Author: Julie Matthews
January 14, 2016
Last month we announced the winners of the 2015 Side-Out Ambassador Program Awards. As part of the process, scholarship applicants submitted essays that addressed the following questions:
Below is an essay from Courtney Caralla, an ambassador and scholarship winner from Newark High School in Newark, NY. She was also one of three applicants who earned the Side-Out/AVCA National Dig Pink® Award.
Playing volleyball has been a part of my life for the last six years, and for as long as I’ve played, our volleyball program has been helping to raise awareness and money for the Side-Out Foundation. I knew the basic concept: raise money and awareness for breast cancer research; however, it wasn’t until this year that I explored what the Side-Out Foundation does, the importance of breast cancer research (especially Stage IV), and the impact breast cancer has on everyone.
I live in a small town. Community is important to me, as is doing as much as I can to help others. I set a personal goal of $700.00 to incorporate this year’s Dig Pink theme, “The Power of Will”. I was nervous, $700.00 is a lot of money to a seventeen-year-old high school student. My team and I fundraised, had a bake sale, and collected bottles and cans. I was not afraid to dig deep, which sometimes meant picking bottles out of the garbage. Many people cringed, and called it “gross” (for lack of a better word), they even laughed at me, but I had a goal which I planned to reach. When I asked others for help to assist me in reaching my goal, I was astounded at the amount of help and support I received from my teammates and the members of my community. Due to their generosity and help, I was able to exceed my goal and personally raise over $1,000.00 to put towards our team’s contribution to the Side-Out Foundation.
As a part of my educational hours for the Side-Out Foundation, I visited the Pluta Cancer Center in Rochester, NY. At the Center, I interviewed the nurse leader and the doctor. I acquired an incredible amount of information during this visit. What surprised me the most was the fact that two out of every one hundred breast cancer patients are men. I did not realize the number was so high. I found that breast cancer does not discriminate. Survival rate and effectiveness of different treatments for Stage IV varies from person to person because everyone’s cancer is different in some way. Monoclonal antibodies are being used for research to help find a cure, specifically for Stage IV breast cancer. Individuals living with Stage IV breast cancer refuse to be beaten. For them, it is like living with a chronic illness. Unfortunately, most support systems target individuals with the early stages of breast cancer. There are few support systems for the advanced stages of the illness.
The Center gave me a generous amount of information that I passed out at my bake sale to inform others about the importance of knowing about breast cancer. Although I will be graduating in June, I have set aside the extra pamphlets to be read and distributed at Newark’s next Dig Pink event in 2016. This experience has made me realize how much people don’t know about breast cancer, that most people do not want to talk about it, what research is being done, and the importance of getting mammograms and monthly self-checks.
This overall experience has had such a positive effect on my life. I have found new meaning to the words “knowledge is power”. I took the opportunity to learn and share information about a cause that’s very important to me, having had very close family friends diagnosed with the
disease more recently. My goal is to continue to spread information about breast cancer far into the future. I have learned that being diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer is not a death sentence, but a “fork in the road”. There is treatment. Research is the key to finding a cure. I
realize my power, comparatively speaking, to help find a cure and spread the word is small, but in my heart I believe that I have made a difference and that one day, everyone will live cancer free. The Power of Will.