2016-03-30 / Columns

Helping those with cancer all along their journey

STRAIGHT FROM THE HEART
MARLA MEYERS
Executive Director, Jewish Family & Children’s Service

Cancer, “The Big C,” as it is often known, has a horrible reputation for obvious reasons. It can place fear, uncertainty, and despair into the hearts of others. It creates complete upheaval and chaos in the lives of those diagnosed and of those who love them. What it cannot do—no matter how it manipulates lives—is mask the true grit, determination, and triumph of the human spirit. Those with cancer fight back— they pool their resources, they look for answers, investigate the best treatment; they enlist the help of friends and family members to keep it at bay and turn it on its ear.

Cancer doesn’t care that you are getting married, preparing to go to college, or are an empty nester about to move on to your retirement destination. It cares not if you are young or old. However, while cancer does not discriminate, the same can be said for kindness, compassion, and understanding. Cancer cannot suppress our ability to help others with cancer. All along the way, while individuals are standing up to cancer, we vow to stand with them, no matter how they need us— from beginning to end.

According to Meredith Cammarata of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, “It’s not always at the beginning of the illness that patients need support. They need support along the entire continuum. “Offers of help often flood in at the beginning of the diagnosis and then it begins to trickle. It’s important to remember that the help is not just needed when they’re first diagnosed or in the hospital.”

At JFCS, we are proud to host a myriad of programs and services that meet clients with cancer at every pass, to make sure their needs are being addressed. Elise (not her real name) was diagnosed with lymphoma, and relied on our Patient Partners volunteer driver program to get her to and from her grueling cancer treatments at the University of Pennsylvania. Her Patient Partners volunteer Beverly (not her real name) not only provided transportation multiple times every month for years, but was also trained to take notes regarding doctor instructions and medications, convey concerns and questions, and assist in her understanding of difficult medical terminology. Bev and Elise have become close friends. Elise has many practical needs met, but also has someone she can share her private fears and personal triumphs with.

Jacob (not his real name) is a young adult who spends more time in than out of CHOP with a rare blood cancer. While many of the family’s financial needs are met, one thing was crucial and needed—more smiles. Through a partnership with Chai Lifeline, JFCS hosts holiday events for children, which include music, magicians, presents, delicious food, and time to enjoy special moments with their loved ones—to dance, to sing, to laugh, to smile. Jacob said that the holiday parties are some of his best memories.

The JFCS Rhona Fischer Family Assistance Program Cancer Fund was put in place to assist those with cancer who struggle with financial burdens. In the last fiscal year, over $10,000 was given to those in need. Robert (not his real name) came to JFCS, feeling overwhelmed with his obligations while he was in treatment for pancreatic cancer. The fund was able to pay some of his utilities, and helped with his rent payment, releasing some of his worry, and allowing him peace of mind.

This spring, we hope you will join us to celebrate the human spirit and raise awareness at the Walk and Run for Friends and Family with Cancer on Sunday Apr. 17 at 7:30 a.m., taking place at the Voorhees Middle School. The Walk proceeds fund cancer research and also support the JFCS Cancer Fund, which provides sorely needed bill payments for those suffering from the disease. You can visit www.walk4ff.org/home to register to walk or run.

We need you to help others to help those who battle cancer. We need you to help us send the message that no one with cancer will go through it alone. We are grateful for the community support and know that our clients can feel the compassion that even cancer cannot block or take away.

mmeyers@jfedsnj.org

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