Staring Down Cancer

An angel on my shoulder

As most of us know by now, the funding of cancer research by the government is at a standstill.  This is unfortunate, because we are at the “tipping point” of breakthroughs due to the huge advancements science has made over the last few years.

Scientists have so much more information in their arsenal, but if they can't get money, the research just sits there.  That is also why we are hearing so often that cancer funding is going to have to come from philanthropy – meaning real people who are as caring and wonderful as Bill and Melinda Gates, down to regular folks like you and me.

Donations to the Noreen Fraser Foundation are way down this year, which is depressing, but understandable because of the state of the economy.  A foundation like ours will never get noticed by the big time money-givers because we are so much smaller than the big time organizations, such as Susan G. Komen, the American Cancer Society, etc.  It’s so much tougher for a small foundation, even if you are making better decisions as to where the money should go.

So we rely on individuals – or who I like to call ”angels.”  One landed on my shoulder this week: Lizzy Herzog.  

We expect adults to understand the importance of giving, to have empathy for those less fortunate, and we try to instill that in our children.  We hope they learn, but we probably will not know until they are in their 20s if they have listened and learned.

No one will have to wait to find out about Liz.  At 17, Lizzy did an internship for a local for-profit business that collects designer clothing and sells them on a website; they then split their profits with the person who donates the clothing.  Lizzy came up with a way to use this business to raise money for women with cancer.  She spent hours calling mothers of her friends at school and every mother she knew in her neighborhood, asking them if they had clothes in their closet that they could donate to her cause.  She drove everywhere to pick up these clothes and took them to her boss.  Her boss agreed to give a percentage of the sale of the clothing directly to the Noreen Fraser Foundation.

I just about fainted when Liz delivered a check to the Foundation for $11,000.  And she says she’s not done!

As parents, how do we raise caring children who can pull away from teenage narcissism long enough to think about the needs of others?  To have empathy at such a young age?

Does being a great parent guarantee great children?  I’m not sure, but because I do know Liz’s parents, I would say that she has learned by example to be kind, generous and empathetic to the needs of the less fortunate. And yes, even though women with cancer don’t fall into the homeless category, we certainly fall into the category of the less fortunate.

Maybe it’s okay that Warren Buffet and Bill and Melinda Gates don’t know about us.  If we could all produce a Lizzy Herzog – or at least get our high school kids to stop texting and join the real world and then give of themselves to help a local foundation in their area – all the less fortunate could become a little more fortunate. Now, that would be a game changer!

“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” - Maya Angelou

Noreen Fraser is living with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. She is the Founder and CEO of the Noreen Fraser Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to funding groundbreaking women's cancer research. To stay in touch with Noreen, please 'LIKE' The Noreen Fraser Foundation on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.  Noreen can be contacted via email at