I’m often asked ‘How do you meet all these oral cancer survivors?’ Somtimes it’s through my website. Often, it’s because I’m not afraid to tell people what I spend my time doing: Raising awareness about Oral Cancer.
Last fall, it happens I was meeting my mother in northern NJ for a birthday facial at a salon. While I was waiting for her to finish her treatment, I met the owner of a nearby salon. He complimented me on my silver hair and cut. My hair seems to bring on conversation! When he asked me what I did, and I mentioned the words Oral Cancer, he dropped the clipboard he was holding. “Did you just say oral cancer?” he asked.
He told me about a young employee at his salon who was recently diagnosed and of course, no one heard of the disease before. No one knew what to do, how to support her. He implored me to call her and gave me her personal contact info. I followed through immediately.
Kelly is in her mid twenties and had been diagnosed with late stage oral cancer. Her speech was slightly slurred from surgery. She had a hard time talking about the details because when she did, she cried.
We kept in touch over the months during her treatment. When she asked me to speak at a fundraiser to raise awareness about oral cancer as well as money for young moms who need financial assistance during cancer treatment, I agreed.
Despite the tornado watch, torrential rain and wind, I drove the hour and a half to the restaurant where the event was taking place. Despite the weather, the event was a success. They sold 220 tickets at $75, had a handful of vendors, and a dozen baskets to raffle.
I met Maria there, who came because she, too, is a 1-year oral cancer survivor. During the event, I helped to raise awareness about this disease to another couple of hundred people. Soon, with the hard work of survivors like myself, the world will know about the early signs so late stage diagnosis will be rare……well, let’s keep hoping!