The past two days of my life have been absolutely fantastic. I had to start a blog just to describe to the world how wonderful I feel. Lastnight I helped plan a fundraising event for The SAMFund. This foundation means so much to me, and let me tell you why.
As most of you know, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, stage 2A with bulky mediastonal disease. Luckily, I have been cancer free for 2 years and counting. Treatment took almost a year, about 10 months of ABDV chemotherapy, plus one continuous month of radiation. I did really well, and avoided getting too sick during treatment, minus one complication. I discovered that in April of 2007 I couldn't breath, well barely could. After going to the ER, the doctors realized I was allergic to Bleomycin, one of the drugs in my chemo regimen. I was treated over the next month for lung disease (the side affect of the Bleomycin, which is very rare), and got to carry around my personal oxygen supply :) Other than that though, I stayed very healthy. As you can imagine, the bills piled up. I was lucky to have health insurance through BCBS, but that didn't mean I got off scott-free. I owed money to my chemo center, my surgeons, my breathing specialist, my radiologist, etc. Besides medical bills, I had the rest of the bills we all get to experience: phone, rent, utilities, tuition, groceries, etc. It became very overwhelming, very fast. It got to the point where I feared going in for my post treatment because I was a few thousand behind on my next minimum payment due. Scary, right? I felt like I was drowning. The day I became cancer free was bittersweet. For one, I couldn't believe I overcame the disease, but I was the happiest that I had ever felt in my life. I had a huge financial burden on my shoulders though, that was really weighing me down. I was terrified.
I will never forget the night I was at my friend Liz's apartment, having dinner with her and her fiance, Mitch. I remember freaking out to them about rent, bills, etc. I was asking for advice, what do I do? Mitch actually knew about a foundation that was out there to help people like me. They told me about it, and I thought it sounded wonderful, but to be honest, I was also thinking why in the world would anyone be able to help me? First of all, I'm healthy again, so I don't deserve it, and secondly, I didn't think I would be chosen to get a grant. I went home and looked it up, and immediately realized what this foundation represented. They were there to help people trying to survive, post cancer treatment. They help out with real world financial problems, that are impossible to pay when you've just sold your soul to the medical world to be healed.
I applied, and patiently waited. Sam (The founder of SAMFund) called me one afternoon while I was on the train leaving Union Station after class. She told me that I was receiving a grant from the SAMFund. I literally was speechless, but at the same time I wanted to scream because I was so honored, and so happy. I couldn't though, because the 50 people sitting around me on the train would think I was crazy. That day was the second best day of my life. The SAMFund helped out in so many ways, I cannot even put into words how much they've changed my life, and therefore, opened up opportunities for me.
So back to these past 2 days....
The SAMFund is located in Boston, and they decided they wanted to try for a fundraiser in Chicago, to spread awareness, and of course, raise money! I was on the Chicago Committee, and we planned a huge event at Joe's on Weed St. The turn out was amazing. There were so many people there, it touched me heart to see everyone. Everyone was so supportive, and so generous. Also, I got to meet Sam that night. Before I met her, I felt like I knew her. I had talked to Sam so much, but I couldn't wait to put a face with the name. The moment I met her, I almost started crying, because I couldn't believe I was actually meeting the woman who did SO MUCH for me, not to mention, she is a survivor of two non-related cancers. She is an amazing woman, and I was overcome with emotion on meeting her. The event was amazing, and so far, we've raised $10k from last night. THAT IS AWESOME.
I am a passionate person. I am passionate about everything I do, but I haven't found my niche in life. After participating in this event, I found it. I felt a kind of happiness that I've never felt before. It may sound cheesy, but it's the only was to describe it. Knowing that this event is going to directly help out young survivors like myself brought upon this feeling of greatness. It still hasn't gone away, and I hope to volunteer for the SAMFund for the rest of my life. I met the most wonderful people last night, and hope to stay in touch with them.
As scary as some of the stuff I've been through sounds, I wouldn't change a thing if I could. Going through what I went through made me into who I was supposed to be. I learned life's worth of lessons in those 10 months, and am continuing to learn. I see the bigger picture, and am forever grateful for what I have. The SAMFund is a wonderful foundation, and I don't know where I'd be without them.
Tonight I got to hang out with most of the committee for dinner, and it was so much fun. The night went by too fast, and I was so sad it was over. It was hard saying bye to Sam, but I plan on going out to Boston for the SAMFund events! I want to thank you all for your support through everything, and if you made it out last night, thanks again. It touched my heart. If any of you know anyone who has been touched by cancer, please check out Imerman Angels, one on one cancer support connecting cancer fighters, survivors, and caregivers. If you know a survivor between the ages of 17 and 35, please tell them about The SAMFund! I never thought I'd be chosen for a grant, but my prayers were answered. It's within reach. Have a wonderful night.
This is Sam & I, the founder of SAMFund, who changed my life.