This Valentine’s Day is for the Caregivers

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On Valentine’s Day, the idea is for people to finally stop to remember and recognize who they really love. Traditionally, this means someone you love romantically, like a boyfriend or girlfriend or spouse. But there is another kind of love, a memorable love. The kind of love that sticks around when the road turns ugly and treacherous.

It is the fierce love of caregivers. A love that hopefully every cancer patient knows.

Whether the caregiver comes in the form of a compassionate nurse, a loving friend or a dedicated family member, the caregiver’s job is simultaneously one of the most rewarding and overlooked roles imaginable. Why? Because caregivers are there during the difficult times, the embarrassing, and even just the mundane.

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Tosh, a hospital volunteer, and my friend, Kaiden, went above and beyond normal support as two of my caregivers.

Here is what I mean:

  • Holding your friend’s hair as she throws up from chemo.
  • Bathing your spouse because they are too weak to do so themselves.
  • Sharing a “nice meal” from the hospital cafeteria, atop a hospital bed, with one of those rolling trays as a table.
  • And if you are really lucky, going for a walk outside in the fresh air and sunshine (just the two of you and an IV pole)

 

This Valentine’s Day is for the caregivers.

For the people who constantly give selflessly, for the purpose of making their loved one a little cozier in a permanently uncomfortable hospital bed. The ones who give up their social life for the hope of eking just a little more life out of a sterile environment. And the ones who are able to care so well that cancer is unable overcome a sense of home, wherever you may be at the time.

This Valentine’s Day, get flowers and chocolate for your loved one (PLEASE DO THIS!) because it is fun, but let’s also celebrate those who share their love with us in many different ways.  

And let’s remember that every other day of the year is when acts of love truly count.

Happy Valentine’s Day, especially to all of you caregivers, ever faithful and unwavering. You are loved.


To find out how you can make a difference in the lives of young cancer survivors, please visit cancerforcollege.org

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Taste to Educate 2016 Highlights

Cancer for College’s 9th annual “Taste to Educate” event was one for the books. On January 30th over 100 guests sipped on fine wine from leading wineries in the Northwest all while enjoying a premier four course dinner, catered by Tuxedos and Tennis Shoes. The evening featured an exclusive performance by Los Angeles based group, Rocky’s Revival, whose lead keyboardist and vocalist, Kalina Campion, happens to be a Cancer for College 2015 scholarship recipient as well. CFC is incredibly lucky to have the support of Seattle Children’s Hospital, UW Medicine, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Strong- Bridge Consulting, Windermere Foundation, Wells Fargo and Continental Van lines. Featured wineries included Fielding Hills Winery, Tsillan Cellars, Chelan Estate and Cairdeas Winery.
Thank you to everyone that came out to support Cancer for College’s 9th annual “Taste to Educate” event. With your generous support we raised over $50,000 for cancer survivors in the Pacific Northwest!
Were you unable to make it to the event? Head over to our Facebook page to see more
great pictures from the evening, and then add your own donation for cancer survivors at our Cancer for College Crowdrise page.

A Second Chance to Sing

We all have gifts that we dream of using to uplift those around us. For some people who are stricken by cancer, the ability to use those gifts can be threatened by the very surgeries that help bring them back to health. Genesis Codina is one such cancer survivor, whose ability to sing was nearly taken away when she underwent treatment for thyroid cancer. Despite this setback, she was determined to strengthen her voice and return to singing once more. She just sent us an update, letting us know just how well her journey back to singing is going. Take a moment to read, and listen, to Genesis’ update below:

“Hello! Happy New Year!! I hope everyone is doing great. I’m Genesis, one of the 2015 Perpetual Scholarship winners and I just wanted to stop by and thank you again for everything that you do. I also would like to share with you that I’m doing great at UC Santa Barbara. I’m really excited about everything I’m doing but one of the things I want to share with you today is this video where I was invited by a Latin American visiting History professor to perform one of his compositions for UCSB Amplified. UCSB Amplified is the new performance series featuring UC Santa Barbara students, faculty and staff. Live-recorded mini-concerts showcase UCSB’s exceptional and diverse music scene. I am beyond thrilled to be recognized by my university as one of their exceptional talents. After suffering from vocal cord paralysis from my thyroid cancer surgery, this is sort of a big deal for me since I couldn’t sing for a while. I hope you enjoy the video and hopefully you can share it as well. Thank you so much for your wonderful support.”

