I met Sharon years ago when she attended a community yoga class I taught. She is talented in so many ways, and one of the hardest working women I have ever known. She is raising her youngest daughter as a single mother; she is an accomplished and notable artist in our community; as well as a licensed massage therapist and a loving, giving human being. Sharon is one of the good ones, and loved by many.
After graduating from massage school she worked for a local chiropractor as well as at a local massage therapy chain. She also made a room in her home dedicated to healing others. Shortly thereafter I lost touch with Sharon when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My yoga classes stopped and I started "The Big Fight". Little did I know that soon Sharon would follow me down that dreaded path, also with breast cancer, but so much more serious. I found out through a dear friend and fellow yoga student who called me one day to check on me and said, "Hey, guess what? Sharon has breast cancer, too! I went to get a massage and she can't work. She's in pretty bad shape."
Sharon has Stage IV Inflammatory Breast Cancer. Her left arm is swollen from lymphedema and she is in agonizing pain all the time. Sharon's dreams are now on hold as she fights for her life. Her 26-year-old daughter, Tara, lives nearby and helps Sharon with her 13-year-old daughter (Tara's little sister), Maya, as much as she can. Sharon had to stop working quite some time ago, and is on a very limited fixed income. She has gone through 11 rounds of chemotherapy, numerous operations, and 37 rounds of radiation. She is currently on an experimental program which showed promise for a while, but the doctor recently told her the treatment is no longer working and her cancer markers are again on the rise.
The struggle continues - the stress of this horrific disease is bad enough, but she also has to deal with the high costs of medical treatment, as well as everyday life; and all this without her income since she cannot do massage or create art. She now finds herself three months behind on her mortgage and facing foreclosure. This is just wrong. She should not have to worry about her young daughter being homeless while she is worrying about how long she will be able to fight this cancer and stay here to try to raise her little girl.
Sharon has applied to numerous breast cancer foundations for help, but the truth is, there are too many in need and not enough funding. Sadly, very few of our donations to fight breast cancer actually end up in the hands of the struggling, helpless person who has this devastating disease. Most donations go to research and advertisements.
I made it through this terrible journey and I feel so blessed. It was incredibly tough, but I am feeling much better now. My heart goes out to Sharon, who is living now on sheer force of will. She is running out of options. The only thing keeping her here is the fact that she has a teenaged daughter who needs her mother. Even so, Sharon is slipping further and further into debt and pain.
Trust me; those who have not walked this path have no clue. You cannot imagine the pain of cancer, but this particular cancer is even more insidious, eating your body up from the outside in. Sharon had a recent hospital stay because plural effusion pushed her heart into her sternum. Two gallons of fluid were removed and she had a collapsed lung. Her arm is now wrapped from shoulder to fingertip and is swollen five times the other arm Her chest is deep red and black with blisters of the cancer breaking through the skin - but she goes on. I am telling it like it is: be thankful each and every day for your health, and don't take it for granted. Sharon was a strong, healthy, creative, active woman before this horrible diagnosis changed her life forever. I am reaching out to each and every one of you to take a moment and imagine walking in her shoes.
I would like to help my friend. I would like to put the past due mortgage payments behind Sharon and Maya, and have enough in the bank for at least a year of mortgage payments and lots of good, healthy food in the fridge. I want Sharon not to have to worry about how to keep the lights on while she is fighting to keep breathing. I know a lot of people are asking for money when there is very little discretionary income to go around. I know some will think this is a scam (it's not.) I know some will simply not read this because they feel they can't make a dent in the need in the world. But we can make a dent here, and now. We can ease the fears and burdens of a single mom, that her little girl will have what she needs if mom can no longer provide it. We can show that community comes together to fill in the gaps where society fails. We can help make life better for this family.
I believe in miracles. I also know there are people out there who could pay off Sharon's mortgage and not bat an eye. I know Sharon is only a few steps away from that person, through us, her friends. Our responsibility and ability is to SHARE this with everyone we know. And ask them to share it with everyone they know. And to give, even if only $5. Ten thousand people giving only $5 each would put $50,000 in this fund, to show Sharon that she is cared for, she is not alone in this battle, that we hear her cry for help, even though it is soundless in her throat. So whether one person gives a lot, or many give a little "“ we can do this. Be part of community, make a difference. Make a statement "“ we won't let even the least of us walk this frightening path alone.
There is a story that I will share, partly because Sharon loves the beach and the ocean so much, and partly because it says very succinctly what I have tried to communicate here in far too many words. It was inspired by the writing of Loren Eiseley:
Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work. One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a person moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself to think of someone who would dance to the day. He began to walk faster to catch up. As he got closer, he saw that it was a young man and that he wasn't dancing, but instead he was reaching down to the shore, picking up something and very gently throwing it into the ocean.
As he got closer, he called out, "Good morning! What are you doing?"
The young man paused, looked up and replied, "Throwing starfish into the ocean."
The man replied, "I guess I should have asked, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?"
"The sun is up and the tide is going out. And if I don't throw them in they'll die."
"But young man, don't you realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it. You can't possibly make a difference!"
The young man listened politely, then bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves. "It made a difference for that one!"
We may not be able to help EVERYONE - but we can make a difference for THIS family.
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