Honoring my mother and fighting oral cancer

Cancer.

It’s a word that will get everyone’s attention. Unfortunately, this was the word we had to hear at my mother’s appointment during the summer of 2012.

Dr. Pallotto

My mother was diagnosed with stage IV nasopharyngeal carcinoma. After four treacherous years of fighting for her life, she lost the battle in May 2016.

My mother was the toughest warrior while having the bravest face for her family. She endured treatments and the effects of treatments like a champion. Watching her fight this awful disease to have more time with her family instilled a sense of strength in me that I wanted to share with the world. This was the root of my will to start an Oral Cancer Walk.

Serving the community has always been a passion of mine, however somehow amidst the busyness of life and trying to adapt to a new city after graduation, it got put the way side. After my mother’s passing, I just knew I had to do something to commemorate her and I thought what better way to start back up serving the community than to combine my desire to honor my mother and to integrate it with a serious issue in my own profession–oral cancer.

After doing some research, I found that working with a foundation would be the best route, as I had never organized an entire walk from scratch. The Oral Cancer Foundation (https://oralcancerfoundation.org/) was a fantastic resource. They provide a blue print for a walk so each event has the same framework. However, the coordinator has the freedom to create a walk unique to their story and area of the country.

Once I studied the foundation of the walk, finding a date and venue was the first major undertaking. After the venue and date were secured, I created committees based on the outline set by the foundation and enlisted a group of passionate volunteers to help and lead each committee.

We held the oral cancer walk on May 13, 2017 at T.F. South High School.

Though organizing an entire walk is no easy feat and is a substantial time commitment, it is well worth it. We ended up raising $19,000 for the foundation and had over 90 participants! The most important thing for me was that we got started. If we sit back and do nothing, nothing will ever be accomplished. We have to start somewhere in order to get to where we want to be.

My goal is to cultivate the walk every year to make it better and to create even more of an impact in the community to generate an increased awareness and to hopefully save lives. Ultimately, my hope is to see a cure for this horrible disease so that no one will have to suffer like my mother did.

Dr. Josephine Chang Pallotto is New Dentist Now guest blogger. She was born and raised in southern California and graduated from NYU College of Dentistry in 2011. After completing a GPR at Evanston Hospital, she went into private practice with her father-in- law and went on to take over the practice. When she is not practicing dentistry or staying involved with the ADA or Illinois State Dental Society, Dr. Chang Pallotto enjoys spending time with family and doing Crossfit!

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