What’s it like to tie yourself to a cause for nearly 20 years and then see your organization become vulnerable almost overnight? For me, it was an “Oh, no!” moment, quickly followed by the realization that this is not a time to dwell on what we have done, but to focus on what we will do going forward.
In 2003 I founded Less Cancer (lesscancer.org), which was incorporated the next year as Next Generation Choices Foundation. I was moved to start the organization to eliminate the suffering that comes hand in hand with a cancer diagnosis.
Since the launch of Less Cancer 17 years ago, I have held part-time jobs, raised a family, and recovered from a life-changing tumor surgery on my spine. Under sometimes tough personal circumstances, I continued to fight for the health security of families and communities not just in my home state of Virginia, but in North America and around the globe.
As an organization, Less Cancer has either led the charge or supported initiatives addressing cancer risks, ranging from some pesticides and chemicals to indoor tanning, smoking in public spaces and health disparities and increased incidences of cancer. We’ve addressed cancer risks associated with lifestyle concerns such as diet, exercise, and obesity. We have worked on drinking water issues and viruses like HPV and HIV. Above all, we’ve sought solutions and worked to implement them.
Personally, being the face for an organization like Less Cancer has had its challenges. The climb has never been steeper and more daunting than it is today, but I am not afraid and I am not backing away.
It’s tempting to look back on all of our work with pride, but I choose to look forward with anticipation and expectation. The shared motivation for Less Cancer—preventing cancer before it strikes—has inspired many people to raise and donate funds for this mission.
I am committed to everyone who has supported this cause and I’m convinced we must continue. But the legacy of Less Cancer is not singular with me—it is plural with US. Like never before, our call is to serve humanity. In response, Less Cancer is engineering smarter solutions for communities and collaborating with a wider range of entities. Our programming is stronger than ever.
I am seeing negative effects of this pandemic on Less Cancer, and sometimes I am honestly not sure how we are going to make it. But I am not backing down. Our board is not backing down and neither are our many volunteers. My commitment—Less Cancer’s commitment—has never been clearer: Together we can continue to serve communities by working to secure their health. That’s what we have always been about: securing the public’s health.
The chips may be down, but this is our time to better than good. To do more. To be strong. To lead. The coronavirus will be conquered, but cancer will remain an ever-present threat.
Less Cancer’s value is well documented, but now we will need to work harder, smarter and more creatively. What each of us does going forward will make all the difference for our children and our children’s children—and we will need all the help we can get to fulfill our promise. What applies to Less Cancer also has meaning for every other project and non-profit that is struggling during the pandemic. Carrying on won’t be easy, but it’s the right thing to do. Continue with your mission. Continue to do good. But do more! Now is the time for unlikely collaborations and working creatively to support each other. We all must be around the table to come back better and stronger.