I am a firm believer in Newton’s Law. For those of you who are unaware of this phenomenon, Newton’s Law states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. (Yes, it’s a law of motion, but I feel it fits for life, too.) For us to understand love we must find hate, for us to understand happiness we must find sadness…for all of these things to be as momentous as they can be, we must fully understand the opposite so we can completely appreciate what the positivity is. Typically, you can only find one positive outcome from one negative outcome: hungry vs. full, emptiness vs. passion, I’m sure by now you understand what it is I’m getting at. There is one action though that I truly believe can spawn a whole mess of positivity: sickness. When I was 16 I was diagnosed with narcolepsy, but that was 6 months after I was passing out up to 5 times a day and no one knew why. I was taken out of school and not allowed to go anywhere or do anything; my mom would even sit on the toilet while I was taking a shower in the off chance (or, I suppose at that point in time the very likely chance) I would pass out and die in a ball of my own body and water. I was depressed, I never wanted to get out of bed, and generally disliked my entire life. From these small disturbances I found a whole new outlook on life. I became more passionate, calmer, stronger, funnier, more patient, a better listener…the list goes on. Sometimes when you find yourself in a deep state of self-loathing that can only be brought upon by a sickness, once you finally find the light it seems to shine so much more than you ever thought it would. I take my new outlook on life, which is burning 9 years strong, with a grain of salt. Even though I found this nice breath of fresh air from all of my despair, there are plenty of people out there who have gone, or are going, through far worse. And, for me, it makes the brilliant things they do burn that much brighter because I know how it can feel.
Cheryl Cascella Confalone, resident of New Jersey and aunt to my lifelong friend Jodi, is one of these brilliant people. After being diagnosed with cancer in 2010, she has decided to take the gift of life as a chance to give back to people who are in the same situations she has found herself in during her trials and tribulations with this disease.
Her bout began in the beginning of 2011, after being diagnosed with stage 3-4 invasive breast cancer. (I’d just like to add a bit in here to say that this post has taken me so long to write up because as I would start writing, I would get blasted with about sixty different emotions, thinking of people from my past and my present who have battled this disease. Some won [I love you Alicia!], some lost, but regardless I found myself in a teary mess before I would give up and try again tomorrow.) The whole trial started off as one would imagine: doctors visit and then chemotherapy. No one likes chemo, but with the grueling monster of Cancer clinging onto Cheryl’s back as an unwanted guest, things like blood clots resulting from the chemo that was supposed to cure her were not something Cheryl wanted to add to her already overflowing plate of life. They say things get darkest before the dawn, but I suppose sometime that darkness can settle in for a little longer than you would plan for it to be there.
Having time to herself, Cheryl started to think of the things that bothered her the most about having this disease. What she came up with wasn’t being weak, or being sick, or feeling sad, it was watching her husband have to do the work of two people, while also trying to maintain the strength that Cheryl so desperately needed to have around her. Even though she had 3 children all grown, she did still have a 12 year old at home, and being in a position where she could be around but not be there alongside her husband and son was one of the most difficult things for her. “It’s funny, so many people will make excuses as to why they can’t be there to help you, but then there are others who would help when you least expect them to, and it’s a true eye opener.” This made Cheryl decide that even in her sickness, she wanted to be one of those people who would help others whenever and however they needed the help, even if she was still battling this disease herself.
Having worked in the medical field for over 30 years, and having her own private practice in her home since ’89 which you can read more about here, another burden she found with this disease was all the insurance chutes and ladders she encountered. Since so many people are more interested in making a dollar than actually dealing with people, she found herself constantly in shouting matches and giving threats to sue companies for trying to screw her out of what they were obligated to pay. Thanks to all the training she had with her years in the business she could get through all the red tape even when she was going through rounds of 4-hour chemotherapy treatments. Think about that for a moment as a laymen: you’ve got a disease ruining you from the inside out, you’ve just had a grueling session pumping your body full of radiation. You feel sick, tired, sad, and angry, and now you have to get on the phone and convince some white-collar brats not to take advantage of you because you’re so sick. I wouldn’t be able to do it, and I think that a lot of other people would end up cowering in the corner of their lives and let phone calls and debt pile up. But no, not Cheryl. Once she got through it all it did was fuel the fire of her desire to help others from ending up in a situation they felt they could never escape.
With that, Cheryl began the Day By Day Hope Foundation. (You can visit the main page of her foundation on Facebook, here. Or at the organizations website, here) The idea is to help those who need it with the generals of day to day life. Everything from yardwork, to grocery shopping, to insurance billing, no one deserves to go through something like this feeling helpless and alone, and as long as Cheryl is around they won’t have to be. “My friends are my doctors, and they feel this is the piece of the puzzle that has been missing. SO many foundations go to research…being in healthcare I know that there is money there! But what about the people? Should someone have to choose between medication to save their lives and paying their mortgage? We believe this foundation has the ability to help many!” The idea of Day By Day Hope is to not cure cancer, but to cure the lives of those who are battling the disease. People tend to forget how much outside influence has on how you’re feeling. If someone is sick and they also have the added stress of having to do all the normal little things in life, then deal with the abnormal things like doctors and insurance bills and legal issues, the added factor of all those things will continue to eat away at the victim and keep them feeling sick and down. Imagine if they didn’t have to worry about how they were going to eat or how they were going to pay their bills? All the focus, then, would be on GETTING BETTER, and in reality that’s all any of us ever want for those who are going through something like this.
Even though Cheryl is still in her battle, that doesn’t mean she isn’t strong enough to take the reigns for someone else. The passion, drive, and genuine kindness embodied in Cheryl is a testament to all of humanity. Her willingness to help others is uncanny, and it gives me great hope for the future. Hell, it even makes me feel good, and I hope that it can make you feel good, too.
If anyone is interested in sending donations to Day By Day Hope Foundation, you can send any checks (made payable to Day By Day Hope Foundation) to Cheryl at:
Cheryl Cascella Confalone
90 Sand Hills Rd Kendall Pk, NJ 08824
(You can also make donations digitally at the main website, too!)