Celebrating World Humanitarian Day

angels among us

The word humanitarian can mean many things to different people. There are many people in history who did incredible things for humanity with their selfless bravery. By definition, the word Humanitarian is defined as “Pertaining to the saving of human lives or the alleviation of suffering.”

Mother Teresa cared for the poor and those suffering in Calcutta. She lived with them side by side; providing sustenance, support, strength and above all- an abiding love.

Harriet Tubman was born a slave to a brutal master in Maryland. She managed to escape to freedom. Rather than remain safe, she returned to rescue other slaves from the horrors she endured.

Oskar Schindler saved thousands of Jewish lives in his factory in Nazi occupied Poland. By providing them a safe haven from Gestapo raids, he spared their certain deaths by deportation to concentration camps.

In my life, humanitarians have touched me. You cannot have lived as I have, doing the work I do with people affected by cancer, to not know a few of them.

On a personal level, from my very first bout with breast cancer and the countless surgeries that followed over the next 15 years, there was an angel who went out of her way to ease my suffering, hold my hand, and take extra special care of me when I was the most frightened and vulnerable. Her name is Mervina. She is a nurse at the hospital I had all my surgeries. She made me feel safe, loved, and protected.

On a professional level, running a breast cancer Foundation and Support Group is complicated. There are a lot of issues we deal with when it comes to scientific questions and the latest medical breakthroughs. I would be lost without my rock, Constantine. Known to many online as “Edge” he takes time out of his busy life to give us the latest discoveries. What many people do not know is that he receives hundreds of emails from people all over the world seeking his guidance and knowledge. He answers each one thoughtfully and carefully. He does this to make life easier for those of us so scared we don’t know where else to turn.

No matter where you are in your walk of life, it is important to recognize the angels who are no longer with us, those who spent their last days trying to help prevent suffering and extend the lives of those who would come after them. They are the unsung true humanitarians that someone in your family may be benefiting from right now. In the 1950s my father had a good friend who was dying of cancer. He was asked to try a new drug that would become a staple in chemotherapy. It was too late to help him, but as he said to my dad, “If my doing this can help someone 20 years from now, then I am making a difference.” He did. So do all the other brave souls who are in clinical trials. The study of the new drugs through them lead to  better treatment and less suffering for the future. They are giving to all of us, often at a painful cost.

Who are the angels around you? On this World Humanitarian Day, take a look. Humanitarians are not only famous people. They are your neighbors, your doctors, or maybe it is you who is making a difference. If it is you, then you know that there is no greater gift you can receive than giving of yourself to others.

To all the angels out there – thank you.