By Sue Bersh
“The ship of my life may or may not be sailing on calm and amiable seas. The challenging days of my existence may or may not be bright and promising. Stormy or sunny days, glorious or lonely nights, I maintain an attitude of gratitude. If I insist on being pessimistic, there is always tomorrow. Today I am blessed.” ― Maya Angelou
If I had to sum myself up in one sentence it would be: I AM GRATEFUL.
There is nothing I am more grateful for than my husband and three incredible sons – each is a dream come true. My gratitude list is a long one – so many people and experiences that have made me who I am. I have learned that even out of sadness and hurt can come blessings.
When I was 15 years old, my Grandma Harriet died of lung cancer. My twin brother and I were her only grandchildren. We spent lots of quality time with her, and she adored us. Her life ended much too early, but to this day I feel extremely connected to her, and I am grateful.
When I was a sophomore in high school, my closest friend told me she didn’t want to be my friend anymore, and I was heartbroken. A few months later I found a new group of friends who have remained my friends for life, including my friend Elyse. Out of heartbreak came lifelong friends, and I was grateful!
Seven years ago Elyse was diagnosed with lung cancer. I intimately shared in her illness and treatment and watched her hopelessly fight a disease with a 15% survival rate (not much better than when my grandma died 30 years earlier). I don’t think I will ever be able to fully share what this experience was like, but suffice to say that I was changed forever by it. And although it was devastating to watch, I am grateful for what we shared, which equated to a lifetime of love and friendship in the 2-1/2 years that Elyse battled this insidious disease.
Call it fate or karma – whatever it is – I truly believe that all of our experiences, big and small, and our relationships build on each other to put us on our destined path with the people we are meant to be with. Hopefully this path will lead us to doing good and living a life true to ourselves.
I have found my path in my involvement with LUNGevity Foundation. I am proud to be a board member, and last year I organized my first Breathe Deep fundraising event (with the help of many good friends and LUNGevity supporters) in the community where I grew up and still live today, Deerfield, IL. Over 1,300 people participated last May, and we raised an unbelievable $140,000. We engaged a community in an important cause. A few months later, Deerfield High School chose LUNGevity as the beneficiary of its annual School Chest fundraiser. These extraordinary kids raised over $135,000 in three weeks to fund lung cancer research, and they inspired many, many people to care about lung cancer. I’m not sure any LUNGevity experience will top what I was fortunate enough to share with those remarkable teenagers. I am eternally grateful!
As we plan our next event, Breathe Deep North Shore, I am grateful for a community that has opened its arms to LUNGevity. They have put the stigma aside and truly understand that lung cancer is a fight that needs to be everyone’s. Lung cancer takes more lives than breast, prostate and colon cancers combined; it is destined to touch us all. I have never been more passionate about anything in my life than this cause.
I am particularly grateful for the friends I have made on this journey, especially my friend Jill. This 43-year old, non-smoking mom of four is the new face of lung cancer. I love her and admire all that she does to advocate for herself, her family, and this cause. Jill, along with my friends Jerry, Lynda, Mary, Patti, Heather, Tracy, Barb, and others battling this disease, are the reasons I am in this fight for the long haul. They need treatment options, and they and their families deserve hope.
We all should celebrate life, especially when faced with challenges and loss. We need to be passionate about what we believe in and love hard because every day and every person in our lives truly is a gift. We need to find our destined path and make a difference in others’ lives. We should give of ourselves in a way that fulfills us and BE GRATEFUL for the things that matter most.
I am grateful to have found LUNGevity. It has helped me heal and find meaning in a terrible loss. Join me on my journey and maybe it will become yours too (or at least inspire you to find your own). If you live in the Chicago area, join us for Breathe Deep North Shore, a 5K fun run, one-mile walk and balloon launch on April 28th at Deerfield High School. Join my team, Elyse’s Legacy, Jill’s Team, Just Breathe, another team, or start your own. Register or donate today, and share in a day of meaning and hope.
WE can make a difference in the fight against lung cancer.