A few days before my boss offered me an invite to a Breast Cancer Awareness Reception hosted by Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden at their home. Yes, please!
I like our down-to-earth and speak my mind VP. I love me some Dr. Jill Biden. It takes a special a woman to marry a man who has lost his wife and infant daughter and to raise his sons as her own. And taking care of family didn’t get in the way of her earning her masters degree while pregnant. She then took two years off from work to care for her newborn daughter and the couple’s two sons. She then returned to teaching including public schools and community colleges. In 1993 she and Vice President Bidden launched the Biden Breast Health Initiative after many friends were diagnosed with breast cancer. Dr. Jill is president of the organization that has informed more than 7,000 high school young women about proper breast health. After more than a decade of teaching Dr. Jill went back to school, enrolling under her maiden name Jill Jacobs, and completed her doctorate degree in 2007.
The day of the event, I left all my leather, fatigue and tutus at home, put on my pearls and headed to work. I walked out of a meeting at the office, went straight to catch my Amtrak train, got off in DC, übered to the Naval Observatory and walked to the front door of the pink-lit Biden home. It felt presidential and historic inside. I quickly met incredible women and men, including the cutest couple, who will celebrate 50 years of marriage next year. They met when she interviewed for a position at the Wrigley’s gum factory where he was a manager. She was the smartest applicant and got hired for the job and also snagged the position of his wife. I was in a pinkish dress so women would walk up and ask if I were a breast cancer survivor. I responded not a breast cancer survivor but lymphoma survivor. I started to feel awkward about this response when I met a researcher from Georgetown who told me she too was a Hodgkin’s survivor and would be celebrating 26 years. I am approaching 10 years. Take that cancer!
Soon the Biden’s arrived at the podium in their foyer. VP Biden spoke on the incredible progress of breast cancer awareness and treatment and how when he first brought up breast cancer on the Senate floor, he was told it’s not appropriate to say ‘breast’ on the floor. Thankfully, things progressed and the conversation carried on. He also spoke on the men deeply impacted when the women in their life are diagnosed. (And he only used a well placed “damn” and “hell” while speaking for those wondering) Then he introduced Dr. Jill and we loudly welcomed her. She spoke on the progress and work still to be done, and called out a few of the incredible people in the room, including tattoo artist Vinnie Myers who is famous for tattooing nipples and areolas for breast cancer survivors. Great people and work.
And then it was picture time with the Biden’s. We all lined up in a maze that went through the downstairs portion of the house. While waiting, I met more amazing people including a woman who collects wigs, has them washed by beauty students and shares the wigs with women who can’t afford them and are undergoing treatment.
Finally it was time to enter the Biden library for pictures. One guy grabbed my bag out of my hand and another guy took the card with my name. And for 10 seconds it was just me and the Biden’s. I extended my hand and said hello to Dr. Jill and mentioned my admiration for her work. As I turned to say hello to Vice President Biden, he said “Hi Charreah. I’m Joe, Jill’s husband.” I smiled bright. He said my name. He also caught me in my boss bride excitement for his wife.
Then we smiled for the camera and I floated out of the room. Mingled more. Then back to the train. Back to New York. And back to work the next morning for our ESSENCE Upfront.
Date night with the Biden’s was a treat. The morning after requires caffeine.