Melanie Krahmer and Rich Libutti, of Sirsy. (Photo provided)
ALBANY COUNTY — Cancer is a universal topic.
Think of the topics you discuss around the water cooler: Not everyone can appreciate politics. Not everyone can speak adequately about the nuances of baseball strategy. But everyone has something to say about cancer.
According to the New York Cancer Registry, there was an average of nearly 2,000 new cases of cancer each year between 2011 and 2015 in Albany County alone. At the same time, Schenectady County averaged roughly 1,000 cases, as did Rensselaer. Saratoga County registered about 1,400 new cases. It works out to a rate of 1 out of 200 people throughout the Capital District. For some of us, that’s one or two people with whom we graduated high school.
Each year, one or two of our former classmates learns they have cancer.
Connie Bramer learned of her breast cancer in 2008. Then, she was a single mother of a 7- and 8-year-old. Her mother had died at 53 after a bout with breast cancer. Bramer was 26 and could recall the “valiant effort” in her mother’s fight with the disease. She knew she’d someday get it. That she’d someday be the fourth generation in her family to be diagnosed with it. She just didn’t expect it at 39.
“When you become diagnosed with breast cancer, you get thrown into a club of sorts,” she told an audience that gathered at the William K Sanford Town Library in Colonie to hear her read from her book. She said the club wasn’t unlike that of being in a sorority. “And, I know all about that, because I was one of those.” Just, this time, her initiation wasn’t by choice.
Greg Aidala is an entertainer. His voice, his face, his very personality is a commercial brand. The Loudonville native has monetized his gift for comedy into a successful business. One in which he finds himself hustling to and from New York City. He appeared in the Lifetime Network movie “Off the Rails,” a featured regularly in the Amazon Prime series “Welcome Home,” and frequently performs at Gotham comedy clubs. He’s a busy man. But, when it comes to charitable groups like Get Your Rack Back, of which he is a board member, he makes time.
Like Bramer, Aidala lost his mother to cancer, too. He was just a young kid.
On Saturday, March 30, Aidala will perform and present as master of ceremonies for Rack-a-palooza at Hilton Garden Inn in Clifton Park, from 6 to 10 p.m. It’s a charity event organized by Bramer’s non-for-profit Get Your Rack Back to raise money to fund the little things that help families touched by cancer.
Named after Bramer’s 2012 memoir, Get Your Rack Back helps local families by providing gas and grocery gift cards, and medical copay assistance. She said she was inspired by the kindness of others as she went through her medical treatment a decade ago. People she had never met sent her cards with inspiring words. Fruit baskets and meals were sent to her home. Her friends came to the rescue; picking her kids up from school and even assisting them with their homework when Bramer was too ill to get out of bed. The gift cards and assistance provided by Get Your Rack Back, she said, helps prevent families from having to decide between groceries and medical treatment.
The organization raises close to $50,000 each year for local families. Each gift, Aidala said, is hand delivered. “That’s what makes it so great,” he said.
For $55 a ticket, the night includes light fare, one drink ticket, artisan beer and spirits tastings. Sirsy is scheduled to headline the night’s live music.
For Melanie Krahmer, who makes up one half of the dynamic rock duo, the evening will provide her and Rich Libutti the opportunity to share their gratitude, Krahmer’s own fight against breast cancer last year went public. The two had to explain the sudden cancelation of a three-month tour before she sought her treatment for breast cancer again.
Krahmer, who sings and plays drums for the band, went several months without picking up the sticks. Though the thought of taking an extended vacation from touring sounds like a treat, it wasn’t. The drums were taken away from her. In the midst of her treatment, she received a gift from Get Your Rack Back. Now, Krahmer is looking forward to Saturday’s show.
“I’m looking forward to being able to give some of that love back,” said Krahmer.
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.