I am thankful for The Downtown Club and all the beautiful people I had the pleasure of working with during the time I was going through initial treatment in 2009. They actually called me in the middle of chemotherapy to recruit me as a Membership Director working at the largest Club centrally located downtown on top of the Allen Center Parking Garage. It was 181 square feet of tennis courts, regulation sized basketball court with famous players stopping by often, spin studio full of bikes, yoga studio, kids space, lockers rooms with all sorts of amenities, dining room that was always packed on Fridays for lunch and even a bar where I hosted many networking events. Even though I loved meeting new people and helping them find balance in having a membership where they could get away during the day and focus on themselves, I found myself inspired when they could see that advocating for themselves made them happy.
Meeting great people every single day from so many companies in the area meant that I had the opportunity to share my story about health including daily exercise, a positive mental attitude and nutrition. I was a testament to the fact that I did have something that I could control over my daily life, even though cancer seemed out of control. Of course, my focus was on women because they were the ones taking care of their entire families and leaving themselves last. By the time they found me, joining the Club meant they had a place of refuge where they could meet friends, network, take care of themselves and just relax. At one point, women were telling me things they had not even told their own mothers! I was their trusted advocate and this inspired me.
When The Rose and Susan G Komen offered to utilize my voice as an advocate during their Breast Cancer Awareness campaigns, I took these opportunities with utter seriousness. My voice was reaching larger audiences and I felt that I had a duty to share the honest truth about my story. But when my segment aired during the Five O’Clock News, the only person who shared the excitement was the bartender from the Club. Then, when questioned about how long another segment would take to film, I felt pressure to cancel but I had to make a decision that would affect my future. And that was to agree to share my story including how Pink Pilates Affected Survivorship, especially since I taught Pilates before I was recruited to the Club. More and more my advocacy took priority when my time was being questioned, but more and more I felt a moral duty to continue sharing the voice of a survivor who had made it through chemotherapy without getting sick and while running around Memorial Park and dating. I was making a difference.
One day during lunch, one of the kitchen staff came to me with an envelope full of money and offered it to me for my work as an advocate. I immediately returned it to her asking for a check so that I could make a donation in their honor to a non-profit making sure to return the donation receipt back to her. She said that they had found a bag of pink ribbon pins and had been selling them throughout the Club raising money for Breast Cancer and wanted it to support my crusade. Actually, my friend had to translate everything to me during lunch since I do not understand Spanish, but this lady, I’ll call my Angel, was so passionate about making sure the money went to me that I took it upon myself to make sure every single dollar made a difference.
Imagine how it felt and how it still feels to have a signed check with the amount written in, but the rest is blank. From then on I had a check in my purse ready to go when I found an opportunity to make a difference for a nonprofit specifically for cancer programs. At one point the Knock Out Roses support group needed business cards to promote the group and when nothing was done to purchase the cards, I pulled out my check and made it happen. Those business cards helped to promote the group to others that needed support. When I got approved to become a CanCare Support Network Volunteer and attended training, I utilized another check. Since then I have been matched with a number of women who can count on my support. When the Breast Health Collaborative had their Summit and I needed to register as a complimentary survivor, again I used a check. During the Young Survival Coalition fundraising events I used a check. Every time I made a donation, I would send Alta the receipt letting her know where the funds were being used to support other women going through breast cancer. And many times, once I became unemployed from the Club and while I was volunteering, the check was the only way I could make a donation.
After leaving the Club in the Fall of 2010, I figured the checks would quit arriving but they continued and so I continued making donations depending on the programs that I was associated with because I felt that I could make sure the funds were being utilized properly. From one letter in 2011 she wrote, “Thank you for allowing us to participate in this great task to help others. God Bless You.” Every month I would just smile when the letter arrived, because my now I knew her handwriting. Angel’s blessings were the seed funds for any and all of my successful fundraising efforts towards Komen Runs, Pink Ribbon’s local rides and YSC West Coast Tour de Pink. By now, stewarding collaborations among nonprofits had become my specialty.
In 2012, I received a business card in the mail as it came out of the letter along with a blank check. One of the staff at the Club wanted me to call him and so I did. To his surprise, he had no idea that the staff at the Club had been collecting money in which to send the checks to me each month. He could not believe that even when Angel was sick she made sure the collection was made and the checks kept coming to me as I kept returning receipts. He told me that she collected five dollars from ten people every month so she could send me a blank check for fifty dollars so I could make sure it went to a breast cancer nonprofit. By now, I had a file of her envelopes stapled to the letters where I would write down exactly where the money went and when I sent a thank you note.
Angel and her blessings would give me the opportunity to not only steward my time as an advocate but also make a donation to programs supporting breast cancer. The Downtown Club has taught me so many things, and continues to do so even today. My desk never runs out of thank you notes as I continue to steward their donations and fundraise for so many programs. I am thankful for everyone at ClubCorp for recruiting me a total of four times to their Clubs in Houston and California in the past, because this is where I became a true advocate spending my time making a difference for those who need it most. Her letters are happy reminders of my work at The Downtown Club as she is constantly telling me to “keep up this great task, and they are happy to make this little contribution,” before signing off with “God Bless You.”
In 2013, I was invited to an event at the Club and while I was there I asked about Angel but she had already left for the day. I’ve often invited her to events as a very important guest but she continues to decline the invitations. From her letter, she was so proud of me when I graduated from the LINE program through Rice University Glasscock School and could only feel joy that over the past four years they had invested in my work as an educated patient advocate as I continue to seek education and funding for a future without cancer.
Thank you & God Bless You All