I STINK at fundraising. Let's establish that simple but staggering fact RIGHT NOW.
So, why is she fundraising if she knows she really bad at it??
Ego, folks. HA! Nah. Maybe...? More like...REDEMPTION.
This back story is a bit long - it ends after two excruciatingly verbose points, but please bear with me. It is my truth and I feel that I owe it to my DFCI Jimmy Fund team - the RoadRunner Russells - and to the potential donors who read my fundraising page.
My first and last attempt at fundraising was for a ASHA for Education, a really great charity, in 2003. It was an epic failure. There are many reasons for this, but there are two main ones that I like to call "umbrella causes."
1) The minimum I had to raise was $2620. I was training to run my first marathon - 26.2 miles - and I had NO fundraising experience. I was so thrilled about the running part that I ran 11 miles during a long training run instead of the scheduled 7 as per the plan that I was given for first-time marathoners. I did endure the minor setback from an overtraining injury but I remained undaunted. The fundraising part? That part made me break out in hives. And stress-sweat. I've reeked better than that after a hard run...
The thought still frightens me. ZERO FUNDRAISING EXPERIENCE and given the task of raising thousands of dollars. What was I thinking? Selling biscuits and candy for the Girl Scouts or camp does not count. With THAT, there is a kind of instant gratification for the donors, usually for less than $20.
With raising a large amount money for a charity and having a very limited network, the donors are only TOLD their contribution is helping a noble cause that may seem abstract or may seem saturated with enough donations for them to politely overlook the cause as critical. I'll come back to this point later.
And...there is no box of Thin Mints or Snickers bar at the end.
That may seem cynical of me, but it is my personal experience. Or, maybe the donors just didn't like me. Like I said, my fundraising record has made me the black sheep among the fundraisers I know.
2) The second reason is even more personal: Running and raising money is something I personally cannot do. Why? Because...
a) I don't have the talent that it takes to network with donors, which was probably the aspect that made fundraising so terrifying. Speaking to people makes me feel like I've eaten Tonne-Tongue Toffee (any Harry Potter fans?) and I can't speak and when I do the words end up sounding like gobbledygook. While sweating and trying not to flee from the donors, I know all too well how important it is for me to talk about this noble cause.
So, networking to raise money = large spider (NOT the Daddy Longlegs variety). Cue the hyperventilating, clammy hands and terrified, bulging eyes and at the same time feelings of wanting to do the right thing (to effectively and humanely remove the eight-legged, eight-eyed interloper from the premises).
b) Ultimately, when I actually joined a competitive track club, I realised that I have and will always run for the love of the sport; never for exercise or for any other different but equal reason. I don't want to pretend that I can raise a lot of money AND perform really well in a race for that same cause. I also have a long way to go to achieving my aspirations as a competitive runner, therefore I think I should concentrate on running when I am running.
And...there's the conflict. The battle between something that is akin to an unpaid profession and a personal pledge to help others and TA-DA...! The makings of an award-winning short film, folks...
FAST-FORWARD 17 YEARS LATER...
I am still stressed about raising money and networking with donors. That part hasn't changed!! Oh and there's no Oscar-winning short film about my internal conflict either (surprise, surprise). Though, the hives aren't as bad (haha)...and I have brokered a deal with myself.
Being someone who walks almost everywhere when I'm not training, I was inspired by the millions of people who do it for a great cause. Thus a deal was born. As recently as 08/03/2020, actually!
When I read the Jimmy Fund Walk email on the morning of the 3rd and subsequently registered for the webinar, I was uneasy with the idea of raising money at first, given my history. Then, while I attended the webinar, I was increasingly inspired by the organisers and really wanted to participate in it in some way this year, because volunteering like I did last year was out of the question, due to COVID-19.
I also thought of how cancer patients, given their immunocompromised state, were faring in the middle of this pandemic. I thought about how, if they didn't have cancer, some of them would not even have other comorbidities that made them more susceptible to such an awful respiratory disease, that we're finding out has possoble long-term effects for survivors.
