year 2, week 23: this week i'm gonna... give hope to people with cancer
It has been decades since Wanda Diak learned she had ovarian cancer. “Like everyone else, all I had heard about it were horror stories,” Diak said of her illness. Diak remembers being terrified waiting for her first round of treatment. A kind nurse introduced her to another woman going through the same treatment.
"It was the most valuable 20 minutes of my 'new life,'” Diak recalls. "Here was this woman older than me, calmly watching TV and munching on a snack while receiving her chemo! She sympathized with my diagnosis, empathized with my fear, answered all my questions in a way that only someone who had received treatment could answer, and calmed me like no one else in my circle of family and friends could."
When the nurse walked in to give Diak her treatment, her new friend said, “Listen, you got this – if I can do it at my age, you can do it even better.” Diak says, "As cliché as it sounds, that conversation did it for me. I won’t say the treatments were a walk in the park, but my fears were MUCH bigger than my reality. I made the decision, that very day, to do for other people what this woman did to help me."
Diak is now the director of the Cancer Hope Network. The organization’s concept is simple: train former patients and caregivers as volunteers and match them with cancer patients. The idea originated with Diane Paul, an oncology nurse, who began by enlisting other nurses, clergy, and volunteers.
“Diane said she saw so many people giving up because they saw the diagnosis as the end,” Diak explains.
The network has expanded both in scope and in numbers. “When I started, it was 14 to 17 matches a year,” Diak states. “Last year, we made more than 1,600 matches and provided professional support or referrals for nearly 3,000 people.”
Cancer Hope Network provides free one-on-one confidential support to all people (patients, family, or friends) impacted by cancer. They strive to instill hope and make a positive difference by matching cancer patients and their loved ones with trained volunteer cancer survivors who have undergone and recovered from a similar cancer experience.
Cancer Hope Network's 400+ volunteers are at least one year post-treatment or successfully undergoing maintenance therapies. They offer support from diagnosis through treatment and into recovery. Patients learn how to get through treatments, what to expect, how to handle situations that might arise and that they have a future to look forward to.
Cancer Hope Network serves approximately 2,000 cancer patients in the United States and Canada every year.
Cyndie's story highlights the value of hope and support during treatment. A few months after she lost her father to his four-year battle with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Cyndie received the same diagnosis herself.
“It was a really scary part of life, just losing my dad and I had two little kids. My (Cancer Hope Network) Support Volunteer came to my house, sat and talked with me. I had a very supportive family but they had just gone through losing my dad. I really cherished the fact that I could express what I was feeling to her. It meant I wasn’t adding another burden to my family.”
Cyndie says that one of the most important things she got from her volunteer was hope, "She was such an inspiration because she was living proof that things would be OK, it was just going to take some courage and patience."
Today, Cyndie is a Cancer Hope Network Support Volunteer. She often discusses her wrenching emotional roller coaster with the patients she counsels. Her patients see themselves in her honesty, and Cyndie is able to share the hope and lessons she has learned through treatment and beyond.
“When you’re going through diagnosis and treatment, every day is different. One day, you’re feeling good, the next, your emotions get the best of you, or your body gets the best of you. I tell them that what they’re going through is temporary. It’s not the best thing that will happen in your life, but the end result can be.”
While every diagnosis is different and each treatment protocol a unique challenge, Cyndie’s advice for anyone facing cancer is simple: “Enjoy every day like it’s a vacation. You don’t know what tomorrow holds, but if you can enjoy the moments of today, you’re truly blessed.”
Notes for this week:
- National Cancer Survivors Day is June 4th!
- Our collective givetwig donation will help sponsor Cancer Hope Network’s June 23rd Support Volunteer training session.
- For more information on Cancer Hope Network, please check out their website.
this week i'm gonna donate to Cancer Hope Network.