“My personality is ‘let me serve you, let me help,'” said Ann, an ovarian cancer survivor. “I had to learn that it was okay, I can take it. There are times when it is nice and good to receive. Because then, eventually, there will be times when we can pay it in advance and give it back. That’s why I signed up for Cancer Hope Network. “
Ann’s dedication to helping others didn’t begin when treatment ended. Like so many of the Cancer Hope Network volunteers, she has helped others for years.
Her cancer was diagnosed when the tumor grew so large that she could feel it in her abdomen when she lay down. When an ultrasound showed a tumor on her ovary, Ann was soon on her first meeting with a gynecological oncologist. Her biopsy-involved hysterectomy was scheduled, and Ann and her husband prepared for the day in the hope that her results would be good.
While she was still under anesthesia, the doctor came out to tell her husband the terrible news. That moment stayed with Ann. He heard and was alone. That was the hardest part of the whole experience. “
Armed with a diagnosis, they met with a medical oncologist to develop her treatment plan. “We felt confident and had hope. I am very grateful we had that. “After recovery from surgery, Ann’s PICC line was quickly installed and her chemo was underway.
“The days in the hospital were a blur. I was in pain. Once I got home, Jeff was at work the first day and alone for the first time. I knew I shouldn’t google, but I went to the American Cancer Society page. The first thing that came to mind was an article entitled “Ovarian Cancer, Silent Killer.” I shut the computer and began to sob. I decided then and there that I wouldn’t pay attention to what people were saying and listen to my doctor instead. “
As treatment progressed and difficult side effects presented challenges, the hope she had given to others over the years began to flow her way. People showed their concern in different ways: They sent cards, ran the grocery store, or dropped flowers on her front porch. Friends sat down with me. They didn’t care if I looked worthless. We were talking. And they were okay when I couldn’t take it anymore. I could be honest. “
Help emerged in other practical ways. “I was a child ministry staff member of my church. Three of us were employed, and the other two, plus volunteers, took a lot of work from me. My church continued to pay me my normal salary, even when I started doing chemo. They were supportive in addition to the job and the financial aid. They were like family. I am very grateful.”
A group of friends slightly older than Ann gathered and wore hats in solidarity. One of them distracted her with an invitation to go shopping. “It was the first time that I took off my scarf in public. Here we were in this shop trying on hats and it was so much fun. “
Family helped too. Her son had just moved but came to get coffee on his way to work. ‘It was so special. I remember one time when I made coffee and he brought muffins. I was so sick with chemo and I forced myself to eat because he brought it. “Her son, daughter-in-law and young grandson Noah took three 14-hour rides in three months. ‘Noah was a distraction. I just lay on the couch and watched him play. Today, her relationship with the fast-growing Noah is strong. “We are blessed to now live close by and see Noah a few times a week!”
Through treatment and recovery, Ann found comfort in her faith. “I would never want to force my faith down anyone’s throat, but my faith held me up. The Bible has always been an encouragement to me and it continued as I sought the Bible for hope. I clung to those verses during this time. “
Once the treatment was complete, Ann and family celebrated with a party – complete with all the guests decked out in hats.
She was grateful to avoid the persistent side effects some experienced, but struggled as she adjusted to her new normal. “I didn’t feel the same Ann I was before I got cancer. I was looking normal. She and her husband Jeff, staunch allies in the fight, had to adapt. “We were involved in fighting and dealing with my cancer. We worked really well together and then we had to find our new normal.”
Ann channels that experience into conversations with her CHN customers. “I think sometimes it’s easier to talk about something like cancer with someone you don’t know – someone who doesn’t know your family and friends, who never meets you or your husband at the store.” She encourages patients in the hope that things will change and life will evolve.
Today she is back to her pre-diagnosis way of helping and volunteering and supporting others. She creates hope, one match attendance at a time. “If anything good can come of this, yes.”
Call 877-HOPENET (877.467.3638) or visit cancerhopenetwork.org to connect with a cancer care provider or survivor who understands.