Admission: when I launched this website almost exactly a year ago, I was so nervous.
I had worked so many hours on this site. I’d spent Friday nights and Saturday afternoons at Starbucks, writing and re-writing the content of every page, sometimes walking to my car with effectively a paragraph of text after 4 hours of work. I knew the road was long but not insurmountable. I knew that God gave me the abilities to finish the content and technical details to push the site live. Much like my time in the hospital, my time creating Cheekswab was slow, and taken a day at a time. And in faith that one day those steps would not be in vain.
I remember putting the link to cheekswab on Facebook. That’s when the nerves were strongest. Would anyone care? Would anyone help, would anyone join? Were the hours and effort I put into this site all in vain? I had so many doubts. But I wrote the status and pasted the link. I took a deep breath and clicked “share.”
The support from friends and family was overwhelming.
The link was re-shared over and over (and over) again. Visitors begin to hit the site from around the world. I received emails and messages from people to lend their encouragement and support for the cause. And even greater than that, people joined the registry.
It was such an amazing day to be alive.
I made a promise on my hospital bed. But it wasn’t just to myself; it was also to my nurses, my doctors, my family, my friends, everyone else I saw who was touched by this disease, and to God.
It was the acceptance of the burden of knowing the reality of cancer. It was the promise that because I now knew what it was like, I would never forget it. I would never turn a blind eye or a callous disregard to those who stood in my shoes. If I could do something about it, in my limited capacity as a non-medical professional, I would.
I did a lot of things this year through Cheekswab that I never expected to do. I spoke publicly to more people than I ever expected for anywhere from 5-45 minutes at a time. I manned booths at conventions and shows. I put my face and my story out there for the scrutiny of others. I invested time and money into something I really believed in. I coordinated drive supplies, volunteers, and venues.
I became invested in the lives of people whom I’d never met from across the Internet. I watched people I care for pass away, and their friends and family members cope with the loss. I watched people I care for survive, with a newly appreciated love and vigor for life. I met people who donated marrow graciously to people they didn’t know, solely because “it was the right thing to do.” I met other fighters for the cause and heard their own inspirational stories, whether it was their own medical history, the death of a loved one or conviction placed within them by a friend.
18 months ago Cheekswab was nothing but a dream. An idea I’d mention randomly to close friends and family, just to see if they’d give me a good reason not to follow through. It was one of those “wouldn’t it be nice” ideas, more idealistic fantasy than concrete plan. I didn’t know where to start. I didn’t feel qualified, I didn’t think I had the necessary skills or personality.
Even after a year things are still very much a work in progress. But luckily since day one I haven’t walked this path alone. There’s been an incredible system of support, including BeTheMatch regional coordinator Juliette Williams, other contacts from Be The Match, and a tireless group of friends and supporters who are willing to help me staff drives/complete kits.
What a year it’s been; 463 new donors and over 10,000 independent visitors to cheekswab.org in 2012. Here’s to new and even more exciting times in 2013, and even more saved lives.
Cheekswab has been a dream come true for me, and to everyone who has been involved in any way, shape or form, I thank you.