Heather's Hangout

Sharing the people, places & little moments that make a difference.

Getting involved in cancer advocacy August 8, 2017

ACS HOPE lobby day

Hope makes everything worth fighting for. (ACS CAN Lights of Hope ceremony in DC)

After spending a week biking across Iowa with Team LIVESTRONG, raising funds and awareness for their programs and services for people facing cancer, I’m even more ready to work to improve healthcare, increase funding for cancer research and better treatment options, and support people affected by this crappy disease. And the sad thing about this disease’s impact is that there is much more to do. More than 1.7 million people will be diagnosed with cancer this year. It’s estimated more than 600,000 Americans will die from the disease. Too many. Unacceptable.

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I’m honored to recently be ‘promoted’ in my volunteer role with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network to the team lead for my Congressional District. This means that I will be working more closely with our local, state and federal elected officials and their staff. To me, it means that I can help make a more positive difference in the lives of people facing cancer. I’ve enjoyed meeting with the local staff in our district and speaking about ACS CAN at local events. Healthcare is ever-changing today and there never seems to be an end to the work!

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I’m really excited that I will be joining ACS CAN in Washington, DC in September. Hundreds of advocates will come together to meet with our home state federal officials to ensure cancer research, funding, preventive programs and more remain priorities for Congress. The highlight of the trip will be the Lights of Hope ceremony on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Here, more than 24,000 luminary bags will be lit to spell HOPE, a truly symbolic moment in our fight against cancer. Hope is something that I hold deep in my heart for every aspect of life. The luminary bags represent thousands of the cancer survivors and those we lost to cancer (Each bag is only $10. If you’d like to purchase a bag in honor or memory of someone special touched by cancer, click here.).

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There are many ways for you to get involved in cancer advocacy. It’s as easy as advocating from your home if you want! Sending emails, posting to social media, writing letters to the editors and calling your representatives is easy and makes an important impact. If you think your voice doesn’t make a difference, think otherwise. ACS CAN advocates had the following impact on Congress’ attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act without a reasonable replacement (since Jan. 2017):

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–128,000 petition signatures/messages sent to members of Congress
–20,000 new ACS CAN member volunteers registered
–The #keepuscovered hashtag was used 16,000 times on social media (mostly Twitter), earning a reach of more than 42 million.
–30,000 calls were made to Hill offices (since February)

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That’s quite an impact volunteers made on important issues! I encourage you to get involved in making a difference in the fight for better healthcare for everyone. Here are some organizations that are active in cancer advocacy and that I have experience with:

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American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. I believe that ACS CAN is one of the leading organizations advocating on behalf of people touched by cancer. Their influence is far-reaching and makes a positive impact (read the few stats above). There are many opportunities to work for positive change in your state by becoming an ambassador member.

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LIVESTRONG. Many of the national cancer priorities are also priorities for LIVESTRONG’s advocacy work. Pushing for an increase in cancer research funding and stopping the repeal of the Affordable Care Act are recent actions. I attended the One Voice Against Cancer lobby day the past two years with LIVESTRONG, which was an amazing experience, and made a difference in cancer care.

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National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship. NCCS works to improve quality of care and quality of life for anyone diagnosed with cancer. The organization advocates for better cancer care, improved research on new treatment options, and self-advocacy.

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Cancer Support Community. This organization formed years ago when The Wellness Community and Gilda’s Club merged. CSC offers social and emotional support for people facing cancer, caregivers and more. The policy work of CSC often focuses on ensuring that emotional support is an essential part of treatment for the patient, family members and caregivers.

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Cancer specific organizations. There are a lot of advocacy groups focused on specific cancer. For instance, I follow news from the Sarcoma Foundation of America as it focuses on bone cancers and get involved when needed. This organization works to advocate for increased funding for sarcoma-related research and treatments, as well as educate patients and the public on sarcoma. As a bone cancer survivor, these issues are obviously near and dear to my heart.

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All of these organizations distribute electronic updates and advocacy alerts. At the very least, I encourage you to register to get informed on what’s happening in policy related to cancer. Positive change begins with one person. You can be that person!

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We should all speak up for others March 6, 2017

Filed under: Life Lessons — Heather @ 9:00 am
Tags: , , , , ,
multiplehands.jpg

Let’s support each other.

This post is a little out of the ordinary from what I typically share, but it’s something I believe to be important so bear with me. I joined a sorority when I was in college. While the Greek system has its stereotypes, and admittedly some groups live up to those, I didn’t party nonstop with my sisters. We had required study hours, community service projects, chapter guidelines, and other requirements. And well, yes, social time! I joined a sorority to make new female friends and be part of a wonderful sisterhood. Many of these women became dear friends and still are, as well as the new sisters I’ve met as an alumna. It was a great experience for me as I adjusted to being away from home and family. After graduation, I joined the local alumnae association, where I now sit on the executive board. Throughout my collegiate and now alumnae years, I am always in awe of the many amazingly smart, kind, savvy and motivated women who I am honored to call sisters.

