I’ve received a lot of questions asking why I have such a vested interest in the Komen Center. In order to fully explain that, I have to get a bit personal, and while I will try to not make this into a Spanish soap opera, some parts of it may seem that way.
I grew up in your normal, everyday middle class household about an hour and a half north of New York City. I grew up with an exemplary older brother (Alex), a cherished younger sister ( Alyson), and two loving, hardworking parents (Jay and Janice). We never had to worry about our next meal or where we were sleeping, thanks to my parents.
When I was 13 I learned my mother was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. When I was 14, I learned that it was terminal. When I was 15, she passed away. And only when I was 18 did I learn my mother had fought the disease ever since I was 10 (I was born in 1986).
Only looking back do I begin to understand how much of a toll the cancer had on my family. There was so much going on behind the scenes that my parents purposefully kept from us. To this day makes my admiration for her and my father, that much greater.
Early in my teen years, I knew my mother went to the doctor, underwent chemotherapy, did radiation, and was constantly being used as a pin cushion for the massive amount of shots and IV’s she received. We all wore her wig when she lost her hair from Chemo. But we had no idea how serious the situation was, partly because we were not informed, but also partly because we just was not mature enough to understand.
I just didn’t understand how sick my mother felt when she would work all day then give us a lift to soccer practice. I had no idea that the real reason she would watch from the car was because being in the sun made her feel nauseous. I was clueless as to the reason why she would spend all day in bed listening to Andrea Bocelli’s “Con te Partiro” and not being able to eat. I knew she was sick, but to a 13 year old it ended there.
When I was 14 I went from being an immature adolescent to a mature young adult. I had to. We all had two. Could an immature adolescent carry their mother from her bed to the car to be driven immediately to the hospital? Never. Could an immature adolescent bare to look at your very mother, the one who cared for you and consoled you, gave you advice, and scolded you, with no hair, green-tinted skin, with IV’s and heart-machines around? Not a chance.
I’ll never forget leaving the hospital that day. That was the day I said goodbye to my mother. It was the day it hit me that I would never see her again.
My mother was the lynch pin of our family. She did everything and was everything to all of us. No matter how materially wealthy any of us become, we will always be poor.
To this day , everything I am I owe to my mother and father. After my mother’s passing, my father held us together. I would not be here if it wasn’t for my father either. Life was not easy afterwards. We did not always know where we were sleeping or where we were eating, but we managed. We managed because my father held us together, and my brother, sister, and I banded together.
So back to my original question, “Why the Komen Center?” I have been actively involved with the Komen Center since I ran the NYC Marathon and raised over $11,000. Each dollar we raise could help that one mother, sister, daughter, or friend could receive that mammogram early enough to beat breast cancer. Or maybe that marginal dollar we raise could help that breast cancer fighter afford shark cartilage, more vitamins, or something as simple as green tea. If not, maybe it helps that one recovering family plan their next meal or resume a normal life.
I am not writing this for sympathy nor will I accept any. I am extremely grateful for all that I have and have learned to appreciate what you have. I am writing this because it is our responsibility to help others if we can, and if we can, we must.