Photo: Emily Long
Having lost my grandmother to cancer, I have always been interested in fundraising events for medical and scientific research. However, it wasn’t until my first Cancer Support Community (“CSC”) Young Leadership Council Red Ball that I realized how important the field of psychosocial care for people living with cancer truly is. The CSC was the first organization I had heard of that focused on the psychological and emotional well-being of those impacted by cancer – not just those diagnosed with the disease, but their family and friends, as well. After my immersion into the Young Leadership Council (“YLC”), I learned just how crucial this type of care really is – medical efforts are not the only kind that can make the difference between life and death. As Kim Thiboldeaux, President and CEO of the Cancer Support Community, says, “We want to move to a place where support and other services are integrated into the standard of care for patients. It’s not an add-on, it’s not an extra… it’s a must, it’s a necessity.”
While a team of dedicated and diligent board members and headquarters staff leads the Cancer Support Community, given the constraints of non-profit funding, the organization relies heavily on its volunteers. As Kim explained, the CSC is “reaching the heights that we’re reaching through our volunteer core, serving our mission throughout our country.” Led by Christina Raia, CSC’s Development Manager who serves as point-person for the YLC, the Young Leadership Council is a group of passionate young professionals who work together to raise funds and awareness for the CSC’s mission. My own experience with the CSC has been in this capacity, and, on October 19th, I will attend my fourth Red Ball. At this event, the YLC will demonstrate the magnitude of what New York City’s young adults can accomplish. I am proud to be a part of this group, and of the decision I made to begin dedicating time to this cause.
Joining a group like the YLC was the first of several new activities that I incorporated into my life when, a few years ago, as I approached my mid-20s, I realized that now was an appropriate time to start doing the things that I used to say I wanted to do “when I grow up.” I finally realized that I was technically an adult, living in a city with limitless opportunities, and letting them pass me by. After college, in a process of self-discovery that was outwardly focused on career development (and ultimately led me to law school), I learned a lot about myself that had nothing to do with wanting to be a lawyer. I became aware that contributing my efforts to a good cause was something that I definitely wanted to do. There was no reason not to get started as soon as possible, especially when such an important cause was sitting right in front of me. Moreover, I learned shortly after making my decision to get involved that my aunt had visited a Gilda’s Clubhouse (named for the CSC’s former self, Gilda’s Club Worldwide) during her cancer recovery process. This made it all the more worthwhile for me.
I had the privilege of speaking with Kim, who just celebrated her 12th anniversary with the Cancer Support Community, upon her return from launching a new CSC center in a Greenville, South Carolina hospital – just one of the innumerable examples of the Cancer Support Community’s implementation of direct service centers around the country. Since Kim began her work with the Cancer Support Community, the organization has opened a Research & Training Institute in Philadelphia, and launched an online community. There are plans to launch CSC’s Cancer Policy Institute in 2013, relying on the Research & Training Institute to demonstrate to Capitol Hill that the CSC’s work is not only effective, but imperative. As Kim explained to me, “this is a real need, and it is only going to grow as we see more cancer diagnoses, and more recurrences of the disease.” People need to know how to cope with the overwhelming emotion that follows a cancer diagnosis – how to manage the unexpected financial drain, and how to talk to their employers. The CSC also provides educational seminars for doctors and nurses, and programs on nutrition, exercise, and early screening. Psychosocial care is not merely a secondary line of treatment.
It is an honor to be a part of the YLC, and I am eagerly looking forward to October 19th. On that date, in the heart of New York City, we will come together to toast to the longevity of the Cancer Support Community, and we will celebrate the hope and strength that CSC bestows upon all of those impacted by cancer.
If you would like to join us at the Red Ball on October 19th, please visit The Cancer Support Community’s website for more information and to purchase tickets.