Emmanuelle Gattuso Philanthropist and Cancer Survivor
Philanthropist And Cancer Survivor.
Very few have the ability to absorb a life-altering event, the kind that turns your world upside-down, and build it into a lifelong commitment to helping others who find themselves in that very same position.
Emmanuelle Gattuso is of that rare breed.
Being on the receiving end of three words everyone hopes to never hear a doctor say — “you have cancer” — Gattuso took this news and dedicated her life to ensuring others faced with that same phrase have the resources and opportunity to receive the best care possible.
She used her personal experience with the disease to help both improve the lives of those afflicted and find the cure.
That determination to not only fight through personal adversity but also commit her life to ensuring millions of cancer patients get the help they need is why she and her husband were named Philanthropists of the Year in 2012 by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and why she was named one of 2013’s Women of Action by the Israel Cancer Research Fund.
It is also why Dolce Magazine has named Emmanuelle Gattuso one of the 20 most influential individuals in our society.
Gattuso has, unfortunately, had a long history with cancer. She was confronted with the disease in 2003, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer after being told doctors noticed something off in a routine mammogram. All this followed the passing of her father in 2001, then both her best friend and mother in 2002. All from cancer.
“I thought, this was too much for one person” she recalls thinking back on receiving her diagnosis, “I thought there’s no way God would do this to me, but lo and behold.”
It seemed God would have a different plan for her. After going through treatment, Gattuso was spurred on to help others experiencing what she went through. “Having cancer prepared me to want to do more,” she explains. “I knew what breast cancer was like, and it gave me more motivation to make sure to help others as much as I can.”
“When you go through an experience that could end your life, you realize how important it is to live every day to its fullest and like it’s your last”
That ethos of ensuring others have all the help and resources they need has become Gattuso’s goal and lifelong mission. It tells you everything you need to know about this woman, who is able to summon the strength from her own harrowing experience to aid others.
The donations, contributions and charitable acts she and her husband have partaken in, starting with $1.5 million given to the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in 2001, have improved care for countless cancer patients, helping keep thousands of families together. After experiencing the long wait times between a cancer warning and a possible diagnosis, which is an average of 5.3 weeks, Gattuso made it a priority to support Dr. David McCready’s pilot project to reduce wait times for women — with a $20 million donation to help turn it into a full-fledged clinic. She and her husband also donated a whopping $50 million to Princess Margaret in 2013 to help support personalized cancer medicine.
Gattuso’s passion for enriching the lives of those afflicted with cancer knows no bounds, and perhaps that is best summed up with her approach to charitable work: “If you are fortunate enough to have the means to help other people and organizations, then I find you have a duty to help.”
That speaks volumes. She doesn’t help for her own personal satisfaction, but rather as an obligation. She wants to do everything she can to help those who are struggling to realize there is a light at the end of the tunnel and there are so many people in their corner, rooting for them.
There is no magic recipe to handling an illness like cancer, but, as Gattuso stresses, “you can’t generalize because everyone handles a diagnosis differently, but a positive outlook and surrounding yourself with friends and family are so, so important.”
What having cancer taught Gattuso was to appreciate every moment she has here on Earth by remembering an old adage: “It’s such a cliché but it’s so true: when you go through an experience that could end your life, you realize how important it is to live every day to its fullest and like it’s your last.”
And that is exactly what Gattuso has done. She is currently heavily involved with Camp Oochigeas, a summer camp for children stricken with cancer that offers over one thousand kids each year an opportunity to enjoy enriching experiences, referred to as the “Magic of Ooch.”
“Find something that speaks to you and people who are passionate,” Gattuso urges of people who are looking for a charity to engage with, while emphasizing that financial aid is not the only way to give back. “Volunteer, and do all kinds of things that will help other people.”
This is the unique makeup of Emmanuelle Gattuso. A cancer survivor with a joie-de-vivre toward life who has made it her vocation to help others who are suffering. There are few like her, and she deserves all the praise in the world for it. Whether she accepts the credit or not.
photo by max jamali