Sally Drees has an ambitious goal.
She’s determined to raise $41,000 before October ends (“41k in 31 Days”). $20,500 will go to The Pink Daisy Project, a nonprofit that provides support to breast cancer patients under age 45. The remaining $20,500 will go to METAvivor, a nonprofit, volunteer-run group that funds metastatic breast cancer research.
Why $41,000? “Each dollar represents one person in the U.S. who will die of breast cancer this year,” Drees explains. “I believe less pink and more green will make a world of difference this October.”
Drees, 42, lives with her family near Des Moines, IA, where she works full-time as insurance claims manager. She was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer (AKA Stage 4) this past June, when she learned her breast cancer had returned and spread to her ovaries, omentum and small intestines.
“I was originally diagnosed Stage 2 in 2006 at age 36,” she recalls. “Prior to this recurrence, I had a bilateral mastectomy, eight rounds of chemo and four years of Tamoxifen. I thought I had caught mine early—but that doesn’t seem to mean squat.”
Drees’ mother was diagnosed with DCIS six months before Sally’s first diagnosis. Sally does not have the BRCA mutation—her cancer isn’t considered heriditary. She’s been doing well on chemo ( Xeloda a pill form of chemo) and expects to transition to an aromatease inhibitor (Femara, also a pill) which typically has mild side effects.
Drees felt utterly out of place the first time she attended a support group near her home. The other participants were old enough to be her mother or even her grandmother. “I was the youngest person there,” Drees recalls. “I got The Look of Pity.”
The online discussion board hosted by the Young Survival Coalition (YSC) proved to be a godsend. There, Drees met other women, mostly in their 30s, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
In 2009, she attended a Young Survivors conference in Dallas. She met many of her online friends in person and they have stayed in touch.
One YSC friend, Debbie Cantwell, founded The Pink Daisy Project to help financially strapped patients with gas, groceries and some housecleaning relief. Since 2008, the Pink Daisy Project has helped more than 150 young women with breast cancer.
“I’m all for research; I hope my daughter never has to go through this,” Cantwell told CNN. “But the Pink Daisy Project’s biggest concern is helping the (young) women that can’t wait for a cure. … They’re sick right now, and they need help today.”
An online survey alerted Drees to the METAvivor group and reading its FAQ opened her eyes. “Did you know 90% of cancer deaths result from stage IV cancer, but only 2% of research funds are devoted to Stage IV?” asks Drees. “Knowing these facts is awareness. Doing something about it is action.”
Drees conceived the “41k in 31 Days” project after a sleepless night she spent stewing about a Facebook “breast cancer awareness” stunt which involved participants posting cryptic status messages that suggested pregnancy. (Posters dropped clues about “weeks” and “cravings.”)
“That Facebook game sent me off the deep end,” Drees says. “It’s completely offensive on so many levels, but especially to young women like me who can’t have children because of their breast cancer.”
But anger has given way to action.
“If everyone forwards this message to their friends, and each person only give a dollar, we can accomplish the $41,000 goal,” says Drees.
If you’d like to donate $1 (or more) here’s the link: http://www.causes.com/causes/632480-the-31-day-project-moving-beyond-awareness