Editor’s note: Terri Grauer is a consultant and writer specializing in the application of technologies to business challenges. Sanity Check is a regular feature in LTW.
________________________________________________________________________________________After reading Local Tech Wire Managing Editor Rick Smith’s personal story about his struggle and triumph with cancer (localtechwire.com/article.cfm?u=11722 ), I’d like to share a bit of my own story.

I am a 10-plus year breast cancer survivor, diagnosed when I was 29 years old. I had numerous surgeries, including a modified-radical mastectomy and six reconstructive surgeries in the course of one year. I endured an intense six month cycle of chemo-therapy, which was comprised of then new drugs and lots of physical illness while continuing to work full-time.

I look back on this episode in my life with complete wonder, I wonder how I made it through it but I don’t wonder why it happened to me.

I know the answer to ‘why me’ and that’s where my story really begins.

Relocate or Bring Help — for Community, too

I was employed at a small hospital in the Florida Keys, working as the Medical Staff Coordinator/IT support. (As the medical staff coordinator I was charged with hiring/firing doctors for the hospital and keeping the systems running for our small office.) When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, the nearest facilities for chemotherapy were located in the Miami area, one-hundred plus miles away.

I faced the reality that I’d have to ‘relocate’ in order to complete medical treatment, or else go untreated after surgery. I discussed relocating with my boss, the hospital administrator, and he urged me to hire the doctors I needed to treat me, and relocate them to the Florida Keys.

So I hired an Oncologist, Dr. Stephen Krathen, moved him to the Keys and helped him set up his practice. I was his first chemo patient and as such I was given my chemo treatments at home, since the hospital was not yet equipped for his practice.

Once again, I look back on this experience in wonder and awe, and realize this situation was much bigger than just me. Dr. Krathen continued to treat patients for almost 10 years after my experiences. It’s estimated he treated over 1500 patients per year at that small little hospital in the Florida Keys, until he passed away two years ago.

The events in my life were just the mechanism to facilitate the treatment of hundreds of others in the Florida Keys.

Mobile Health Outreach Provides Mobile Mammogram Service

After Dr. Krathen’s death, and the inevitable shutdown of his practice, I started to wonder what is my purpose now — how do I continue to help others.

That’s when I met the director, Sheila Moran, of Mobile Health Outreach, a Charlotte based non-profit organization whose mission is to bring mammography into the under-served and under-insured areas of the Carolinas, via a mobile mammogram van. My new mission became to help MHO raise funds and raise awareness for ‘early detection’ of breast cancer.With my fortieth (40) birthday nearing last October, I decided to throw a party, a fund-raising party for Mobile Health Outreach.

Rather than celebrating the big four-ohhhh, I decided to celebrate the fact that I was now a ten-year survivor. (My first chemo treatment was on my 30th birthday.) I enlisted the help of my friend, Kristi Lee, who is an events-coordinator, and we put together the “Pink Ball” in October 2004.

Thanks to the many companies and individuals who donated time, money and merchandise (for the silent auction) we raised over $10,000 to benefit Mobile Health Outreach at the event.

How Can You Help?

The Pink Ball was such a ‘fund-raising’ success that we’re doing it again this year! This year has nothing to do with my birthday, or my years as a survivor, it’s purely about Mobile Health Outreach and other survivors.

My contribution this year is as a volunteer organizer, doing whatever is needed. The amazing thing that we’ve been able to do this year is use the internet and the www.mobilehealth.org website to publicize the event and sell tickets online!

Technology is a wonderful tool!The reason I decided to share my story is to help anyone going through this type of event in their life right now. I want to share that cancer isn’t an ending, it’s a beginning and an invitation to reach out and help others.

It’s hard when you’re in the middle of such an event to see the ‘greater good’ that it brings — but if you hang on and look for it, you’ll find that silver lining.

Thank you all for letting me share this with you, and if you ever want to tell me your story, please write me.

If you happen to be in the Charlotte area on Oct. 7, please join me at the Second Annual Pink Ball as I celebrate another year of surviving and understanding “Why Me?”!
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Terri Grauer is a consultant and writer specializing in the application of technologies to business challenges. She can be reached via email at terrigrauer@hotmail.com