I do not come by social action naturally. Unless you count yelling at the nightly news around the dinner table, which I learned at a very young age.
It wasn't until I joined the BBYO (Ahavah BBG #293, y’all) that I learned you could DO something about the problems in the world — the whole tikkun olam thing didn’t really stick during my Temple Israel Sunday School education (sorry, Rabbi Yedwab). I continued this work as the president of the Beta Beta chapter of Sigma Delta Tau, though much of the repairing the world I sought consisted of generating recyclable Jack Daniel’s bottles at Michigan State.
And then at 30 I was diagnosed with cancer.
“You have cancer.” Those three words are the record scratch heard ‘round the world and transform your whole identity — from Wife or Daughter or Sister — to Cancer Patient.
And even when your prognosis is encouraging, cancer threatens your future identity — especially if you want to have kids someday. When I sought to preserve my fertility before cancer treatment, my health insurance company (“insurer” seems generous) refused. I still do not understand how a round of egg freezing could be deemed elective when I never elected to have a uterine/cervical tumor. Most protocols for cancer in young adults risk rendering a patient infertile.
Infertility – being left unable to create a biological family – can be a literal side effect of cancer treatment. Most young adults don’t have $15,000 - $20,000 on hand to complete an IVF cycle in order to preserve even a chance for a future with children, not in the best of times and certainly not before beginning to fight for their lives. In 2010, when I was seeking fertility preservation treatment, there wasn’t a single state that mandated insurance coverage for these procedures.
So The Chick Mission was hatched. We — a group of survivors and supporters incensed by the status quo — started the organization to educate, advocate and provide need-based Hope Scholarships Grants for women newly diagnosed with cancer during their reproductive years.
And with that, my identity magically changed from Cancer Patient to Social Activist. I was going to repair the hostile landscape of this one corner of women’s health if it was the last thing I did.
By the end of 2019, The Chick MIssion had awarded 39 patient grants across five states. We expanded to Texas and looked forward to a 2020 full of events raising dollars and spreading our message far and wise. COVID-19 had other plans.
Applications from women who had been diagnosed with cancer (and had lost their jobs due to the pandemic) flooded our organization’s inbox and we knew we needed a way to bring our community together despite the miles and public-health restrictions that separated us.
The Great Egg Freeze, a family-friendly polar plunge, was our way to gather safely, raise awareness and give our supporters to “jump in'' with The Chick Mission. Over 50 families took the plunge last year, throwing themselves into frigid bodies of water, diving into pools or heroically dunking their dogs in the bathtub. Together, 1,200 donors contributed over $380,000 — showing up big for families’ futures in spite of the present-day pandemic.
Thanks to the creativity of our plungers — and with extra gratitude for their adorable, touching videos — the inaugural Great Egg Freeze furnished Hope Scholarship grants to 60 women.
To date, The Chick Mission has empowered 178 patients to choose how they build a family after they battle and beat cancer. Thanks to the generosity of our community, they won’t have to let cancer make their choices for them.
On Saturday, October 30, Detroit will host its Second Annual Great Egg Freeze. For those of you that want to help cancer patients preserve their fertility for the day when they are are cancer survivor, there are a few ways to help;
1. Join us for the plunge. Register, spread the word, then join me and many brave, beautiful, brilliant plungers on the 30th.
2. Donate $25 through Rear Ends and get a $50 gift certificate.
4. Even if you have no interest in being cold or wet or bathing your dog, come to West Bloomfield to cheer on the plungers and gorge yourself on the finest of food truck offerings. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.