The Couch That Love Built

If you’re a regular reader here, you know I’ve talked about The Cancer Couch, and it’s founder, Rebecca Timlin-Scalara. In case a refresher is needed, Rebecca started a nonprofit as she was recovering from treatments she was receiving for breast cancer. The irony in her choosing the name of her foundation comes from the fact that she, a neuropsychologist, literally went from one side of the couch to the other.

Rebecca initially was told she had Stage 4, metastatic breast cancer, but after having additional scans, it was determined she was Stage 3C. When her doctor told her she had a chance at a cure (being 3C), she decided then and there she had to do something about the fact that MBC is woefully underfunded. She wasn’t going to leave those of us dying behind.

Rebecca and I met and began working together in the summer of 2016. We had a “small world” family connection that Italian families are known for. It wouldn’t surprise me if our “ancestries DNA” held similar leaves on some of the same branches of our family trees too but I digress.

Rebecca could hustle. She formed relationships with just about everyone she met and if there was a way to partner up to raise money for her foundation, which meant MBC research – she made it happen. Fun Fact: There are only two organizations that are focused 100% on MBC research; however, every single donation gets matched, which makes volunteer-run TCCF unique. That’s right – MATCHED – Dollar for Dollar.

Cancer is a sonofabitch. It doesn’t care who you are; it doesn’t discriminate. A sobering statistic I have mentioned here before is that up to 30% of those successfully treated for breast cancer will recur with metastatic disease. It may not happen immediately; it could be up to 15-20 yrs later. When Rebecca found out hers had spread, it didn’t slow her down. As I write this TCCF has funded over 3 Million Dollars for MBC Research.

This incredible woman, this champion for metastatic breast cancer patients, my friend, died on Saturday, December 14th. Please keep Rebecca’s family and friends; especially her husband and children during this unimaginable time.

Below is Rebecca’s obituary, as written by her husband, Tom. As much as I hate that it had to be written, it’s the most magnificent tribute that encompasses the essence of who she was.

Dr. Rebecca M. Timlin Scalera
August 20, 1972 – December 14, 2019

The Radiant:

A Radiant Mother, Wife, Daughter, Sister, Aunt, Friend, Neuropsychologist, Breast Cancer Activist, Division 1 Athlete, Coach, Captain, Comedienne, Traveler and Writer. A True Force of Nature and A Whole-Hearted Lover of Everybody and Everything in this Life.

The Angels:

A beautiful blue-eyed angel was made on December 14, 2019. Dr. Rebecca (Reb) Timlin Scalera was the wife of the incredibly lucky (she wanted me to write that), Tom Scalera, and the loving mother of her amazing children on this earth, Bella and Luca, that are a daily reflection of their Mom’s radiant energy, beauty, and intense love for them. We are all comforted to know that she will now be with our heavenly son, Angel.

The Magical Days:

Reb was born August 20, 1972 and grew up in Windsor Connecticut. But there was even more family magic on that date…33 Years later she birthed her beautiful cosmic twin, Bella, on the very same day and (wait for it)…the same minute. It is a day of miracles in our family and it shows how uniquely and freakishly strong Reb’s connections have always been and will always be to her children. She also continues to have a life-long connection to her special childhood friends from Windsor that have been faithful traveling companions through every stage of life with her.

The Smarty Pants:

Reb was insanely intelligent, that rare combination of IQ and EQ – yes she had it all and she had the lighting-quick processing speed to use it. So not only did Miss Smarty pants get a B.A. in Psychology from Fairfield University, she went on to Fordham University to get her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology and then added on a Professional Diploma in School Psychology from Fordham University for good measure. She made neuropsychology her career choice and ultimately became a partner at Neuropsychology Consultants in Norwalk, CT because her spirit could not bear to see anyone in pain (store that one for later). Reb was born inside out, her soul was on the outside, you could immediately feel it when you were in her presence. A brutal 4 year war with Breast Cancer ravaged her body, but her Mind and Soul just grew stronger and more magnificent every day. She lived a daily life of passionate enjoyment – to Reb everything was amazing. And while she did not have very much time on this earth in this form, she enjoyed it twice as long and twice as hard as anyone I know.

