Saturday, 22 March 2014

What I wish I could have said

(I had my speech ready but was too sick to actually go and deliver it this evening.  This is what I would have said.)

Good Evening Everybody
Wow what a colorful bunch!  
I was really curious to see how many of the ladies there tonight, also attended our first auction in 2002.
I was going to ask who was in kindergarden or grade one then and who is old enough to attend now.  

We have had a fantastic run.  We have given away over 120,000.00 dollars to our applicants. Almost every single cent raised tonight goes directly into the hands of women and their families that need it. I thank you all for entrusting us with the responsibility of ensuring this happens.

When we get an application, we have to do several things. 
We have to remove all judgment and stick to only the facts on paper. Long ago we decided to help people financially.  It is easy to measure success and less sticky than emotion. We are not in the business of healing. We have to remove our bias and judgement about how much a house cost or how much people pay for cable. That is not our place. We look only at the numbers.  

I am not going to tell a woman that is driving alone from Yorkton to Regina for chemo everyday in the winter that maybe she should cancel her cell phone. Her MLA did, when she went to him for help.  I didn't. 

We also need to make sure the applicant's privacy is very protected.  Only three of us ever know an applicant's name or where she lives.  After that, they are assigned a number and that is the only way that we refer to them.  This also helps us remain unbiased.  

 We also compare her to ourselves. Cancer can grow very quickly.  So you buy a travel trailer today.  Three days later you find a lump in your breast. You see, what I mean. Life changes on a dime. I have found that by comparing her to ourselves it is easier to remove judgement and just help where we can.

Ken, our lovely auctioneer tonight, was teasing me last night asking how I got wrapped up in this.  So for anyone who doesn't know, here goes. (PS This was also when I was going to encourage our guests to drink more because Ken and the rest of the guys look better after that! Kidding of course! Ken's pretty good  looking already :) (Sorry Marnie!) 

I moved to Qu'Appelle in 1998. I met Theresa Frederickson (nee Priddell) shortly after. We were friends until she passed in September of 2001. Sarah her daughter was a year older than my little girl.

In our knee jerk reaction, and joined by lots and lots of the women in our community, we mobilized and did the Run for the Cure...of course this was so long ago, it wasn't even called the Run for the Cure yet. We raised about $50,000 for research in those days but we noticed there was a huge gap in the quality of life for people.  

The gap was women with no prosthetic or wigs because they had no money. Women with cancer living off of the food bank or worse yet, losing their homes because when you don't work, you don't get paid. 15 weeks of EI can get eaten up pretty quickly, leaving a lot of women still sick and very poor. 

Imagine a mom telling her kids Santa couldn't come because she was sick.  Knowing there was no money for gifts or food for a meal. Imagine no new back pack for a little guys starting school because Mommy has cancer. And I tell you, that was one of the hardest phone calls ever.  I called and asked a very little voice if I could talk to Mommy and he said I couln't because she was sleeping. I hung up the phone and I cried.  And for the record, we made sure that he had all the new school supplies that he needed to start school.  The kids were five, three and one. 

We take away the stress of worrying about the power bill and the mortgage payments, in hopes that these women can gather strength and fight instead. 

We are not just another cancer education/research group. We make sure that the women that need lymphodema rehabilitation and support get it. The government doesn't pay for that. We do!
We make sure that prosthetics fit properly so spine's don't curve. We make sure that people don't get evicted or foreclosed on. SaskCancer doesn't do that. We do! But we can only do this with your help. What you all do here tonight makes a huge difference down the road for these women and their families. And on behalf of all of those women, we thank you. 

I'm sorry.  This was a long one.  (I guess it is a good thing that I wasn't able to attend. They might still be listening to me!) 

As everyone knows, I am rocking a cane this year.  A year ago, yesterday, March 21, 2013, I woke up with a pain in my hip. My health deteriorated and I am still not better and still undiagnosed. One day I think I am getting stronger and the next, I can't get out of bed.  Like tonight.  But I do feel like I am a fraction of what I was a year ago. 

So it is with a heavy heart and that I made a life altering decision to step down and leave Forever Friends. I have given this group, this cause, everything I have had for 13 years. I have been president for almost it's entire existence. It is a baby that I have watched grow. We were an unknown group and now social workers call us asking if we can help. The cancer agencies refers people to us. We meet people on the street that know who we are and what we do.  I have nurtured this organization second only to my children.  I am incredibly proud of what we have been able to accomplish. 

I step down knowing that it is in good hands. I know that the women that come after me will do a great job. I know my board will continue to lead in the area of quality of life for cancer support in Saskatchewan. We went from helping women with breast cancer in the Regina Qu'Appelle Health Region to helping all women in Saskatchewan with all types of cancer.  We started in our own kitchens as our kids played on the floor to a registered charity and our kids graduating. 

If you want to get involved, host a Lia Sofia party. Call Estelle and have a party. She donated part of the proceeds to us. Host a purse swap. Host a golf tournament. Approach your company about a donation. Volunteer on the board. There are a million ways to get involved. And not just with us, with any organization that you hold close to your heart. 

There are people who say, "Why would I get involved? What would it matter?"
This group has given me more amazing blessings than I have time to go over. These women have become my friends. These have been an awesome 13 years. It is with a heavy heart that I resign. But a very full heart, full of pride, love and gratitude. 

I appreciate all of you looking to me for leadership in the last 13 years.  This has been one of the best and one of the hardest things that I have ever done.  

And I will end as I began, with my glass raised to Theresa. "The joy of knowing her was worth the pain of losing her."

There but by the grace of God, go I.

Thank you for the amazing memories! 


  1. You are truly an amazing person Danah. Just know that I am praying for the return of your health. Forever Friends of HOPE---thank you

    1. You will be missed, thought of and especially hard to follow.

      Sue a friend, shoulder and part of a path that is not yet done