Saturday, October 22, 2011

Breast Cancer Awareness Day at the Office

Friday, October 21, 2011
Many of you know that October is breast cancer awareness month (BCAM). And as a breast cancer survivor (2-yrs now), I've been giving alot of thought to how I can create awareness during the month of October with the people I do life with. Last month I created awareness and raised approximately $900 for the cause through City of Hope. The donations were made directly to City of Hope as I walked as a participant in a 5k walk. The walk is held every year near the office, at a near by park. This was my third year walking to raise awareness and to raise funds although this year, I think I ran most of it thanks to my bossy sister-in-law Evelyn who brilliantly insisted we try to run most it. Love you Evelyn! ... my knees, not so much. ; )

As a woman who works outside of her home, most of my waking hours during the week are spent at the office and in light of that, a brilliant idea was birthed a couple of weeks ago. I felt a prompting to host a breast cancer awareness day at the office, and yesterday was the BIG pink day. Coincidentally, I happened to pick a day that fell right in line with our annual Health Fair day which was quite perfect if you ask me. I didn't realize this until days after I sent my initial invitation to the women at the office. And what a fun day it was! It was also jeans day, a rare occasion for us in corporate, one that we look forward to when it happens. The prompting came to me in the form of a whisper, which I'm sure was all God. I love it when that happens. I followed through on this prompting because life is important. Your life, my life, our life is important and it has purpose and early detection is what saves lives. Putting it together in such a short amount of time should have felt overwhelming with my busy life but surprisingly, it wasn't. Everything came together beautifully and almost effortlessly. What a blessing! I think anytime you do something in the spirit of love and joy, the experience is always wonderful and blesses you and others richly. I purchased all the supplies within that two week window and decorated and set up the night before which gave me an opportunity to have short but meaningful conversations with the evening security guard Dave who stopped by during his rounds and with Isabella who is one of the Polish cleaning ladies at our office who hugged me tight after giving her a pink ribbon lapel pin and a pink bracelet. Dave is 74 and sadly lost his wife to cancer several years ago. : ( He shared her story with me and from what I could tell, he misses her terribly and loved her deeply. The look on his face made my heart feel sad to learn he lost his wife so early in life, he still has many good years ahead of him. I learned that he lives on his own, has four children and I trust that they look after him okay. Isabella and I always speak Spanish and Polish to each other. She's teeny-tiny, fit as a fiddle and buzzes around our office emptying waste baskets, cleaning, dusting, and vacuuming. She arrives to my office every day around 5pm and I greet her in Polish and she responds in kind but in Spanish. She's a lovely woman with a kind heart probably in her thirties I would imagine. Isabella taught me how to say "How are you" and how to respond in kind in Polish. Its so fun to greet the Polish cleaning crew in Polish before I leave the office when I work late. The looks on their faces are priceless. Their eyes always light up and they always smile, almost always in surprise when I speak to them in their native language. It's one of the best parts of leaving the office late most days. I've digressed here, haven't I? My apologies. 

The location of the breast cancer awareness event was just outside my office and I invited approximately 100 women I know at the office to stop by at their convenience between 8am and 4pm. I set up a couple of tables with delicious treats, mostly all sweet, pamphlets, flowers and of course pink balloons. The area was a sea of pink and you couldn't miss the pink helium balloons that hovered over the pink zone just outside my office. The American Cancer Society donated 300 pamphlets on breast cancer awareness, the importance of mammograms and why early detection saves lives. They also donated 100 pink ribbon lapel pins thanks to a lovely young lady by the name of Karen Perry who I met on Monday afternoon by chance who works for the American Cancer Society. Karen had the pink ribbon lapel pins in her car! Whoa! What are the chances of that happening??? Colleagues Veronica Ramos and Carmen Flores baked cupcakes and Toni Vargas, a fellow member of my team brought in bagels for the event. Veronica's passion is baking lovely, tasty and festive cupcakes and she literally jumped at the chance to bake for the event when I told her about my vision to create awareness. Tammy Hidalgo, another woman at the office surprised me with beautiful flowers to dress up the table. How thoughtful! Thank you ladies!!! Your thoughtfulness and contributions made the day perfect! So many of my friends at the office offered to help but I insisted that it wasn't going to be anything big and encouraged them to simply show up in pink for support and to pick up information (pamphlets) that morning.

Can I let you in on a little secret? I work for a really great company. And I'm not just saying that. It truly is a GREAT company for many reasons, but mostly because of the people. Companies are not just brick and mortar, people make companies great. And great people are a companies greatest asset and investment. I have the priviledge of working with a terrific bunch of talented and lovely people and I'm learning and relearning with each new opportunity how willing people are to help and to contribute to make a difference. When I shared what I was planning with my manager Kim Thomas, she suggested that I encourage those I invite to wear pink. Now isn't that brilliant? Why didn't I think of that???  Great suggestion! Thank you Kimberly!  When I shared what I was doing with our facilities manager Missy Kolbash, she decided on her own to send an e-mail to all the employees in our building asking if they would consider wearing pink on Friday, October 21st in honor of breast cancer awareness. Thank you Missy! Many people wore pink! I purchased additional breakfast treats to encourage people to stop by (food always helps) and gave out pink breast cancer bracelets, pens and pencils to create awareness and included the pink ribbon lapel pins that the ACS donated. One of my many favorite parts of Friday was a surprise I received. The ECS corporate finance and credit department surprised me with a lovely card, with lovely words yesterday morning congratulating me on being cancer-free two years now and raised $165 among themselves and gave that money to me to donate. Whoa! Do you see what I mean??? The money will be donated to the American Cancer Society (ACS) and to City of Hope. Thank you lovely people! As I write to you, my eyes well up with tears, tears of gratitude because of their goodness. And in the afternoon, we cut a cake to shine a light on those who are still fighting breast cancer, to admire the survivors and to honor those who left us too soon due to this horrible disease. Yesterday's event wasn't about raising money although it could have been. Yesterday was all about awareness. It was about raising awareness and shining a light on the importance of becoming aware and to learn and to share with others about breast cancer and early detection because early detection is what saves lives. It's what saved my life. The event was absolutely successful and the day was nothing short of fantastic! It felt like a BIG love fest. Scores of people wearing pink stopped by all day long. Some came in droves, others came on their own and for one day, we created a pink movement at our corporate office. I loved every delicious minute! Tom Bubulka another colleague of mine took many of the photos I'm including in this post and took a fantastic group photo. See below. Thank you Tom! My best friend Carlos came out to visit me during the lunch hour and drove me to pick up the cake in the afternoon. Thank you Carlos for recognizing how important this day was to me. You get me and I love that about you. Bless you! It was so wonderful to see so many people wearing pink. Even the men wore pink! How terrific! This was our 1st annual breast cancer awareness day at the office, our first of many I'm sure. I plan, with God's blessing and the support of others to do this again next year. My desire is to make it bigger, better and pinker and to make it easy and or easier for my co-workers to donate to this cause, even if it's a dollar that we collect from each person so we can make an online donation at the end of the day. Most people learn and remember through experiences and my desire is for people to walk away with a greater sense of awareness through this experience and to learn about early detection and breast cancer prevention because everyone deserves to live long enough to celebrate 100 birthdays.  As always, many thanks for reading. 

With a heart full of gratitude, 

~ Ruthie

"The table"

The cake


Cupcakes by Carmen Flores

 Isn't this a fantastic photo?

Veronica's festive cupcakes!

The invitation

My mantra