It you haven’t already heard, or seen, we’re in the midst of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month… and everything “looks like it’s been hosed down with Pepto Bismol.”

random movie quotes

You’ve got to hand it to Susan G Komen for the Cure … with support from the pharmaceutical industry, the foundation started the pink ribbon revolution back in the 90s — it is every PR professional’s dream to create a campaign that matches the success of The Pink Ribbon, or the Heart Truth for heart disease, or the ALS ice bucket challenge. Going viral can make or break a brand.

But that doesn’t mean funds raised from big charities are put toward research and early detection… Susan G Komen received enormous backlash in 2013 when it pulled nearly $700,000 in annual funding to Planned Parenthood, earmarked for breast cancer screenings. All kinds of stories about the CEO’s 64% salary increase started to circulate, and she eventually stepped down.

It can be difficult to decide where your contributions will be most needed and put to best use, and quite honestly, while awareness months are good for boosting morale, the good campaigns are ones that actually give the patients and caregivers what they need, no matter how big or small the campaign is… I’d like to help you decide.

Here are MY top 10 picks that I hope you’ll consider donating to this month. They’re not all breast cancer focused, and they don’t have to be… there are a total of 26 varying health observances in October… cancer doesn’t discriminate, and neither should you.

These are not listed in any particular order… except selfishly, my BC walk is listed first. We have a goal of $5,000 and are far from it. I’m the blogger who just survived breast cancer… I’ve earned my right to be “selfish.”


  1. MY TEAM: Making Strides Against Breast Cancer (American Cancer Society)
    In addition to raising gobs of money for research and early cancer detection, the American Cancer Society lobbies to help patients get ACCESS to treatments they desperately need. You’ve probably read about my lifelong experience battling insurance companies… and I’m LUCKY. So many people don’t even have insurance. That’s where the ACS’s Cancer Action Network comes in. Watch this video and tell me this couldn’t be you one day, or your child one day, or a family member one day… donate to my walk, every little bit counts.
  2. Survivor’s Facing Forward (NY-area)
    When I was 16-years-old, there were no resources for a “child” my age. Cancer was not something children ever got… right? Cancer was an “adult’s disease.” I spent 10 years meeting regularly with a brilliant pediatric oncologist, so I was ignorant to the fact I’d even need another resource… shit, the Internet was still “brand new,” what the hell did I know? At the 10-year mark, my doctor basically said, my work here is done… I might have been terrified at the thought of being on my own, but I didn’t have to worry. The hospital had recently adopted Survivors Facing Forward.This program supports cancer survivors from the New York area by offering care that reflects comprehensive medical expertise across the healthcare spectrum. So, since my cancer treatment (and most cancer treatments) impacted my entire body, going forward in life I’d have to make sure to follow up with all kinds of specialists, including a gynocologist (I’d do that anyway, but she’d recommend the early mammos), an endocrinologist, pulmonologist, cardiologist, psychologist, nutritionist and others as needed. SFF handed me a roadmap that has proven invaluable to me… and it seems so simple. At the time this group started, there was nothing else like this in the country, let alone in NY. They pioneered a much needed bridge to this educational gap, and introduced me to the next awesome group…
  3. Stupid Cancer
    A cool-ass dude named Matthew Zachary, who was diagnosed with brain cancer at age 21 and kicked that bitch’s ass, founded this group in 2007 for the reasons I mentioned above… there was nothing like this for young survivors. Stupid Cancer has become the largest US-based charity that comprehensively addresses young adult cancer through advocacy, research, support, outreach, awareness, mobile health and social media. Stupid Cancer created programs and support tools that actually resonated with a young adult, allowed them to grieve the way they really wanted to, and helped put them in touch with others their age. I’m grateful this group existed when I was in my 20s and donations and support are what have made it what it is today — SO DONATE!
  4. Make-A-Wish Foundation
    Make-A-Wish holds a special place in everyone’s hearts, but particularly mine… I was granted a unforgettable wish at age 17, an all-expenses paid trip to Hawaii for my entire family. Up until this trip, my family had only ever visited destinations that we could drive to… it was expensive to fly a family of five anywhere and my dad, MUR, is slightly terrified to fly. He got over it for this trip.No request or detail went unnoticed by this meticulous, caring and thoughtful organization. The volunteers and staff who grant wishes have a special place in heaven as well. They work excessive hours and jump through all kinds of hoops to accommodate families when their kids need it most. I’m proud to say many of my close friends and members of my family are wish granters. It’s a tough job. But it’s so worth it.
  5. CureWear
    One of my GIRLS sent me this most thoughtful, poignant gift immediately after my surgery in August. CureWear was started by her friend Alex, who sadly lost his fight to stage IV gastric cancer in his early 30s. He created a brilliant line of clothing that allows patients who receive their chemo through ports and PICC lines to keep their clothes on. I would have loved this as a teenager, sick from chemo and sick of getting naked in front of every doctor on Long Island.During BCAM, all PINK CureWear shirts are 50% off and if you buy two (basically the price of one), CureWear will donate one shirt to a breast cancer treatment center. Use code “PINK” when checking out.
  6. Mondays At Racine (Long Island Based)
    I blogged the night before my double mastectomy about the things that cancer robs you of. For women, it’s your femininity. Losing your hair, your breasts and feeling too sick to get yourself dressed, let alone put make-up on, make things worse.Since 2003, this local salon has been providing complimentary services and supportive therapies every third Monday of the month to women battling breast cancer. They help women shave their heads, groom their wigs (this is not easy, and one reason I didn’t wear one) and offer services like organic therapeutic massage, reflexology, hair/scalp treatments, meditation, yoga, reiki and more.

