In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’ve partnered with The Pink Fund. When you check out at Kindred Bravely, you’ll see a box where you can make a donation to this incredible organization. Throughout October, we’ll be matching your donations, as well as donating 5% of sales from our Shop Pink collection. We hope you’ll join us in supporting their mission, and we’re thrilled to share the piece below by The Pink Fund founder, Molly MacDonald.
Breast cancer was never on my radar as something I’d have to worry about.
With no family history and no lumps or bumps felt during my gynecological or self-exams, it never occurred to me that scheduling my annual mammogram between quitting one job and starting another would result in a phone call that changed my life.
My family’s health history was sound, I wasn’t overweight, and I had happily nursed all five of my children, but I had a couple other risk factors: the birth of my first child after 30 and my last on the cusp of my 42nd birthday. Throw in a nasty and financially devastating divorce, followed by a challenging re-entry into the workforce at mid-life, and I was ripe for some kind of stress-induced illness.
On April 1, 2005, I got the call. “It’s breast cancer.”
While my early-stage disease did not take my life, it took my livelihood.
It was impossible to find work while undergoing treatment. No company back then wanted to hire someone with a pre-existing condition, like cancer.
With no income, no savings, no alimony, and only sporadic child support, coupled with a $1300 a month COBRA premium to ensure my access to care, our family experienced what is now known as cancer-related financial toxicity, a side effect that can result in non-adherence to the prescribed treatment, co-morbidities, medically related bankruptcy, and in the most egregious of cases, earlier mortality.
Within three months of my diagnosis, foreclosure and shut-off notices were stuffing my mailbox. My auto lender kept calling to ask if they should plan to “repo” my car. I pulled out the cancer card, asking for sympathy and just a little more time.
I met with the hospital social worker and asked if there were any organizations that could help me pay a few non-medical bills.
She stared at me blankly. She did not have a solution.
It was then I had an epiphany. If I couldn’t get help, maybe I was supposed to give help.
I devised a plan to help women in active treatment for breast cancer who could demonstrate a loss of income. We would pay some of their non-medical bills for housing, transportation, utilities, and insurance directly to their creditors for up to 90 days. We knew that we couldn’t solve the problem, but we could mitigate some of the financial burdens, providing real help so they’d have one less thing to worry about. It was a financial bridge over troubled waters.
Since those early days when we bootstrapped The Pink Fund, we’ve grown into a highly respected national non-profit serving the critical needs of thousands of survivors and their families, giving over $4.5 million in financial assistance. While we can quantify how much we’ve given, there’s one thing we can’t assign a number to - and that is hope.
When I speak at events, I talk about the importance of research that might lead to the CURE - and I address the reality that we all die. I share that the work we do at The Pink Fund is ultimately about the healing power of redemptive hope.
I always end my remarks with this quotation from physician/patient/author Rana Awdish’s book In Shock:
We cannot define success as beating death because death cannot be beaten. The undeniable fact of death remains, imposing and impending regardless of our temporary victories. How we care for each other during life is the true restoration—the definition of agency. That is the win, the success we must look for and mark and define ourselves by. Our ability to be present with each other through our suffering is what we are meant to do. It is what feeds us when the darkness inevitably looms. We cannot avoid the darkness, just as we cannot evade suffering. Loving each other through the darkness is the thing to look for and to mark. It’s there, in the shadows, where we find meaning and purpose.
For information on how you can help us spread love through the darkness, please visit our website.