You’ve just been diagnosed with cancer and are starting treatment. You might be an inpatient in the hospital or you might be at the cancer center for your first outpatient chemo treatment. There are a million thoughts running through your head. So much to take in: medications, treatment options, doctor appointments, insurance, transportation. Not to mention the emotions. What’s happening to me?
In walks a friendly face – likely someone who knows exactly how you’re feeling … because they’ve been there. It’s a volunteer from the Cancer Resource Center at your local cancer center. And, chances are, that person is also a cancer survivor.
Not only do these volunteers order literature to keep the kiosks in the lobby full or track down a wheelchair if you need a little extra help, but many of them make it a point to drop in on patients on their first day of treatment. They know how overwhelming the experience can be. They’re there for you – to listen, to talk, to share experiences, to help you find support and resources. Whatever you need. They’re there to help.
And, for patients at the Providence Regional Cancer Partnership in Everett, the volunteers often arrive bearing gifts. A brightly-colored canvas bag – known as a “Heart Love Bag” – filled with hope, help and heart-love. These survivors believe those three things make all the difference.
- Hope to guide you through your treatment and into a new life of health and happiness.
- Help from many sources: family, friends, doctors, nurses and techs. All these people are on your team. They are devoted to your well-being. Survivors will encourage you to gratefully accept help that’s there for you.
- Heart-love is expressed in the kindness and well wishes of so many around you.
The Heart Love Bag also contains items these survivors found helpful and comforting during their cancer journey: a hat (handmade, if you’re really lucky), a novel to lose yourself in, a puzzle book to keep your mind occupied, a CD of soothing music, samples of XyliMelts to help combat dry mouth (a side effect of some medications), chamomile tea and ginger candy to help settle your stomach and chocolate. Obviously, the chocolate needs no explanation.
If you’re not up for talking, that’s fine. The volunteers understand that, too. They just want to make sure you know they’re there to provide whatever hope, help and heart-love you need. They understand (better than most) that those things make all the difference.
How you can help
If you’re interested in donating comfort items for cancer patients in your area – or if you’d like a visit from an American Cancer Society patient navigator or volunteer – contact your local Cancer Resource Center.
Cancer Resource Centers are available at the following locations:
Providence Regional Cancer Center, Spokane, Washington
Providence Regional Cancer System, Lacey, Washington
Providence Regional Cancer Partnership, Everett, Washington