Query Quest

One writer's journey to getting published

Sarah Fister Gale

Sarah Fister Gale
Chicago, Illinois, USA
August 07
Sarah Fister Gale is a freelance journalist, novelist and wine-drinker based in Chicago. She is agented by the fabulous Jacquie Flynn of Joelle Delbourgo Associates who is currently seeking a good home for her novel, Losing Jenni, a story of a little girl who drowns in the Chicago River, and the amazing choice her mother makes to cope with her loss. Follow her on Twitter @SarahGale.

Editor’s Pick
APRIL 4, 2011 6:16PM

I got bullied into fighting breast cancer

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Let me begin by admitting right up front that I did not sign up for the Avon Two Day Walk for Breast Cancer because I am driven to change the world, or to avenge the death of a loved one. While I am aware of the devastation that breast cancer causes, and I know many people whose lives have been affected by this disease, it’s never touched anyone close to me. I have no teary-eyed tale to share, no precious soul whose memory will live on in every step I’ll take. I am not that noble.

I joined the Avon Two Day Walk for Breast Cancer because I wanted the exercise.

I like the idea of a multi-day physical challenge, and the AIDS Ride sounded too hard.  So, despite the fact that I haven’t worn pink since I was six-years-old, the Avon Walk seemed the perfect idea. I could raise a little money for a good cause while taking a 39 mile walk along the lovely Chicago Lakefront, and I’d get to sleep in a tent in a park not far from my home.

Of course, when I came up with this plan, the fund raising aspect was a little fuzzy. In a vague way, I understood that I would be expected to raise money toward The Cure, but in my head it was the kind of money that I could bully my siblings and parents into covering. It never occurred to me that I might have to ask non-relatives to give me money.

 I was wrong. By a long shot.

After announcing my plans to do The Walk on Facebook, and inviting the world (or my online version of the world) to join me, I did a little research. It turns out that the minimum amount of money that I would have to raise in order to participate in The Walk  is $1800.

This amount reaches far beyond the generosity of my immediate family.

I promptly tried to quit, but I’d already roped several people into joining me on the journey. And while most of them also quit after hearing that figure, there was one insistent walker – Debbie, you know who I’m talking about – who refused to be deterred. She insisted we could meet this goal, and cajoled, bullied, and sweet-talked me into making good on my promise.

So, we attended a meeting, collected our Avon Walk for Breast Cancer t-shirt, and made the commitment official. I had 83 days to raise $1800.

Not surprisingly, fund raising did not come naturally to me. As a trade journalist, it’s my job to give away free publicity, and except for the rare media-shy CEO or oil company executive, most people love to take me up on my requests for interviews.

Asking people to give donations, it turns out, is an entirely different kind of skill. While I have successfully bullied the occasional parent into donating juice boxes to a classroom party, I have no experience raising funds for good causes. I don’t like asking for help, and I certainly don’t like asking for money, so this process has been an uncomfortable one.

After dismissing my Avon Walk Coordinator’s suggestions that I host  a bar crawl or sell paper shamrocks at a local coffee shop, I opted to focus on the easiest, most effective, and least personally invasive approach I could think of – email requests.

The trick was crafting a message that made my quest to raise money in support of a cure poignant and meaningful. This is tough to do when you don’t have a heartfelt story to share.  “My thighs are flabby and I want to sleep in a tent,” are hardly words to make people scramble for their credit cards.  I needed a hook.

I finally settled on a message that rang true and would make sense to people: I’m lucky not to have experienced this disease, and I’d like to show the universe my appreciation by fighting for those who are not so lucky.

I sent out emails, posted updates on Facebook, and tweeted every person I could think of who would conceivably remember who I am. Then I waited.

It’s been almost four weeks since I started my campaign, and the experience has been far less painful than I expected – and far more humbling. Many of the people I thought would jump in on day one with donations have been surprisingly silent, while people I barely know have been unaccountably generous.

I’ve received donations from family, and friends and employers. An old boyfriend from college donated $50, and a boy I haven’t seen since fourth grade donated $100 after seeing an update on my Facebook page. In one case a complete stranger pledged $25 after noticing  the Breast Cancer Walk icon in a business email I sent to him. He told me his daughter does the Walk every year, and he always gives when he can.

