When we lose someone it can be comforting to hold onto something they left behind. Not only is this a means of remembrance, but it can be an important part of the healing process in the aftermath of an event that will likely never make sense. Solace in the face of traumatic personal loss can be found in many forms.
Something as simple as placing a soft, old t-shirt against your face can provide a feeling of closeness to a loved one long after they’re gone. Certain belongings a friend or family member cherished in life seem almost capable of holding part of their soul. Whether it’s a watch, a wallet, a baseball cap or a favorite t-shirt, the connection such items share with an individual’s life remains intact even after they’ve passed.
Losing a special person can also leave you holding something a bit more abstract than a physical item. Depending on the circumstance, you may develop an awareness that it’s time to pursue something different as you attempt to move forward and heal. Sometimes it takes a terrible loss to open a completely new door.
Rosanne Walsh is a woman who experienced firsthand how unfair life can be, yet she’s taken personal tragedy and used it as a springboard for helping others. In the wake of her husband Michael’s passing from a Glioblastoma brain tumor in 2012, Rosanne chartered a new course where she could share the knowledge gained from Michael’s battle with cancer. In honor of Michael and other family members lost to the disease, Rosanne launched CAPE [Cancer Awareness Prevention and Education] Boston – an organization that aims to educate children and adults on the power of proactive disease prevention stemming from a healthy, holistic-minded lifestyle.
There’s a famous saying that when it comes to cancer ‘Your genetics load the gun, but lifestyle choices ultimately pull the trigger’. Without question cancer is a complex and multi-factorial disease which can stem from various viral, genetic and environmental causes. Much of modern treatment and research has focused on how to best tackle the disease once it takes hold. Rosanne believes a personal awareness that lifestyle and environmental factors can set our bodies on a collision course with cancer is an underappreciated tool in possibly preventing the disease in the first place.
Her late husband Michael was one of those rare people that seemed larger than life. Extremely charismatic and sociable, he was blessed with a big heart, a great sense of humor and an amazing laugh. He was a natural in the world of corporate sales and found much success in his career. People just loved to be around him. When he was away from the office, he dedicated himself to family. He was happiest spending weekends on Cape Cod, swapping the week’s business attire for one of his signature faded t-shirts that he loved so much.
It was a complete shock when Michael was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2011. The Walsh’s had just welcomed their second daughter into the world and everything was good. As Michael’s health quickly deteriorated, Rosanne left her job to provide full-time care. She immediately knew life would never be the same as Michael was given only 6-12 months to live. He died almost exactly a year after that initial diagnosis.
Being that Michael’s grandfather had previously passed due to a Glioblastoma, in hindsight it became clear that genetics put him at higher risk to also develop the disease. A genetic predisposition is by no means a death sentence, however it is a pertinent factor one must always be cognizant of. While some people may to varying degrees drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, consume red meat and/or work in stressful environments - and fortunately never get sick - these are all considered potential ‘triggers’ according to emerging research by leading cancer prevention organizations like the American Institute for Cancer Research. (http://www.aicr.org/reduce-your-cancer-risk/recommendations-for-cancer-prevention/.)
Making smart decisions in regards to leading an active and balanced lifestyle, with an emphasis on eating whole plant based foods, offers hope that some cancers and diseases certain individuals are genetically predisposed to can be kept at bay. Rosanne has dedicated herself through her CAPE Boston initiative to bring this concept of minimizing potential disease ‘triggers’ to her local community - namely to school age children in the process of forming habits that will stay with them as they grow into adulthood.
Always possessing an entrepreneurial drive, it took Michael’s passing for Rosanne to have the opportunity and courage to embark on starting this venture. As a husband, Michael was unfailingly supportive and had encouraged Rosanne to pursue her passions – health, fitness and community outreach. Even with his staunch support, Rosanne never felt ready to leave the corporate world to start something. Between raising children and all the financial considerations, taking a chance on creating a business centered on her passions seemed too daunting. That perspective changed once Michael got sick.
As Rosanne went through Michael’s yearlong struggle with the disease, she threw herself into researching all things cancer - from treatment options to preventive measures. Aggregating all the information she had absorbed, her quest became to better inform people, especially children, on how certain lifestyle choices can shape our ultimate destiny. Feeling a sense of responsibility to put her newfound knowledge to good use, Rosanne realized that Michael’s battle with cancer was the catalyst she needed to overcome her own fears and start building an enterprise that could help her community. While Michael always wanted Rosanne to pursue her passions in life, it took his tragic and unexpectedly death to make that leap possible.
CAPE Boston began by providing counseling to individuals who wanted assistance in making positive changes in their lives. Soon the organization expanded into providing healthy eating programs for local schools. More recently CAPE has partnered with Whole Foods to show parents that eating well – i.e. avoiding products with GMO (genetically modified organisms) and other artificial additives and sweeteners – can fit with a reasonable financial budget.
With an eye toward the future, CAPE has begun building an online community where membership offers certain benefits such as financial discounts on holistic and healthy food products. As a company and non-profit, CAPE continues to make a true impact in communities around Boston through Rosanne’s ongoing efforts. And the organization is just getting started!
The launch of CAPE Boston is not only a story about building a positive, community-focused enterprise in response to a tragic personal loss, but it’s also a story of a posthumous gift a husband left his wife. While Rosanne and her daughters remember Michael thru their memories and his treasured collection of comfy t-shirts that he loved – Rosanne had a family member stitch these worn t-shirts into two quilts her daughters could keep as a physical remembrance of their dad – his passing in essence paved the way for CAPE Boston to become a reality.
Dedicated to teaching others how choices can lead to a longer and more fulfilling life, CAPE Boston is the manifestation of a passion a loving husband always wanted his wife to pursue. One can only imagine how proud Michael would be to see the impact of what Rosanne has created in his memory.
Please visit http://www.capeboston.org to learn more about the inspiring contributions Rosanne Walsh is making to her community in honor of her late husband Michael.
The Encore Apparel Company is proud to be highlighting and supporting CAPE Boston thru our socially-responsible LOCAL program. Please see the section titled LOCAL on our website for details on how this charitable giving philosophy works.