Written By: Cailin Kelly
I am Cailin.
I am 30 years old.
And for the last 17 years, breast cancer, has been in the forefront of my existence.
17 years, that is a long time. More than half my life. Those two words have truly shaped who I am as a person. It has shaped my entire family and the paths we have chosen to follow in life.
My Mom, Barbara, she was diagnosed with breast cancer initially in June 1999. She was told the news while we were coming home from a family vacation at Ocean City, New Jersey. We were in the car, we being my two younger sisters, my Dad and my Mom. It is a vivid memory that I will never forget. Sitting in the car on the Garden State Parkway, confused by the words my mom kept repeating.
“I have breast cancer.”
At 13, you don’t know how to process those emotions. You feel helpless as you watch your mom go through two surgeries, multiple rounds of treatments, the emotional roller coaster of it all, all while trying to keep her family together. Today, I still don’t know how she did it.
That was the beginning.
Since then, my Mom has been a survivor for 14 years before the breast cancer come back in August 2013. Again, another successful fight. But as of April 2015, she has been dealing with the effects of a meningioma brain tumor that is a common occurrence with women who have breast cancer.
You may be wondering why I briefly laid out 17 years of my family’s history with breast cancer above. I don’t think my Mom’s story is unique, on the contrary – it is unfortunately all too common. My Mom is one of millions of people who have been personally touched by cancer. And that knowledge is overwhelming to me.
When my Mom was re-diagnosed in 2013, I immediately felt like the helpless 13-year-old in that car on the Garden State Parkway. I was lost and scared. I could not comprehend what to do. I felt helpless. When we started to share the news, I was encouraged by my family to take control. To do something, ANYTHING, no matter how small it might be to give myself and my sisters the sense of control.
And with that small urging, I created a fundraising team for the American Cancer Society. I set a goal of $1,000 to be raised before the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk that was 7 weeks away. I gave my team the name of Barbara’s Rack Pack, because come – it’s funny. And as long as we were laughing, we weren’t crying.
We shattered that goal of $1,000 in less than 20 hours. We shattered every fundraising goal I conservatively set that year. In less than 7 weeks without doing anything but TALKING about the issue, we raised $8,000. Which got our little team noticed.
Since then – I found my voice and my calling to do all that is within my power to make breast cancer a little less scary. I have been fortunate enough that yes I have a voice, but people were willing to listen… and the right people at that.
Since that faithful day when I decided to take control, my team has raised over $40,000 which has been designated towards breast cancer research, specifically for treatment and cure options. I have spoken in front of top national donors at ACS events. I have met with the new CEO of the American Cancer Society, Gary Reedy and told my story and emphasized my view on the importance of designating as much funds as possible towards research in treatment, cures, and new preventative measures. And I currently sit on the Advisory Board for the American Cancer Society’s New York Chapter where I frequently get to weigh in on important topics for the organization.
I do all of this because it is the only way I can feel in control. It is my form of therapy and coping with the fact that my Mom is forever haunted by this disease. I do this because I want to be able to one day tell her she doesn’t have to be afraid of what the next test results might say.
I do this for her and every survivor. I do this to honor every person who has lost their battle. I do this for my sisters, god-daughter, everyone who I love so they can grow up in a world where the words breast cancer no longer bring fear.
I do this because I am tired that we are all one-degree away from cancer.
I truly believe that we are not a moonshot away from finding a cure, I feel we are much closer.
I am Cailin, a daughter, a sister, caregiver.
I am 30 years old.
And I am doing my part in finishing the fight against breast cancer.
Note From The Hobbyist Life:
At the Hobbyist Life our main goal is to celebrate amazing women doing awesome things, Cailin Kelly is a prime example . Her selfless passion to help others is nothing short of inspiring. We salute Cailin, her mother Barbara and all the other amazing women who have fought and continue to fight to end this disease that touches so many people we know. Below we are including the link to Cailin's fundraising page, know that no amount is too small to help in the fight to end Breast Cancer.
To Donate to Cailin: http://main.acsevents.org/goto/cailinkelly2016