If you read the blog regularly, you probably already know a little bit about my maternal grandmother. If you don’t, let me fill you in… She made the best vegetable soup in the world. She raised eight children, including an invalid son whom she refused to institutionalize even though everyone told her different. She dyed Easter eggs for her grandchildren to find and put up sparkly lights at Christmastime in her small, cinder block house. She made a dozen biscuits every morning – even when she could barely see. And she is most likely responsible for my current coffee addiction because she used to let me drink a little bit of coffee – with a lot of milk – as she drank her own coffee all day long (I now drink it black, as nature intended).
My grandmother also had breast cancer. I watched my mom take care of her as she got weaker and weaker – chemo wasn’t an option for her – and I knew that she would never get better. The cancer eventually spread to her lungs and she died. I was with her, in her house, when it happened, when she took her last breath. It was a terrible day.
Thinking back, I never saw her cry. I never heard her complain. I’m sure she did – how you could not be angry and sad and hurtful knowing that you were going to die? But she never let on to me that it bothered her. I admire her so much for that.
I like to think that her spirit lives on – and not just through our mutual love of coffee. So, for October (National Breast Cancer Awareness Month), in honor of my grandmother, as I do almost every year, I’m making a donation to Susan G. Komen For the Cure. I’ll donate $1 for every unique comment (meaning, not spam) on this post (yes, posting a comment on Facebook counts, too) through the end of the month. You can just say hi, ask me a tax question, chat about tax policy or leave the name of someone close to you that was diagnosed with breast cancer – you can even tell me how much you love the Phillies (just don’t bring up the whole folding during the play-offs bit… oof).
I know that it would be easier to just write out a check. I’ve been asked in years past why it’s necessary to ask for comments: why not just donate? To be clear, I do donate. I give my dollars and my time to the work of various cancer and breast cancer organizations and I run Komen for the Cure almost every year.
This is a cause that I am passionate about. And I do *get* the criticisms about making it a spectacle. But here’s why I do it: I want to make a spectacle. I want to cause a commotion. I want you to think about cancer. And I want you to do something about it. Here are a few other things you can do this month:
- Get checked. Early detection can be a key to survival. So get regular check-ups. Visits are deductible as medical expenses if you itemize your deductions on a Schedule A. Expenses include everything from the actual doctor’s visit to transportation to parking (get receipts!); the cost of most procedures, including mammograms are likewise deductible.
- Spread the word, wear pink. Is it commercial? Of course it is. This is, after all, America, and if a capitalist can find a way to make a buck no matter what the occasion, he or she will. At the end of the day, does that take away from the good that it does? I don’t think so. I don’t think that you can be too aware. Every time that I see my pink ribbon (I’m wearing one right now), I think about my grandmother. And then I think about the fact that more than 200,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year alone. They are grandmothers, mothers, sisters, daughters, family friends. Awareness might mean that one more woman gets a mammogram, or asks the doctor what that lump is. And it might save a life. Isn’t that worth a little pink now and again?
- Make a donation. There are lots of great charities that fund breast cancer research and offer support for breast cancer victims. At our house, we support Komen For the Cure and the American Cancer Society but there are a lot of other wonderful organizations that would welcome your donations. If you plan to claim the donation as a charitable deduction, check with the IRS to make sure it’s a qualifying organization – and get a receipt.
- Volunteer your time. Charity doesn’t always have to be about money. Put your time and talents to good use by volunteering your services. You can help serve water to thirsty runners during a 5k, stuff envelopes or sit with a patient during chemo – you can almost always find an organization that has a need that you can fill. While you can’t deduct the cost of your time as a tax deduction, you can claim out of pocket expenses, including mileage – so keep good records.
- Get educated. Cancer is the second most common cause of death in the US, accounting for nearly 1 in every 4 deaths. About 1,596,670 new cancer cases are expected to be diagnosed in 2011 and about 571,950 Americans are expected to die of cancer (that’s more than 1,500 people a day). Certain lifestyle choices may increase your risk; find out what you can do to stay healthy and talk to your doctor.
My grandmother didn’t live to see me graduate from college or go to law school or get married. She didn’t get to meet my own children but I’m pretty sure they would have loved her (what’s not to love about a woman who offers you ice cream every.single.time you walk in the house?). I’m hopeful that my mom (a cancer survivor) lives to do all of those things with my kids. I’m doing my part to help find a cure for cancer during her lifetime. How about you?