I never could have survived in retail. Sales? Forget it. Telemarketing? I don’t have the gene code. I’d die before I’d make a “cold call.”
So when Alexis Cassidy, the punk spitfire at the American Cancer Society, asked board members like myself to cold-call survivors to invite them and their families and friends to our free Survivor Summer Social, which takes place today from 4 to 7 p.m., my heart stopped. Don’t get me wrong. Breast cancer took my mom and sis, so I’m a motivated cheerleader, but don’t you hate the jerks who call you at home? “My call list has 20 names. What do I say?”
Lovely Alexis smiled. “It’s easy. Here’s a script.” She’s a pro. Cancer killed her mom.
I’ve never stuck to a script in my life. But I had to do it. This year I am a co-chair dedicated to getting more people to participate in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk on Oct. 22. (Shameless plug.)
Some of the numbers I called were “no longer in service.” Not everyone beats cancer.
“Hi, this is Dave Fitzsimmons, cartoonist, cancer survivor and crank caller annoying you on behalf of —”
I joked about the weather. “The fun will happen indoors, I-N-D-O-O-R-S, inside a vast air-conditioned — did I say air conditioned? — building at 2015 W. River Road.” (Really shameless plug.)
The 11th woman who answered her phone had a laugh identical to my mom’s. I had not heard a laugh like that in 40 years. Made me miss my brassy open-armed mom something awful. My mom coped with her cancer by laughing at her fate. She was funny as hell facing death. She modeled an attitude that helped me through my own cancer.
That’s why going to a social is good. We need each other as supportive role models.
“It will be cool inside, I promise. And you’ll get to see to other survivors like yourself. There will be jumping castles and a wine bar — a combination which did not sound like a good idea — for the kids.”
She laughed. “The wine bar is for the kids?”
“No. The jumping castles. I’ll be drawing caricatures of survivors.”
“I’ll be there.”
Maybe I can recruit her man for one of my Real Men Wear Pink fundraisers. Real Men Wear Pink is an army of guys who help to raise money and awareness for the fight. If you’re a guy who felt helpless while breast cancer ravaged someone you love, this is a way to fight back. Email me at email@example.com, subject line: RMWP, and I’ll tell you how you can help.
My first fundraiser idea is a storytelling event. Coming up with just the right title was the hard part:
“Thanks for the Mammaries: An Evening of Storytelling in Support of Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” will feature six amazing stories told by amazing people in 10 amazing minutes sometime in September. It will be amazing.
(I adore Odyssey Storytelling, so I’m thrilled Odyssey founder Penelope Star is helping me produce this.) When I sketch people at the social this weekend I’ll be a stealth recruiter, quizzing them about their cancer experiences, listening for the best stories.
You got a story? I’m looking for stories from nurses, doctors, survivors, spouses, kids. All perspectives.
My other fundraiser idea is a comedy show related to breast cancer. I hope you know the “Estrogen Hour” collective of local comedy divas. Queen of “Estrogen Hour,” Nancy Stanley, will help me produce a defiant all-girl comic answer to this terrible disease. Nancy wondered what we would call it.
She said, “I think a good title would be ‘Titters: A Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Event.’ Like it?”
I shook my head. “The paper would never print that.”
I’m glad I overcame my silly anxiety and made those phone calls this week. Talking to survivors enriches a soul. And I got to hear what sounded very much like my mother’s laugh. Miss that sound. Kept that woman on the phone as long as I could. Hope she shows up today. Indoors.