5 Fun Things To Do If You Have Cancer: #3 GIVE BACK!

In the vlog, I’m at the beginning of my cancer journey. In real time, I am coming out of what has been by far the least fun part of my journey. I think the best time to seek out fun is when life sucks. So, to that end, I’ve come up with five fun things to do if you have cancer (or even if you don’t).

Fun Thing #3:

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Give Back.

In the months following my cancer diagnosis, I met a lot of other people with cancer. Some of them had better situations than I, but many were in much worse shape with less support.

Obviously I have been very focused on getting better, and the desire to heal is infectious, because as I help myself repair it’s made me feel good when I’ve been able to help others as well. This isn’t about charity. This is about doing something for yourself by doing something for others. Here are some ways to donate or volunteer and make yourself feel good.

Walk

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There are many walks out there supporting breast cancer awareness, research, and more. I’ve done two of them, both of which I’d recommend for different reasons.

Making Strides Against Breast Cancer is a walk benefitting the American Cancer Society (probably my favorite cancer charity). This walk has a lot assets:

1) the distance varies depending on your location, but most walks are around 5 miles (some are even less), so just about anyone can do it.

2) There is no minimum fundraising requirement.

3) Survivors are really celebrated at this walk.

I’ve also done The Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. There are some drawbacks to The Avon Walk. For one, they have a very high fundraising minimum ($1,800 per participant). For another, the walk is 39 miles over the course of two days…although for some the length is not a drawback, but a challenge. That’s certainly how I’ve viewed it. I’ve done the walk twice and have left feeling extremely accomplished. Plus, it’s remarkable to really bond with other people whose lives have been touched by breast cancer.

The other awesome thing about Avon is that the money raised goes primarily to local charities. In fact, my free mammogram was courtesy of an Avon funded breast-imaging center and the grants they provide to the hospital where I was treated. I like seeing my money at work, and I have DEFINITELY seen that with Avon.

Both Making Strides and Avon have walks nationwide unlike another walk I just discovered: The Moon Walk. The Moon Walk has European origins and will be having its second annual event in the US in New York this July. The walk requires all participants to wear a decorated bra for the duration of this marathon (literally 26.2 miles) that begins at 10 pm on a Saturday night. It has a suggested fundraising minimum of $150. I haven’t done this walk before, but may try and tackle it this summer.

Hats Off!

Heavenly Hats is a charity that was founded by a twelve-year old boy in Wisconsin in 2001. The charity sends packages of hats to hospitals and individuals nationwide to give cancer patients comfort and courage as they face their battles.

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At my Christmas party in December, I asked all of my guests to bring hats to donate to this cause (currently they are seeking women’s hats and soft hats for children ages 3-10). We collected a dozen hats that I shipped off to Wisconsin just before Christmas. Hats must be brand new, but consider donating any unused hats you might have or maybe pick up some winter wear on spring clearance.

Write

Chemo Angels is a charity I blogged about before (as a way for cancer patients to get free things). Its success is dependent on volunteers who send letters and/or gifts to someone currently undergoing chemotherapy. Signing up to be an angel is easy. If you’re approved, you should be matched with a patient in 4-8 weeks, and will be asked to write weekly letters of encouragement to your patient.

Drive

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The American Cancer Society provides rides for cancer patients through their Road to Recovery program. If you are a licensed driver with a safe, reliable vehicle you can volunteer to drive patients in your area to and from treatments. The program is also in need of coordinators who connect drivers with patients.

Cut Your Hair

A well-known way to give back to the cancer community is through hair donation.

In order to donate, your hair must be at least 8 inches long. Some organizations require 10 or 12 inches, and other stipulations (like hair not being gray or chemically treated), may apply.

Many people donate to “Locks of Love,” which uses natural hair to create wigs for underprivileged children experiencing hair loss. Another organization I like is Patene’sBeautiful Lengths. Beautiful Lengths uses hair to make wigs for the American Cancer Society’s wig banks. These banks provide free wigs to any woman experiencing hair loss as a result of cancer treatment.

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Donate Your Wedding Dress

Brides Against Breast Cancer uses funds from wedding dress trunk shows to support the Center for Building Hope in Florida and its mother company the Health Support Network, which gives free cancer support to patients in need. You can support this organization by donating a wedding gown, slip or veil from 2009 or later.

Give A Room

Little Pink Houses of Hope offers week-long beach retreats to families struggling with breast cancer. This organization is seeking volunteers to help facilitate their retreats, but also homeowners willing to donate their beach house for a week. So, if you are lucky enough to have a beach house, consider donating it to Little Pink Houses, or to me… you know. Whatever. No pressure.

Volunteer

There are many ways to volunteer and help patients with breast cancer. One workshop I enjoyed during treatment was Look Good Feel Better. This program is seeking both general volunteers to facilitate the workshops and cosmetologists to demonstrate make-up tips.

Another cool way to volunteer is by joining The Army of Women (funded by the Avon Foundation) and allowing researchers to email you for studies related to breast cancer research. The Army needs women over 18 who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, as well as those who haven’t. In my opinion, research is the most important part of breast cancer advocacy, because if it’s successful the other areas (awareness, prevention, etc.) become non-necessities.

Donate Your Dollars

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Obviously every organization I’ve listed above is happy to take monetary donations. There are hundreds, possibly thousands of cancer related charities, so it can be hard to decide where to direct your dollars. If I were donating to one organization, I would choose the American Cancer Society, as their programs are so varied and accessible. They also contribute a great deal of funds to research (rather than just “awareness” programs).

I also am fond of The Avon Foundation, because of my personal relationship to their programs, as well as their generous distribution of funds to patient services and research. (It is of note, however that the foundation has two main causes that it funds separately: breast cancer, and domestic violence).

I can also reccomend the Livestrong Foundation. They offer lots of services to cancer patients,

and have a great program for young people looking to protect their fertility formerly called Fertile Hope. However, all three of these are huge non-for profits with lots of funding.

If you’re looking for something smaller, I like Fighting Pretty. They send awesome care packages to women undergoing breast cancer treatment. Your money won’t be curing cancer, but it will be putting a smile on someone’s face, which is super important and highly underrated.

Also, feel free to donate to ThatTimeIHadCancer.com! We try to keep costs down, but each vlog costs $50-$100 to film. So, if you’re enjoying them, consider shooting a few dollars our way. We’ll show our thanks by adding you to the “Special Thanks” section at the end of an upcoming vlog (you’ll basically be famous).

I began vlogging for a lot of reasons. The biggest was that I really want to share my story with other cancer warriors, especially other young adults and breast cancer patients. The experience has been incredibly rewarding. I have heard from many other people battling cancer, and in the end “giving back,” has given me way more than I imagined.

Check in for my final two “Fun Things To Do When You Have Cancer,” later this week!


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