In 2004, my family packed up and visited Chicago. I wasn’t sure why at the time, but I have since learned that we went to say goodbye to a friend so close he was more like family. Barry had been battling leukemia for some time, and my parents had learned that he was nearing the end of his life. At six years old I was unfamiliar with death and with cancer, but I will never forget the heartbreak I saw on the faces of Barry’s loved ones once we had learned of his passing.
In 2012, I watched my mom lose one of her oldest, closest friends to ovarian cancer. I watched her and her friends from high school travel across the country to Minnesota for one last hurrah with their best friend before she was gone. I talked with my mom about how chemotherapy was impacting Jodi and about the fear she was feeling. I watched my mom grapple with the fact that a loving family with two young children was torn apart by this horrible disease. I still see her family trying to navigate life without her, six years later.
In 2014, ten years after losing Barry, I watched my Grammy die of lung cancer. I remember being called out of class to say goodbye, but not arriving to the hospital in time. I remember watching my Papa lose the only woman he ever loved and my Grandma June lose her only daughter. I remember the funeral and the pain, and I remember countless loved ones traveling the country to honor the woman we all loved so much.
In 20 short years, I have lost more people to cancer than is tolerable. In a world with such astounding scientific advances we should have cures for the different types of cancer, and no child should have to lose loved ones to this horrible disease.
Though I am most intimately familiar with my own story, I am not alone in my losses. Over 600,000 people in the United States alone die from cancer annually, and nearly 1.75 million people are diagnosed a year. Cancer has touched the lives of countless people, and will continue doing so unless we stop it.
When I was informed by a family friend that the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network was searching for interns, I was immediately drawn to the organization. ACS CAN is a leading voice in the fight to end cancer, and I am perpetually inspired by their work and their passion.
I applied to the Grassroots Campaigns division of ACS CAN because I believe grassroots organizing is the lifeblood of every successful campaign – political or otherwise. Thus far, I have researched candidates, helped plan a conference later this month, and sat in on meetings with organizing leaders from around the country. I cannot wait to pick up new skills and learn more about the world of issue advocacy while working on such a compelling, just cause.
No matter what field I ultimately enter, I intend to spend a few years after undergrad working on community organizing or campaign management. Whatever skills I acquire this summer will almost undoubtedly help prepare me for my future in advocacy, and I am very excited to see where this internship takes me.