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by Jen Gomes   |   October 7, 2018

A Daughter’s Mission

Why isn’t there all that blue for prostate cancer like there is pink for breast cancer?” – Warren Winship

I never knew that this single question from my dad would lead me down one of the most unexpected paths of my life. He didn’t want to be “the guy with cancer.” He was Warren and he was a warrior. I couldn’t help him physically, but I could help him emotionally. I found plenty of prostate cancer swag that made him happy. He had changed from not wanting to share his diagnosis, to advertising that not only did he have it, but he was kicking its ass.

The icing on the cake was finding a prostate cancer walk in Boston, MA. I tend to go overboard with activities and this was no exception. Warren’s Warriors was born as a team to support him and show him that he was not alone in this battle. A logo was created, and my cousin had shirts made for all of us. On the back of my dad’s shirt, we had “I am Warren” printed on it. It was not until we arrived on site that we revealed that we had shirts made…and the team we had created. He was surrounded by family and friends alike. He had a little swagger in his step that day. We selfishly attended this race with the sole purpose of showing him our support.

I didn’t know that this first race was going to be his only race. He had fought bravely for 20 years; his disease changed me. I needed to do more; I couldn’t just curl up into a ball and stop fighting his fight. Warren’s Warriors took on another meaning. We now fight for the next daughter, wife, grandchild, uncle, brother, and friend. With a new mission in sight, I learned more about ZERO and who they are and what they do. I believe in them. Therefore, I will support them to help them in their fight to create a generation free from prostate cancer. For the next three races in Boston, we were in the top teams both in size and fundraising. I was on a mission, and I am so fortunate to have a team at my side. This team, from donors to participants to fundraisers, means the world to me. They make doing the right thing just so easy.

At the 2016 race, Drew from ZERO was in attendance. He wanted to do a video interview with somebody from the team. Of course, I wanted ANYONE else to do it, but they wouldn’t. So I stepped up. It wasn’t until then that I spoke the words as to why I/we were there. It was just unspoken before. With fundraising I just told people I needed their donations to help fight prostate cancer. But I was fooling myself. It is so much more. It is about giving hope. It is about supporting the other families reliving our journey…and hoping it is better. It about raising awareness. It is about getting more blue in the world during Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. For a few years now, I’ve had blue in my hair (just enough so I don’t look like a clown). People ask, “Why is your hair blue?” I respond by asking, “Have you/a loved one had a PSA test in the past year?”

A month or so after that dreaded interview, I got a call from Drew asking if I would be willing to go to Capitol Hill to lobby for funding to support the fight against prostate cancer. My inside voice said “You want me to do what?!?!” My outside voice clearly stated “yes.” So, in February I headed to D.C. by myself, not exactly sure what I said yes to. I entered a room of more than 100 strangers. I’ve never felt so welcome before in my life. I was hooked. This is where I’m supposed to be. Then ZERO made me cry when I heard Jimmy Charles’ Superman song as he sang to us at lunch during training. The next day, we took to the Hill. That night I had dinner with Jamie, ZERO’s CEO, and the Cheryl Nikituk (a ZERO board member) and her family. Jamie whispered to me that he thought we won the $10 million increase that we were fighting for…but in politics, you can never tell. The next day, I’m sitting in the airport and I see the Facebook post from ZERO that in fact we did do it. We got the $10 million increase. Again, I was overwhelmed and brought to tears. I did something; I made a difference. I couldn’t wait to share my experience my dear friend David of 15 years, who then was a 2 year survivor. I felt as if he was the only one who could come close to understanding my journey both as a survivor and as someone who had lost loved ones to cancer. He formed a team to participate at the ZERO Kansas City Run/Walk. I was so proud that I was able to move him and his family to take action and join me in supporting ZERO’s mission.

Now I’ve got his swagger flowing through my veins. The next race, I fought harder and recruited more team members. Back to Capitol Hill the following February, and another $10 million increase. This year the team raised more than $4,000 (a team all-time high). I have such an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for the people who donated to our team.

This year, I had asked a woman to take our picture for us, and she graciously did. Then she pulled out a microphone and said “Who is the spokesperson for the group?” (The team all pointed to me … again). Our local sponsor, Greater Boston Urology, had sent a video crew to the event. I was ready to answer the questions Drew had asked me prior. But she asked “What would your dad say or think about this?” I said “proud.” He would be very proud of what has come out of his question: Why isn’t there all that blue for prostate cancer like there is pink for breast cancer?” … and then I cried… this time there was a camera in my face. I didn’t care this time and don’t care now. I have a voice and it will be heard. I have something to say and I’m going to say it because there is a daughter somewhere just hearing her dad has prostate cancer.

I will fight. I will encourage others to fight. I will make a difference in this world. I owe it to my dad, my husband and my son (and David, Melvin, Bill, Steve, Caesar, John, Jon, Sandy, Ray, Robert, 2nd cousin David, Mark, Trevor, Ken, my new friend George….and so many more!)