By Corinne Duluk, Web Manager at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute
When I sit back and think about where I was 17 years ago and where I hoped to be when I became an “adult,” I am proud to say I have accomplished my goals.
Seventeen years ago I lost my mom to adrenal cancer. It was devastating to watch someone die in such a painful way. There was very little known about this type of cancer back in 1995, so the prognosis was bleak from the day she was diagnosed.
I watched my mom go through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, only to see her get weaker and weaker with every passing day. This once vibrant woman, so full of life and love, became a living skeleton. But, to be honest, to this day I have never seen someone fight a losing battle with the energy and determination that she exuded.
During the year or so that she fought her cancer, it was an amazing thing to witness an entire family come together in support and love for her. Every day a member of the family stayed with her, made dinner for me, my sister and dad, and dropped everything just to help. Throughout the whole journey we had unwavering support and dedication. I look back now and realize that without their help, that period of my life could have been much more difficult.
When she passed away I knew I had a couple of options for how to deal with the situation. I could feel sorry for myself and go down a path of self-destruction or I could dedicate my life to accomplishing my goals with the same energy and determination as my mom did through her cancer battle. Drawing on the inspiration from my mother and family, I decide that I would dedicate my life to my goals, with the central goal of helping others.
At first I was convinced that I was going to become an oncologist and help other people with cancer. But, realizing that I am not comfortable with blood, and the thought of watching other families go through what we did on a regular basis made me quickly change my mind.
With the hope of becoming an oncologist gone, I was not really sure what to do with my life when it came to deciding what college to go to and what to major in. I just knew I wanted to help people.
So, I turned to my dad and asked him what he thought. After reading my college entrance essays to him, he immediately said I should major in something centered around writing and communications. A light bulb went off in my mind – if I major in journalism I could help people by communicating their stores to the masses.
Fast forward a few years post-graduation and my dream of becoming the next Barbara Walters and helping people through my writing seemed far-fetched. The jobs were few and the pay was terrible. So, I took a job at a non-profit, writing articles for their newsletters and managing their Web site.
While I liked the idea of working for a non-profit organization, the work I was doing didn’t feel like it made an impact on anyone’s life. I didn’t feel like I was really helping anyone. It just didn’t fit my goal and what I envisioned for my future.
I thought about my mom and tried to figure out how to get back to my goal of helping others. I did some soul searching and realized the thing I really enjoyed was volunteering for the organization’s low-income tax preparation program and for the Susan G. Komen Detroit Race for the Cure, which the organization sponsored. In these two capacities I felt I was helping people and giving back to those who needed it most.
Then, as luck would have it, I was browsing the job boards and came across a Web site manager position at Karmanos Cancer Institute. How perfect was that? I could use my writing and Web management skills to communicate life-saving information to cancer patients and their families. Plus, the Karmanos mission mirrored my life mission, to help those who needed it most through care, education and research. In addition, Karmanos was closely tied to the Detroit Race for the Cure, which I looked forward to every year.
On the day of my interview I wasn’t really nervous, because I felt like this position was posted for me. I met with the Karmanos team and immediately felt at home. I got the sense that working at Karmanos is not about the paycheck, but knowing that you are making a difference in the lives of thousands of people battling cancer.
When I received my offer I was ecstatic! After years of trying to figure out how I can help make a difference in the lives of others, I had finally done it! I may not be physically saving lives as an oncologist, but I am helping in my own way. I am providing information to people when they are searching for answers. I am working with amazing physicians and scientists who are developing and providing life-saving therapies. I am working every day to make life easier for people going through such a life-changing experience.
Thanks to my position at Karmanos I no longer have the feeling I’m not realizing my goals. I set my mind on the goal of helping and making an impact on others, and I am doing it. I am finally at a point in my life where I feel my mom can be truly proud of the daughter she helped raise.