Cancer is a terrible disease. Most everyone has been affected in one way or another. It does not discriminate by race, gender, or ethnicity. It attacks anyone at anytime. We have experienced cancer first hand as most do. We have family members who have battled cancer and have lost in the end. We currently have family members who are being treated and fighting day-to-day. The emotional and physical toll that cancer takes on the individual and the family often cannot be described. This week we had the opportunity to learn about a local organization that focuses its time on caring for those with cancer.
Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana is local non-profit organization that provides those with cancer and their families emotional support and practical resources. Each registered client is paired with a client advocate who becomes a cancer companion and key resource while they go through cancer treatment. The advocate provides emotional support to the client and their family, helps them with things like insurance, and social security. The advocate also acts as a referral source for any other issues that arise that are not covered through the office. The advocate is available to the client as often as needed. In addition to the advocacy program, Cancer Services also offers many support groups for those that want and need them. Groups are available for those battling all types of cancer. Practical resources are also provided to clients registered in the program. Wigs, hospital beds, wheelchairs, and home health aids are just a few of the items that can be provided to clients. The services provided by CSNI are free. Anyone who resides within the 11 counties serviced by the organization who has been diagnosed with cancer can register as a client. Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana does not receive any federal funding. It is completely funded through charitable gifts and fundraisers. It is a local organization and all of the money received stays in northeast Indiana to provide the before mentioned services.
I had the opportunity to visit the office prior to my volunteer experience. I met many members of the staff, watched a short video, and took a tour of the building. I am glad I had the opportunity to visit the facility because it gave me a real sense of the mission. I had a chance to see the rooms where support groups and family counseling take place. I also had the opportunity to see the warehouse where they store the beds, wheelchairs, and other practical resources. My volunteer responsibility was to run the CSNI information table at the Fort for Fitness event in Fort Wayne Friday afternoon. Erica and I set up the table that consisted of information about the organization, recipe cards, and cancer ribbons. I learned that there is a ribbon of a different color for each type of cancer. I wore 3 different colors to support those cancers that have affected me personally. For eight hours, we handed out cancer ribbons and shared stories with people who have experienced cancer. The stories that we heard were very emotional. So many people thanked me for the services provided by Cancer Services. They would say that the battle was easier because of the support and care provided by the organization. One lady shared how much her mother appreciated the wig she received. She had lost her hair through treatment and she was embarrassed to go into public. CSNI provided her a wig and emotional support that helped her regain confidence. Another person shared with us that she lost her father to lung cancer three months ago. She cried as she picked out the white ribbon and told me about her father and his experience with organization. It brought a tear to my eye as she spoke. I lost my grandfather to lung cancer years ago and I could feel her pain. She pinned white ribbons on the chest of her two children and told them they would wear them for Papa. The family embraced in a family hug and quick prayer before moving on. I will never forget that moment.
My time advocating Cancer Services was very rewarding. It gave me the opportunity to share the information about the services they provide those dealing with cancer and their families. It also gave me the opportunity to truly see how important the services they provide are to those who use them. It gave me the chance to reflect on my life and memories of those I have lost to cancer. Lastly, I learned that cancer affects everyone. There were not too many people who stopped at our booth that had not been affected directly by this terrible disease. After this experience, I am thankful to know that there are organizations like Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana. An organization that is focused on caring for those in need. If you know someone who has received the diagnosis of cancer, I encourage you to visit http://www.cancer-services.org. By doing so, you can truly make a difference in life of another.