On August 2nd, The Valerie Fund hosted The American Express Golf Tournament at the legendary Baltusrol Golf Club. The highlight of the day was when TVF patient Brianna spoke to the group about how The Valerie Fund affected her life.
The American Express Golf Tournament is an annual day of golf at the Baltusrol Golf Club, long famous for its amazing greens and history-making matches. Each year The Valerie Fund invites players from American Express and other companies to enjoy brunch, 18 holes of golf, and a dinner hosted by a TVF patient. We are ecstatic to report that this year's event raised $407,000 for our kids.
This year's patient honoree was Brianna and she has quite the story to tell. Let's hear it in her own words ...
Hello! My name is Brianna and I am honored to be here tonight to speak about the Valerie fund. By way of introduction, I am a cancer survivor, patient advocate, congressional lobbyist, and public speaker in the pediatric cancer community. I am a recent college graduate and first-year analyst at American Express. My proudest role, however, is that I am a Valerie Fund kid.
I am so blessed to have had the Valerie fund in my life for almost 15 years now. I am a proud recipient of all the incredible services that the Valerie Fund has to offer - and I have been an advocate and spokesperson for this organization for over a decade. As I look around the room, it is absolutely incredible to see so many familiar faces. I sincerely thank you to those of you who have been in this fight against cancer for years, and for continuing to be a part of this long journey. And to new faces I do not recognize, thank you for joining the fight. It is because of the generous philanthropists like everyone here tonight, that the Valerie Fund is able to make the future of pediatric cancer treatment and survivorship so promising.
MY CANCER JOURNEY
I was introduced to the Valerie Fund under absolutely awful circumstances - it is because I was diagnosed with cancer. While I wish we met under slightly different circumstances, I consider myself so lucky to have crossed paths with such an incredible organization that has enriched my life in so many ways.
My journey with cancer all began almost 15 years ago when I was in the third grade. I was a very normal girl in elementary school. But then one day- my “normal” world took a turn. It all started when I found a swollen lymph node on the left side of my neck.
After a year of being misdiagnosed, my parents and I were brought to Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center where we learned the horrifying yet relieving news- I had cancer. My official diagnosis was Stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
Because of the severity and stage of my cancer, there was no time to wait. The game plan was to have surgery to implant a port-o-cath the very next day and to start chemo treatments the day after. My chemotherapy would consist of two different protocols lasting 4 months each.
Little did I know- on that day, my life changed forever. I stepped out of the world of a normal fourth-grader and into the world of cancer.
And so my treatments began. During the course of my chemotherapy treatments, I encountered and endured more than most do in a lifetime. I received countless infusions, transfusions, blood work, etc. I had 7 surgeries in just that small time frame. The most disappointing part was losing my hair. 9-year-old me and current-23-year-old me would both agree that seeing my beautiful hair fall out was the hardest and saddest experience of my life. I had to be homeschooled for all of fourth grade and also had to stop all sports.
Despite all the hardships of my treatment, the Valerie Fund kept my spirits high. I know that it was my oncologists and chemotherapy that cured my cancer, but it was really the Valerie Fund that cured my spirit and brought life back when cancer and chemo brought me down.
During my treatments, the Valerie fund helped me immensely. They provided my family and I with alternative services like a psychologist - who was one of the most influential and comforting parts of my treatments.
WHERE I AM TODAY
After a year of chemo treatments, I was cancer-free. Today, I am celebrating being a 13-year cancer survivor. In all my years of survivorship, the Valerie fund has played the single most influential role in my life. What is most special about this organization, is that they help kids not only during treatment but during survivorship!
The Valerie Fund College Scholarship is one way that this organization has helped me.
The financial burden of college is enough, let alone after a cancer diagnosis and treatment. As cancer survival rates rise, so do the price tags of life-saving treatments. Cancer’s overall financial burden—including the direct costs of care, the indirect costs, and the distress resulting from these financial stressors of cancer care--can be devastating and overwhelming for families.
The Valerie fund scholarship is a selective scholarship opportunity that grants monetary awards to patients. I was a recipient of the Valerie Fund college scholarship for all four years of college. I attended the University of Miami and just graduated with a business degree.
My parents and I were so grateful and humbled to be a recipient of this college scholarship. This took so much financial stress off of my mom and dad - and allowed me to focus on my academics and extracurriculars rather than financial stress. We are grateful to our generous donors for making this scholarship program possible and allowing kids like me to continue their journey.
JOB AT AMEX
Aside from a college scholarship, the Valerie fund helped me network to land my dream job with American Express in NYC right out of college. I am so incredibly grateful to be working for such a great company and with such great colleagues - and doing exactly what I hoped for myself post-graduation.
My long-term career goal is to gain a strong background in data-driven insights and predictive analytics at American Express - to combine that with my advocacy efforts and passion - to work with a pediatric cancer genetic sequencing company… treating cancer with precision medicine.
I now vow to dedicate my career and advocacy efforts to giving back to the Valerie Fund, for all they have done for me. And remember - I am JUST ONE Valerie Fund kid - and the impact that this organization has had on just me has been enormous.
To close this out - I will leave you with this….
I often wonder what my life now would be like if I did not have cancer. I think about if I had the chance to go back and not have cancer, would I? The answer is absolutely not. While having stage 4 cancer was the most devastating and damaging experience of my life…it is now, the most eye-opening and extraordinary, rewarding experience of my life. Having cancer led me to the Valerie fund where I have been blessed with so many opportunities and incredible people in my life that if it were not for cancer, would have never happened.
I am so proud of the person that my cancer made me grow into and I thank the Valerie fund for guiding me and providing me with opportunities and being there for me every step of the way.
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