Oct. 17, 2013, Vol. 11, Issue 21
I love this table place card holder. It guided me to my table at the Breast Cancer Survivor Celebration put on last week by the PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center in Longview, WA. I attended this event last year as well. The message “Fight Like A Girl” is actually printed on a napkin that’s creatively folded to look like a t-shirt. Cute!
While I always enjoy attending events to hear the speakers, I also enjoy picking up on the creative ideas for decor and fundraising, and, what’s all important, the energy of the crowd. Spirits were high that Saturday afternoon as our speaker, Mamie McCullough shared her survivor story and her irrepressible zest for positive living. She is, after all, a Zig Ziglar protégé.
If Bumblebees Can Fly . . .
Mamie McCullough is a survivor of many of life’s trials. She grew up in a poor family in Georgia – she worked in the cotton fields, picked tobacco, and at times ate nothing but beans for weeks. She got herself into college despite her naiveté. She’s been depressed, abused, divorced and widowed. She raised three kids as a single Mom and put them through college, and she’s survived breast cancer — all with a strong faith, a sense of humor and an indomitable “I CAN” spirit.
“We will all more than likely experience some rough spots or bumps in life,” she says, “so we need to avoid as many potholes in the road as possible, prepare to absorb the shocks, and press on to our destination.”
In addition to a strong faith in God, the bumblebee (see that pin on her shoulder?) is one of her inspirations. “According to aerodynamics, the bumblebee should not be able to fly because his wings are too light, and his body is too heavy. He, however, does not know this; so he flies anyway. I identify with the bumblebee,” she adds, “I shouldn’t be able to fly either, because of the challenges I’ve been through in my life.”
The symbol of the bumblebee is a daily reminder to Mamie to make a decision to “bee” her best and go forward in faith. “Belief brings me hope in doing what I may think I can’t do,” she says. “I believe that when we keep trying, regardless of circumstances, we become better — and that brings us hope.”
It was June 1999 while in the shower one day that she discovered the lump in her left breast. Her last child had graduated from college, and for the first time in twenty years she was beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel -.
An immediate trip to her general physician led to fast and furious rounds of doctor’s appointments, sonograms, and mammograms. Within a week she was on the operating table for a radical mastectomy. “Even with the shock of the news,” she said, “I remained intact. I was emotional, of course. I cried, but I felt a peace, knowing that God had everything under control.”
“Though my children were all grown, telling them was the most difficult. They were shocked and upset as I told them I had breast cancer and would need a radical mastectomy. I had a level 3 malignant neoplasm of the breast. I choked back tears as I saw the hurt in my children’s eyes because of the seriousness of the surgery.”
Supported by family, friends, prayer, and expert healthcare, Mamie came through with her “Can do,” attitude intact. She told the audience never to be a whiner: “Don’t ask why,” she said. “But ask instead — What can I do to make things better?”
One night while she was in the hospital, her good friends Dr. and Mrs. Kenneth Cooper stopped by for a visit. Dr. Cooper encouraged her to start exercising her arm immediately. The next day her surgeon gave her the same advice. She advised her to place her hands together and lift them over her head ten times each hour while she was awake — immediately.
Sore, bandaged, with 2 drains, and depressed, Mamie didn’t feel like doing anything like that, but she knew she had to try. Crying, grunting and groaning, she was determined to come back as well as she could, and she knew it would take faith and action — including a consistent program of exercise.
“Taking action is not always easy,” she says, “but it is necessary to take back our mental, emotional, and physical health. As a result of doing what I did not feel like doing and did not want to do — for four weeks — I can truthfully say that I have 95 percent range and feeling back in my arm.”
Mamie relays her stories with a great deal of humor. Her optimism shines through her every word. She held the survivors and their family members and guests spellbound in her hand for the entire hour. For more information about booking Mamie for your event, visit our website or give me a call at 503-699-5031.
HOT HAIR for TEN BUCKS Raises Money
All week I’ve been fielding comments about the pink streak in my hair — and I’m happy that it’s drawing attention to breast cancer survivor’s month. Actually it’s not my hair; it’s a hot pink extension I got at the survivor luncheon just before Mamie spoke. It was applied with a flat iron to my own hair. It looks quite natural — well, as natural as a pink streak in blonde hair can look — and as I recall from last year, it stayed in for several weeks.
Ambience, a Longview hair and nail studio, sponsored the booth. Kathleen McCool, pictured showing off the basket of extensions, told me that they originally did it for hospital workers on their Day of Giving at PeaceHealth St John’s. They ask just a $10 donation for each one, and all of the money raised goes to the foundation to fund the breast center. They also offer the extensions in the salon for clients during the entire month of October.
I thought it was a great idea — fun for the participants, good exposure for both the sponsor and the cause, easy and inexpensive to execute, and profitable for the beneficiary. It doesn’t get much better than that! And Kathleen says, “Go ahead and steal the idea. It’s all for a great cause.”
Until next time, remember Mamie’s philosophy, “It’s not what happens to you in life, it’s what you do with it.” Take care of yourself for your well being and those you love.
For Your Well Being is published bi-weekly. We bring you insider speaker reports, exclusive stories about special events around the country, meeting planner tips, and fun stuff from the worlds of health and well being. Be well and be in the know!
The Speak Well Being Group is a specialized speakers bureau, focusing on speakers for hospital-sponsored community events, healthcare organizations, nurses, conferences and women’s groups. Our speakers are hand-selected. They are not only experts in their fields, they connect with their audiences while bringing them life-changing information, smiles of recognition and ultimately a sense of well being and hope.
Finding the perfect keynote speaker for your special event or conference is my personal passion, not just once, but year after year. It brings me great joy to know that your audience was delighted and moved by the speaker we selected together. I’m committed to making the process easy, pleasant and fun.