Giving Time

THE JIMMY FUND GOLF FIRST YEAR EVENTS CELEBRATION

NOVEMBER 17TH, 2016

Key Note Speech By Samantha Lozier

My story of fundraising starts with gratitude, so please just indulge me a little bit while I talk to you about my favorite season, autumn, and how the leaves and the New England scenery remind me of what we have to be thankful for this time of year, and always.

As I was driving home the other day, before dusk so the sky was still that beautiful brilliant fall blue, I noticed the trees lining the street just exploding.  Pop, pop… Pop pop pop!  Deep reds and fiery yellows and all of a sudden it was like an autumn rainbow right before my eyes.  I drove by a high school and watched as the kids ran back and forth chasing after the soccer ball, smiling to myself, which was a little ironic since I hated playing soccer as a kid.   But somehow, seeing these kids playing with their cute jerseys and their shin guards and the bunch of sliced up oranges on the side of the field and the crumpling of the leaves and the sweet air that whispered through my car window… It just felt so… Comfortable.  Soothing.  Nostalgic.

These are the types of things that catch my eye now that I have cancer.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always been a grateful person and very aware of my blessings, even as a kid.  But since being diagnosed for a second time with cancer before the age of 40, I’m even more aware of my surroundings (especially nature).  I’m even more thankful; like a hot shower at the end of the day is the best thing ever, a few minutes of meditation has the capacity to ground me in a new way and I’ve made deep and loving connections one of the most important priorities in my life; I now feel things even more intensely (in a good way) than I ever did before.  It’s as if cancer has magnified not just the scary, but the love as well.

Things like time, forgiveness and freedom take on a whole new meaning.

And when the wind brings down those gorgeous leaves from the trees to the ground, I imagine little bits of gratitude floating through the air like confetti.

And so on those days, the ones where I wonder what other challenges and joys my life truly does hold, I come back to my memories of my connections.  Of our pasts, our laughs, our secrets, our jokes, our stolen moments that only my loved ones and I know about.  And then I think about the future.

I “future-trip” if you will.

We are “supposed” to be in the present moment, but sometimes I’ll sneak a glance into the future.  And instead of seeing cancer and treatments and scans and doctors and blood and needles and fear, I like to picture us– you and me– on a bench somewhere, in the sun.  Drinking coffee.  Laughing.  Planning.  Thrilled with the idea that we have time– plenty of time– to travel and experience and share and live.  To live without regret.  It’s because of my “team”, which consists of everybody from my husband to my parents to best friends to my colleagues to my high school English teacher to my Dana-Farber nutritionist to my oncologist that I feel hopeful that I can—and will– live a long life filled with what I like to call “gratitude confetti.”

But where does this gratitude start, and how do we let our true light shine in a world filled with so much stress these days?

With all that we have on our plates these days, we need people to make it easy for us to spread the gratitude and to help others, and I can’t wait to talk to you about how easy it is to do just that by continually fundraising through the Jimmy Fund.

But back to gratitude, and how it leads me to give you a little glimpse inside the life of not just a cancer patient, but also somebody who has a “team,” and to gently remind you that what you do here for the Jimmy Fund is so, so valuable.

Each person who has come out to a Team Lozier mini-golf fundraiser has shown me that I am not just a statistic.  I’m not just a person with cancer, or somebody who needs treatment.  I’m a human being.  I go way beyond just “having cancer,” and having a “team” is a lovely reminder of that.

When you fundraise, that’s part of what you are reminding others of as well.

Now let me tell you how Team Lozier came to be.

I was living in New York City when I was first diagnosed with cancer.  A tumor was found one day in my left eye; I was 28 years old.  I came back to Boston to be treated at Mass Eye and Ear for ocular melanoma where there was a doctor who had invented a treatment for such a rare cancer, and I got amazing care here in Boston.  I stayed with my parents while I had surgery, then came back to New York to my home and job with an eye patch on (and I worked in a school at the time so you can imagine the stares that I got from the kids; there were a lot of pirate jokes), then flew back to Boston again to have my radiation treatment and recover at my parents’ house.

Thankfully, I was back living in Boston when I needed treatment again.  Unfortunately, my cancer traveled to my liver and I was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic liver melanoma in August of 2013. I was 36 years old at the time of this re-diagnosis.  I was being followed at another hospital in the Boston area but when I needed a second opinion after my first biopsy I came to Dana-Farber and knew immediately that was where my team needed to be.

I can’t quite put into words exactly how comforting it is to know that I only need to travel 45 minutes to see some of the best oncologists, nurses, and staff in the world.  I guess you could call it luck that I live here but the beauty of that is never lost on me.

Cancer has taken a lot away from me; the ability to have children, any kind of innocence, a lot of my physical energy, a lot of my mental energy trying to make heads or tails of this disease, or even being able to sleep through the night.  But it hasn’t taken away my hope that I can live a life where adventure reigns supreme, and joy fuels me. It has not taken away my ability to believe that we can find cures, we can improve treatments, and we can show people with cancer that we will not abandon them—or their dreams–, no matter what.

I’ve always been the kind of person who wants to help others, as my Mom tells me even when I was a little girl I would remind my friends in the second grade that it didn’t matter how many VCR’s one had, as long as somebody at home loved us. (And Josh, being a child of the 90’s, see me later if you don’t know what a “VCR” is). It seemed that from an early age I got a sense of altruism from helping others in need, and I became a social worker and have been in the field for the past 13 years.

