by Heidi Adams
We lost a giant to cancer this week.
Never mind that she was 5-foot-nothing and probably didn?t break 100 pounds soaking wet—make no mistake, when Randi Rosenberg strode into a room on those trademark high heels, she OWNED it.
Randi earned her stripes in cancer advocacy as one of the founders of the Young Survival Coalition (YSC), a groundbreaking organization founded in 1998 to advance research and focus attention on the unique aspects of breast cancer in women under 40?women like her, who had been told that they were ?too young? for a mammogram. Too young for breast cancer. Until, of course, they weren?t.
I met Randi in 2004 at the first brainstorming meeting for what was to become the LIVESTRONG Young Adult Alliance?another groundbreaking organization built around the collaboration of many organizations working on behalf of all young adults with cancer. At dinner the first night, the petite brunette with the million-watt smile walked over and introduced herself. ?Randi Rosenberg,? she said, extending her hand for a confident shake, and engaging me in conversation about our babies. I couldn?t resist her—no one could.
I?m sure Randi had no intention of getting sucked into the grueling work of building another advocacy group from the ground up. After years of tireless leadership, she had moved into a more advisory role at YSC. She was concentrating on her career as a high-powered conference planner and as mom to daughter Alexandra. She had just come to offer advice based on her experience and knowledge.
But, then again, I know she was a sucker for a good challenge.
The next few years passed at lightning speed. As Alliance steering committee members, we conspired and collaborated as the organization progressed. I was running my own non-profit, Planet Cancer, and she was growing her own business, too. We commiserated about being entrepreneurs and working moms, about how to balance changing the world with changing diapers, and how neither of us wanted to give up either of those things.
One day I learned that Randi was a rabid fan of The Who; in particular, of Roger Daltrey. She was also an accomplished guitar player, which I again discovered by accident, as she riffed in my living room one night in Austin. It made sense, really. The advocate and businesswoman had a rock-and-roll heart. That extra charisma, the thing that made people forget her small stature and remember her as a force of nature?that was Randi channeling her inner rock star.
In 2006, she was presiding over the first official meeting of the newly-minted Alliance as its first Advocacy co-chair when she broke the news to me. ?It?s back,? she said. ?Stage 4.?Shortly thereafter, she took the stage to open the meeting and announced her recurrence to the entire room. Not for dramatic effect, or for?God forbid?sympathy, but to illustrate how personal the fight was for her, and how deadly the impact of disregarding cancer in young adults could be.
That was just how she rolled. And you better believe that we all got down to work, and many of us have not let up since. How could we? She didn?t. Not then, and not in the years since.
We lost a giant this week, and Randi?s absence leaves a gaping void. But in her honor, we can and will continue to fight this terrible disease that has robbed too many of us.
The road is not always clear. But all I have to do is think of Randi and, in the words of her favorite band, ?I can see for miles and miles and miles??
Let?s get going.