The FU:

Going back to our beginning, it was at a Fairfield University beach party (just 10 houses away from the dream home we just built), that we first met and fell in love. She said she was hit by a lightning bolt and immediately knew we were soul-mates (remember soul on the outside). Some of her other amazing memories and accomplishments from the Fairfield University days included being named All Scholar Athlete on the Women’s Division 1 Soccer Team, experiencing a life changing semester abroad in Spain, engaging in a decent amount of partying and forging life-long friendships and connections within the amazing Fairfield University Community.

The Couch:

So after a dream vacation in August 2015, Reb was diagnosed with Breast Cancer and the long battle officially started. She, like so many others, thought that all breast cancer is curable, but she quickly learned that it is not. It is not! So she directed her energy, passion and intellect to increase funding for cutting edge research for Metastatic Breast Cancer – the one that ultimately takes 42,000 lives a year in the US alone. So the former psychologist started the 100% volunteer managed Cancer Couch Foundation from her own recovery couch. In just 4 short years, the Cancer Couch has funded over $3 million in research at Dana Farber and Memorial Sloan Kettering. She proudly represented the Foundation on ESPN, the NBC Today Show and countless other news and radio broadcasts. The Foundation also hosted 4 of the best party fundraisers in Fairfield County – Reb made sure that everyone had a crazy blast while combating this deadly disease – that’s how she rolled. While there is much more work still to be done, we are so very thankful to the thousands of supporters of the Couch’s mission all around the world.

The Reb:

Rebecca constantly amazed the many, many people who loved her with her boundless energy, optimism, smarts, and thoughtfulness. She made devoted friends in every stage of life, and kept them, always one to reach out and bring people together with great warmth, humor and enthusiasm. She had many interests and talents that she pursued passionately, often inspiring those around her to pursue them as well. Among her many loves were the sea (she was the Lady S Captain, not me), the beach, traveling, writing, blogging, raising millions, live music, reading, tons of movie popcorn, watching shows and snuggling. She was notoriously the last one to the party and the last one to leave – she never wanted to fun to stop. As exciting and accomplished as she was, there was no one better in the world to do absolutely nothing with.

The Family:

Reb is survived by the incredible Tom and Rosalie Timlin, her three indomitable siblings: Vivian Ciampi, Sean Timlin, Paula Cunningham; her 4 super-cool siblings-in-law: Marc Ciampi, Jim Cunningham and Nicholas Vasquez Scalera and Carolyn Vasquez Scalera. She will remain a constant presence in the lives of her 8 adorable nieces and nephews: Zachary, Carina and Colby Ciampi; James, Makayla, Thomas and Kendall Cunningham; Briana Timlin and Amelie Scalera. The Family would like to thank the countless, nurses, doctors and support staff that lovingly cared for her and often received a personalized rap song as a gift of her appreciation (yes that really happened often). And we’d like to extend a very special thank you to Dr. Andy Seidman, Reb’s Rock-star oncologist and trusted friend and her dream team of researchers at Sloan led by Dr. Sarat Chandarlapaty and at Dana by Dr. Nikhil Wagle. The Family would also like to thank the extensive and highly capable network of family and friends for the countless acts of kindness and love shown to us all in so many ways.

Those wishing to make a donation in her memory to her foundation can click HERE.

Rebecca established an Angel Fund at The Pluta Cancer Center in Rochester, NY (where I go locally) for metastatic breast cancer patients in financial need. Those who would like to make a donation in Rebecca’s memory to that fund can click the link above and scroll to the bottom of the page until you see my photo.

The Best Alternative To Pinktober EVER

As most of you know, this week began Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I’m quite sure many of you have already witnessed at least one display of pink products that have absolutely nothing to do with Breast Cancer or benefiting someone with Breast Cancer other than it’s pink. In fact, if you actually look at some of these products you can’t even find where the money will actually end up going, but I digress and this isn’t the point of this blog post.

