. Of those people, one-third will have been related to obesity, physical activity, or poor nutrition.
4. In 2012, more than TWO MILLION people will be diagnosed with skin cancer, the majority of which could have been prevented with the proper use of sunscreen.
5. Cancers that can be detected earlier by screening account for half of all new cancer cases.
6. In the U.S., men have slightly less than a 1 in 2 lifetime risk of developing cancer.
7. Only 5% of cancer is strongly heredity.
8. Cancer is the second most common cause of death in the U.S.; heart disease is number one.
9. The overall cost of cancer in 2007 was 226.8 BILLION dollars.
10. Lung cancer is the deadliest cancer; breast cancer is second.

As a nursing major, cancer and death are more prevalent in my life than in other's. However, beyond my experience in the hospital, I have watched countless family members and friends suffer at the hands of cancer. I am no stranger to brain tumors, end stage lung cancer, skin cancer, thyroid cancer, colon cancer, and breast cancer. If we all stopped to take a minute, we would realize how ominous cancer truly is in our lives. After discovering some of these facts though, that should not be the case.

It is appalling to think that 33% of cancer related deaths are due to poor lifestyle choices. I am guilty myself of not always doing what is best for my body. As I have said before though, it is never to late for a change. A close friend of mind had been a smoker for the majority of her life but, she just recently celebrated being three months nicotine free, without the use of a patch or nicotine gum. She should be an inspiration to anyone reading this blog who smokes. It is not just nicotine that we as humans choose to use while being well aware of the toll it will take on our bodies. We continue to consume too much alcohol, use too little sunscreen, eat too much processed foods, and spend entirely TOO much time on the couch or behind a computer screen.

The worst part is that we are aware of the consequences. It is all over the news, on countless TV commercials, and on billboards across America, yet we never seem to listen. It does not have to be January 1st in order to commit to a change. Let today be the day you promise to walk 30 minutes a day, to quit smoking, to cut out sweets, or to cut back on the alcohol. No one in this world is perfect and we can always strive towards a healthier lifestyle. We are capable of more than we think; so let today be the day we wage war against cancer and take back the friends and family we knew who were apart of that 33%.

While I want you all to enjoy my blog, I also hope to empower you with knowledge. Do not let cancer take from you more loved ones than it should. Make a change and inspire a friend to, as well. Believe that you can do anything you put your mind to. And never be too ignorant to avoid the doctor. A little pain now is better than what may lie ahead. For those interested in donating to my walk please visit my AVON page here.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Rockstar Ronan

While my main intention for this blog is to raise awareness about breast cancer, I have recently come across stories of people fighting different types of cancer and I feel I should pay tribute.

The other night, on my drive home from work, I heard a story on the radio about a little boy named Ronan Thompson. This cute little baby was diagnosed with Stage 4 Neuroblastoma cancer in August 2010 at the mere age of three. After fighting for eight months, he sadly passed away this last May three days before what would have been his fourth birthday. Although his death is a tragedy, that is not the main reason his story has gotten so much attention. This little boy was blessed with an amazing mother who had created a blog, RockstarRonan, in order to spread awareness and to one day raise enough money to end childhood cancer. Some of you may think this is a bit much for one woman to take on, but it only takes one person with enough determination and passion to truly make a difference. To prove how much of an impact that one person can make, I suggest you all take a moment to read this article.

All it took was one mother sickened by the reality of cancer to start a blog, and now her son's story is national news and has been turned into a song that is at the top of the iTunes chart. If that is not incredible, I do not know what is. So today I want to switch my focus over to childhood cancer and ask all of you to donate to The Ronan Thompson Foundation.  Some of you reading already have children and realize that one of the scariest thoughts imaginable is the fear of losing a child. As for those of you that have not yet experienced the joy of having a child, like myself, it is incredibly scary to think that you could give birth to a child and have to watch him or her spend the majority of their life in pain. 

There are many more types of cancers out there that can affect people of all ages and races, and this week I want to focus on them. Cancer is cancer, no matter what part of your body it affects, and hopefully more people will pledge to end cancer just as Maya Thompson has; and who knows, maybe one day we will find a cure to all types of cancer. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Little Wisdom and a lot of Love

Although I have only been in classes for two weeks now, I have already enjoyed my first weekend getaway. For those of you who do not know me very well, I am constantly on the go. Whether I am bouncing back and forth between the library, the mall, and work, or between South Carolina and the Eastern Shore, I am never in the same place for long.  Some people find this way of life irresponsible while others just find it confusing; however, I have grown to love the adventure.

I am currently writing this post from the University of Pennsylvania, where my boyfriend attends.  Now, do not take me for one of those girls who throws away her four years of college life to run off to a boy every chance she gets.  I do visit him often but purely because I believe some feelings in life are rare and should never be taken for granted. Again, I am sure many of you are thinking that I am too young to know about love and that I should enjoy my youth but, I can promise you I am not naive and I am most certainly living my life to the fullest.  Regardless of where our relationship goes in the future, the happiness I find with him is something I never imagined existed. Cheesy, yes I know, but that is not the point. The point is that we are only given one life to live and I do not want to waste however much time I have not embracing love.

My whole life, my parents have been divorced, as well as the majority of my friends parents. These days, it is nearly impossible to look around and see couples that love, respect, and trust one another. The most basic qualities we look for in our relationships seem to only exist now in fairytales. I find that we have lowered our standards and no longer believe that what we picture in our dreams can become a reality. This goes both ways too. While we not only expect less than what we should, we also inertially do not treat others the way that they deserve to be treated. Friends, couples, and even siblings seem to no longer believe that love in all of its greatness, is real. Again, I am not an expert nor have I been married for 50+ years, but I can say that I know there is a feeling inside of me that has forever changed who I am.

