One Mission – To Help Families Get Through Cancer Treatment
To hear about the amazing work she does even in times of a global pandemic, we reached out to Ashley Haseotes - the President, CEO and Founder of pediatric cancer charity One Mission.
What inspired the beginnings of One Mission?
In May 2006, my husband and I received the news that Nicholas, our seven-month-old son, had AML (Acute Myelogenous Leukaemia). Our world was turned upside down – we were unprepared for this devastation, as we were brand new parents. Infant leukaemia is rare and for Nicholas to have AML was even rarer – the odds were against him to survive at all. We all spent 188 days in the hospital with our son, watching him fight for his life. Living in the hospital and having a critically ill child is lonely, scary and expensive. It was an experience that changed my life forever and one that thankfully had a happy ending – we are blessed that Nicholas beat the 50/50 odds he was given. Today, he is a thriving and healthy fifteen-year-old young man.
I am a woman who speaks her mind and takes note of details that could be improved upon for a better experience. Whether that is in a restaurant, at an airport or living in the hospital with my sick child. While we lived at Boston Children’s Hospital, I took note of things that I felt were missing, needed changing or simply needed to exist within the hospital walls of the pediatric oncology floor in order to make living there more bearable, especially for families going through the greatest challenge of their lives. Our son’s journey brought about One Mission, which, since inception, has helped over 32,000 families and raised over $13M.
What are the challenges of leading a charity?
At One Mission, we are not selling you a product that will make you lose weight, look ten years younger or even help you to have more fun on the weekends. We ask people to give their hard-earned money to families whom they will likely never meet; families who need assistance paying for expensive hospital parking, buying food while they live in the hospital, keeping their heating on or who simply may benefit from a music therapy or arts and crafts session for their sick child.
There are many challenges that non-profits face. The first is finding people who think your cause is a worthwhile endeavour. Getting the word out can be expensive and we try to keep costs as low as possible. Any media that we have been lucky enough to get over the years has been free; which comes at a cost itself. Free means you graciously accept whatever media you receive. I would love to be able to pay for a full advertising campaign – TV, radio, billboards, social media and print, but unfortunately, that’s not in the budget.
The second challenge is creativity. We have all gone to the same rubber chicken galas and sat through a long speaking program. Coming up with new and exciting ways to raise money is something that keeps me up at night. Our largest fundraiser is The One Mission Buzz Off and I have been trying to come up with my next big idea since!
What’s the most rewarding part about the work you do with One Mission?
Helping families emotionally as they navigate through treatment is what I love most about my job. I have been through all the stages of grief over losing the life I wished I’d had. I understand completely how it feels when friends and family either don’t show up or say the wrong thing when they do. I remember what it felt like to try to get back to life after Nicholas was finished with treatment; everything just felt wrong. The PTSD that comes from having an ill child is immense and I think it is something we should spend more time talking about. I give the new families that I meet all the same advice:
- Remember that your partner is also going through the exact same tragedy as you right now. So, while you need them to show up for you, it may very well be a bad day for them also. Try not to take it personally when they simply can’t be there for you at the very moment you need them. Both mom and dad will handle this crisis differently – they both have their own roles in how they take care of the child and the siblings at home. Trust that they are doing their best.
- Ask for help. Very few people in this world know what to do in a crisis situation of this magnitude. Concerned friends and family will say “If there is anything I can do, please let me know”. Trust that they mean it and give them something that will help you – even if that is getting your mail every day or walking your dog while you are in the hospital.
- After treatment ends and you feel ready, let yourself feel all of the emotions that you pushed down while surviving in the hospital. We can’t keep them locked up forever – it could lead to chronic anxiety or illness down the line.
What’s One Mission working on in 2021?
We’ve been developing Heart to Heart – a program that offers assistance to families after treatment ends. We help families with financial grants for things like therapy, gym memberships, family outings, date nights, salon makeovers and more; all to help them feel better, look better, connect again and heal after the emotional toll of pediatric cancer. When treatment ends, it is usually when we stop hearing from our medical team and friends and family have carried on. It is also the time when families need the most help. Families are still struggling financially even though treatment has ended; in fact, it is then that the hospital bills come due. Usually, the household has taken a salary hit, and it’s for these reasons that the rate of bankruptcy after pediatric cancer is more than 75%.
Emotional healing is needed as well. We have video resources for families to watch on topics such as trauma, how yoga can help you heal after treatment, getting back to financial stability and more.
At One Mission, we truly feel like our help is all-encompassing.
What is your ultimate goal for One Mission?
One Mission should be known across the country as the place where families can get help as they start healing after treatment ends. I want to be known for talking about the difficult stuff that others shy away from – PTSD, bereavement, how to heal your marriage after treatment, how to process the trauma years later and more! My hope is that there is a for-profit company that reads this article and decides to partner with One Mission to help children fight cancer and help their families heal from the trauma of having a sick child.
Ashley’s book on how she healed from the trauma she experienced can be purchased from ashleyhaseotes.com.
For more information, go to onemission.org.