F*ck Cancer: Life Lessons From My Mother

By Guest Blogger Julie Greenbaum

It’s funny what you remember from your childhood. Our earliest memories of events, interactions and people can stay with us and resonate for the rest of our lives.

It’s also cool how at the moment of conception, thousands of generations that preceded us, come together at that magical moment, and give us all the qualities and challenges we will have as individuals– our strengths, our weaknesses and perhaps even more importantly, our temperament.

There are those, even as infants, who will go willingly to anyone that wants to hold them. These babies have no fear of the unknown or strangers, and they willingly use every day as an excuse to explore the world.

I was not cut from that fabric.

I was what you would politely call “timid” as a baby. I was told repeatedly that I would only let two people hold me: my mother and my bubby. Without attaching any normative value to either of these temperaments, I raise these issues, strictly, as an illustrative description of how we can be so different from one another, and how those differences can be so pronounced in our lives.

My first life lesson, perhaps the most important life lesson one can learn, was instilled in me by my mother when I was just a little girl in pre-school.

My introduction to kindergarten involved me sitting all day in my cubby, with my arms crossed and a pout on my face. There was no real reason for this– that was just how I was. The words my mother spoke to me as a little girl still resonate today– “We are going to play a game. I want you to go to school today and find ONE THING that you like, and come home and tell me about it.”

Interestingly, what I didn’t hear from my parents was: “What can we do to make your day better?” or “Would you prefer another class, teacher or school?” The powerful message was that people were not going to solve my issues for me. The responsibility for my happiness was entirely controlled by myself. In fact, I was told that I was the author of my life story, and how it turned out would be a direct result not only of the words I chose to write, but how I chose to react to different situations and challenges.

I will never forget my mother and father responding to the teacher’s question: “What can I do to make your daughter happy?” In unison, without flinching, they both responded: “It’s not your job to make our daughter happy, IT’S HERS.”

Seventeen years later, as an adult, I am now only starting to really appreciate the depth of that message and experience how strongly empowered we can feel when we incorporate this lesson into our own lives. While I didn’t know it at the time, the concept of playing the hand you were dealt in the most positive way possible, would be put to the test when I was 15.

I clearly remember when my mother and father sat my siblings and I down to share that my mother had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. There was fear, tears, shock, but most importantly, a road-map going forward embracing every step, and giving each stage both good and bad, the integrity it deserved. My mother pre-emptively shaved her head, looked beautiful with no hair, and sent the loudest message to each of us: we control our destiny regardless of our situation.

Watching my mother deal with her situation through the next three and a half years, refusing to be a victim and putting her best foot forward with the most positive attitude possible, has stayed with me and continues to inspire me close to four years after her death. You see, regardless of a lousy blood count, a five-hour debulking operation, or the loss of one’s hair, nothing can take away the power you have over your attitude. It is the one thing that can trump any obstacle life throws your way. This is why the memories of my mother are not of a cancer victim, they are not of a shaved head, or intravenous tubes, nor a frail body. They are her wonderful spirit, her brave beautiful smile, and a loving acceptance of life that was contagious to everyone she met.

My mother didn’t just talk the talk, she walked the walk. I am blessed to have had this message delivered to me and it is my hope, desire, and greatest challenge to share it with as many people as possible through our parties, charity movement and most importantly, at that very special time when I will become a mother myself.

It is no surprise that after having been exposed to the wonderful values she instilled in me, that part of my family’s healing process would also involve helping others.

Our first F Cancer party took place on Nov 2010. This was a short 10 months after my mother’s death. Some 350 young kids showed up, and the outpouring of emotion, connection and love was palpable. Ten parties later, including LA and Toronto, that feeling is still growing and resonates today. By reaching out to the younger generation, by empowering them so that they feel a sense of ownership for all the money raised, we have been able to spearhead a movement that is gaining such speed and momentum, it is awe-inspiring.

Our second LA event is May 9, 2013 at Boosty Bellows Nightclub. We expect to be sold out at this incredible venue with a red carpet containing both press and talent who have opened their arms to our movement. The event will be hosted by Shira Lazar Host and Co-Founder (What’s Trending) and barring any scheduling conflicts, Stephen Amell (Arrow The CW) has agreed to co-host as well. DJ @WilliamLifestyl and DJ @MRBEST are two of hopefully many that have already offered to donate a set for the event and support this wonderful cause. We are excited about working with American Apparel who are now producing our shirts and will be helping us promote the LA party and raising money for cancer research.

It was extremely humbling and fortunate that I was recently nominated and chosen to attend the Evening with Oprah Winfrey in Montreal on April 11th. In fact, this surprising turn of events inspired me to share my life lessons in this post. Oprah is someone who understands life lessons more than most, and has used them in such a positive way. I hope to take from that experience her personal story and continue our cause by reaching thousands of kids and raising money for cancer research.

