Life is unpredictable.
As my childhood habit of walking around with a briefcase clearly indicated, my career path was assumed from the beginning. My high school job at a law firm, political science degree from UConn and admission into law school only solidified my determination. Well, surprise, surprise. A brain tumor, a few failed attempts at the bar exam and a new-found interest in fundraising later, I found myself walking out of the law firm I worked at since I was 16 for the last time.
For my readers who do not already know, I recently joined the United Way as a partnership manager in development. I am grateful to my former employer for taking a chance on me as a junior in high school and grooming me to succeed in anything I set my mind to. Through my ups and downs and all of the trials and tribulations, they supported and encouraged me. Who knows though, maybe it was meant to be?
During my first few weeks at the United Way, a lady stopped by and after her second visit, left me literally speechless. She was not there to give me business or build upon a relationship though; her red and black outfit gave her away, my ladybug was back. Her first appearance was when my office neighbor walked in and showed me who flew onto her hand – not even knowing my story or the connection. The next week, there she was again, perfectly propped on the wall.
Immediately, any second thoughts melted away and I knew that this was a sign that I had made the correct move for my career. Prior to accepting this position, I knew that a career change was necessary and would allow me to fulfill my purpose in life. But giving up something that I had worked so hard for and that this story is so connected to was difficult. Yet, her presence in the office gave me the assurance I needed.
The change from the private sector to the nonprofit world has been difficult at times and the road to mastering the skill set I need to succeed will be long and challenging. However, I am eager to make a philanthropic impact on my community and to simultaneously fine-tune my ability to have a personal impact on the brain tumor community to help all the doctors, researchers and nurses who care for patients.
I have not had the opportunity to meet with the department Chair or the resident overseeing the study on central neurocytoma at Yale, but am eager and excited to see what they have learned. I am humbled that in 2018, ten years after my diagnosis, a study will be published and a resource available for the next patient diagnosed with this very rare tumor. Through the Cusano Family Brain Tumor Fund and through the many donations received from my readers, we are funding this important research study and collecting samples from another major university. Back when I was diagnosed, there was not an abundance of information on this rare tumor. Gratefully, we are on the brink of making this a reality.
My passion and pursuit to help those in need will not stop here though. I trust that the skills I develop in my new position will allow me to make a greater impact and give hope for anyone diagnosed or who is facing this dreaded diagnosis.
Everything happens for a reason and I am content with where I am. Though it took me nine years to come to this realization, I understand and believe that I am not an attorney for a reason and that I got sick so that I can help people. More than anything though, I thank the ladybug for making her appearances and assuring me that this was the right move and for her continued presence in my life.