I wrote the following piece for My Heart Your Hands, an organization focusing on building awareness for the late effects of cancer treatments, about what the idea of hope, honor and healing mean to me.
When I first felt the lump in my breast, my stomach immediately dropped. My gut instinct was that something wasn’t right. My head repeated the mantra, “It’s probably nothing,” but my heart could not be convinced. Following that gut instinct, I went to the doctor where a breast exam led to an ultrasound, which led to a mammogram, which led to an immediate biopsy. Breast Cancer. My worst fear was realized that day and my world turned upside down.
After enduring a bilateral mastectomy and chemotherapy, I came out of my active treatments with a strong desire to give back. I was fortunate in so many ways. I had a very active support system, which helped me and my family through some of our darkest days. I had health insurance, which covered the cost of expensive surgeries and treatments. I had a husband who not only stepped up to the plate to become an amazing caregiver, but his medical expertise helped me to navigate the foreign and frightening journey through “Cancerland.” I was lucky compared to so many others travelling this same path.
But I kept coming back to the question, “What does this mean for my girls?” My daughters were nearly three and five years old when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. How could I help prevent them from walking this same road? Supporting medical research seemed to be the only plausible answer. When I went exploring for ways to donate to specific medical research projects that might help my girls, I found that there was no easy way for me to direct my money to projects that might specifically impact them (genetics, vaccines, etc.). Given the popularity of crowdfunding in other areas, the idea for Consano was born.
Our mission is simple: To provide a platform to enable individuals to donate directly to specific medical research projects, advancing medical progress and empowering individual action. I am a firm believer in the power of community, and crowdfunding epitomizes that for me. Together, we are stronger. Because Consano was created from the perspective of a patient, the guiding principles are the ideas of hope, honor and healing.
Hope, to me, is the maternal instinct I feel as I look at my daughters. I want to make things better for them. I want the world to be a better place for them. I want breast cancer to become a benign concept to them, something that I faced as a young woman, but not something that is a part of their every day (as it is for me). Every story I hear from other families impacted by cancer just reinforces that hope for me, the hope that the suffering, pain and loss experienced by so many at the hands of this awful disease will lessen, that we can all have a part in making things better.
Honor paints a picture of my grandmothers, both of whom had breast cancer. My paternal grandmother was taken by it before I had the chance to meet her. And I have vivid memories of visiting my maternal grandmother in the hospital after her bilateral mastectomy. I remember seeing the scar across her chest where cancer marked its path. But I also remember the many years I had with her after that point, the memories that we were able to make. I created Consano to honor those women, the women who came before me, who walked the same path. And I know there are so many families with a similar story.
Healing. Consano means “to heal” in Latin, and that is really the ultimate goal of medical research, that it will lead to better care, treatments and survival. The dictionary definitions of “heal” include:
1. To restore to health or soundness; cure.
2. To set right; repair.
3. To restore (a person) to spiritual wholeness.
For me personally, creating Consano has helped with that third definition. We might “survive” cancer, but how do we ensure that we go on to live, and not just survive. Consano has given me an actionable way to stay involved in that process of making things better. That has been immensely helpful in my inner healing, and really that of my entire family. My greatest hope is that the Consano platform empowers others who have been touched by illness to connect with and support research that matters to them.
Because together, we are stronger.