 

To personally make a difference in the lives of cancer survivors like Genesis, go to cancerforcollege.org to learn more and donate.

Recipient Spotlight: Ashley Snyder

Once a year, a phenomenon occurs in which people everywhere remember that more than Amazon packages can be delivered in the mail, and pictures can include more than one’s meal. These “Christmas cards” allow friends and family to remain up-to-date with the major happenings of the previous year, and sometimes Cancer for College is lucky enough to be included on the mailing list. We love staying informed about everything going on in the lives of our recipients, and so appreciate that Ashley Snyder (2014-15 recipient) was gracious enough to fill us in. Here is the update Ashley sent out on her wonderful, busy year:

Hello!

            I am happy to be writing you after having successfully completed the Summer and Fall semesters here at Nova Southeastern University here in Florida.  The Summer was my final time having to be in a classroom full time as August began my clinical rotations!  The ability to do what I have been working towards for 20 years is the best feeling!  I have rotated through the Emergency Room where I was able to suture, reset broken bones, and even get beads out of a two year old’s nose and ear.  I have also spent time in Family Medicine and Cardiology.  Watching open heart surgery where they replaced the mitral valve was an experience I will never forget! 

Being offered a job during the first set of rotations was extremely flattering and something I will be keeping in mind as I continue forward in my studies.  My grades have remained great in the midst of working 50 hour weeks. I am so happy to be doing what I love and constantly being exposed to all aspects of medicine.  I will continue to keep you updated as my next rotations will consist of Urology, Surgery, Trauma, and OB/GYN. This next semester will include being both a practitioner and a patient which is always a difficulty to balance. And as the time approaches for my 2 year visit to Moffitt Cancer Center, I would appreciate any prayers or positive thoughts you might send my way. Thank you so much for your support and helping make these experiences possible!

Sincerely,

Ashley Snyder

 

Thank you so much for the update, Ashley! You are doing so well, and everyone in the Cancer for College family will keep you in our thoughts as you surge forward and make 2016 another great year!

The Holiday Hospital: How to Love Christmas even in a Cancer Ward

By: Mitch Friesen, CFC recipient 2011 & Director of Growth and Community

Music in malls, restaurants, and on the radio all over the country tout this season as “the most wonderful time of the year.” For many people, that is exactly what it is, coming together with family and friends for all sorts of blissful shenanigans. Christmas is supposed to be a time of relaxation, rejuvenation, and reconnection. However, for some people every year – like me and my family back in 2001 – the holidays feel more like the embodiment of a Batman villain: smiling out of one side of your face and grimacing out the other. You are stuck in this surreal place wondering how so many emotions could be packed into one person, which one you should portray, and how all this even happened.

You see, we are told that cancer changes everything, that it takes so much, but we do not expect it to take away the joy of the holidays.  To us, those are sacred times for memories to be made and traditions to endure. All of the preparation that goes into creating that memorable space came forcibly to a halt when I was diagnosed with an advanced stage III form of B-cell lymphoma on December 14, 2001 (my sister’s birthday, no less). The next week was a blur of medical information and shock that I just won a lottery of an illness. As our new reality came into focus we realized that Christmas was just around the corner, and this year would be spent in a pediatric oncology ward.

How do you deal with a situation like this: recognizing that there is a pall cast over a normally-carefree and happy time, and that it is unavoidable and for the health of a child? It can be a scary and overwhelming dilemma, especially if you keep those feelings bottled up inside you where no one else can help. The truth is, though, that as a family you go through these trials together, and everyone is feeling the exact same way. Even so, each member of a family (and the many friends who would be by your side in an instant) has something unique to offer as part of the solution – however temporary – to hospital holiday. The point is to do so together.

