I always considered myself to be one of the lucky ones — in good health, delighted with my job and surrounded by a loving family and friends. In 2000 that was shattered in an instant when I heard: "You have breast cancer and you need to have surgery immediately." I was so angry —I'd thought I'd done everything right and to hear those words...
As NBC5's on air Nutrition Contributor I decided to share my experience with our viewers, not the norm in 2000. So there I was — going into surgery complete with a producer and camera crew. For the next 14 months the cameras were ever present and the resulting special,One Woman's Story, won an Emmy. More importantly it brought cancer out of the closet. Recognizing the impact of the medium I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to create a cable show on CAN TV for The American Cancer Society. Viewers called in live with their questions. And that 13 week series changed my life.
There are the haves and the have nots where access to timely quality medical care is concerned — particularly when dealing with a topic as emotionally charged as cancer. The CAN TV viewers were, I discovered, using our show as their primary care physician. Every week I would return calls that did not make it on air and would offer suggestions from the perspective of one who had access to anything and everything medicine had to offer. My eyes were opened — people were not reaching out for help because they felt they weren't worthy due to a lack of financial circumstance. Awful.
I remember the night the foundation was born. I came home from the cable show and burst into tears and spoke about what I was hearing. My husband — a man of few words — asked what I was going to do about it. "Start a foundation." I said. At that moment I heard my mom's voice: she had two favorite sayings:
"There is always a silver lining"
"We are all family and we have to help each other through the tough times."
And in 2002 a Silver Lining Foundation was born.
We have three programs, each an outgrowth of the previous one: The Chicagoland Cancer Information Coalition provides cancer resource information and treatment options, The Evelyn Goldberg Center (named for mom) provides quality of life services to medically underserved individuals going through cancer treatment and Buy A Mom A Mammogram ™ funds cost free screening mammograms and diagnostic follow up to women (and men) who otherwise would not be able to afford these potentially lifesaving tests. We also "take our show on the road" by sponsoring neighborhood outreach Health Fairs providing cost free health screenings and educational materials.
Our goal — to take these programs nationwide. Why? I think of that day when I heard those words, "You have cancer." I remember how I felt. I have learned a lot since then — Mainly how lucky I was. Our mission — to provide that same sense of inclusion, warmth and love coupled with timely and dignified access to cancer resource information, outreach and testing.
I know my mother is smiling...