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One of the things that makes me most proud of being an Alpha Chi Omega is that our national philanthropy is raising awareness of and prevention of domestic violence. Over the years, my AXO sisters and I attended special programs about prevention and recognizing signs of domestic violence, hosted fundraisers for local domestic violence shelters and collected items for the shelter. We heard brave and devastating stories from survivors and victims’ families. All of these experiences have touched my heart. Domestic violence can affect anyone. Neither gender, race, education, religion or economic level matter in abuse. Physical abuse is not the only type of abuse. Mental and emotional abuse can have lasting effects on the victim, and is often harder to identify. It is stupidity to state that ‘a strong woman wouldn’t let herself be a victim’ because anyone can become a victim. It is often a topic that society doesn’t want to address. We see it too often in our media and even in our social circles when people either brush it off, make jokes or pretend it can’t/won’t happen to someone they know.

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My alumnae chapter is hosting our annual domestic violence awareness event this week. We selected HAVEN as our local charity. HAVEN provides shelter, counseling, advocacy and educational programming to nearly 20,000 people in metro Detroit each year. Our chapter had the privilege of touring the new shelter last year and we were so impressed with all that the organization provides, and incredibly moved by the facts and statistics that we learned.

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We ALL can play a role in preventing domestic violence. Educate yourself on the facts, don’t blame a victim, stand up against racism, sexist and homophobic jokes and comments, treat all people with respect, hold your friends accountable when they disrespect women and girls. I sometimes fear that our society is forgetting the easy, basic manners of respect and kindness. It’s up to each of us to remind ourselves and others of these.

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Here are some facts to know about domestic violence:*

  • Domestic violence occurs when one person uses controlling behaviors against another (an intimate partner) to maintain power and control. It can include physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse and stalking.
  • More than one million people report a violent assault by a partner every year in the U.S.
  • One out of three Michigan families are impacted by domestic violence.
  • One out of four women will be abused by a current/former partner at one point in their lives.
  • Domestic violence can be attributed to 50% of the homeless cases among women and children.
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HAVEN has some great tips on how you can help prevent domestic violence and abuse. If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, please contact HAVEN or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.SAFE (7233).

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*Sources: U.S. Department of Justice; HAVEN; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

 

A few of my favorite charities (#GivingTuesday) November 28, 2016

We’re familiar with Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, days that promote retailers and shopping. Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday, a day to promote and support nonprofits that make a difference in your local communities and the world around us.

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Celebrated the Tuesday after Thanksgiving (in the U.S.), Giving Tuesday kicks off the charitable giving season as many people make donations this time of year to charities. Giving Tuesday is a way to donate time, money, items and more to charities in your community and beyond. According to the #GivingTuesday website, last year more than 700,000 people raised $116,000,000 online in 70 countries for charities. That’s amazing! What a positive impact.

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hh_livestrongwalkI’m a firm believer that we can all give back in some way, whether donating a few hours of your time or giving money or sharing information with others or whatever else you decide. Charities provide a positive social impact on the lives of thousands of people and animals every year. So if you’re looking to support some great charities that make big positive impacts, here are some of my favorites:

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LIVESTRONG: The free navigation services offered to people with cancer and caregivers are so very helpful and informative. Whether you have questions relating to fertility, survivorship, insurance, life during treatment and so much else, LIVESTRONG can help. Other programs include LIVESTRONG at the YMCA (helping people stay active during and after treatment) and LIVESTRONG at School (helping schools provide information about cancer to students). I’ve shared my support for this organization in the past and it remains strong (check out my blog about the LIVESTRONG Challenge in October).

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Imerman Angels: This organization provides one-on-one support to people with cancer and caregivers. Mentor Angels (cancer survivors and caregivers) are matched with individuals needing support who are experiencing similar cancers, treatment and more. In 2016, Imerman Angels celebrates 10 years of providing support, making more than 29,000 matches worldwide.

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Horses Haven: This all volunteer-run organization has helped hundreds of horses, ponies, HH_Sheckyheadshot 1009donkeys, goats and more over the years by providing a home (temporary or permanent) to these animals who need some love. The animals are owner surrendered, rescued, abandoned or in need of a safe place. I’m in awe of the hard work and dedication that goes into running this farm on a daily basis. I sponsored a gorgeous retired Thoroughbred for years before he passed on and have helped at several volunteer days on the farm. I love it there.

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Camp Casey: This organization brings two of my favorite things together – horses and supporting people touched by cancer. Camp Casey provides horseback riding experiences for children and teens with cancer. My favorite program offered by the organization, Horsey House Calls, brings a horse, pizza party and arts and crafts to the home of a child or teen going through cancer. Along with siblings and/or friends, the child gets to ride a horse in their neighborhood and have a great party experience. We’ve traveled throughout metro Detroit and now spread into west Michigan. Nothing makes my heart swell bigger than seeing the smiles that these horses bring to the kids’ faces.

