While I was going through radiation after a lumpectomy for stage one breast cancer, I attended a seminar for cancer patients given at the hospital where I got my treatment. This was the first contact I had ever had with other cancer patients, and the experience was life-changing. I was not alone! One of the speakers was Pat Hogan who talked about CanCare. She stressed the importance of listening and supporting, and I immediately felt this was something I could do to help others.
As soon as I was eligible to apply, (6 months after completed treatment) I found the CanCare office and took the next class available. It was during this class that I discovered I fit the role as a caregiver more than that of a survivor. (My breast cancer was so “undramatic”, thank goodness). I had previously cared for my late husband who had prostate cancer, and also being a retired RN, the role of the caregiver came naturally.
I have been a volunteer since 2016 and most of my clients have been women who are in the progress of losing their husbands to various types of cancer. After I lost my first husband in 2000, I started an informal grief support group in the small town where I lived at that time in the Hill Country. It was a real challenge, but also very rewarding, and it helped me with my own grief to listen to and share with others. More than anything else, it made me realize the comfort and hope it was to have someone to talk to who “had been there”.
This is what I have tried to bring to CanCare, a listening ear and a warm heart. Having the opportunity to be there for someone in despair, and see that some of the hurt and pain you experienced can be turned into something positive, and also give hope. That has been a true blessing, it has given me a real purpose. After I retired from nursing, I never missed the long hours, but I missed the patient contact, the making a difference in peoples’ lives. Listening and making myself available to my clients has given me joy even if we are dealing with fear and anticipatory grief because I know I have been able to help, given hope and made a difference. Paul in his many letters writes about different gifts, and I guess this is mine and I feel blessed.
One memorable experience I have had with CanCare is when one of my early clients who lost her husband decided to become a volunteer herself. Another experience that stands out is when the husband of another client recently became a volunteer “because I had helped his wife so much”.
The service CanCare provides in any community cannot be measured in hours or number of people affected. The goodness that pours out from volunteers and staff is so far reaching. It is not only the client who benefits by the support, but the client’s family can see the good it does for their loved one. The stress on everyone involved who deals with anything cancer is tangible, whether you are the survivor or the support person. Knowing there is somewhere they can turn for support is not only a comfort, but it gives hope. Understanding that they don’t have to face this frightening and unknown situation alone is what CanCare is all about. It is a real privilege to be part of it.