Sunday, October 12, 2014

There are some things we do because we believe in them.

If I had to make a top-10 list of my least favorite things, public speaking would rate right up there with emptying bedpans and having my blood drawn.  In fact, public speaking makes me so uncomfortable that every time I type the words "public speaking" my palms start to sweat - which is really going to gross my husband out if he uses the computer after me today.

But it's not as though this is a new phenomenon.

I was the nerd-before-it-was-cool kid who usually knew all the answers in school but would sooner chew off their own arm than raise it.  I blush easily, sweat frequently and prefer the view from the sidelines.  And though as an adult I've learned how to succeed in spite of a predisposition toward awkwardness - being front and center is certainly not something I enjoy. Which makes my latest endeavor all the more insane.

On Monday, October 13th, sweaty palms and all, I will be giving a TEDx talk entitled "Think Beyond Pink:  How to Practice Meaningful Philanthropy".

For those of you not familiar with the TED talk series - get thee to youtube.  TED talks are thought provoking, succinct speeches given by amazing people from all walks of life and are enormously popular in nerd circles.  Being asked to take part in this speech series is my version of The Super Bowl - and something to check off the ol' bucket list.  This is one of my all time favorites:

Now I have given a fair number of cancer-issue-related speeches over the last couple of years but nothing like this.  The bar for TED talks is set outrageously high.  And because of the nature of my talk, I will be sharing incredibly intimate details of my life with a crowd of strangers - while somehow managing to impart wisdom - all in about 17 minutes.  To make matters worse, because the speech is filmed, if I mess up, trip, sweat excessively or vomit - it will live on the inter webs forever.

*Cue sweaty palms*

Giving a Ted talk is an introverts greatest nightmare.  And I volunteered to take part.

Some of you (namely, my mom) may ask why I feel compelled to do something which causes me to lose sleep, fret and generally act like an insecure crazy person for two solid months in preparation for the big day.  Fair question.

It is because I must.
  Fair Warning:  Anyone who shares this image
on Monday may be unfriended on the spot.

Though of course I did not plan it this way, the TEDx Spokane event takes place smack dab in the middle of Pinktober - the month I have grown to despise for its commercialized exploitation of a very serious disease.  And of all the 31 days in Pinktober, the day of my speech - October 13th - happens to fall on Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day.

Now, metastatic breast cancer is a topic that is not discussed often in the month of pink.  Probably because people don't die of early stage breast cancer so it's easier to paint a pretty pink picture.

But there is no cure for metastatic disease, and despite what early-detection awareness campaigns will have you believe, an estimated 30% of those diagnosed with early stage breast cancer will go on to develop stage IV disease - no matter what the treatment or stage at diagnosis.  And even more concerning,  despite abysmal 5-year survival rates for those diagnosed with advanced disease, only around 7% of all research funds are devoted to metastatic breast cancer treatments.

All of this combined should make Metastatic Breast Cancer Day a pretty big talking point in a month devoted to "awareness".

But interestingly enough, October 13th also has been deemed "No-Bra Day"(I could not make this up).  Because encouraging people to "set tatas free" is much more fun than worrying our pretty little heads about the 40,000 people who fail to meet Survivor criteria each year.
This. Is. Happening

Because - PINK!

And guess which message will be spreading like wildfire on Facebook pages throughout the land Monday morning?  

My money is on the liberated Ta-tas.

To be fair, before my own diagnosis I probably would not have keyed in to how insulting it is to devote a day to not wearing a bra in conjunction with a disease that causes people to have their breasts surgically removed. But come on, people - we have got to do better.

Which is why, in spite of the fact that my stomach may churn and my palms may sweat - I will take the stage tomorrow and tell my story.  Because it will take many, many voices to bring about real change - even if one of those voices shakes every so slightly while on stage.