Today, I am more than halfway to my goal, and feeling for the first time that I may actually achieve it. And while this is possibly the last time I will sign on for a fund raising project, the experience has given me hope, which is a tough commodity to come by these days. If the people in my small network can be this generous, imagine what can be accomplished on a grand scale. There is power in numbers, and power in a generous spirit that can drive change, and find cures, and end wars. And hopefully, there is enough power out there to stamp out breast cancer once and for all.

To all those people who’ve contributed to my campaign to find a cure for breast cancer, thank you. You are amazing, and selfless, and so important to me.

And to those who haven’t yet donated… there’s still time. 


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I'm all for research that helps to find a cure for breast cancer & applaud your fund raising. I've read though that the Komen walk only gives to research about 20% of the proceeds.

Additionally, the 'pink ribbon' marketing is often used on products which are unhealthy - like Colonel Sanders fried chicken, cookies, etc.
Most of the products sold with the pink ribbon are made in China. Someone makes a profit on these items but nothing (or very little) goes to research for a cure.

Not to say that it's a total scam or to discourage you and others from supporting cancer research by participating in the walk but just to let you know that a lot of the money raised goes towards salaries, administrative costs, perks, travel expenses, etc. There has been fraud and misuse of funds in the organization as well as with The American Cancer Society.

If you can find it, watch "Penn and Teller's Bullshit" video on Breast Cancer. It's an eye-opener.

So, do the walk - for sure - but do consider other options such as direct donations to the Cancer Research Institute. Also volunteers are always needed to drive cancer patients to treatments, care for their children, etc. during treatment, after surgery, etc. Women who are uninsured have unmet needs besides healthcare. Very often they live in poverty and need essentials such as food and shelter. Your local Cancer Resource Center representative can direct you to the areas with the greatest need.
Important to remember that in our age of corporate medicine this ain't you grandmother's March of Dimes, not by a long-shot.

That's the price we pay for big-pharma corporate healthcare.
I had Ovarian cancer in1991. Stage 3. I did one walk based on raising funds. Will never do it again. I'm done with this style of fund raising forever. Don't buy anything based on pink ribbons.

BTW, people are generous. These ran charities are about themselves only. Get over good intentions and donate directly. Scams are prevalent in this industry.
I thought I'd comment just to say what a shame I think it is that people reading this felt the need to criticize, rather than applaud your effort. Sure, running a charity requires work that also costs money, but doing a walk or ride also increases awareness about important issues and helps get people involved that perhaps wouldn't otherwise.
Good for you for making a personal commitment to this cause! We all should take a step towards creating the changes we want to see in the world...
First of all, I'm a former professional fundraiser who worked for two of the biggest national charities. Second, dealing with the for-profit American Medical Establishment (which I define as doctors, hospitals, and Big Pharma, and not including, generally speaking, nurses, nurse-practitioners, nor certified nurse midwives) and expecting it to find a cure for one of its most profitable diseases is like asking the proverbial fox to guard the chicken house!

Are you aware of the staggering amount of money the average cancer patient spends? Do you know that any truly honest doctor will tell patients that the chemo has a 50% chance of killing them? And how many tell the truth when they know the chemo killed the patient? How perfect to be dealing with cancer which is so "deadly" and "unpredictable", and therefore always offers an excuse for the patient's death, no matter what!

Besides, there are numerous cancer cures out there that the American Medical Establishment will not acknowledge. If said cures work and patients tell doctors of their recoveries because of the Vitamin C IV cure or a macrobiotic diet or an herb or whatever, it is ignored. Instead, because the American Medical Establishment didn't cure the patient, it's a "miracle".

Think of the billions of dollars raised for cancer research. And what does the American Medical Establishment have to show for it? That's right! Nothing!!! You're throwing money down a rat hole raising funds for the AME!! Besides, name one cure the AME has found that doesn't involve a lifetime of taking always dangerous pharmaceuticals and constant check-ups? Why does the USA have the highest rates of caesarean deliveries, hysterectomies, and other unnecessary operations?

And having been on the "inside", I can honestly say that money raised for charity often goes for salaries, expense accounts, and so on. Volunteer at a homeless shelter if you want to be noble, because raising money for the AME is a total and complete waste!