Monday, November 12, 2012

SMAC! Sock Monkeys Are All Good Will

Cancer doesn't keep a schedule. Not for Jennifer Windrum. Not for Windrum's SMAC! Sock Monkeys Against Cancer campaign. And not for her mom, who was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2005.

This month was meant to be a celebration, a brief and fleeting moment of accomplishment in between bouts of bad news, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments. She was supposed to focused on nothing else except raising funds for her SMAC! Sock Monkeys Against Cancer product line, a milestone for Windrum's WTF? For Lung Cancer campaign and a source of pride for her mom who inspired it.

The cancer had other plans.

Although she is still doing what she can to ensure the growing grassroots support for SMAC! Sock Monkeys Against Cancer, her mom is losing and most of Windrum's time has been bedside. Even answering a few email questions for an interview is hit and miss. It depends if her mom is fortunate enough to fall asleep, a reprieve from the growing pain and discomfort she endures.

The same thing happened last July. After her mom survived three weeks of intense radiation treatment, Windrum had taken a trip to Chicago to attend a friend's wedding. The voicemail came during the reception. Cancer had other plans. Her mom was taken to the hospital, unable to breathe. The next few days were dizzying as treatment for pneumonia led to an infection that required emergency surgery.

"The whole experience has changed me so profoundly that I don't even know where to start," says Windrum. "We've learned to talk about death candidly and, aside from the horrific reasons my mom is dying, we've transformed it into a beautiful and intimate experience."

Not everyone can exhibit the same courage, but Windrum and her mom are resilient in life as they face death. Some of it comes from the decision they made together seven years ago when they learned the awful truth about lung cancer. There is virtually no funding for research because it has become associated with the stigma of smoking.

Except ... Windrum's mom never smoked. And she's not alone.

About 80 percent of the people diagnosed with it have never smoked or quit smoking decades prior. But because of the stigma and because popularity drives cancer research, lung cancer is largely ignored despite accounting for 30 percent of all cancer deaths. If you are diagnosed with it, the five-year survival rate is only 15 percent — about the same as it was almost 40 years ago.

"Because the government, and a majority of the medical community and public have long deemed lung cancer a self-inflicted disease, using the smoking stigma as an excuse, lung cancer research has been virtually ignored for decades," Windrum says. "The true story of lung cancer wasn't being told."

It was when Windrum learned that the lack of research and funding for lung cancer was as much to blame for her mom having to heroically survive the last seven years that they decided to chronicle her mom's story and make it public. Windrum was the right person to do it. She's a former reporter.

The SMAC! Sock Monkey Campaign is three times a charm. 

There are only three good things to come out of this tragic story. More people are aware that lung cancer doesn't discriminate and only target smokers. Windrum and her mom have forged a bond that few people will ever experience. And now, there is the SMAC! Sock Monkeys Against Cancer.

The sock monkey concept came out of their long and tireless journey together. As the distance between mother and daughter was often more than 1,200 miles, Windrum had always wanted to find something filled with love, support and comfort.

The spark of an idea finally materialized when her mom landed in a Denver hospital. Because Windrum couldn't be there for the week, she sent along two little sock monkeys that her twin daughters had given to her for Mother's Day. Named Phoenix and NoMo, these two little monkeys became a symbol of everything any cancer patient might need — a huggable reminder that there are people who care more than words.

SMAC! sock monkeys are unique too. They come in pairs. Any time someone purchases a SMAC! sock monkey, another will be sent to someone with cancer. And any time someone purchases a SMAC! sock monkey, it will raise funds for the National Coalition of Oncology Nurse Navigators (NCONN) and Liz’s Legacy at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Eppley Cancer Center.

"I chose NCONN because everyone with cancer should have an advocate who manages the overwhelming number of appointments, phone calls, and treatment regimens," said Windrum. "And I chose UNMC Eppley because of their lung cancer research. I believe in the work they do there and can see tangible results with my own eyes."

SMAC! Sock Monkeys Against Cancer Are A Good Will Pick.

At least once a month, Liquid Hip highlights good will efforts undertaken by people with big hearts. We don't score them. That belongs to you.

The story of Jennifer Windrum and her mom, Leslie Lehrman, is a triumph in the face of adversity. While there is nothing they can do for Lehrman, they have been an open book for years in the hope that they can help other people who are diagnosed with lung cancer in the future. Maybe someone you know and love, because anyone can be diagnosed with lung cancer.

SMAC! Sock Monkeys Against Cancer is working to raise $35,000 to help produce the first 1,000 monkeys, using the StartSomeGood crowd funding platform. Pledges start at $10 as a show of support. Those over $50 include your choice: Phoenix carries the WTF? logo and NoMo carries the SMAC! logo. Larger pledges include monkeys being shipped to cancer patients.
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