Thanksgiving in the Year of the Plague

Thanksgiving in the Year of the Plague

Categories: Blog

Even with COVID, there is so much to be thankful for…

As we all know, 2020 has been a brutal year that has tested us in many ways we could never have imagined. For some, truly a nightmare, for everyone else disappointing, scary, sad and lonely. And, yes, as the final insult we can’t even get together with family and friends for the best holiday of the year.

However, I remain immensely grateful for about 95% of the things in my life—even some things that happened in 2020. Every Thanksgiving when we go around the table saying what we are thankful for it rarely includes something specific that happened in the past 11 months. It is the love, the friendship, the richness of life that remain the most common themes.

So, while this year’s Thanksgiving will be decidedly less well attended, I will be almost as thankful as any other year because the things that matter most are good.

On the Oligo Nation front, 2020 was not at all the year we were hoping for.

  • Medical research labs were closed or running half-speed for much of the year, slowing down projects we are funding and many more than can benefit oligodendroglioma patients.
  • All of our in-person fundraising events were cancelled, eliminating 75% of our funding sources from 2019.
  • And the lockdown/financial crisis prevented me from stepping back from my for-profit business in April as planned, which limited my ability to bring Oligo Nation further in 2020. Very frustrating.

But, just like in my personal life, in my Oligo life there are many things that I remain grateful for. And they are big, important, and the key reason I am optimistic about the future. I want share just a few with you:

  • The goodness of people—I know many say how divided we are, how self-absorbed our culture is, etc. That may be true on the surface (or on social media), but I continue to witness the kindness and generosity of people every week. We are all human and driven by the need to connect and the desire to help people in need.
  • Inspiration everywhere—I meet and work with spectacular people in the Oligo community every week. Besides my two sons—who show such strength and purpose despite living with oligodendroglioma—I am inspired by the survivors and families that I get to work with. As a group, they are so strong, kind and committed to finding a cure.
  • The passion and intelligence of clinicians and researchers—If you want to go into battle with any group of people, this is the group. They are absolutely dedicated to using their intelligence and experience to save people’s lives.
  • New opportunities to unlock—My understanding of the ‘research engine’ continues to grow which is allowing me to find opportunities to take Oligo research further and faster. This year Oligo Nation gained access to some programs that the National Cancer Institute (NCI) runs that oligodendroglioma had never been included in, providing resources and scale we cannot achieve on our own. And I know there are so many more research opportunities out there for us.

And there are two big things that happened in 2020 that I am thankful for:

  • Merging with Operation Oligo Cure—Jim Perri is a 25-year Oligo survivor that I have known and worked with for 6 years. In January, Jim’s foundation, Operation Oligo Cure, merged with Oligo Nation and we were fortunate to “inherited” 5 of his former board members. Jim has become one of my favorite people and exhibits grace and humility under all circumstances.
  • Our first virtual event was a success—With traditional events impossible due to COVID, we needed to find a new way to reach our community and fund new research projects. I will say creating videos and scripting an online event is much harder than arranging for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, but it forced us to build new skills. And the event raised over $265K.

Will 2021 be a better year for me and Oligo Nation? I certainly hope so. But as you can tell from the list above, I have a lot to be thankful this year as well.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving, no matter how weird it feels.