Friday, May 30, 2008
Yes, I still care!
Today is May 30th which means it’s the last day of the month. Moreover, today marks the last day of national Skin Cancer Awareness month. It signifies the first Skin Cancer Awareness month in five years when I haven’t been proactively pushing the cause.
I feel so guilty!
Some cancer crusader I am, huh? The co-founder of The Cancer Crusaders Organization – the proud home of the official Skin Cancer Awareness ribbon – has neglected to host an event or even publicly acknowledge the cause this month. No speech or seminar, no conference or fundraiser – I haven’t even written any educational articles or blogged about skin cancer/sun safety this month.
In truth, I’ve been feeling guilty about this all month. Cancer crusading used to be a full-time [volunteer] job for me – I’d put in countless hours of work into it. After spending a full day at my real job for 8 or even 12 hours, I’d devote more hours working into the night (not to mention the hours spent on volunteering my weekends). The lack of time, resources, and manpower didn’t matter. I was passionate. I was relentless. I was dedicated. I was a “cancer crusader”.
I’m still a cancer crusader, though. I still wear the official Skin Cancer Awareness pin on my jacket lapel. But, I don’t wear it on my shirt every single solitary day like I used to for nearly four years. I still have a gallon jug of Blue Lizard Australian Suncream next to the front door of my apartment, and carry travel-sized bottles of it in my purse. I’m still the Willy Wonka of sunscreen samples, disbursing them freely whenever I hear someone’s been burnt or spends gratuitous amount of time outdoors without protection. Yet, I have about 50 emails requesting free samples to be mailed that I haven’t even answered. I think about those emails everyday thinking I’ll have a chance to answer them/send them samples, but by the time a free moment arrives I’m getting ready for bed. I just can’t seem to pull all-nighters anymore – I need at least seven hours of sleep to be functional at my job; my livelihood. Besides, walking eight blocks to the post office in the middle of the night isn’t exactly a wise idea). I still cringe with annoyed disgust at advertisements that promote tanning beds and perpetuate misleading/false information about sunscreens – I’m still tempted to write a letter in complaint. I still think about updating the ONLY SKIN DEEP? Book, and finally finishing the second one that’s about 80% done. (Actually, it’s been written but still needs some tweaking/editing/revision/reorganization.) I still pray for people I know touched by the disease, read the monthly email blasts the EPA sends to stay abreast of current trends and pertinent issues related to skin cancer/sun safety, I still try to help others with their skin cancer projects (i.e., Skin Sense), and I still wish there was more that I could do. I STILL CARE.
[But] life happens.
As the years pass, there are different things that demand our immediate attention. Our priorities don’t necessarily change, per se; rather, certain priorities require different things – a different level of personal investment and commitment – at different times in our life. As we grow and progress, our priorities grow (and “adjust”) along with us. I suppose it’s all part of the natural ebb and flow of life. And, realistically, I’m not the “same” person I was five years ago when I was traveling hither-and-yon across the state with my cancer crusading sidekick Miss Utah Natalie Johnson-Hatch (the creator of the National Skin Cancer Awareness Symbol®) promoting sun safety 24/7. And, to be honest, a part of me is glad for that. I’m grateful for the personal and professional growth I’ve experienced since then. I’m looking forward to further growth and progression as I strive to be the person HE wants me to be.
It’s not that I don’t care about cancer crusading. I’m still a cancer crusader. I just don’t do it exactly the same way I used to; I give in different ways now because certain priorities have required a certain amount of personal investment and commitment. The timing may have changed slightly, thus I am unable to devote AS MUCH TIME to the cause as I once did (and would like to). Yet, I still care.
I just show that care differently. I suppose it’s more internal than external. (Does that make sense?)
I have received many, many comments from partners in the skin cancer community wondering why “you don’t do as much – if anything – for the cause anymore, Danielle.” They ask, “don’t you care about it anymore? You used to be so passionate. You used to do so much.”
Yes! I still care.
And I still do a lot – just a lot of different “stuff”. I’m diligently working so that I can do exceptionally well at my career, so that I can achieve job security – pay my bills, pay off my student loans, and be a responsible adult like everyone else (and, course, donate to the cause). I’m preparing for GRAD school. I’m devoting more time to my spiritual pursuits so that I can strengthen my relationship with God. I’m taking care of myself – something that I’ve really neglected to do over the years. I’ve always felt so guilty about investing in myself. I much rather serve, care for and love others than think about myself. Yet, I’ve paid some pretty high prices for not properly caring for myself or investing in my personal well-being and growth. A good friend recently said to me, rather abruptly: “You can’t help anyone else unless you help yourself!” And while the delivery of the message may not have been ideal, and as much I really regret having driven someone I care about to such extreme frustration, the truth of the message is, more or less, irrefutable.
So, I’m taking the time to help myself so that, in time, I can truly help others more effectively and bless others’ lives.
Perhaps, in a way, I’m doing more for the cancer community – and my friends – than I ever have before… Either way, I’m still doing what I can – right now.
Posted by Danielle at 12:22 PM