My name is Lynn Joye and I’ve been volunteering my time to grow a CanCare affiliate in the city of Charleston, South Carolina where I live. After caring for my father who had stage 4 lung cancer in 2000 and then my mother-in-law who had stage 1 ER+ breast cancer in 2014, I went through my own treatment for stage 2 Her2+ breast cancer in 2015.
Although we were all grateful for the excellent medical care we received here, I couldn’t stop wondering why there weren’t more resources available in our area to help people actually COPE with the effects of cancer.
In 2018, I went online to research what larger cities with big cancer centers were offering, and I found that in addition to traditional support groups, large cities were offering peer-mentoring programs. When I read about CanCare’s one-on-one support program I was very impressed by its design and also its longevity. They had been training up former patients and caregivers to support current patients and caregivers in Houston for over 25 years! When I looked to see if there were any CanCare programs in cities closer to mine, I was thrilled to see Atlanta on the list. I decided to make the five hour drive to attend the next training weekend offered there to see what I could learn.
Kay Royal, CanCare Atlanta’s founder, had interviewed me over the phone prior to the training weekend and could not have been more welcoming when I arrived in Atlanta.
The weekend flew by as Kay and the other members of Atlanta’s training team at the time, Chet and Marilyn Burdick , Neal Kuhlhorst and Jenny Ridnour, compassionately and expertly led our group of about 15 new volunteers through the weekend of training activities.
My fellow classmates were the kindest people and we all seemed to bond so quickly not only because we all had been through cancer, but because of the well-designed activities and the safe and supportive environment we were all sharing. It was such a relief to be in the company of so many other cancer veterans. I couldn’t get enough of talking to them and hearing their stories. In between activities we socialized and had snacks- it honestly felt like camp and I was sad when it was time to go home! Before I left, I told the trainers in Atlanta how much I loved the experience and that I wanted to try to build an affiliate back home.
Creating a Cancer Support Community
I believed, and still believe, that people going through cancer deserve to have the opportunity to be matched with someone who has survived the same type of cancer they are facing. The fact that CanCare screens and trains their volunteers and that they can match a request from a patient or caregiver looking for support within 48 hours brings me so much peace. Cancer can be a serious problem, and if I can be a part of helping someone’s cancer experience be a little bit easier or lighter, I feel like my own cancer had a purpose. If you feel called to help grow our CanCare network, please join us.
I think all cities need to have a means to create community within the cancer community. Going through cancer can be a very isolating experience and we need to work towards changing that.