What Cancer Has Taught Me
by Paula Lundberg
Unlike my two partners, I am NOT a cancer survivor, at least not in the way that matters. I am, however, a different person today than I was two years ago, and a better one, I hope. Actually, I am the token ''well person'' in this partnership, and as the other two laughingly say the only one who is planning for retirement. My first REAL introduction to cancer happened when my good friend and favorite hair stylist, Chris McHugh, was diagnosed with breast cancer in June of 1997. Chris and I had known each other for several years, and the shock that I felt was nothing compared to what Chris and her family were going through
In the beginning, words felt so inadequate, and I wasn't used to verbalizing my real feelings. I simply listened to her as she intermittently talked and cried about her recent diagnosis and the upcoming treatment plan. A group of her close friends (myself included) bought angel pins. We pinned one on Chris as well as ourselves. Our vow to her was that we would wear the pins daily, until she was better, a regimen that I followed strictly. It seemed like such a small gesture, but it was so heartwarming to run into people on the street wearing the angel pin. It seemed to draw everyone closer together.
I did whatever Chris needed help with. I organized weekly meals, and I helped with the kids. I took Chris to radiation and chemotherapy treatments, and did anything else that she wanted done but hadn't the strength to do herself. My emotions rallied between wishing it was me and thanking God that it wasn't. Today, after 2 years, Chris is still taking treatment but she is doing well and has a decent quality of life. A month after Chris was diagnosed, My mother discovered that she had colon cancer. Surgery was done immediately, and she did not need treatment of any kind. For this, I am so very thankful. But it only served to remind me that cancer was in my life to stay, and now I had a family history of it. What has cancer taught me?? Two years ago, I didn't know what true, unconditional friendship was. Chris has taught me compassion, humor, courage beyond belief and selflessness. Her faith in God and her tremendous will to live have made me realize what is truly important in life, and that is love. I have learned not to sweat the small stuff-I have learned to say ''I love you'' to the people that matter, and I have discovered that all things happen for a reason. Sometimes, you have to suffer through the bad times to really appreciate the good times. And, finally, I now know what real friendship is all about. For that, I am truly blessed!
UPDATE Spring 2004
We at Choose Hope, Inc have just celebrated our 5th Anniversary and are beginning our 6th year in this business we call ''cancer.'' We continue to work incredibly hard to raise money for cancer research and have actually begun to see a light at the end of the tunnel. The past 5 years has seen many changes...we have lost our friend and partner, Chris, to breast cancer...Linda has just celebrated her 7th year of survivorship, my mother is a 6 year survivor of colon cancer, and I have never been healthier. Maybe sending my sons off to college had something to do with that!! My husband and I miss them terribly, but we are both so busy, and so grateful for everyday that we have been given that it seems ''life is good!''
Looking back, I would NEVER have pictured myself in this business of raising money for cancer. I have a degree in education, taught for a while and was a stay at home mom when the boys were younger. I owned a previous business, during which time I met Chris. Little did I know at that point that my life and that of my family¹s would change forever. This great job I have has affected all of us...my husband helps out whenever we need it (which is almost always)...and my kids have learned the importance of giving rather than receiving. Each Christmas, they pick a different cancer research facility and donate money in our names. How proud I am that, at their young ages, they have already learned that very important lesson.
Linda and I are busier than we have ever been, and Choose Hope has grown over 35% during the past year. It is on track to increase even more rapidly for this year. Our dollars are going to some of the best cancer research centers in the country, and we always designate them for "General Cancer Research." After all, cancer is cancer, regardless of the type. We are very proud and grateful that something that started around the kitchen table could evolve into the best job we could ever have asked for...we both realize that we all met at the same time for a very obvious reason. Perhaps this was our destiny...Thank you to all who made this possible, and we look forward to the day that we will be put out of business because a cure for cancer will be found.
UPDATE Summer 2010
Wow...time flies when you are busy! I was just looking through the new website and realized that I hadn't posted here in six years...It has been over seven years since we lost Chris...but truly not a day goes by that she isn't in my life in some way. Her beautiful daughter, Brianna, is now in college and is also an integral part of Choose Hope. In fact, after hearing about my inability to upload pics from my camera (my son had to create a word doc so I could remember what to do!), she asked, "How did you, Linda, and my Mom ever start a successful online business?" I am still laughing, but I have always believed that Choose Hope has a life of its own and that it will continue to grow because it is meant to...not necessarily because of Linda and I!
We have an amazing staff, with five of us being cancer survivors...we have moved to a 5000 square foot facility and use every inch of it...and we now post our monthly giving right on our homepage...how awesome is that! I have learned computer skills I never even knew existed, and I have also learned that we can no longer do everything ourselves.
There are only two goals left that Chris wanted to accomplish that we have not yet done; The front cover of People Magazine with us surrounded by Cancer Sucks buttons...OK, I don't think that will ever happen! And being guests on the Oprah Winfrey Show...but never say never! After all, who knows what the future holds for these crazy ladies that just wanted to make some buttons around the kitchen table!
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