Thursday, November 12, 2009

CAUSE Gala speech

When I got my diagnosis on Sept 28 – stage 3 breast cancer – a tumor that was growing faster than an Al Qaeda cell in Somalia – 9 cm in length – masked by my pregnancy. I did two things – I cleared my deck of obligations – started a new calendar with my chemo dates and added just one more – Nov 11 Veteran’s Day. For the past three years I had committed to be here with CAUSE to help raise awareness of what our Wounded Warriors are going through – and that date, along with my doctor’s appointments, was the only thing on my calendar.

After my first doctor session – my oncologist told me my hair would fall out and wrote me a prescription for a “cranial prosthetic” – a clinical way of saying – wig. Pretty soon I’ll have another pair of prosthetics – favored by some B-grade Hollywood actresses – they’ve learned to walk with them and so will I.

Anyway, calling this wig a prosthetic actually helped because some of the most inspirational people I have met in my life – some of you out in the audience tonight – have prosthetics. And you wear them with dignity and grace and you work out everyday and you run marathons. You blow my mind in terms of what you do and what you accomplish and how you keep your head in the game even with some pretty tough setbacks.

When I got my diagnosis, I also remembered a conversation I had had with my good friend Kimberly Dozier of CBS two weeks before at a cocktail party for the Secretary of the Navy. She told me about a guy up at Bethesda Naval who had just been brought in – a member of SEAL team 1 – Lt Dan Cnossen – injured in Afghanistan on September 6 of this year - double amputee and I remember her telling me how one of the first things he said when they brought him out of surgery and Admiral Winters came to visit was ‘Sir – can I have some hand grips?” He may have lost his legs but he was going to strengthen every bit of him that was left. He and his mom and sister, Leslie, are here tonight. Leslie left grad school to care for him. Lt Dan is already –two months later - an outpatient from Walter Reed just two months after his injury – it’s unheard of.

That image of Lt Dan doing pull ups on his iv bag drips inspired me and made me mentally tough. A lot of people told me to “visualize” my chemotherapy attacking the cancer cells in my body – some said Pacmen worked for them – or little butterflies carrying away the cancer cells. Not me – I wrote to LTG Frank Kearney – at SOCOM – who flew up today from Tampa to be with us tonight – and told him I preferred to visualize Navy Seals – and asked for a little back-up – I set myself up as Commander in Chief and gave the execute order and those little Al Qaeda cells in my breast have been taking a beating ever since.

I was introduced to CAUSE by my brother Conor – a high school student who for the last 3 years has volunteered every Sunday up at Walter Reed with CAUSE – working in the video library – watching football games with the guys as they recuperate. I asked him what have been some of the standout moments? He said, “Some people may think that renting videogames to soldiers is trite and insignificant. I suspect they’ve never seen anybody learning to use a prosthetic arm by playing a videogame after their own arm has been blown off in an IED explosion.”

But he also said the toughest part was telling some of the guys – wounded and all – that they are blacklisted from the video library because they had late rentals – no pity!! No mercy. No excuses. Tough love.

There’s a lot of research right now suggesting that video game therapy is just what helps patients who are bedridden – used to going from 100 to zero in a flash – from adrenalin high to adrenalin high. There are studies that the repetitiveness of playing those games helps the mind unwind without going into boredom or depression. Now CAUSE has a new toy – to bring the games and videos to the bedside – they are game carts and each and everyone of you can sponsor one – we’ll put your name on it - it’s just 2500 dollars – you can see a prototype in the corner. I challenge each of you tonight to do so.

And if you’ll indulge me one last thought – we have some pretty special people here tonight. Whether it is Sarah and Ted Wade – who back in 2002 no one thought he would live. Sarah has been a dogged advocate for TBI research. Sgt Ryan Major and his mom Lorrie. Wendy Hoffman – President of the Blue Star Moms – Bill Hanbury CEO of the United Way here in DC – Medal of Honor recipient Barney Barnum – Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, LTG Jack Stultz – CG US Army Reserve, MG Ray Carpentar – acting director Army National Guard – my Fox family including Jane Skinner and her husband NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell – whom I first met on a USO tour of Afghanistan – the NFL is doing so much to help the troops. And General James Cartwright – no one is more dedicated to doing right by these troops – and if I may General David Petraeus – who was among the first to write to me to say, “I hear you have an extra rock in your rucksack right now.” This was a day before he announced that he had quietly and with typical grace and dignity been treated for prostate cancer at Walter Reed earlier this year. All the while helping to coordinate 2 wars.

Well, for many of us, there is a 3rd War going on. For most of us, it’s very personal.

We’ve all got an extra rock in our rucksack tonight – please do what you can to help this wonderful organization and help our troops.

If you are interested in learning more about CAUSE:


  1. Nice speech Jennifer , heading off to Afghanistan tomorrow for a month embed in the East Mountains, be assured that I will chase down any AQ/BC cell there that may be planning a surprise attack on you . LOL
    PS you look two look stunning as always , must get one of those wig things , cold around the ears


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