By Elizabeth A. Lambert, No Stomach For Cancer, Inc. board member
One week ago today, I had the very humbling experience to attend “the one hundred,” an event/fundraiser sponsored by the Cancer Center at Massachusetts General Hospital; it recognizes and celebrates 100 individuals or organizations who have helped advance the fight against cancer.
In early April, Karen Chelcun Schreiber , Founder of No Stomach For Cancer ~who has, through our work with this organization, also become a good friend ~ called me to tell me that she had been selected as one of the 100 honorees and that she could invite one guest to the June 1st event in Boston ; she wanted me to go with her. Of course, I enthusiastically and humbly accepted her invitation. What a privilege it would be to attend an event that would celebrate the work that people of all ages and from all walks of life were doing to help fight all types of cancers.
However, also part of the excitement about attending would be the fact that I would be able to spend some time with Karen. Although we have spent countless hours on the phone discussing matters related to No Stomach For Cancer, we had only met once in person as she is from Wisconsin and I am from Massachusetts. I was thrilled just to have the time to visit with her.
In early May, Karen sent me an e-mail to tell me that she had heard who would be the keynote speaker at the event—Matt Damon!! Although I was excited that he would be the speaker, it was not so much because I was his biggest fan or because I love his movies. Truth be told, I had only seen two of them. However, what struck me so powerfully was that this extremely famous and busy person was making the time and effort to attend an event that was so important, that recognized the work of so many unsung heroes, including Karen.
With the end of the school year fast approaching and keeping me very busy, I was amazed at how quickly June 1st arrived. Although the event began at 5:00, I arrived at the Westin Hotel, where it was being held and where Karen was staying, around 2:00 so Karen and I could visit before the event. Our time together flew by and, before I knew it, it was time to get ready and head down to the honorees’ reception, where each one was greeted, photographed, and given a pin to wear that indicated that he/she was, in fact, an honoree.
When we arrived at the reception room, we were really not quite sure what to do with ourselves. After all, we didn’t know anyone there except each other. Before long, we decided to approach those who were, like Karen, wearing an honoree pin. We introduced ourselves and asked others what their story was, why they had been selected as honorees. After sharing our stories, we were officially welcomed by the President of Mass General Hospital and a few others affiliated with the hospital.
Next, we went into the large room in which the reception for over 800 people would be held. We found our table and immediately were greeted by those seated with us. Some were retired medical professionals, some were hospital volunteers, and others were affiliated with Mass General in some way.
The rest of the evening was spent listening to a number of speakers as well as hearing the stories of some of the individuals being honored. Some were groups of nurses, some were oncologists, some were patients, and some were young children whose parents had been diagnosed with some type of cancer. It was incredibly moving to listen to people share how their lives had been affected by cancer, and how they felt compelled to take action, to DO something about the insidious disease that we know does not discriminate.
At various points throughout the night, I was overwhelmed by the amount of tenacity, passion, and compassion that existed in that one room. So many people in attendance were selflessly and tirelessly working in the fight against cancer, not for recognition of any sort, but because they were called to do so in some way.
As I sat next to Karen and heard her share her story with others at our table, I was reminded of what a privilege it was not only to attend this important, memorable event with her, but also what a privilege it is to work with her through No Stomach For Cancer and, even more so, to call her my friend.