I am about to share with you the most fun way to participate in Breast Cancer Awareness Month EVER – and it involves COOKIES & BAKED GOODS!!! Everything is better with cookies, am I right??

Some background….

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The Sisters & Their Mom Judy
Bake It Happen is a fundraising website that was created by two sisters, Shari & Stacy who lost their Mother to Metastatic Breast Cancer. This campaign honors Judy’s legacy who was a talented baker/cook while raising much needed funds for Breast Cancer Research. Now in it’s 5th year, the sisters have successfully achieved their goal of making this a national campaign and have raised do date, over $60,000 for Breast Cancer Research. This year, however, the recipient of the funds is The Cancer Couch Foundation.

The Cancer Couch Foundation holds a special place in my heart as I’ve collaborated with Founder, Rebecca Timlin-Scalara with previous events and my Son held one of her fundraiser’s at his High School last October that benefited her foundation.

Here’s how this works….

Go to the Bake It Happen website or if you’re super lazy just click here.  Sign up to get the available recipes and then check your email inbox. (You do NOT have to buy ANYTHING). Then, have fun baking the yummy treats!! When you’re all done do the following:

  • Take some pictures of your amazing baked goods – either hot out of the oven, while you’re eating them or serving them to your family
  • Post them online to the following Bake It Happen Social Media with the following hashtag or Email then directly!

 Facebook:      @ubakeithappen   #bakeithappen

 Instagram:     @bakeithappen00    #bakeithappen

 Email:              ubakeithappen@gmail.com

For every photo posted, $5 will be donated directly to The Cancer Couch Foundation and for those that don’t know 100% of that $5 goes directly to meaningful Metastatic Breast Cancer Research and the hospitals that the Foundation supports matches each donation so that $5 or (if you post FOUR photos) that $20 gets DOUBLED!!

It literally couldn’t be any easier. But – I’m about to make it easier for those that don’t like to bake or it’s just not your thing. Bake It Happen has a donate button on their site, so if you would rather just donate $5, $10 or whatever amount you’d like you are more than welcome to do that and your donation goes directly to The Cancer Couch Foundation thanks to the magic of the interwebs! You can click that button here.

I’m going to ask one TINY little thing – super tiny – since you’ll be posting or emailing these pictures anyway, if those of you that are participating would also tag me so I know that your yummy cookies came from came from this blog (@stickit2stage4 – it’s the same for Facebook and Instagram). I’ll also know who to ask for yummy treats from too!!! KIDDING!!! I’m just kidding!!!

So, this is your mission, if you choose to accept it and I hope that you do because homemade treats are absolutely better than a pink pen that will eventually run out of ink or pink pair of socks with even pinker ribbons.

Adam Rallies The Troops – Brain Freeze for Research!

 

This post is going to be entirely about me raving about my son, Adam. So, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

At the end of his Junior year last year, Adam was elected President of the National Honor Society at his High School – Bishop Kearney. It’s a big deal just being part of the NHS but to be President, there comes a lot of responsibility and obligations. Part of that being coming up with fundraiser ideas throughout the year that the NHS can do for the community.

Over the summer Adam came to me and asked me my thoughts for October. Typically, the school likes to do something to recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month and he is acutely in tune with my aversion to ‘pink’ and the useless ‘awareness’ campaigns that happen during October.

I immediately thought of my friend and fellow advocate, Rebecca Timlin-Scalera, founder of The Cancer Couch Foundation. I told Adam about a fantastic fundraiser that she held at her son’s school that was very successful – The Scoops Ice Cream Eating Contest. This would be the perfect event for a Middle/Jr/Sr High School. What kid doesn’t want to eat as much ice cream as possible in 5 minutes?? The idea is simple, kids form teams of 4. Each team needs to raise at LEAST $100. They can raise more but they must raise $100 to be in the contest. They have 27 days for their team to raise as much money as they can. On the day of the Scoops Challenge, teams will go against each each other until they reach the final 2. The final 2 will have one last challenge and then one Grand Prize Winner will be named. There is no selling of a product, catalogs to have people to look through. Just asking family, friends and anyone else to sponsor their team.The best part about this, aside from the ice cream, is that all the money raised would be going to The Cancer Couch Foundation which exclusively funds Metastatic Breast Cancer Research. Win – Win!

