Thursday, October 11, 2007

Be Part of the Difference

The store's weekly newsletter is now up, and for those that just can't wait for it to arrive in their email box tomorrow morning, you can go here and check it out. There isn't anything in that newsletter that I don't want you to pay attention to, but there is something in there I want you to pay special attention to.

If you've been out in public in the last 2 weeks you've no doubt seen people wearing clothing items that have a pink ribbon on them, in honor of October being breast cancer awareness month. Many businesses have a limited line of products manufactured just for this reason, and donate a portion of the sales of those products to various cancer support/research groups. Cafepress, the good folks that host my own t-shirt & gift shop are doing that very same thing again this year.

Early in September they put a call out to shopkeepers to donate designs for the 2007 Breast Cancer Donation shop, and I created and submitted one. Knowing that 40% of the retail price would go to a good cause, I was more than happy to participate. I can say I was delighted when I learned my design was accepted for inclusion in the project, but I must say I was quite stunned to learn that out of the thousands designs submitted, mine ("hope") is one of six featured on their storefront. It is indeed an honor.

In this week's newsletter you'll see this:

HOPEFor every item sold in this shop, $1.00 will go directly to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation - Ontario Division.

Show your support with every purchase.

When I learned that my first design was accepted as a donation to the CP shop, it occured to me that I could do even more, by creating another one with the idea of donating a portion of those proceeds to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. I want you to buy things in this shop. I want you to buy them for yourself, your sister, your daughter, your cousin, and anyone else you know who's lives have been directly touched by breast cancer. For every product sold in the CP shop, 40% goes to a cancer research and support group based in the states - and for every product sold in my own shop, $1.00 goes to the Canadian support and research group.

For those folks who's lives have never been directly affected by cancer, I'd like to take a few minutes of your time to give you an idea of what it's actually like, day to day. While I do not have first hand, personal experience with breast cancer, I do have first hand experience in being the primary caregiver for someone that did battle cancer.

When my late husband was first diagnosed, the only treatment option he had required him to 1.) quit his job and 2.) travel 60 miles one way for the treatments. He was to undergo specialty care and the local medical facilities weren't equipped to handle that. This is quite common for a large number of cancer patients, quitting jobs and travelling away from their homes for treatment is all a part of the process.

For the first two years, travel was constant and it was not optional. It didn't matter if we didn't have gas money, didn't have ferry tickets, or didn't have a babysitter. Staying on the protocol for the treatment was critical to its success, and that was the #1 priority. There were times when we had to make the choice to buy groceries or not, take the kids out of school and bring them with us (if we knew we wouldn't be home before they got out of school), or to sell things we owned to come up with enough money to meet these financial needs.

When we would arrive at the medical clinic, there were almost always other people their with their kids in tow. They were forced to make the same choices we were, at times. There were often entire families in the waiting rooms, and what a blessing it was that the staff at the medical centers made the waiting rooms as kid-friendly as possible. There were single women there, without anyone to sit with them and wait. There were old men there, with their wives at their side. There were small, bald children, trying to play with the other kids as they waited to be seen, and sometimes those precious little bald kids just quietly waited in a wheelchair or waiting room chair, without the energy to play with the other kids. All of these people and their families were going through the exact same thing we were, no matter what kind of cancer they had. A cancer diagnosis indeed affects the whole family, and the whole family's life and routines change overnight, to mee the needs of the one diagnosed.

On more than a few occaisions, we would be blessed with donations from here or there. Folks knew that Ben had to quit his job, and they knew we had kids to feed. Sometimes it was a surprise mention from the paratransit driver that his bus fare had been anonymously paid for the month. Other times it was a voucher for the grocery store, donated by a local cancer support organization for families in need. This sort of thing happened more than I can count, and it happened because people were willing to give, and to help. Just sitting here thinking about it, I find myself thinking "how did we make it through that?" It was a very hard time, and something I wouldn't wish on anyone, ever.

The "things" that we had that were worth anything, we sold. We even sold things that weren't really worth much, but when your choices are keep it and have $0.00, or sell it and have $10.00, the choice is pretty easy. That $10.00 was ferry fare for 3 round trips, at the time. It wasn't long into those first years of struggling through this, that everything worth anything that we had, was gone. Insurance was a blessing, but insurance doesn't cover the costs of everything, that part is up to you.

That's just one small aspect of this. While the financial burdens are overwhelming for many families going through this, the emotional, spiritual and physical burdens are all in full swing, and all operating concurrent with the stress of the financial burden. In an effort to meet those needs and be a ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on, and a practical help with housekeeping and other domestic needs, there are various support organizations set up in most communities that are funded expressly through public donations. They exist to help meet the needs of the cancer patient and their families, and they are truly a Godsend to countless numbers of people. (Please know that I am not advocating that your local church family isn't a much needed support at a time like this, but in many cases there are patients without a church, and even if you do have one, these organizations and support groups exist to help, and that's a wonderful thing).

When you or your loved one is diagnosed with cancer, as much as you want to pretend it's not going to happen, your whole life changes, and so does your family's life. Even if you are independently wealthy, which most folks aren't, you suddenly find yourself in dire need of help and support from people. People who are willing to be there, to give of their time, their money, their hearts and anything else they've got to offer. You become dependant in many ways no matter if you want to or not. It's just the way it is. You learn first hand where the money goes when people make donations or purchases that benefit such groups. You find out that it does in fact go to local grocery store vouchers, retail store gift certificates, transportation aid, resources and educational materials for local support groups & so much more. You may not have ever wanted to learn this first hand by being in need of the services these groups have to offer, but there you are all the same. It truly changes your entire perspective to be the one on the receiving end of a charitable organization.

I've told you all this because I've been there, and I've thanked the Lord that He's put it on the hearts of even unsaved people to give, and to support such things. I've had $15.00 dollars in donated ferry vouchers in my hand, and been so grateful that even though that week's grocery shopping was going to be at the local foodbank, at least we had the ferry cost covered by a donation. It's not an easy way to live, but it's a stark reality for many families going through a battle with cancer.

Groups like the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation and the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, exist to make this experience not only bearable, but Lord willing, some day non-existant. Every donation you make to groups like these, or every purchase you make from merchants that partner with them, makes that possible. So yes, I really really want you to click that link up yonder, and buy something. If you don't want to buy a product, then at the very least, find a local charitable organization that is geared to assist cancer patients and their families, and give there.

I cannot express enough just how much of a difference it really does make.