I have dealt with a lot of anger growing up and I have become the happiest I have ever been so far in my life. I have opened up to my sister in a way most would never have thought possible (because we were already so close before). I am comfortable with myself, internally and externally. I have found a sense of confidence that had been hiding for many years. And most importantly, my faith in love has been restored. I do not attribute this all to my boyfriend... he is not that amazing. It is the relationship we have built together that has given me these things. We have managed to create a bond based on trust, respect, happiness, honesty, passion, and love. There are no secrets and no BS. Having someone in my life that can not only respect me, understand me, and love me for all of my craziness, my flaws, and my future mistakes, has made not afraid of life.

This post is not meant to be all sappy; it is meant to remind everyone that we should all expect the best for ourselves.  Whenever we find something that brings us to a place of true happiness we should embrace it. Do not let the fear of losing keep you from your dreams. Life is all to precious and I plan to keep traveling and exploring all that this world has to offer. There are millions people in this world and each is capable of changing your life. There are also countless places to see and explore.

If you ever get the moment to talk to someone who has survived cancer, hopefully they will also have a perspective on life similar to this. Speaking to family members who have beaten  cancer and who have also lost loved ones to cancer have also contributed to my views.  So while some people will judge me for driving 525 miles through the night to see my boyfriend or for pulling an all-nighter the night before a test at 8:00 AM to celebrate a best friends birthday, those moments are the ones that make my life amazing. If I was ever to be diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, I want to be able to look back and know that I have not wasted anytime and that I have enjoyed as much of this world as I can.

Please help those whose may not have as much time to fulfill their dreams due to breast cancer by donating HERE.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sometimes Less is More

Just when I thought I had nothing interesting to blog about today, this story popped up on my homepage...


Talk about doing something amazing! There are so many ways to spread breast cancer awareness and we are each capable of making a change in someone's life. There are hundreds of walks, fundraisers, and events we can attend, especially in the upcoming month of October. However, you do not have to do something as crazy as walking 39.3 miles or shaving your head. Kelly Pickler is clearly incredibly busy with her singing career, but even she took a moment to make a difference not only to her friend, but also to the public. By her shaving her head, she has shown women all over that there is so much more to life than a head of beautiful hair. What really matters is life and sharing it with the ones who love and care about you. If we are so unlucky as to be diagnosed with breast cancer, having loved ones there to support you will mean so much more than having to say goodbye to your hair and/or your boobies. Plus, they can both be replaced for something better :)

Although we may tell ourselves that we do not have time, we do. We all have the time to support those in need and I hope that if I can't inspire you to make an effort, than hopefully Kelly Pickler can.

Breast Cancer awareness month is October and I hope you each can commit to showing support in some way. Wether you can join a walk, hold a friends hand at her next doctor's appointment, or even purchase some breast cancer apparel. You CAN make a difference. 

Donations towards my walk can be given here.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Finding support (in something other than a bra!)

I can hardly believe that my last 'first week of school' has come and gone. While senior year is a time to celebrate countless years of schooling coming to an end, it is also a time to buckle down and make all those years of work worth while. I certainly did not expect this past week to be so brutal, but in typical nursing school fashion, it was. 

When someone says nursing sounds like an easy job

#whatshouldwecallnursing is probably the best blog to help explain what nursing school truly is like. It is also quite hilarious. 

As always, no time was wasted and my classes, my clinicals, and work all came storming out of the gates. However, instead of ending each day in an all out state of panic and anxiety, I was shockingly at ease. Looking back at my chaotic week, I realize that there were a few stand out moments that I truly believe helped derail my stress level. 

I knew that one of my number one priorities this month was going to have to be fundraising, and the realization of how much further I have to go was enough to get me moving. I have been hoping that my workplace, Cantina 76, would be willing to hold a percent night in order to help me raise money, so an email was sent out to my manager immediately. What I received in reply though, was more than I had ever anticipated. The majority of restaurants that commit to kicking back a portion of their sales to a cause typically agree upon no more than 10%. However, Cantina 76 has unbelievably offered to donate 20% of their sales that night. I am so grateful to not only work with some of the best people, but to also have owners and managers who truly care about their employees and are willing to help me out. 

Once the date was set, my next order of business was to spread the word; and of course, that meant Facebook. For the past few years, my entire nursing class has had a Facebook page that we use to communicate about classes, clinicals, and anything else that comes to our minds. So, I thought reaching out to my classmates would be a great place to turn to for support. Again, I received more than I had hoped. Not only did people agree to come out for the percent night, but some also took the extra step to donate. As if that wasn't enough to make me smile, I also had a classmate go as far as thanking me for committing to walk. Up until this far, I have dedicated my efforts to Melissa and every other woman in my life. When my classmate shared with me that her grandmother is fighting breast cancer for the second time around, I began to realize how life changing this experience is becoming. 

The more I have spread the word about this cause and my efforts, the more I have learned from my peers. I never expected so many woman to come forward and tell me their stories. Not only am I learning from them, but it is also lighting a fire in my soul to push harder to raise money. It has made me more driven to get up and train for the walk, and it has made all the hard work worth while. 

My goals for this experience are continuously evolving and each day I become more excited for the walk itself. I know it is still going to take a lot on my part, but this all is no longer work in my opinion, it is one girl doing her part to save a life. 

Please help me spread the word by sharing this blog with your friends and family. Also, please help me continue raising money by donating here or by attending the percent at Cantina 76 on September 18!