Why Cancer? Why Swim Across America?
There’s a huge difference for me between what is private and public information. As both a poet and a blogger, I've always had to negotiate this. Sharing why I'm raising money for cancer research toes that fine line.
I would do it because cancer affects us all, because we need to raise money for research (if we don’t, who will?), and because Swim Across America is a non-profit whose intent and plan I’m confident in. However, I’m writing this because my participation in this organization and the three mile swim I registered for is more than that.
Indeed, when I signed up for Swim Across America - Charlotte, I was excited about helping local research at the Levine Cancer Center. I love open water swimming, and my mom is even coming in to swim with me.
Too many of my family members have died of cancer. The first was my aunt, Cheryl, who passed away before I even understood what cancer was. Just last December, a friend, Becky, died of brain cancer; her medical team at the Levine Cancer Center fulfilled her greatest wish: to marry her fiancé before she died, organizing a beautiful ceremony for her. My aunt, Sue, passed away from cancer in mid-June; the day she went into hospice, I was actually volunteering at a Swim Across America fundraiser.
And my dad, who has spent the last year fighting bladder cancer, recently found out there are no treatments that will currently work for him. While he’s still looking for other options, they seem fewer and fewer. His girlfriend graciously brought him to visit Charlotte in mid-August because he kept asking to see my home, trying to find a way to visit us in our first house. While he was here, he found the strength to make it through the visit with most of a smile on his face, but he only briefly looked at the garden and carefully walked up the stairs to see my wall mural and the built-in bookshelves and dormer windows.
I try to remember that cancer is no longer a death sentence; cancer treatments have improved exponentially. In May, I visited a wonderful friend in Brooklyn who just beat breast cancer; she spent the summer in Montana writing a novel. So, see? There is hope.
But how do we keep that hope? I think the most we can do is to support research. And that’s what Swim Across America does.