17 August 2011

Cancer Connection - You are NOT Alone

Mamma Jamma Beneficiary #3

Karen Greif was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 2000. Like so many before, an unwanted door was opened in front of her and she stepped across the threshold into a frightening world of uncertainty. Chemotherapy and its side effects became her reality. As the days went by, Karen realized she was fortunate, "Family and friends provided emotional support, offered encouragement, and surrounded me with the healing power of love". Her primary caregiver was her husband Bill. Once Karen's treatment was behind them, they dreamed of a cancer support network that would model the care and compassion they experienced as patient and as caregiver. The Greif's decided to model their program after CanCare of Houston - as a result, in 2004, The Cancer Connection came to life.

Over 400 volunteers have stepped forward to help Karen & Bill fulfill their vision and have given thousands of hours of their time. These volunteers for The Cancer Connection have a special quality - they are either a cancer survivor or a cancer caregiver. After completing a 10 hour training class, they serve the Central Texas community in one, two or all three of the following ways:
  • One-on-One Matching Program; survivor to survivor & caregiver to caregiver
  • Oncology Visitation Program
  • Hospital Visitation Program
    One of the Volunteer Classes
In February 2011, Julie McLeod was diagnosed with Stage 3 Breast Cancer -
"A week after my diagnosis, I was recovering from surgery, scared that it had possibly spread to more lymph nodes than just one. My family surrounded me and we prayed for the best, though the mood was a forced cheerfulness. In the midst of our darkness, we were visited by two angels from Cancer Connection. They brought hope in a time of fear…hope that was deeply instilled in my being. I treasure that hope even to this day and look forward to passing it on with love through my Cancer Connection participation. I can happily say I am a Survivor, ready to celebrate my first year in remission. I can't wait to give back what Cancer Connection gave to me...HOPE!"                                                     – Julie  
As I mentioned in my post Why Volunteer?, I have a goal to increase my volunteer commitment to my community. Like Karen, I was blessed to have several women - all of them survivors - as my mentors throughout my treatment: 
  • Long time friends, Kay & Evelyn, and my sister-in-law Lynn, were just a phone call away. When I was first diagnosed, they gave me a sense of calm - I had watched them go through their cancer. It was doable.
  • Helen was a physician, I turned to her to interpret the language of my biopsy report, among other things.
  • Kathy shared her lumpectomy & radiation experiences with me, fortunately I ended up not needing radiation.
  • When I needed a mastectomy & reconstruction, Dolise and Laura became new friends - referred to me by my surgeon. We talked for hours on the phone, and they checked in with me both before and after my surgery. We met face to face for the first time in the infusion room when they brought me care packages on my first day of chemotherapy.
  • Sally came into my life one month before I knew I would need chemo. When a surprise 2 cm tumor was found, and I needed chemo after all, I gave her a call. It turned out she had the exact same treatment one year earlier. She prepared me for what was coming and gave me lots of tips that helped me deal with my side effects. Talking with her took away the fear more than any video I watched at the oncologist's office.
My friends would tell me how well I was handling everything, they weren't aware of my secret weapon. These women were my angels and looking back, perhaps I had more than my fair share. Not every cancer patient is so fortunate, many face the diagnosis alone. Even if they know someone who has had breast cancer, it could be completely different by stage, type or treatment. I had good matches throughout my journey, but my husband Mark did not. He worried about me more than he let on, I believe my cancer was harder on him than it was on me. When he let his defenses down, I could see it in his eyes.  A caregiver connection could have helped him. That is the beauty of The Cancer Connection - they get to know both the patient or caregiver AND the volunteer so that a good match can be made for everyone involved.

What a blessing Bill & Karen Greif, and The Cancer Connection have been to the Austin community. A diagnosis of cancer is a time when no one should be alone, and thanks to them, no one has to be. They do need more volunteers, so if you are a survivor or a caregiver, don't wait ... contact them today.

(UPDATE: went through their volunteer training program in the fall of 2011. Since then I have volunteered at a local oncology infusion room and have been a mentor to several women. What a joy to pay it forward!)

is just one of the10 Beneficiaries of
the Texas Mamma Jamma Ride.
THIS is why I ride.
Please support my fundraising efforts here

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this post and for your efforts to help make a difference in those who must battle this disease.


I would love to hear from you, please leave me a comment!