It’s hard when you’re on the other side of needing that help.  I went from being the one that friends would call for support to being the one who needed to pick up the phone and ask for help. Relying so heavily on my husband, family and friends and my team at Dana-Farber has been humbling; giving up control to Western medicine while incorporating Eastern and holistic modalities, trying to live in-the-moment and be present with my loved ones, and not let fear dictate how I live my life every day has become my norm.

I have learned so much these last few years.

Two years ago, I was at Dana-Farber for a check-up with my oncologist when I saw one of their TV screens flash an ad for fundraising for the Jimmy Fund.  I had, throughout the years, donated to my friends who did the Jimmy Fund Walk every year, but this advertisement was for a golf tournament!  And not just that, but it said that you could raise money playing mini-golf!  It was an absolutely perfect advertisement for somebody like me:  Not only somebody who loves mini-golf, but somebody who wanted to feel some control, who wanted to do something to help not just myself, but other cancer patient and their families, who wanted to become involved in some small piece of Dana-Farber as a way of thanking everybody who has any hand in this hospital; from doctors to nurses to medical assistants to nutritionists to physician assistants to our fundraisers like Josh Belowich and Katie McGuirk, and their whole amazing team, who give so much of their time and love for us.

My husband and I have always loved playing mini golf, and it’s something that we started doing together right when we started dating.  In fact, one of our first dating memories is of us playing mini-golf and I guess I didn’t start off so well and I remember my husband Sean saying, “Don’t worry honey, you’ll beat me someday!”  True story!  This must have spurred me on because I ended up beating him!  And now every time we play we still joke about that comment and how I ended up winning that day.  We even played the day we met with my oncologist when I found out that my cancer may be back; after going over details of biopsies and clinical trials we needed to feel normal, like everything was going to be OK, and mini-golf felt like just the thing to remind us of that.

We have now held two Jimmy Fund mini-golf events, and have raised over $25,000 in these last two years thanks to the incredible generosity of our family, friends, and the super organizing force behind the Jimmy Fund.

We call ourselves “Team Lozier,” – my last name is Lozier—and a friend of mine had t-shirts printed and so now even the little kids wear their Team Lozier shirts and we come together in May at a great venue and just have fun.  We do opportunity drawings and have been lucky enough to get the backing of some great businesses around here, restaurants, spas, and we even got Red Sox tickets this year!

But I want to tell you the truth, which is that after my initial excitement at starting a fundraiser, the reality of it set in, and I was worried that with my full-time job as a social worker and the CEO of my own health, I wouldn’t be able to dedicate enough time to it and it would be a flop.

That’s where the staff at the Jimmy Fund came in, and they guided me every step of the way.  It was very easy to get approved to start the fundraiser and they gave me lots of great ideas about how to start small, get the word out, pick a venue, decide on pricing, and how to set up an opportunity drawing (which is basically like a raffle).  I had no fundraising experience and the first year we raised over $12,000!  I quickly realized through the help of the Jimmy Fund that they want to make it as easy as possible to fundraise, and they answered all my phone calls and emails in a timely manner and always with lots of easy to understand instructions.

The second year turned out to be even better, though perhaps I was even more nervous because I was just coming off of three surgeries in two months and I was tired.  But I knew that I wanted to keep the tradition up.  I was matched with Josh Belowich who immediately had the enthusiasm for Team Lozier that my family and friends have had since the day I was diagnosed.  We bonded over Seinfeld and Curb your Enthusiasm and he quickly became part of Team Lozier (and I don’t just invite anybody to be on my team!).  And then I needed to bother Katie with questions about the website and donations but she never, ever made me feel like a bother and she took care of everything like it was the easiest job on the earth and though I’m sure they have a hundred and one people to look after, made me feel like Team Lozier was just as special as anything.  So she too quickly became a part of Team Lozier and I feel like I have known Josh and Katie for years, and not months!  Josh was always available by phone (including the time I called him frantically from a restaurant who was about to give me a gift card for our opportunity drawing and I had misplaced the tax ID #!), or email or even in person to hash out the details, and not only that, he had some great ideas but was also happy to go at my speed.  Again, I had work and health and my husband and a house and was busy and the dedicated staff at the Jimmy Fund is very understanding of all that we are trying to balance as we fundraise.

The second year especially they really encouraged me to enlist the help of my family and friends and it was such great advice because not only were people more than happy to help, but it gave the whole thing such a sense of community.   I think as the “patient” I sometimes forget how helpless those in my life must feel, but this was a time when many felt like they could step up to the “tee” and feel empowered as well.

The end result?  A day full of fun, love, and support for all that Dana-Farber does not just for its patients, but for the family members of those patients as well. Because you’re not just raising important funds for patients and the staff who care for them, you’re committing to helping the quality of life of family members, friends, and caregivers of these patients as well.

You know, I was here just a couple of days ago for treatment.  I heard the medicine dripping into my IV and it was making a ticking sound, making me think of a clock.  It reminded me of time; so much of having cancer is wanting more time.  The time it takes to find a cure.  The time it takes to tell somebody that you care what happens to them.  The time it takes to show a patient that their life is valuable.

You’re giving that time.  And optimism.  You’re giving chances, and memories, and lives filled with hope. You should feel really proud of that.

I ask that you please consider continuing your fundraising efforts for one of the most important issues facing our world today:  The epidemic of cancer.  I promise that you will feel nothing but joy, love and fulfillment from giving your time to such an important cause.  And on behalf of myself and all the other patients and fundraisers here at Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund… While thank you just doesn’t seem like enough, I hope that it will be.

xo.

 

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