Sunday, October 17, 2010

Shoes Filled With Dollars -- Jill Haines

When I began to write this series of tributes to breast cancer patients and survivors, I was determined to avoid pleading with readers to make donations to anything. The purpose of my effort, after all, is to highlight the extraordinary characters of regular people who graciously and tenaciously battle the demons of disease and misfortune. Instead, I had planned to set an example by making donations of my own to each featured cause, and hoped that others would follow suit.

But, today, I have changed my mind. I write to do that very thing -- to ask for money for breast cancer research. What brought about this change of focus? Yesterday, in Virginia Beach, Virginia, I saw the faces of all those whose names are listed on this blog's "wall of honor." It was unmistakable -- their fear and determination, their agonies, hopes, and dreams, all mirrored in the faces of thousands of men and women, some survivors, some friends, and some family members of those who suffer from or have succumbed to breast cancer. During yesterday's Race for the Cure, a part of this country's eastern seaboard was awash in symbols of pink -- pink shoes, pink hats, pink gloves, pink banners -- all signals that the fight continues and a cure surely is on the horizon.

As I ran, I quietly recited the list that's been building here for many months: Emily Jean Thorn, Linda Ramsey Beam, Linda Jessee Mills, Libby Holter, Kaira W., Lynda Boyd, Vanny Mam Cain, Sue Michener, Betty Godby, Tricia Keegan, Jennifer S., and Jill Haines. And, it was that last name -- Jill Haines -- one of twelve companions to thousands of other names printed on people's backs, that changed my mind.

Some time ago, Jennifer S., who is herself a survivor of breast cancer, requested a tribute in memory of her dear friend, Jill Haines. Of Jill, Jennifer remarks, "Jill is an 11 year Stage IV survivor. As the years have gone by and the treatments have changed, she has shown amazing resilience in dealing with the side effects of the various chemos while living her life with incredible enthusiasm." Jennifer's tribute to Jill continues to reflect her deep admiration for her friend.

I am asking that you read her story and imagine that her story could be that of your mothers, daughters, sisters, or that of yourselves. Imagine her passion for this life and her vision of a world without breast cancer for all of you. I am asking that you take the time to read this, and pass it on to everyone in your mailbox and pass it on to your school or church group. I am asking that you take the time to confirm her belief in the power of one dollar. . . .

Recently, Jill and I had a conversation about the power of one dollar in regards to funding research. Jill is alive today because of the dollars that were donated for breast cancer research over the last 25 years. She is currently on a drug that was not available just a few years ago. However, she is running out of options, and her life, like so many others, depends on the continued funding of research for breast cancer. The drug that may save her life might be right around the corner.

As with most of us as we face our mortality, Jill is wanting to make an impact on this world before she leaves it. Its been a rough couple of months for her and she wants to do something that will leave a big footprint on this earth, with her name on it. Great minds think alike, because last year, when I was training for the Breast Cancer 3 Day, I constantly thought about the impact I could have, if I could just get one dollar from all the people driving and walking by.
It is no wonder that Jill was so compelled to promote funding for cancer research, even as she struggled through years of chemotherapy for her own illness. Jill lost many loved ones to cancer, and wrote about those experiences on the Komen website.

I have lost my surgeon to cancer and many friends. Also my parents. I turned to Komen 3 years ago because I lived the dream of hope and wanted to share. The first year is definitely the hardest, because of all the emotions that come into play and life style changes. Year number 2 is one of uncertainty. Every cancer survivor wants that year number 5. The magic number. Why do we count? Are we counting down the days, or counting the days we are alive. Before Cancer days didn't matter.

Sadly, Jill's days counted down, and on September 18, 2009, she was stolen from friends and family by this ferocious disease. But, her friend, Jennifer, continues to promote Jill's impassioned plea. What if everyone donated just one dollar to research for finding a cure for breast cancer? What if it was YOUR dollar that found the cure? What if it was YOUR dollar that saved someone's mother, sister, or daughter?

To Jill Haines, whose shoes I borrowed yesterday to run The Race for the Cure: they lifted me beyond a sore ankle and an aching knee. When discomfort challenged me, or self-doubt reared its ugly head, your shoes propelled me forward, and I considered the vastly greater discomfort of those twelve names that were listed on the back of my shirt. Even though it's likely we will have the distinction of being the very last runner to cross the finish line, still we made it, and I was so proud to take all of you with me.

But, one last race-related task needed attention. I needed to return Jill's shoes with appropriate gratitude. So, this morning, Jill's shoes are full of dollars in the form of a $100 donation to Komen in the fight against breast cancer.

Donate, donate, donate -- $1, $5, $10 -- it doesn't matter. Just click here. Cushion the way with dollars for all those who must travel a path fraught with breast cancer. The step you take by donating could be the one that finishes the race to find a cure!

To Emily Jean Thorn, Linda Ramsey Beam, Linda Jessee Mills, Libby Holter, Kaira W., Lynda Boyd, Vanny Mam Cain, Sue Michener, Tricia Keegan, Jennifer S., Betty Godby, and Jill Haines, thank you all so much for your inspiration and encouragement along the way. I will never forget you!

Here's to the next mile!

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