Adam got to work! He contacted Rebecca to get all the details and he then met with his adviser, Mrs. Sikora and his Principal, Mr. Simoni and eventually the Parent’s Association. Their response was unanimous – Absolutely, Yes. Adam began planning and the event began to take shape. Everyone was on board!

At the end of September, the fundraiser was announced at the kick off of Homecoming Pep Rally. I was invited to speak to the student body, tell them my story and how they would be playing a big roll in not just helping me but the 155,000 people like me living with terminal breast cancer by raising money for the Breast Cancer that kills. I explained to the kids that all that ‘pink stuff’ that they see in the stores doesn’t always mean that the money they spend will go to research or to even help anyone at all. I also had the kids actively involved in my explanation of the fact that One in Eight women will get diagnosed with Breast Cancer in their lifetime. Each student was handed a Popsicle stick as they walked into the assembly. Some of the sticks had a blue dot and some had a blue and an orange dot and the rest didn’t have any color at all. I asked those students with the both colors on their sticks to stand. Those students standing represented the “One” in One in Eight. Those students according to the statistic would be diagnosed with Breast Cancer at some point. Then I asked those students standing that just had a blue dot to continue standing and the rest to sit. Those that remained standing represented the 30% of Early Stage Breast Cancer patients that eventually become Metastatic and are now terminal.

http://13wham.com/news/local/bishop-kearney-seniors-mom-brings-breast-cancer-message-to-homecoming

http://www.rochesterfirst.com/news/local-news/bishop-kearny-launches-scoops-challenge

Adam planned, organized and worked with the other NHS students all month to make the fundraiser successful. There ended up being about 12 teams!

This past Friday the 28th was the BIG day!! 25 gallons of Ice Cream were just waiting to be eaten and Rebecca Timlin-Scalera even flew in to host the event!

 

I even did a short Facebook Live video as the event was beginning…….

 

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Even the teachers got into the challenge!
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The Bishop Kearney Drum Line
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Focused on not getting Brain Freeze!

The Drum Line was the absolute best! It may not look like much with the buckets but they really were good – they kept the energy and excitement level high!

Prizes were given out for the most scoops eaten (collectively speaking) and there was a tie between 2 teams – 46 scoops of Ice Cream eaten!!  And there was a prize for the most money raised!

I’m proud to say that the students raised $2,000 for Metastatic Breast Cancer Research and they aren’t done yet – with the ice cream they have left over they are going to sell ice cream sundaes at lunch and put THAT money into the pot for a bigger donation…AND Rebecca talked Mr. Simoni into letting the students have a Blue and Orange dress down day – a Cancer Couch Dress Down Day!  So, there’s THAT money as well.

I’m so proud of Adam for taking this on and doing all the work himself on top of a full load of classes and having a part time job after school. I’m also so grateful to Bishop Kearney for rallying around Adam and me and allowing Adam to do this fundraiser that benefits Metastatic Breast Cancer.

I truly hope Mr.Simoni, Mr. Miller, Mrs. Sikora and the administration know just how much it means to me – to Adam.

The Underbelly – Changing Breast Cancer Narratives

In my last blog post, I left a link at the bottom of the page to a project that I’m involved in with two of my closest friends – Melissa McAllister and Melanie Childers. (I hope that you clicked thru and took a look!)

The Underbelly was an idea conceived by Melissa and Melanie after many conversations about all the harsh realities that come with having a diagnosis of Breast Cancer and the aftermath of it all. Everyone hears of the “happy celebrations” and “bell ringing” after treatment ends but no one ever talks about what REALLY happens. The issues that can arises after surgeries, the depression, the feelings of isolation, how your body changes with treatments, PTSD and the list goes on. Men and women need to talk about these things and many feel they don’t have an outlet for these conversations or a safe place to go to read about others with similar experiences.

