Why My Family and I Literally Went Gray for May
Most people don’t know that May is Brain Tumor Awareness Month or that gray is the official awareness color for the disease. As Director of Development for Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure it is easy to become frustrated about that. However, it's especially troubling to me personally, since my commitment to the cause does not stop with my professional role. I am a member of this amazing team, not only because of the pride I feel in the work we do, but also because the cause strikes deep in my heart.
On January 24, 2007, I lost my mom, Philis Rosenzweig, to a brain tumor. She had been diagnosed with a skull-based meningioma in 1999 and had bravely fought it for 6 years before the disease took a turn for the worse. Like many families who have been affected by a brain tumor, her illness turned my family’s world upside down. Especially in the last two years of the fight as the disease began to ravage not only her body, but also her mind. One of my most distinct memories from those last couple months was a trip I made home in December, 2006. At the time I was living in Washington, DC (my family in Chicago), so I hadn’t seen how the tumor and all its side effects had take such a toll on her life. It had gotten to the point where she couldn’t attend to any of her own needs and I saw how she felt ashamed by that. As I watched I couldn’t figure out who this was harder on, my mother who had to suffer through it or my father who had to watch her suffer and was powerless against it.
After she passed, it took a while for my family to recover. Ours was a team that revolved around my mom’s positive attitude, optimistic platitudes and faith in the good of all people. Once she was gone it was like the light at the center of our universe had literally gone out. We all began to slowly recover at our own pace. For me the turning point in my recovery came two years later when I decided it was time to fight back and stop this disease if it was the last thing I did. So in 2009 I was lucky enough to join the dedicated team at Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure. For the next three years I worked tirelessly to help drive our mission forward and increase understanding around brain tumors and the need for more research.
While I was proud of all the work I was doing I felt like I needed to do more. I had seen amazing individuals over the years who took on challenges to help get the word out about our cause. I watched Anne Feeley as she launched Brains on Bikes and BethAnn Telford as she ran marathon after marathon, both raising amazing funds and awareness. I was inspired by their commitment, but didn’t know what I could do to personally make a difference. I am the least athletic person in the world, so I knew an endurance event was out of the question, and I didn’t have the funds needed to spearhead a research project. I was at a loss. Then, while preparing for our Go Gray in May campaign and friend had joked that it sounded like we were asking people to dye their hair gray in support of Brain Tumor Awareness Month. Despite being said in jest, I realized I had found my answer – I would literally go gray for May.
I knew that I didn’t want to do this alone, so I immediately reached out to my dad and sister, Alan and Lindsay Rosenzweig.
“When we lost Philis there were no words to describe the devastation to our family or the void her passing left in our lives. So when Danielle, whose work with Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure (ABC2) I couldn’t be more proud of, called to ask if I would join her in coloring my hair to go Grey in May and help promote Brain Cancer Awareness Month, I was all in.” explained my dad, Alan Rosenzweig.
So on Saturday, April 21st I began, what turned out to be, the week long process to turn my brown locks gray. It was a little funny to think about. Most women do everything they can do cover gray, and here I was begging a salon to turn me gray all over. At first the salon wasn’t very excited about the idea, since it would take a lot of bleach and multiple processes to make it happen, but once I explained why I was doing it and the importance behind the act they were completely on board. Additionally I found out that one of the stylists at the salon was a team captain for our Race for Hope – DC, which made the whole experience even more special.
After four hours in the chair on Saturday, April 21st and another three on Saturday, April 28th the staff at Easel Salon had successfully turned me Gray for May. We even brought my sister in to get a bold streak of gray put into her hair.
“I feel like going gray for May is the least we can do to help increase awareness around brain tumors and the need for more research,” explained Lindsay. “My mom was always trying to cover her gray, which makes what we are doing a little ironic, but I know she would be proud of what we are trying to accomplish. I hope that our efforts get noticed and inspire others to go gray in May, even if that just means wearing gray and helping to spread the word.”
So now with the whole Rosenzweig Clan Gray for May (Rosenscruggs is my married name), it is our hope that we can start spreading our story and inspire others to join in. While we don’t expect that everyone will rush out to their salon to literally go gray with us (although you are welcome to), we hope that it at least makes people take a moment to think about what they can do this May for Brain Tumor Awareness Month. We are all familiar with the success of the “pink washing” campaigns that happen in October. Hopefully we will be successful in “brain washing” May and making it gray.
Whether you dye it or wear it, Go Grey in May and help us bring an end to brain tumors!