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American Cancer Society: The ACS has been a leader in all things cancer for a long time. From getting information on specific cancers to learning about research to finding local support groups, the ACS offers all this and more. I volunteer for the ACS’ Cancer Action Network, which is the non-partisan advocacy affiliate of the ACS working to make certain that cancer issues are state and national priorities.

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Local libraries: As a self-declared book/reading addict, I spend a lot of time at my local library or using the library’s Kindle app to borrow books. I also love the quiet corners I can find for reading, writing, working and sometimes just escaping from the world. After so many city cuts, many libraries rely on private funding to help maintain hours, books, and more.

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Stage Nature Center: This nature center has become my favorite local spot to hike and escape into nature. The nature center isn’t large but it’s welcoming, educational and provides some perfect spots to sit and enjoy nature both indoors and out. The trails offer a quick opportunity to both get exercise and fresh air, while usually encountering wildlife (check out my blog on hiking these trails). Perhaps this isn’t your local nature center, but I’m sure your local outdoor center will greatly appreciate some support.

 

The challenge of writing about the LIVESTRONG Challenge October 20, 2016

hh_livestrongwalkI’m not sure how to write this blog. For one thing, I’m feeling a bit jet-lagged. The other is that my heart is so full and my mind keeps replaying so many memories from my recent trip to Austin that I don’t where to start. So if I babble through this, bear with me.

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I spent five recent days in Austin, Texas celebrating life, friends, survivorship and positive change. I spent these days supporting the LIVESTRONG Foundation‘s 20th anniversary of the LIVESTRONG Challenge event. I am a better person for doing so.

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It’s been several years since I visited Austin. My first trips to Austin were, ironically, related to LIVESTRONG. Back then it was known as the Lance Armstrong Foundation but the goal of supporting people touched by cancer was the same. I was very involved with Camp Mak-A-Dream in Montana and the foundation provided assistance in helping us start a young adult survivors conference (to this day, it’s one of the efforts I’m most proud of). So it felt a bit ‘full circle’ to return to Austin for another LIVESTRONG purpose.

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My regular readers might remember that I represented LIVESTRONG at the One Voice Against Cancer (OVAC) lobby day and I’ve written about their support services for cancer survivors and caregivers in the past. As part of my commitment to the organization, I thought it would be good to check out a fundraising/team event so I could better speak on the various events offered. And, admittedly, I eagerly jumped at the chance to meet up with some friends who also were attending the Austin event. We all know I’m not one to turn down a chance to travel!

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hh_livestrong_signsSo a group of us headed to Austin. And it was not a disappointment (although I don’t know that any trip I’ve ever been on has been a disappointment because I believe in making the most of any situation, especially an opportunity to travel. But I digress….remember the jet lag). There were so many opportunities throughout the trip to connect with people I had met in the past, and meet lots of new people. I love that we all have at least one thing in common – our dedication to help LIVESTRONG support people touched by cancer.

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The day of the Challenge event was….early. And steamy (seriously, Texas, 90 degrees and humid in October? My hair was so not prepared for that weather.). But the day was full of so much energy. And once again, everyone in attendance had something immediately in common – fighting cancer. Most of you have probably been to a charity walk or event. There is something powerfully inspiring and motivating to be part of an event with a common cause. Of course, as a cancer survivor and someone who lost her dad to cancer, these cancer-related events are deeply personal. I have attended and planned numerous cancer charity events, and I always take some time to step aside from the crowd and absorb the impact. I see the joy, sadness, hope and dedication on faces. I hear the stories. I watch the determination. I am inspired and touched. I leave every one of these events with a full heart and renewed commitment to being a cancer advocate. This LIVESTRONG Challenge was no different. Thousands of people came together to walk, run, bike or observe, as a team to raise funds for a cancer institute that will have great impact on thousands fighting this crazy disease. There is significant positive power in that movement.

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livestrong_dadsign2I felt so much gratitude as I added my name to the survivor card. Some days I feel like a different person than that 21-year-old young woman diagnosed with bone cancer, as if I could sit beside her on the hospital bed, wrap her in a hug and promise brighter days. Then there are the days that I vividly feel every ache and emotion. There was also a moment when I wrote my dad’s name on the “In memory of” card that I was certain he’d be there if I turned around. Maybe more wishful thinking, or desperate longing, but I still am sure he was there, cheering and supporting me and everyone else there that day. I like to think that he proudly walked beside me on the route.

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I am grateful to be able to participate in these events. As a cancer survivor, I know how blessed I am to have every minute of every day, alive and enjoying people and places. Therefore, while I walk and speak and try my best to make a difference because of my survivorship, I mostly do these things for him. And others who do not get to walk, speak or live.

