Guest Blog: Sky Lights of Love Benefit December 3, 2011

7 11 2011

By Kristi Rugh Kahl

Imagine if you went to your job every day and it made you feel sick to your stomach. Not just the thought of going to that dreaded place, but so physically sick that you couldn’t get off of the couch or out of bed when you got home. Your head pounds and you feel queasy. It’s difficult to eat, but you know you have to in order to keep up your strength. You’ve got to go back to that job. Your survival depends on it. Then imagine that after two weeks of doing this, you wait for your paycheck thinking, OK, I guess it’s worth it. We’ve got to pay our bills. We have a little boy to feed, a household to run.

But the paycheck never comes. Yet, you have to keep going back, two weeks on, one week off. Repeat.

Sad but true, this is the life of most cancer patients on chemotherapy. Not only are they unable to work, or, like Amy, only able to work limited hours, but the bills continue to pile up. The old bills — like the utilities and the groceries — and the new bills: medical. Amy is blessed to have health insurance. But even with that safety net, there are copays and percentages that have added up to thousands of dollars since her January 12, 2011 diagnosis.

Amy’s schedule is no different.  Every two weeks of chemo (what the doctors call “a Round”) takes its toll on her body and puts a financial strain on her household.

A couple of weeks ago, one of her two employers called to let her know that they could not wait any longer for her to get better. Yes, they loved her writing and editing work and found her to be very talented in both arenas. They had recently told her she was “the whole package” — and they meant it. She was offered other writing work that didn’t have the hard and fast deadlines that her editing work for the company required. She took them up on that offer, and understood, but it broke her heart to lose the copyediting position she had, working with a team she loved.

When she called me to tell me what had happened, one of the last things she said to me during the conversation was this: “It was so very hard to know that I can do the job and do it well. When I was healthy, they loved me and I loved working for them. All those years of education and various jobs in the trenches had paid off. Yet, that day, as I held the phone to my ear, I realized that while my mind wanted to scream, Don’t Replace Me! I can do the job! I want to do the job!, my body was telling me a different story. I knew they needed someone in that position who was healthy. Right now, that person isn’t me. And there’s nothing I can do about it besides keep going to chemo, keep praying and doing everything I know to do in order to get better as soon as possible.”

Yes, this is the price for survival, but it doesn’t have to be so hard if we all come together to celebrate her life and help defray her expenses.

When I first mentioned the idea to Amy, she loved the vision of a gathering of people and the lantern release over the lake. But she wasn’t, at first, comfortable with the idea of another benefit for her family. She didn’t want to keep asking so much of so many people. That’s when I told her that asking for help doesn’t mean you’ve failed; it means you’re not in it alone. And that is the theme of the recently released song by Martina McBride, I’m Gonna Love You Through It, that inspired this event (see more on this personal story about Amy and Don on the Events page).

In celebration of Amy’s birthday (November 29), we are hosting a benefit called Sky Lights of Love on Saturday, December 3, 2011 at the Van Buren Township Park.  We will gather at 4:30 p.m. and, at 6:00 p.m. sharp, we will release the lanterns from the Lookout Point over Belleville Lake — a place that is near and dear to their hearts.

The cost per lantern is $10 and the proceeds will go to the Amy Rauch Neilson Benefit Fund to help Amy with her ongoing medical bills and expenses. 

If you can’t attend, you can still participate by ordering a lantern. We will release it in your name or the name of a loved one.  Or if you’d like, please consider giving a donation. 

We all know times are tough, but they are even tougher if you are fighting for your life. As for me, the time is now for my bff Amy. Together, we can make it better by celebrating life and collectively lifting all of our spirits as we watch hundreds of lanterns filled with pure, white light rise up into the night sky. I hope you can join us on December 3, 2011!

Lanterns available by PRE-SALE ONLY – purchase by 11-20-2011
Purchase Lantern or Make Donation Below:

  • Purchase a Lantern, and join us as we gather together to release hundreds of lanterns of light over Belleville Lake in Amy’s honor ! Lanterns will be distributed when you check-in at the event.  Lanterns are available by pre-sale only.  Purchase Lanterns by November 20, 2011.  No Lanterns will be sold at the door.
  • Can’t be there? You can still purchase a lantern, and we will release it on your behalf.
  •  You can make a donation to the event here! 

Red, White, and Pink

14 02 2011

Me, holding the Art Bra that I designed and modeled for the Bras for a Cause Event, Royal Oak Music Theatre, September 18, 2010. Photo Credit: Trish Baden MacDonald.

I suppose I couldn’t have picked a better day to make my debut as a regular, weekly blogger for After all, Valentine’s Day is indeed a holiday that’s all about red, white, and pink.

I met Molly MacDonald, the founder of The Pink Fund and a fellow breast cancer survivor, a few weeks ago. But only after she had tried to reach out to me via e-mail not once, not twice, but three times.

That’s because I knew why she was contacting me. I wasn’t being rude. I was being stubborn.

The Pink Fund is a Michigan-based organization that provides short-term financial assistance to women and men in Michigan who are going through breast cancer treatment.

Molly encouraged me to fill out the application to see if there were some bills The Pink Fund could help us with while I’m in treatment.

At first, I didn’t want to.

“There must be people out there who need this more than me,” I said to her, noting the roof above my head, clothes on my back, and food on my table.

“Maybe,” Molly said. “But that’s not the point. You’ve got to help yourself.”

I thought about what she said and the lesson that Don and I regularly try to convey to our five-year-old son, Theo. “It’s OK to ask for help. Everyone needs a little help sometimes,” we tell him.

If I’m going to talk the talk, I also need to walk the walk. So, I filled out the application.

A few days later, Molly called to let me know that my application had been considered by The Pink Fund Committee, and that they had decided to cover our DTE Energy bill and phone bill for the month of February.

I’m very grateful. Because, even though I continue to work as I’m able, and my hubby continues to work, too, a little help relieves a lot of pressure. It means that if, on the days I’m truly not up to working, I don’t have to. That’s a little thing that is very big.

So, hats off to Molly MacDonald and her team at Five years ago, when I was first going through breast cancer treatment, they didn’t exist. Now they do.

What a giant leap forward for breast cancer patients and their families.

Check out my first blog post.

And Happy Valentine’s Day!

Copyright 2011, Amy Rauch Neilson

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