The flip side is what those dealing with Metastatic Breast Cancer live with. The shock of getting a terminal diagnosis, having to be in treatment for the rest of our lives, having to process grief sometimes on a daily basis when another friend dies, the anxiety that comes with every blood test, scan and test.

Factor into all of that there is a discord between those that are diagnosed with Early Stage Breast Cancer and those living with Metastatic Breast Cancer, the three of us wanted to create a community all of it’s own where it would be inclusive of ALL of those that have ever had a diagnosis of Breast Cancer – past or present. The Underbelly would be a place where we could share real, raw stories that were not ‘sugar coated’ or covered in ‘pink platitudes’. And not just our stories – we invite and encourage others to contribute their stories and experiences.

And that’s just what we did.

In August, The Underbelly had a soft launch of it’s website and Facebook page. We were extremely pleased with it’s success and the embrace we received from the Breast Cancer community.

We have now expanded our mission and we have some pretty lofty, although very attainable goals, for The Underbelly. However, to make it all happen we have started a Crowdfunder and have set a goal of $20,000.

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The magazine is not supported by way of subscription fees, which means we get to deliver amazing content to our community for FREE. The costs of running the site are around $2000. That includes hosting, a code monkey on the backend, equipment, and storage.

We’d like to pay back our initial investors (Melanie’s awesome folks) at $2000.

Most importantly, we need YOUR help to fulfill our commitment to providing a source of financial assistance in and for the breast cancer community. Cancer really sucks your wallet dry. Giving women & Men who’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer an opportunity to tell their stories and make a little cash on the side is incredibly helpful, so your support will directly help contributing writers get PAID. Three articles/writers a week @$50 per article for 9 months is $5400.

We also intend to grow and expand our reach and voice in the community, including podcasting and video. For that, we need funds to invest in joining with other projects, traveling to conferences and events, advertising, and sponsoring causes that positively impact the community.  We estimate $5000.

To continue growing and supporting ourselves, we will also be launching a store to generate income and distribute super cool swag, such as bracelets, t-shirts, mugs, posters and other awesome items. $2000 will go toward launching the shop.

Additionally, a percentage of proceeds from certain merchandise sold through our store and this crowdfunder will go to nonprofit organizations who either fund metastatic breast cancer research or directly assist patients in need. 10% of the bracelets will go to the non-profits we’re supporting, around $2000.

And of course, if fully funded, the administrative fees for running the funder itself come to around $1600.

As of last night we reached 16% of our goal!!  Not bad for launching just one week ago today, but we are still a long way off.

We have some pretty nice “perks” that can be chosen when making a donation. There are 6 different Mala Bracelets that represent the 6 Non-Profits that we support and each were designed in their respective colors by our own talented Melissa McAllister. 10% of each bracelet goes back to that NPO.

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Your contribution may support a writer directly, or get your ad in front of our email list, or a full sponsorship of the site for a week, two weeks, or a whole month!

If you can’t give to our campaign, that’s OK!  I still love you an awful lot.

It would be SUPER awesome if you’d share our campaign on your social media platforms or even this blog post and encourage your friends to help us out. You never know who might be looking for something just like The Underbelly, or who might want to share their story!

Also – and this is a pretty big deal, at least I think so. TODAY – well tonight at 7pm EST. I am going to do a Facebook LIVE on The Underbelly Facebook page and broadcast to whoever may be out there to talk about why The Underbelly is important to me and perhaps if some of you pop on and don’t leave me hanging you can even ask me some questions. I’m kind of nervous about doing this but Melissa and Melanie have already done it and today is my turn and I can’t let the team down!!  So, set an alarm – mark your calendar – SOMETHING!!!  Please SHOW UP!!

The Underbelly – Changing Breast Cancer Narratives