One of the wonderful things about these life lessons is that they become incorporated into your being… they sustain you and drive you. Mine have pushed me to focus on the positive. I don’t think my mother would be surprised at what we are doing. I think she would be overwhelmed with how successful this movement has become. Most importantly, I would want her to know that not a day goes by that she is not in my thoughts. Her daughter is happy, and the tears seem to roll off my face easier when I’m smiling.

I HAD A REALLY GOOD TEACHER.

~Julie

About Julie Greenbaum

Julie Greenbaum is the 22-year-old Co Founder/President of F*ck Cancer inwykiwyk™. F*CK CANCER inwykiwyk™ (an acronym, It’s Not What You Know, It’s Who You Know) is an innovative movement to unite the younger generation in fighting back against a disease that has affected too many lives.

F*CK CANCER’s international efforts began in Montreal in 2010, by co-founders Julie and Hillel Greenbaum, as a tribute to their mother/wife who lost her life to ovarian cancer on January 9th, 2010. After an extremely uncomfortable and invasive biopsy, several weeks before she passed away, a nurse came into the room and asked Julie’s mother, Jone, “So, how are you doing?” to which she replied with resolve and anger, “ How am I doing?! This is a walk in the park for me… F*CK CANCER!”

Their goal is to throw events all over North America to give young adults who have, in any way, been affected by the disease, a completely unique bonding experience. Entrance to the event is in the form of a t-shirt, rather than a ticket, that reads “F*CK CANCER” in different colors, representative of various cancer ribbons.

Money raised goes directly to major cancer research facilities across North America.

Jone and Julie Greenbaum

For more information please visit: www.fcancerevents.com

Facebook: @fcancernow
Twitter: @fcancernow
Instagram: @fcancernow

If this has inspired you in any way, please leave Julie a comment below. She will be reading.

This post was previously published on The Huffington Post Canada.
11 Comments
  1. Julie,
    I just read this after hosting a bake sale for the Ride to Conquer Cancer (how appropriate).
    After doing my first ride, 6 years ago, on film, f-Cancer was what I said.

    It sounds like your mom was a great lady and taught a great lesson.
    Meredith

    1. Thank you Meredith, I hope to be able to share that lesson with as many people possible.

      So great to hear that you are involved in philanthropy! Keep up the good work!

  2. Amazing.

    I lost my mother to Cancer 14 years ago while I was pregnant with my first child. She was a single parent, so I never got to BE a parent WITH my parent and I still feel cheated because of that.
    But, I’ve created fun traditions as a way of keeping her incredible spirit alive in my life and the lives of the grandchildren she never got to meet.

    I think what you’ve done (and are doing) is a true testament to the love and life lessons your mom taught you and I love that you were able to take this tragedy and create something from it that is so powerful and important! Much Love!

    1. Thank you for such a nice message Marci. Im sorry to hear about your loss but I know by continuing to create those fun traditions you will be able to keep your mothers memory alive and close to your heart. That is whats most important!

  3. i get this. most of the time i shake my head in frustration at cancer things. my sister was not quite 40 when diagnosed, with 4 kids and a very awesome life to live. and she is still living it, 2 years later. but really? fuck cancer is what most often comes to mind.

    thanks, julie.

  4. What an incredible way to honor your mother and keep her spirit, energy and positive attitude alive. My mother passed away from lung cancer in 2008 and it seems like it was just yesterday. I chalk it up to her still being with us all the time. She hasn’t really left us yet.
    Sounds like your mother has left the best parts of herself within you.
    Keep up the great work!

  5. I lost my mother to Pancreatic cancer August 2010. She is the bravest woman Ill ever know, I remember trying to imagine what she
    REALLY was thinking at the end of the day, when the noise and daily grind had settled and she was alone with no distraction from her own thoughts…. Your story hit home with me. I commend your determination, and

  6. I lost my mother to Pancreatic cancer August 2010. She is the bravest woman Ill ever know, I remember trying to imagine what she
    REALLY was thinking at the end of the day, when the noise and daily grind had settled and she was alone with no distraction from her own thoughts…. Your story hit home with me. I commend you for being your mothers daughter, your determination, and drive, is inspiring. The lessons that I learned in the 7 months before my mothers sunset, were the same that she had instilled in me as a child, but at 35 yrs old, I finally had a solid understanding of the things that I thought I knew, funny how life’s lessons find each of us when they do….. just wanted to share a poem that Ive loved & reflected on so many times in my life…It especially reminds me of the bravest woman I know,

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