I’ve always been more of a giver than a receiver. It’s been a huge part of my identity and one of the ways I feel most fulfilled and purposeful in this world. Cancer really flipped the script for me. Not only did I need to rely on my mom financially, since I had been volunteering abroad and had no savings, but I relied on family and friends for other forms of support as well. My dad did a ton of research on the front end to help with my decision-making process when it came to hair loss and surgery. He also visited as often as he could. My best friends were involved in wig shopping, my hair shaving process, my first chemo and more. Everyone was more than happy to help with those things but it was hard for me to ask.
Luckily, those initial situations eased me into asking for help more and being more comfortable with receiving help. However, when one of my best friends, Joe, asked if he could help host a fundraiser for me with his gym owner friend, also Joe, I immediately said no thank you. I felt wildly uncomfortable with the idea of being on the receiving end of this type of support and I felt like I didn’t need it enough to warrant the massive effort of a fundraiser. He insisted and explained that gym owner Joe (henceforth referred to as Joe R) wanted to do an annual fundraiser event for someone in the community and told me about the previous year’s event.
It was beyond generous and while I truly felt uncomfortable with it, both because it was a huge endeavor to support me and because I hate being the center of attention, I ultimately agreed. I needed to humble myself and I knew that any extra financial support would ultimately help our situation. It was a lesson I needed to learn. Plus, they had a really fun idea that I knew I’d enjoy being a part of.
So, I met with Joe, Joe R and Tara to start planning. They wanted to host a team competition with various activity stations and a raffle with business-donated gifts. Everyone would also get a Contour for Cancer t-shirt and pink silicone wristband with entry. Who doesn’t love a good t-shirt and wristband? I wanted to do something small to contribute so I used my newly acquired woodburning skills to make winner plaques for the winning team members. I also secretly made a large wood carved sign for Joe R and his gym, as a thank you.
The Joes and Tara worked tirelessly to put together an incredible event. They outsourced help from friends and community members and it really was a team effort. I’ve never been so humbled and appreciative for the community that rallied for me.
The morning of the event, they went above and beyond (even though my Joe said he wouldn’t), and surprised me with a chauffeured Rolls Royce drive to the event. The best part about that is when they picked me up in the morning, my best friend Sarah popped out of the car! I thought she was still living out of the country and I had no idea she came home earlier than I anticipated. It was the happiest surprise and no offense to the Rolls Royce (which was pretty damn cool), but seeing her was the best gift ever.
So my friends Kim, Sarah, Joe and I arrived at the event in style, with a Starbucks stop along the way, because why not? I felt anxious as we arrived, knowing that all eyes would be on me as we got out of the car, but once the initial entrance was over, I felt a bit of relief. More people showed up than I anticipated, some to participate and some to watch. I was participating, of course, despite being a couple months into chemo at this point.
There were 6 team activities – truck pull, weighted farmers walk, weight sled push, squad push ups, tire flips and an inflatable obstacle course! There was also food, drinks, pink hair extensions, a raffle and more! I couldn’t have imagined a more fun, engaging, and health-focused fundraiser if I tried. Words will never do it justice so take a look at the video below (or at least parts of it since it’s 11 minutes long!)! Thank you to Jackie and Loren Fay for being the photographers/videographers for the event! I am so grateful to everyone who came out to support me and I will always try to pay it forward.
Cancer pushed me to learn how to ask for and receive help, and while it can still be difficult sometimes, I am grateful to have learned this lesson. It is a strength, not a weakness, to know when to ask for help. It takes courage, bravery, humility and vulnerability. We are not meant to do it all on our own. Reach out to your loved ones and community when you need support and give the same in return. It really is a beautiful thing.