Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Lessons in Survival – from which we ALL can Learn

On Sunday, April 22, at the Komen Philadelphia Affiliate’s Survivors Celebration!, I was honored to present an outstanding survivor award on behalf of UnitedHealthcare to one of our own, Susan Affeldt. Susan told me she traveled the 1,370 miles from Duluth, MN not to receive “her award,” but to celebrate the lives of everyone in her breast cancer survivor family. As we sat on the dais – looking out at more than 600 survivors and loved ones gathered, laughing and crying as others shared their stories, hearing families stand up and cheer – my emotions ran high.  It was impossible not to feel empowered, as well as grateful, to be part of a community so full of hope in this fight.

As noted in the Survivors Celebration! tribute journal, UnitedHealthcare chose Susan for this honor because:

“To those who know her and have been touched by her many means of outreach, Susan is the embodiment of a warm embrace - offered at the perfect time, whether that time be one of anxiety, fear, clarity or celebration. When you meet her, there’s no doubt much of Susan’s embraceable demeanor stems from the love she carries for her son, who, at just three years old, was her inspiration to face and defeat breast cancer in 1992. She extends that same love and appreciation to everyone united in the quest to end breast cancer, as well as those she seeks to support, especially children who have family members with cancer …”  

As I read this excerpt, it struck me how “full circle” breast cancer – a disease diagnosed 3,756 times a day in the U.S. – travels. I had that ‘ah-ha’ moment connecting Susan’s ability to draw from the strength of her son to survive, and her dedication to helping other children deal with breast cancer… with our sponsorship of the first-ever Kids for the Cure®: UnitedHealthcareDash to Make a Difference.

This Mother’s Day at the Susan G. Komen Philadelphia Race for the Cure®, approximately  500 boys and girls aged 3-12 are expected to join the fight against breast cancer by participating in The Dash. Those numbers speak to the cruel fact that with one out of every eight women diagnosed, the number of children who have either lost loved ones to breast cancer or experienced them in treatment, is staggering. Silence about the disease and its impact can actually intensify children’s fears. Not involving them in the fight for a cure can contribute to their feelings of helplessness in protecting their adult loved ones against breast cancer.

The Dash to Make a Difference will embrace children in the same hope and sharing experienced by adults at the Survivors Celebration! At the event, we’ll help kids realize and celebrate the more than 2 million survivors living in the U.S.—including their moms, neighbors, teachers, aunts and grandparents. We will give them a real way to get involved and to show that they care. Most important, at the end of the Dash EVERY child will receive a medal, placed on him or her by a parent or adult loved one. Again, I get goosebumps thinking about the hugs that are going to take place at that moment – the ultimate demonstration to these youngsters that they will never be left to face breast cancer alone. I invite you to be there with me to experience it!

And, if you are a woman who is facing a breast cancer diagnosis, treatment or recovery, I invite you to visit UnitedHealthcare’s Source4Women website at www.source4women.com. It’s everything healthcare for women. It’s a place where you can talk to health topic experts and even connect with women with similar health or family concerns. You can also follow us on Twitter:  @Source4Women

Sue Schick presents UnitedHealthcare's Outstanding Survivor Award to breast cancer survivor Susan Affeldt

Sue Schick gathers with "Kids for the Cure"

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