    In 2010, Racine was approached by HBO for a short documentary, which went on to receive many International Film Festival awards and a 2013 Oscar nomination. You can do more than donate. Click here to learn how.

  7. Sparkle My Head Scarves
    My sweet fashion forward friend Sarah started this company after her aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was frustrated to see her aunt and so many other women sacrificing comfort and style due to hair loss related to treatments… as if that isn’t hard enough. Sparkle My Head scarves and headbands are designed using comfortable fabrics that feel good against the skin and that have elasticity to remain in place on top of your head. All gorgeous embellishments are had sewn and her website features an array of beautiful scarves along with tutorials on how to stylishly tie them. You can buy a gift, make a financial donation or donate a scarf of your own so Sarah can jazz it up for someone who needs it. I just love this, and I love Sarah — she’s the kindest soul on the planet.
  8. The Pink Fund
    Another incredible foundation helping cancer patients who face the loss of their jobs, their incomes, their savings, due to the financial cost of cancer. The Pink Fund distributes short-term financial aid for basic living expenses to breast cancer patients who have lost all or a part of their income during active treatment. The organization has receiving accolades by many news agencies across the country, including stories in Forbes and TIME Magazine. Your donation will help a breast cancer patient in treatment pay her bills so she can concentrate on what is really important…getting better.
  9. The Jill Foundation (LA-based)
    Anyone who knows me knows of my obsession with hairstylists and all things HAIRDO… this little foundation does a lot of good for hairstylists facing breast cancer and could use your help. It was created in memory of Jill Etzold Kester, a hairstylist who was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer and succumbed to the disease at 43. Her salon had hosted annual cut-a-thons… customers would get a shampoo and haircut for $20 and proceeds were donated to the American Cancer Society. When she was diagnosed, it was her dream to be able to provide these funds back to other hairdressers. In 2004, the year she was diagnosed, they raised $12,000. By 2010, they were officially designated as a nonprofit, 501(c) 3 organization. You can donate, if you’re an LA local, find a participating salon, or if you’re a hairstylist yourself, ask your salon to participate.
  10. The Pink Agenda
    I love the fabulosity in the founding of this not-for-profit organization… “it all started with a pretty innocuous party.” This once tiny group was started by young professionals and is still run by young professionals who have dreams to make a difference. The group finds, funds and partners with people and programs that support breast cancer research and care and has made an enormous impact. No matter how big The Pink Agenda has gotten, it remains an all-volunteer organization. That means, more than 90 cents of every dollar goes directly to breast cancer care and research programs. The Pink Agenda has contributed nearly $1 Million to the cause since 2007. They work strategically with The Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) and there are a million ways to support, check out the site and learn more.

2 thoughts on “shameless self promotion

  1. Dear Mary,

    Thank you for listing The Jill Foundation as one of your top 10 picks for people to donate to. Your list is so special because each of the organizations you chose mean something very special to you. We are honored to be on your list.

    Barbara Nolasco


    1. Warmed my heart to see my son Alex’s CureWear creation included on your list.
      Knowing that others that need it most will continue to receive comfort – would bring a smile to his face …….
      Thank you
      Susan Niles


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