Every so often, something happens to us that puts things in the proper perspective, makes us grateful for each moment and motivates us to bring out the best version of ourselves every day. One of those privileged awakenings for me was not a something, but rather, a someone — two someones, to be specific.
When I came to Walgreens in 2008, I was very proud to be part of a company that was working hard to bring to life the mission to help people get, stay and live well. Little did I know that soon after joining the team, I would have the opportunity to work with two amazing women who would open my eyes to a struggle that touches so many people’s lives.
When I first met Deb Blue (vice president and controller of Walgreens Health Services) and Bonnie Gordon (director of cause marketing,) I realized they shared something in common: Both have a contagious level of enthusiasm and passion. Their positive outlooks blended with their keen senses of humor makes any room and conversation better.
After working with Deb and Bonnie for a few years, I learned that they shared another thing in common: Both have battled or are battling breast cancer. Deb, who has worked at Walgreens for 9 1/2 years, was initially diagnosed with early stage breast cancer at the age of 30, and has had two recurrences over the past 14 years. When Bonnie was first diagnosed in 1993, she was a 35-year-old mother of three children, ages 5, 2 and 1. Three years ago, she experienced a recurrence and underwent a double mastectomy, but her drive continues.
My first reaction when I heard this news was one of humility bordering on shame. I wondered how these women, who’d suffered so much, were able to excel in their careers while juggling cancer treatments that included chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. Despite everything, both remain optimistic and committed. Deb schedules her chemotherapy appointments for late in the week so she can rest over the weekend and feel well for the following work week. Bonnie always tells me, “When life gives you lemons, make pink lemonade, and help others that are not as fortunate or don’t have strong support systems.” I often ask myself … would I be able to show the same stamina and character if I had gone through the same thing?
Deb and Bonnie inspired me to get involved with the Chicago-area affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and our company is a local presenting sponsor. As a Komen Chicago “Pink Tie Guy,” I help build awareness for the organization and the many breast health education, screening, treatment support, patient navigation and research programs funded in Chicago. Through my involvement, I honor Deb and Bonnie for all they have done to inspire others and support potentially life-saving programs.
On Mother’s Day, I will join Bonnie, Deb and hundreds of our employees at the Susan G. Komen Chicagoland Race for the Cure in Grant Park. Our entire organization has rallied around the cause to support both of these women and all of the women who bravely battle breast cancer. I want to personally invite the Chicago area to join us as we work towards a common goal: To end breast cancer forever.
Here’s to you, Deb and Bonnie … you inspire me to be a better man.