After weeks (months!?) of tests and scans and sleepless nights spent worrying, the doctor sits across the desk from you, looks up from the chart on her desk and says, “Unfortunately, it’s cancer.”
Your care team recommends a new treatment protocol. You’ve heard horror stories of the side effects it brings.
Your beloved spouse has reached an especially difficult point in their treatment. As a caregiver, you find yourself physically and emotionally exhausted.
More than 1.9 million new cases of cancer will be diagnosed this year. Millions more will be treated. If you’re reading this post, chances are, you’ve experienced a moment like the ones above. If you haven’t, your loved one has.
Getting a cancer diagnosis can be time-stopping, world-spinning, forcing you to make choices between treatment options, worrying about side effects and facing fears about the future. It is, as they say, a lot.
That’s where Cancer Hope Network comes in. For more than 40 years, CHN has trained cancer survivors and their caregivers as Support Volunteers. Our nearly 500 volunteers have faced more than 80 cancer types – more than 98% of the cancer that are diagnosed each year. They’ve completed courses of chemotherapy and rounds of radiation, helped pioneer treatments and medications as clinical trial participants, received stem cell transplants, faced bisections, ostomy bags and surgeries. They’ve battled the crippling fear of leaving their children alone and grappled with the heart-wrenching realization they may never have children of their own. They speak 15 languages and are able to share hope and comfort in a way that’s especially meaningful.
They’ve been caregivers like Ann, a retired school secretary with grandchildren in Alabama. She’s a bladder cancer survivor who cared for her beloved husband through his last days of his own fight with bladder cancer. She encourages patients to keep the faith, “They’re coming out with new research, new information and drugs every day.” She’s also a voice of reason, reminding caregivers “You have to call and get help…You’re a person. You’re a human. You simply cannot do it alone.”
Others are survivors like Karla, a 11-year stomach cancer survivor who found purpose in sharing the lessons she’s learned. “Now that I had learned to eat and survived, I wanted to help.”
Whatever the challenge, chances are a CHN Support Volunteer has faced it. They understand the fine balance between gratitude and the survivors’ guilt faced by the “lucky ones” who are here to talk about it. They’re working through the challenges of survivorship and cancer’s new normal – and are willing to share.
Support Volunteers’ passion is to lend a listening ear and supportive presence for others on cancer’s journey. Their commitment is that no one face cancer alone.
It’s a commitment that pays off with satisfied, encouraged patients. “If all your volunteers are like the one I spoke to, then you have exceptional people volunteering for you,” read one patient survey. “That make the illness I’m going through easier to contend with!”
“My volunteer was very informative and eased my real fears about my CLL,” another recalls. “It was wonderful speaking with someone dealing with the same blood-related disease. His knowledge helped to calm my nerves.”
Patients and loved ones may contact Cancer Hope Network by calling 877-HOPENET (877.467.3638) or visiting cancerhopenetwork.org. They’ll work with a member of our Programs Team to connect with the Support Volunteer whose experience most closely mirrors their own.
Sarah Miretti Cassidy is the Director of External Affairs for Cancer Hope Network. She may be reached at scassidy(at)cancerhopenetwork.org
Sarah Miretti Cassidy
Director, External Affairs
Cancer Hope Network
908.879.4039 ex 120