We are There for You

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Know we are here for you.

The uncertainty of cancer can often be the largest stressor when your child is diagnosed. Not knowing if the treatment is working, how you will get time off from work, what the prolonged separations will do to your other children or your family unit, or where the money will come from to pay the growing bills.

Within a month of Nick being diagnosed, my friend Jen at the library said that Gina from the Catie Hoch Foundation wanted to give us gas and food gift cards. I was floored that someone would want to help a total stranger in such a basic way. We were OK, and I didn’t think I should take it when others probably needed it more.

Gina came to the library and gave me the cards. I learned something that day. Sometimes people know what you need more than you do. I accepted them, thanked her, and knew she was there if we needed anything else.

I used the cards when the daily trips to the hospital and doctors took their toll. It helped us financially, but it did more than that. Her outreach gave us that sense of community, of being cared for, of being seen, and comforted.

I never thought I would be in the same place that Gina was with her foundation. Yet here we are. I have always remembered that sense of camaraderie I felt from someone who had been on the same road as me. One of the first services Nick’s Fight to be Healed provided was financial assistance to families. Just in the last month we have supported families with gift cards for food and travel. We have paid to keep the heat on and for mortgages.

These are essentials that everyone needs to remain healthy, safe, and secure. Providing these services reduce stress, but these acts do so much more. When we send a gift card with a handwritten note, we really mean it when we say we are here for you. In addition to assisting with the financial details, we are a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, arms to wrap around you when the journey feels impossible. We are kindred spirits who have been where you have been. And even if we haven’t, as people fueled by love, we open our arms to you.

It takes more than medicine and stress reducers to get a family through a cancer diagnosis and back on the road to life. It takes people who will dig deep no matter how painful to show our families that they matter, they are cared for, loved, and valued. That they are human beings going through one of the hardest times in their lives and sometimes just need a simple hug. Or a tap dance and kiss from Chloe, our pet therapy dog.

I am so very proud of what our foundation does, as well as what the other foundations do to give back and raise up our beautiful families. Today I send out a big hug to everyone who needs it and an even bigger thank you to the selfless volunteers and staff who give their hearts, because they simply couldn’t do it any other way.

Shen Goes Gold

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L-R: Ron Agostinoni, Sarah Olsen, Kaitlyn Gilbert, Brittney Decker, Don Flynt, Amanda Hayes, Janine Cammarata

Today many at the Shenendehowa Central High School wore gold for September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Gold ribbons were handed to hundreds of students and Brittney Decker, president of Nick’s Round Table, spoke about the importance of raising awareness and the purpose of the garden.

Don Flynt, who was the principal at High School East for 20 years retired last year, and I had the pleasure to meet the new principal, Ron Agostinoni. The first thing Mr. A (as the students call him) mentioned to me is that he knew one of the kids whose picture surrounded the garden–Emily. He is good friends with her family and felt an instant connection to our cause.

He then said that he and Mr. Flynt met a couple times over the summer to help with the transition. He figured Mr. Flynt would start with all it took to run a school. However, one of the first topics mentioned was Nick’s Round Table, the importance of the Memorial Garden, and our mission to help kids fight cancer.

 

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Don Flynt honored because of his commitment to his students.

Today, in addition to raising awareness for kids battling cancer, we dedicated a stone labeled with the word ‘commitment’ to Don Flynt. He recognized that in the midst of tragedy, our young adults needed a way to take action. He provided the space, tools, and platform for them to be empowered to help others.

Don Flynt has always shown compassion and integrity, and I believe Mr. A has the same qualities. We look forward to working with him.

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For all of our children who are in the midst of their cancer battle, we are right beside you. For those who have beaten this disease, we are ecstatic for you. For our children who have gone before us, we will never forget you and keep fighting in your name.

September is Childhood Cancer awareness month, but every day our kids struggle with this disease. Make a difference today.

An Amazing Generation of Cancer Fighters

 
 


There is a whole generation of young adults who are battling cancer.  Some are personally involved with their own diagnosis and fight daily against the raging side effects, the hormonal ups and downs of steroids, the uncertainty of their future, and loneliness.

Madelyn on left, Julia on right.

Today I went to The Melodies Center and visited with two young adults who have dealt with all of the above and more.  It’s only been two weeks since Julia, a 19-year-old who  relapsed, has woken up from being in a sedated state for one month.  None of the doctors thought she would come out of it as her organs began to fail.  But somehow Julia came back to see her mom waiting for her and amazed doctors and nurses welcoming her back.  In remission Julia now has to deal with aphasia which has affected her speech. Madelyn who is currently in treatment for Leukemia was in clinic and had shared a room with Julia a few months ago.  They have the same type of cancer, but lost touch after Madelyn was discharged.  I invited Madelyn to Julia’s room (with Julia’s permission) and both their faces lit up.  Madelyn accepted Julia’s hesitant speech and took off her wig so that they both displayed their beautiful bald heads. They talked about their treatment and how they wished the residents treated them as the young adults they are, not like little children.  In their own way they are raising awareness of how their generation–stuck between being a teen and an adult would like to be treated.  While they educate others, they lean on one another and erase that sense of loneliness that every cancer patient experiences.  They know what the other is going through and there is a sense of unity and healing that comes with that knowledge.  I’m so glad they have each other.

While Julia and Madelyn were reconnecting, another Julia and her friend Sophie were in the oncology clinic spending time with the younger patients as they waited for treatment.  They helped Esther paint a wooden heart with bright glitter paint, guided a sibling named Ryan while she made sand art, and kept 3-year-old Elsa busy painting beautiful birdhouses while I visited with her mom.  These young ladies and many others are part of Nick’s Round Table and they share the vision and goal to help these children heal.  They aren’t medical doctors (although some are indeed entering that field because of their experiences), but they spend time doing crafts, distracting children from their pain, and give each child a reason to smile while they are getting treatment. This generation of young adults know about loss, grief, heartache, and they are doing something about it so the next generation can have a more positive experience.

Raising awareness and educating the public about what children with cancer go through and what can be done is a major part of the foundation’s mission. Through a recommendation and references, my son, Stephen, was chosen to be a News Channel 13 Kids Who Care, because of his dedication to Nick’s Round Table and helping other children with cancer.  With help from fellow Round Table members PK, Alyssia, and Tyler, he told his story and why he fought against cancer.  Stephen, every member of Nick’s Round Table, and every young adult who raises money, awareness, holds a friend’s hand, comforts others, and fights cancer are making a difference in their own lives and the lives of children. 

See Stephen’s video below:

http://www.clipsyndicate.com/video/playlist/17571/4001330

They are the Amazing Generation, because they aren’t standing back and letting life take over. They are taking on life and living it fully, with intention, and dedication.  Whether these young adults are fighting for their lives, spending time with sick children, or spreading awareness, they all have a hand in winning the war against cancer and I’m proud of them.