I’ve written about Carole before. She is an integral part of my life and helped shape who I’ve become. When I found out she was my assigned college adviser, I found her office and literally bounced in. “I’m here because I want to go to law school. I was told you’re a lawyer and a writer. That’s what I want to be. What do I sign up for next?”
Mind you, this was the first week of classes my freshman year. What classes do I sign up for next? Carole was dealing with students who didn’t have their current class schedule sorted out, let alone the next semester. But there I was, ready to make my 4-year plan to get to law school. Carole had a tough job: slowing me down. She managed to get me to sit a little. Resting wasn’t my thing. The journalism school had scheduled me for 18 credits instead of the normal freshman load of 15, but I didn’t realize that was one extra course. I took 18-21 credits every semester until my very last. I took 15 that one.
Carole helped me navigate. When I needed permission to get into the junior level courses as a sophomore, she went to bat for me. When I needed a letter of recommendation for a coveted internship, she wrote it. When I brought 15 law school programs to her office, she sorted through them with me. And in the middle of it all, Carole was diagnosed with breast cancer.
I found out in 2006, relatively soon after the diagnosis. It wasn’t outwardly visible, yet. In fact, if Carole hadn’t lost her hair due to treatment I don’t know if it ever would have been outwardly visible. She had a runny nose a lot during treatment, but Olean is frigid in the winter; everyone has a constant runny nose. I took media law from her during a semester she was undergoing treatment. She didn’t miss a single class. The only outward sign of the disease? A soft hat.
Graduating early, going to law school, being an excellent writer: these were my goals. Carole was facing a much more simplistic and important goal: survive. Yet she never made me feel as though my dreams were unimportant or less valid. Carole always had time for me, though I’ll never know how. Fast forward to graduation, when Carole had been cancer-free for two years, and we were enveloped in a hug no journalist could adequately describe. Fast forward to 2012, and there was Caroline watching me become admitted to the New York State bar. Fast forward to this summer, and there was Carole watching me get married.
Carole’s life changed dramatically when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, but she kept life stable for me and so many other students in spite of it all. She’s the type of cancer survivor who doesn’t announce it, who just quietly continues to enjoy the life she has built. When Carole was undergoing treatment, I told her I’d run Race for the Cure for her and try to fund raise some money for breast cancer research. After running it that first time, I made a promise to run it ever year. I’ve run this race in Syracuse, Buffalo, Washington DC, and Atlanta. I’ve run it in the heat, the cold, and the rain. I’ve run it fast and slow. I’ve run it every year for Carole.
There were several years the timing of the race was inconvenient. This year, all of the local races fell on the weekends of wedding events. So I decided to head down to DC on September 9th to run the race there. Because you know what’s inconvenient? Driving from Olean to Buffalo for cancer treatments at Roswell three times a week while teaching a full course load. Driving to DC to run a 5K pales in comparison.
If you want to help me thank Carole for what she’s done for me and help me continue the promise I made to her ten years ago, please consider making a donation to my personal fundraising page. If you know a Carole in your life, thank her. If you work with a Carole, go ask her how she’s doing. And be amazed by the things a powerful, compassionate woman like Carole can accomplish, all the while battling – and beating – a life-threatening disease.