Its National Cancer Survivors Week and I’m proud to partner with the American Cancer Society to share my story. As I journey through new phases of life, I forget that so many in my world were not there for the hardest days. I was so fortunate to be surrounded with so many amazing friends and my family. But, in a moment of crisis, I was thankful for an organization like the American Cancer Society who had solutions. I still to to this day tell people NOT TO READ anything online unless it is cancer.org. The truth is you just can’t trust that you won’t read the “worst thing ever.”
I often tell people starting this journey that people who post to forums you find at the end of a lengthy web search are like people who went to a resort and had a terrible vacation. They are the only people showing back up to the site and leaving a review. The only reason the rest of us visit is to book our next vacation.
When you find yourself in the middle of a crisis, all you want is the next best set of news. You assume you are on the smaller end of the statistic and whatever that terrible medical thing is that could happen to “someone” you know that could be you. But, its not always true. You don’t have to be the statistic or the worst case scenario. You could, maybe just maybe, be the bright spot; the textbook case that ends in a positive result.
That was me. And, I am so thankful. I do not take my role lightly nor do I forget all that I have journeyed.
But, the American Cancer Society was more than just a website; they were a trusted source of information. And, for some of my friends who knew nothing else to do, they became a place of solace and resolve. One friend was able to call “the 800#” (1-800-227-2345) on my behalf and have a packet of information mailed to me. Brochures on my particular cancer as well as female wellness, things to know, caregiver information, healthy eating tips, and more showed up in an envelope on my porch within the week.
At my first appointment with my doctor, I also had an opportunity to meet with a social worker. This lady opened my eyes to all kinds of services that I had access to. One of those was the Look Good, Feel Better program at another local hospital. I’ve since learned there are several locations in the town where I received treatment that meet the needs specifically of females going through cancer treatment through the Look Good, Feel Better program.
At the time of my diagnosis, I was the Director of Admissions Counseling at my alma mater and led a staff of 8. Some of these had been friends in college and were in many ways simply my peers. So, to help us all heal and learn a little more, we took an outing together. We met the volunteer (who had no idea our entourage was coming) at the hospital and spent the better part of the morning looking at wigs and finding the perfect one. Our experience gave us a great time to laugh and begin the process of healing together. Eyebrows, eyelashes, and hair follicles all become a serious matter with the weight of cancer looming. I always wondered what I would look like as a redhead, now I know!
In the years since, I’ve found myself with questions. Whether it was clarifying a statistic before going in to give a speech at a Survivor Dinner, needing to find the location of a Relay for Life event in another state, or just looking for a solution for a friend who has no answers in a new diagnosis, I always know I can call 1-800-227-2345 and talk to A PERSON. Holiday or weekend, they answer.
I’ve sat across a couch from a fellow survivor as she relayed to me the story of calling the 800# on Christmas Eve night after her college sons had gone to bed. She had been strong all day and held it together, but she just needed someone to talk to; someone who would listen and understand. And in the moment she needed a girlfriend, she found a nurse on the other end of a 800#.
I have heard another caregiver share the story that they had to travel out of state (2 states over) to the only hospital in the world that treats her dad’s cancer. While they were there, they were able to take advantage of the program the American Cancer Society has with the Extended Stay Hotels and part of their funds were met.
When I worked for ACS and even now as I volunteer, I sometimes get asked, “but yeah, how is it local?” The only answer I have is when I pick up the phone, wherever I am, and a live person answers and talks me through what I need, that’s local. When I walk in to a room at a hospital where I’m being treated with chemo and radiation and get a free wig and a smile from a kind lady who has also been there, that’s local. When I am given a drug therapy that is part of a protocol developed by a group of researchers, funded by the American Cancer Society, in a different state, but I can still get it in mine, I realize that’s local.
I’m proud to be part of the American Cancer Society because I know they are part of a global fight against cancer. The researchers, the medical directors, the lobbyists, the regional leadership and the field staff get up everyday to go to battle against a disease that never takes a breath or holiday. Cancer is a disease that is shifting in how many it takes. It is not a death sentence for all; or dare I say most. The American Cancer Society is a partner for survivors and caregivers, for new patients and the medical team treating them. And I know from personal experience, they are doing what they can to fight cancer and support the person going through it.
Who in your life is a survivor and how are you celebrating them this week?
#nationalcancersurvivorsday #relayforlife #mystorysaveslives