Dealing With The Pink Ribbon Blues

Dealing With The Pink Ribbon Blues BLOG VIEW: I am attending this year's Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) Annual Convention, but I am leaving the event earlier than usual. You see, I need to get home to see my mother – she is a breast cancer survivor and, at the moment, she is going through a rough patch, health-wise.

As you are probably aware, October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But when you or a loved one live with the disease, every month is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And although my mother is one tough customer – think of Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Xena, Emma Peel, Lara Croft, Honey West and every other kick-ass female heroine wrapped into a single force of energy – this has been a significantly tough fight for her.

Thus, my decision to spend more time with her at the expense of the MBA is purely selfish: The MBA will always be around, but my mother is not as indestructible as the celebrated trade group. I am sure the MBA will understand.

If you haven't being paying attention to the impact of breast cancer on U.S. society, listen up because the numbers are truly terrifying: Approximately 230,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. But it is not a gender exclusive illness: More than 2,000 men are also diagnosed with breast cancer annually. (I also know two guys who are fighting this disease.)

So what does my situation have to do with mortgage banking as a whole? Simple: Mortgage bankers are in the business of helping people get financing for the purchase of their residential and commercial properties. But when the borrowers are fighting one of the most prevalent healthcare scourges of our time, it creates problems at numerous levels. And many people do not have proper medical insurance to cover the cost of fighting breast cancer.

Last year, I had the great pleasure of interviewing one of the most inspiring people imaginable: Molly MacDonald, a former Internet marketing manager for Shore Mortgage and the founder and chairwoman of The Pink Fund, a nonprofit that assists breast cancer patients who have lost their stream of income by helping to pay some of their basic living expenses for up to 90 days. Molly is a breast cancer survivor – or as she puts it, a ‘SurThrivor’ – and she nearly lost her home after her initial diagnosis put an unexpected financial crimp on her life. But she is a smart woman, and many of the skills that she deftly used at Shore Mortgage are now being used at The Pink Fund to helpg other breast cancer patients push forward with their lives without the fear of losing their homes.

Here is my line-in-the-sand challenge to the industry: work with groups like The Pink Fund to raise awareness of breast cancer and to help those who are fighting the disease. And not just in October, but every month of the year.

‘I would love to bring in mortgage bankers, retired loan processors and underwriters as volunteers to help us evaluate the applications – those folks have great experience that we could use,’ Molly said in our interview. ‘Mortgage bankers can get involved by direct giving, and we could create a fund from them where the money would be directly earmarked for housing-related professionals. For example, the Realtor sector is made up of thousands of women who could be diagnosed with breast cancer and unable to work – and in jeopardy of experiencing something similar to my scenario.’

One thing I've learned in having a loved one with breast cancer is that the disease is not somebody else's problem – you'd be surprised how many people are impacted by it. My mother was recently at a supermarket, and the cashier at the checkout stand asked her if she'd like to make a donation for a local breast cancer research fund. My mother looked calmly at the cashier and said, ‘I am a breast cancer survivor.’

And the cashier looked somewhat ruefully back at my mother and responded, ‘So am I.’

If this country can assign polio and smallpox to the history books, it can do the same with breast cancer. Come on, people, let's make it happen!

– Phil Hall, editor, MortgageOrb

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