As a Dana-Farber employee, I thought about the all the cancer patients whose diseases I read about as a Research Data Specialist in the Haematological Malignancies / Cell Therapies department. I thought of my own futility in the face of this pandemic and decided that simply wearing a mask, practicing good hygiene, etc., were not nearly enough to help such a vulnerable population.
I must participate, but how? I stink at fundraising...
Then, I thought of how relaxing walking is for me and how I don't have to concentrate on preventing injuries, pacing, my breathing, training every day and maintaining a balance between a "good" nervousness and quashing the "bad," before an upcoming race.
I realised then that it was possible for me to focus on the fundraising. I have set myself a challenging but hopefully attainable goal of raising $513.10. I thought it would be better to land on the moon this time instead of some distant star that would require me to raise $1310.
I. Am. Not. THAT. Confident.
In. My. Fundraising. Skills.
Maybe next year...?
I also realised that there are a lot of people who can relate, via some personal experience - be it as patients or friends or family members of patients - to some kind of cancer. Making my personal pitch as to why you should give ME the money to donate to this worthy cause will always give me hives or make me stress-sweat, but cancer makes its own case as to why we need more research to help reduce the pain and suffering of its victims.
We all know "cancer" is a terrible diagnosis to hear from your doctor, regardless of the outcome. Think of the gamut of emotions many people might feel when they hear that diagnosis before any treatments have been discussed: Shock, loss of hope, anger, a sense of betrayal, worry for their loved ones, (possibly) regret, etc.
My own experience with cancer was a non-human loved one's diagnosis of stomach cancer that had metastasised to other organs. His body was ravaged by the disease. He lost his vivaciousness; became gaunt, lethargic and only ate to comfort us. Cancer had claimed our beloved cat, Stitch. However, it is my personal opinion that cancer's victims can be sentient beings of any species and the diagnosis is just as devastating for their loved ones. Stitch passed away in our arms peacefully and knowing he was adored but not before his physical body took a tremendous hit from the disease.
Many of you reading this may have never had a cat, dog or another non-human family member, but know what cancerous malignancies can do to your human loved ones. Imagine what they had to endure every waking and sleeping moment. Imagine their fortitude while struggling through pain in the face of a potential death sentence. Whether it's the disease or the chemotherapy or both, the entire process is unpleasant, even for the survivors, until they are in complete remission with little chance of relapse.
Certain cancers transform to more aggressive malignancies (transformation of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia to Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma) and some therapies/treatments and medications can have debilitating side-effects (Veno-occlusive disease, Graft vs Host Disease; Diabetes Mellitus type 2). Improving the quality of life of patients receiving treatment is one of the top reasons why cancer research is so important. To say that making all cancers preventable, regardless of the patient's genetics is an ultimate goal for researchers, would be an understatement.
Cancer research has progressed quite a bit even in the last 10 years. Treatments have become specific to the detailed genetic information of an individual patient's disease instead of being a "one size fits all" approach.
At Dana-Farber, researchers have found that certain proteins that cancer cells use to avoid being attacked by the immune system can be blocked by antibodies. These antibodies strengthen the immune defences and have shown positive signs in treating melanoma and other cancers. This is just one of many examples why cancer research is critical.
Earlier in this bombastic explanation of why I would like to participate as a walker in the 2020 Jimmy Fund Walk COVID-19 edition, I mentioned that some donors might feel that a cause has enough supporters. Remember that? I can assure you that cancer research is one of those causes where, while there is A LOT of support, it is NEVER saturated with support.
There is always need for more support to eradicate the physical, emotional, psychological and financial tolls (among others) this disease takes on the patients and their loved ones. More support for cancer research means less deaths from cancer and better outcomes for patients who have been diagnosed with some form of it. It also means that researchers will have the resources to make breakthroughs in cancer therapies and treatments and therefore make treating its various forms a lot more affordable.
Please donate for this worthwhile cause! I have donated $13.1 (+ $5 fee) as the first step toward $513.10 since I am walking 13.1 miles on the 4th of October. There are $495 steps remaining and the deadline is Halloween!! Do it definitely for the patients and also for the people and pets who love them! It might just prove to me that fundraising is not the tarantula I encountered the first time I attempted to raise money for a good cause. Second time's a charm, right? Or...something like that?