Some of my favorite memories as a child come from spending time with Nana after school. We played gin rummy, watched I Love Lucy, and ate egg salad sandwiches, all while I performed jokes for her until she peed. Clearly this was the goal.
Nana — or Nana Banana Pants (NBP), as I call her — is my vivacious and hilarious 89-year-old grandmother. She is also a breast cancer survivor.
She’s so awesome it hurts. She’ll entertain you for hours with her larger-than-life stories of growing up as the wild child of Italian immigrant parents in New York City. For years she worked as the bookkeeper for the New York Giants baseball team, and they would keep her locked in the office during games because she was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan. Later, working on Madison Avenue for a prominent advertising firm, she frequented Lord & Taylor on date nights to ensure she wore a matching bra and panties (God forbid) — even though she had no intention of anyone seeing them.
Then her life was forever changed when she met my Papa on vacation in Bermuda. The New York Italian and the North Carolina Southern Boy; they were a life-size comic strip with polar opposite accents and upbringings, all the while endlessly entertaining.
But even with all this, one of the most pivotal moments in my nana’s life came at age 32, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. At that time, in the 1950s, having cancer at such an early age meant a very small chance of survival. She was a single parent, caring for my infant mom and toddler uncle while her husband was stationed overseas, fighting a war. So she did the only thing she could do. She moved back to Brooklyn to be with her family, she had a mastectomy, and she underwent radiation and chemotherapy.
With the odds completely against her, she beat the cancer. Fifty-something years later, she has a rap sheet of almost 20 surgeries resulting from noncancerous tumors being removed from all over her body. She’s an incredible fighter, yet those near her would never know of her pain and struggle. Nana has an energy and sparkle that captivates you. She lives for her family, and especially for me, her only grandchild.
She demonstrated that to me when as a scared and confused teenager, I came out to her as being a lesbian. After a moment of sadness, mourning for the life she always saw me having, she flipped her mental script. She repeated to me over and over that she loved me and that she only wanted me to be happy. The best part of the show was when she started asking me technical questions about how I went about making love. “How does it work without a penis?”
In 2010, when I finally attended B4B in San Francisco, I was knocked on my ass. After moving to Los Angeles in 2005 and producing various events in the advertising space, I knew I had to bring the event to Southern California. I felt inspired to honor Nana, my good friend Kome, and all of the other incredible survivors in my community.
Beats for Boobs is one of those events that leaves you super warm and fuzzy. You feel like you are at that event, the one defining your culture. It satisfies your philanthropic bone while making you feel connected and inspired by your community. Plus, when you realize that 100% of proceeds go to our beneficiaries and help keep the event possible year after year, you appreciate our transparency.
Our event benefits three Los Angeles–based nonprofits: the Busted Foundation, Boarding for Breast Cancer, and The L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center’s newly formed Breast Cancer Support Group.
Everyone can identify with a nana because we’ve all been touched by breast cancer in some way. So to ensure this event is accessible to everyone, we set ticket prices at only $30 for general admission presale and $40 at the door. Extra-special treatment includes an exclusive seating area, bar waitstaff, and your food tastings brought to you, with purchase of a VIP ticket for $100 in advance or $150 at the door. Plus we are raffling off prizes like center court L.A. Kings tickets with VIP parking, Yoga Works and Equinox memberships, spa packages, SLO headphones and Spotify memberships, personal fitness training, and much, much more.
This is our chance to ignite our community and celebrate in every possible way to support the organizations working every day to make a difference against cancer. And for me, it’s a chance to show how grateful I am for Nana.
KRISTEN HOSACK is the event director for Beats for Boobs, Los Angeles, which will be held Wednesday at the Avalon in Hollywood. For more information and to learn about the beneficiaries, visit http://beatsforboobs2012la-PRLA.eventbrite.com. For a peek at the 2011 premiere L.A. event, watch the video below.