Be a dream maker


Last updated 8/12/2019 at 10:30pm

Emotional abuse and hate mail damage the heart. Do words really hurt? Did you ever hear the words "I don’t love you" or "your mom or dad is dead." The moment you heard them, those emotions start cutting your heart. I have recently been released from a 72-hour suicide watch.

How often do we kill a person’s dreams or creativity? We are all guilty of expressing words that kill imagination and hope. We have said or heard the following words: "We have tried that before." "That’s not our problem." "We have always done it that way." "It is just easier if we do it this way." "If it is not broken, why fix it?"

I am the founder and CEO of Team Up Cancer, a grassroots organization that speaks to state legislators about the needs of young adults battling cancer. I don’t get paid and take a daily cancer pill, called Sprycel, for Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. The monthly cost of Sprycel is as much as a brand new entry-level car.

The past couple of years, I have been living out of my car, and personally contacted over 850 state legislators. I have driven to 48 state capitols and had meetings with 89 state legislators. In 2019, 10 bills were introduced and successfully advocated for four bills that are now state law.

These past two months have been earth-shattering, to say the least. Some days, I am treated as a homeless beggar. I typically live off 25 dollars a day to cover my daily food allowance and a cup of coffee at Starbuck to work on the organization. Every day on the road, I must take time to find funds for basic needs to pay for food, gas, car insurance, and cell phone.

People tell me to get a job. It is easy to tell someone to get a job, yet most people do not think that employers would not hire an employee who would leave at a moment notice to meet with a legislator.

Let us not forget the cost of airfare and car rental to have an in-person meeting with a state legislator. It is much easier to meet a legislator in person than on the phone.

My cancer medication can cause suicidal ideation. I can normally rationally overcome these emotions, but have had three nights of good sleep in one month and this is now the fourth time I had to fix the transmission on the car.

On a side note, the 2012 Ford Focus that I drive may have a defective transmission. My uncle is putting in the 3rd transmission this month. The first one was bad the next day, and the second one had computer issues. Hopefully, the third time is the charm. I would have traded the car in but there is $7428 left on the loan, and the trade-in value is $1,400.

Here is a list of few things I do on a regular basis: send emails to legislators, make phone calls, manage volunteer interns and find networking places in hopes of finding funds. I am unable to do fun things because I don’t get paid, yet it is a labor of love.

I have not found enough regular supporters. Why I do this for no pay? Why I am meeting with legislators? I do this for cancer patients who are too sick to advocate for themselves. CML is treatable cancer and I believe it is our responsibility as cancer patients today to help pave the way for the cancer patients of tomorrow.

People who do not take time to understand things so they say hurtful words. I have gotten emails saying stop deceiving people or preying on people. These words hurt.

When we encourage people, people accomplish more. We can do so much more when we take the time to learn about a person's dream and ask them how they think they might accomplish it, or what do you need help with.

I get more people to tell me to get a job to prove I can make money. I have seen no one come along beside me and say they are going to invest in me to get better training in becoming better in my project or going to support me to attend a marketing conference, or even create an ad for me.

Instead of discouraging people, take the time to encourage them. Maybe we would have fewer problems in the world if we do that. Stop being a dream killer, help be a dream maker.

Rico Dence


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