I was standing in front of a group of over 300 people when I was handed a microphone. I took one look at the crowd and thought, “well here goes nothing.” I hadn’t practiced my speech or thought a lot about what I was going to say. As I looked over the crowd, I saw my barn family, my family, and friends I have met throughout the years. I figured if anything went wrong with my speech, I could just pretend to be sick. Thankfully, I didn’t go that method because my doctor friends probably would have rushed to the speech area thinking something was actually wrong. That would have been awkward, to say the least.
It was in January this past year that I heard about the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. I was at our annual barn Christmas party when the host mentioned it to my mom and me. After the party we found them online and thought it was a great organization. Then in June, we met the COO of Ulman at our family friends’ home. It was right after my lung biopsy and they started talking about having a party to raise awareness in September. The party would be called, “Screw Cancer Brew Hope”. They asked if I would be the poster child for the event and speak at the party. I immediately said yes and thought the party was a great idea.
You are probably wondering, “What is the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults?” They are an awesome organization that helps connect young adults who have been affected by cancer. When you think of cancer you usually think of the pediatric side and older adult population. You don’t think of someone who is in college, graduated college, just had a baby, just started a new job, or anyone who is 18-40. UCF provides guidance through the medical world and a way to connect with other cancer survivors for young adults. Just Google them.
As the summer flew by, we were preparing for the party by compiling several lists, deciding on items for the silent auction, and getting ready. The event was posted on the Ulman website and invitations were e-mailed and snail-mailed. Two weeks before the party we had a little over 150 people, which was amazing. We were planning for over 200 and were anxious to get more people to come to the party. Then the week of the party the tickets started selling more and more. It went from 150 to 200 then 250 and then over 300. All of us were blown away by how many people bought tickets.
The night before the party we had a BBQ at our house with the family who would be hosting the party and our friends from Ulman who were in charge of the party. We all were excited about the party the next day. Even though some of us talked about the, “parking situation” for over an hour, we had a good time together. Our major concern was the rain but – hello - that’s why we had tents. We finished the night around our fire pit making s’mores and laughing about everything and anything.
Saturday morning we all woke up to rain. It was the type of rain that was constant and wouldn’t stop. As we were putting the tablecloths on each table we all thought, “good thing we got a tent”. We spent the morning putting the sunflowers on the various tables, setting up the silent auction, and planning what to do if it kept raining. Anyone who asked me what to wear to the party that morning, I said to wear boots and stay the hell away from heels. They lawn didn’t need to be aerated. After setting up for most of the party, I went home with my friends from college who came in for the party and we all rested.
We arrived at the party an hour before it started to help with any last minute things. When the clock hit 5 o’clock something happened. The rain stopped and the clouds opened to reveal blue skies and sunshine. We all cheered and got ready to start the party. I spent the night walking back and forth from the entrance and the tents greeting friends, family, and anyone who came to the event. It was one of the few times where I actually knew almost everyone there and it was great. I loved being able to talk with everyone and greet him or her. Everyone had a huge smile on their face and was excited to be there.
I made sure to eat dinner before my speech. Noting worse than giving someone who is hangry a microphone. I quickly snuck into line with family friends and made sure to eat dinner. After I ate, my cousin quickly grabbed me and we went to the photo booth area. We rocked the sombrero and tiger cowboy hat look and took our pictures. Then another friend wanted me take pictures with them too. All the pictures that people took at the photo booth were hilarious. Yes, I saw all of them and so can everyone who looks on the website of the person who took them.
Then the time came for the speeches. I, of course elected to go last. No way was I going first. Our host spoke first and then the COO from Ulman spoke. I was handed the microphone. I started speaking and I heard my sister shout at people for being loud. The sarcastic sarcoma quickly came out of me and after cracking a joke I launched into talking about my story. I had not prepared anything, like I said before, and it all flowed out of me. Besides the occasional joke I spoke about my experience. When I finished talking you could have heard a pin drop. Good thing I didn’t tap the microphone and say, “is this thing on?”
The rest of the party was filled with an ice cream bar, laughter, and listening to the band my cousin plays in. I talked with more people, thanked them for coming, and sat down for a little while. The party was the most fun I have had in awhile. There was laughter, positivity, and support from family and friends. The major comment I got from several people was that they never thought about young adults with cancer. Success isn’t measured by how many people came to the event; it was the raising awareness for the Ulman Cancer Fund and the work they do everyday.