After returning from a non-stop 48 hour volunteer continuum, I couldn’t help but notice the polar differences and similarities between the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) Survivor Scientist Program in San Diego compared to the AVON Walk for Breast Cancer here in Houston:
1. AACR was an international event hosting researchers from around the globe in the glorious beauty that was San Diego where the weather was perfect, the sun was shining and the air was light and fluffy. While at AVON there were also walkers and volunteers from California walking around Houston where the weather was humid, windy and down right sticky. From my view, I could see the AACR annual meeting as a larger macro-event connecting directly to the AVON event serving as a hub to the Houston micro-environment. The educational dollars raised by our local Houstonians will continue to support and train health care workers that will ultimately care for patients with cancer using the latest diagnostic tools and treatments presented at AACR.
2. While AACR is focused on Cancer Research and hosts a hot bed of amazingly talented individuals working together to focus on cures and harnessing breakthroughs, AVON was mainly filled with the local community of walkers using their strength to walk 39 miles over two days and their ability to fund raise at least eighteen hundred dollars, for what? To fund patient navigators, educational programs and screening for our local community. Which goes to show you that every single person can make a difference fighting cancer together.
3. Attending my first AACR, I was thrilled to meet new friends and see familiar faces in a setting that promoted new ideas and thoughts in a collaborative, open forum. While at AVON, I was also thrilled to meet new friends and see many familiar faces in a setting that promoted movement and action across my hometown. We all have something to give when it comes to fighting cancer, and it could be time, talent or your treasure. For instance, last year I only made it through ten miles until my right foot tightened up with plantar fasciitis, so this year I recruited more walkers and then became their personal crew volunteer to help them when they needed it the most. Along the way, I volunteered for Rosie the Riveters luncheon crew as we fed more than one thousand hungry walkers on both days, which allowed me the chance to see, talk to and thank almost every single one that came by, and this included a researcher at Rice that hasn’t even graduated yet that I met last year who is now already planning to stay for a MPH and I couldn’t be more thrilled to know her.
4. Lastly, the sheer volume of the entire AACR experience made me feel as if I was totally spoiled. It could have been the gorgeous view from my room, or the attention to every detail of our program, maybe it was the gracious researchers that answered every question, maybe it was the lab tour with Dr. Kuhn, or even the incredible meals that were lined up for us, or it could have been the ride in the electric car to find tiaras for the Data Diva’s Presentation before our closing ceremonies? I still can’t put my finger on what made it so special, because it was the entire experience in itself. Compared to the AVON experience where I was part of the army of crew volunteers making sure every detail was covered for all the walkers on their two day journey, and spending the weekend in a friends apartment that didn’t have drapes when I needed it to be completely dark to sleep, or handing out napkins for hundreds of lovely ladies that I thought to myself, Martha Stewart would be proud! To me, as I see it, there is balance in this world. And right here I have detailed exactly how it happened and continues to happen to us all.
5. What comes around goes around and when I finally got home last night and I was going through my mail I came to an envelope with a blank piece of paper wrapped around a check from one of my clients, then another envelope with a blank piece of paper wrapped around a blank check for me to make as a donation. Then, I opened a thank you note from the Cancer180 conference at MDA and another one from YSC that both reminded me that what I am doing makes a difference every single day. All of my time runs together so that from volunteering to consulting there is a balance that allows me to bridge the spectrum from cancer research advocacy to education and ultimately prevention. There is balance within me as well.
6. Lastly, what I am thinking about today is all the feedback I received from the poster session that makes me smile and woke me up early this morning. While wearing a Survivors in Science embroidered lab coat and standing in front of my 8 by 4 poster; Yes, I am a Girl Scout, so if you say it needs to be 8×4, then that’s exactly what you get – that I had a tremendous response and was inspired by everyone that came by to ask questions, give their feedback and ultimately take my idea to the next level. I am inspired to continue and keep going with new found ideas and support including an Advocate Toolkit as I will offer my time to share my story and present the poster and the toolkit to new audiences of advocates with special insight on exactly what I learned after spending 2013 making a difference with my time, talent and treasure.
You are welcome to view the poster and hand out in the Resource Documents section and inquire about upcoming opportunities to share the presentation, toolkit and order a Survivors in Science lab coat.