If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you know that community involvement is very important to me, but I'm not sure if I ever told you why. Today I'm partnering with Medtronic and the Bakken Invitation to share my story.
My mother is a strong woman who came from generations of strong women. My father grew up poor. A lesson that I took from both of them was "If you don't like something, change it." My dad wanted something better for his life; he became a first generation college graduate. My mom wanted a job that allowed her to spend more time with me; she left corporate America and started a preschool. My parents never tried to make the world seem like a perfect place, and I'm appreciative of that. I knew from a young age that there were lots of injustices in the world, and it fueled my passion for helping others.
It started with Girl Scouts, then Locks of Love, then Junior Beta Club. In high school, I got involved with the local food bank. And in college, I joined Kappa Delta Sorority. The philanthropy focus was instilling confidence in young girls. As someone that was heavily bullied in middle school, and later bullied as an adult for losing a lot of my hair due to chemo pills that I took as treatment for a chronic illness, I found that being involved with a cause that had actually affected me was really therapeutic.
The biggest game changer for me was when I started to get involved with Relay for Life, less than a year after my cancer diagnosis. I was secretive about what I went through, yet somehow someone knew and recommended me for the committee. I was only supposed to handle survivor and caregiver activities, but the survivor speaker had a last minute conflict, and I was asked to speak with about 72 hours of notice.
The night of the event was an out of body experience for me. (I cry every time that I think about it, including right now.) When I took the stage to speak, my family was standing front and center in the crowd, surrounded by my sorority sisters. I talked about the things they didn't tell me when I was diagnosed with cancer. The negative things - like how visible my scar would be, how much my self esteem would be effected, how moody I would be, that I wouldn't be able to wear normal deodorant, that I would feel wracked with guilt for being a survivor. And the positive things - my mom and brother would be the best caregivers in the world, I would have the opportunity to speak candidly with my peers and remind them that none of us are exempt from cancer, my sisters would line the front of the stage while I share my secret with the world, and that my scar would become something I'm proud of. Y'all, I don't think that I've ever felt so at peace. That one experience helped me cope more than any counseling session ever could.
I really appreciate y'all letting me share something so personal with you. I hope that you will take the time to check out some people that really inspire me - the 2015 Bakken Invitation Award Honorees. The Bakken Invitation is a global program, launched by Medtronic Foundation in 2013, that connects and celebrates people who, with the help of medical technology, have overcome health challenges and are now selflessly giving back to their communities.
Medtronic and I want to hear your story, so we're offering a $100 Visa gift card giveaway! (Please note that you must be 18 years or older and US based to win.)
Entering is simple:
1. Visit the Bakken Community page for inspiration.
2. Leave a comment on this blog post telling us how and/or why you give back in your community or if you live with medical technology, share your story with us!
3. In the comment, be sure to leave either your email address or your twitter handle so that I can reach out to you if you're the winner. A winner will be announced March 20 :)
I can't wait to hear from y'all! Good luck & happy Tuesday!