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For me and my family, this meant decorating the room with our own tiny Christmas tree, lights, and wintry window art. Everyone also unwrapped presents in that little hospital room, cramping the space with bodies and wrapping paper, but worth it because there was no way that anyone could mistake the life overflowing from all of us. I probably felt nauseous at some point, and a nurse periodically dropped by to change my IV, reminding us of our location. When faced with having Christmas in a cancer ward, make it as good as possible, but even more important is for your holiday to be memorable. Time with our loved ones is too precious a gift to waste waiting for a perfect moment that will never come. May you be able to seize a wonderful Christmas for others and yourself, wherever you may be.

At this time of year, we especially want to remember how cancer has altered the holiday plans, not to mention lives, of so many families, including many future members of the Cancer for College family. This Christmas, please join us in giving the lasting gift of a college education to deserving cancer survivors (donate HERE). Have a Merry Christmas!

Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas.

~Peg Bracken

Gratitudes…

“In general, research has associated the regular practice of gratitude with physical benefits, such a stronger immune system, and higher levels of broad positive emotions…”

Robert Emmons, psychologist, University of California, Davis

Article Credit: How Gratitude Can Improve Your Life

With November comes the season of gratitude. At Cancer for College, we are honored to do the work we do, and while the ultimate goal is a world without cancer, we feel blessed to be a part of the lives of so many survivors. Thank you so much to all who support our mission.

CFC Craig and Kelly  CFC Craig Will Ben

Celebrating Survivors at CFC’s annual golf tournament fundraiser

CFC Craig hugging Agi

Cancer for College is grateful for: 

  • Resilient, determined kids who face a frightening diagnosis with bravery and strength
  • Families who support them in every way possible during their fight
  • Exceptional doctors and nurses who practice their craft with such compassion
  • Modern medicine
  • The body’s ability to heal itself and thrive
  • The gift of life, and so many productive years given back
  • Birthdays

We wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving

“Cancer has changed my life, I would not take it back if I could.”

I read that line twice, thinking I must have misunderstood. Or perhaps it was a typo. I looked again at the personal statement from the Cancer for College scholarship application in my hand. I kept reading.

Even after 20 years of reading applications, the raw gratitude expressed by many survivors still catches us by surprise. Our hearts ache for these brave kids, sharing their feelings so honestly. We feel so much wonder and respect for them, able to find the strength to survive, thrive, and, after coming through it all, feel grateful for their cancer experience.

Sometimes the words that are strung together seem to be at direct odds with each other. “My cancer diagnosis was the worst thing that had ever happened to me,” says survivor Samantha Loch,  “so I never imagined it could have such a positive impact on my life.”

Samantha Loch

Samantha Loch

Her diagnosis was medulloblastoma — brain cancer — at age 15. “Being diagnosed with cancer helped me find myself and gave my life direction.” Sammy is now a sophomore at Western Washington University, working on a sociology degree.

Finally, thoughts from a young woman who was working hard to make ends meet in order to obtain her college degree. In the midst of it all, at 20 years old, she found herself diagnosed with gastric cancer.

“Looking back…I am able to smile and be thankful for all my experiences,” shares Stephanie White. “Not only am I healthy, but also I have found my calling in life. I have found my niche in the world, all thanks to the journey of cancer treatment. To some, it may seem crazy that I was inspired by cancer, I cannot blame them, it does seem rather bizarre, but I see all the ups and downs of my cancer treatments to have been clarifying.”

Stephanie White with her fiance

Stephanie White and fiance Eric Smith

Stephanie was so changed by the passionate nurses who cared for her, that, upon returning to school, she changed her field of study and is now pursuing a nursing degree.

As a nation, during this season of Thanksgiving, we work to practice mindful gratitude. We hope you are as touched by these unexpected sentiments of gratitude as we are. As always, wishes for health and happiness to you and your families.