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And the people. I don’t even know where to begin with these people who come from near and far to support LIVESTRONG – from seeing current friends to making new. I must have hugged hundreds of people, including strangers. I shared and listened to so many stories. I sat on a bench after the walk with tears in my eyes as a woman told of losing her husband to cancer, the love of her life, and promised her that I wouldn’t ignore special moments, opportunities or people. I hugged a man who completed treatment last month, then was swept in a bear hug by him after I shared that I was done with treatment too. So many times this trip, I laughed until my cheeks and stomach hurt. I embraced connections that I didn’t know could exist so strongly. I was reminded numerous times of how beautiful life is, and the impact our positive actions can make on so many people. I felt like I was home, surrounded by love, inspiration, motivation and kindness. So much kindness.

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This is LIVESTRONG to me. People thank me for being involved and helping others, but I always feel like I should be saying thank you for the opportunity to be involved, to help others and do good. After all, I can. I’m alive.

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If you or someone you know is going through cancer, visit LIVESTRONG’s website for some valuable information, navigation services and more. If you’d like to help make a difference, check out LIVESTRONG’s advocacy efforts. Donate to support their services or join Team LIVESTRONG. You’ll make a difference. I promise.

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Year-end donations help charities provide important programs December 28, 2014

Filed under: Life Lessons — Heather @ 3:39 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

My parents raised my sisters and me to appreciate what we have and understand how fortunate we were to have a nice home, soft beds, clothes, access to good education, full stomachs and people who loved us. Thanks to their direction, I’m a firm believer that if you’re able to, you should give back to those less fortunate and your community. And, frankly, we’re all able to in some way, whether through time or money. I love to volunteer at local organizations, especially those that touched my life. Cancer organizations are an obvious choice; however, I also love to help at our church, schools, and any animal-related organization. My husband and I plan to spend more of our time volunteering in the community in the new year.

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We also feel great gratitude that we both have good paying jobs that allow us to save money each paycheck. With that in mind, we donate financially to local charities throughout the year. There are so many charities to consider. I listed a few that I’m involved with or are familiar with. Now is a perfect time to donate money as you’re still able to get a tax-donation for 2014!

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CampCaseytrailer_frontCamp Casey – I know I’ve shared information on this great organization a few times this year. Camp Casey provides a horseback riding experience to children with cancer and sickle-cell anemia through several different programs. The most popular, and my favorite, are Horsey House Calls, which bring a horse to the home of a child, whether in the suburbs, city or country. We provide rides, pizza, crafts and great fun! This nonprofit is run very efficiently.

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Imerman Angels – I love the mission of this organization that connects a cancer survivor (mentor angel) with someone in treatment or recently completed with treatment. I remember going through treatment and wishing to meet a young adult bone cancer survivor to give me advice and support.

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Wounded Warriors Project – This organization serves to honor and support our veterans and service members who were injured during their service to our country. Several programs are offered at no charge to these ‘warriors’ and their families, focusing on mind, body, financial and engagement.

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Michigan WWII Legacy Memorial – My husband and I walk by the sign for this future memorial quite often as it’s near our home. It will serve as Michigan’s official tribute to our state’s contributions during this war. I think it will be amazing to have such a special place to visit close to home once it’s built. The planners are accepting donations to help with the construction and maintenance – you can make a general donation or purchase a brick to honor someone.

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dino_1Cranbrook Institute of Science, Greenfield Village and other cultural institutions – You may think that admission fees cover the costs of maintaining and operating these amazing cultural institutions that showcase history, art, education and science, but there are still gaps in finances. Particularly for special programs, such as exhibits, research, and educational opportunities.

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Horses Haven – This volunteer-run organization provides a home for neglected or forgotten horses and donkeys. While they try to adopt out as many horses as possible, many are permanent residents at the farm. Raising horses isn’t cheap so all donations help support these amazing, sweet animals. You can also sponsor a horse for a low monthly fee, which includes visits with your new friend.

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What charities do you support?

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Don’t forget to make your financial donation by Dec. 31 to get the tax benefits…..so many people and animals will benefit from your generosity.

 

Help me bring a horse to the home of a child with cancer May 14, 2014

Filed under: Cancer Tips,Life Lessons — Heather @ 6:32 pm
Tags: , , ,

CampCaseytrailer_frontI’m raising money to bring a Camp Casey Horsey House Call to the home of a child with cancer. I’ve never used this blog to ask for direct help but I decided to share this organization with all of you because it’s that awesome. Read more to learn why I’m asking for a donation to Camp Casey, then follow the directions at the bottom to make a difference in the life of a child.

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In the 15 years I’ve been blessed, fortunate, lucky to be a cancer survivor, I try to give back every year to an organization or people making a difference to those touched by cancer. I currently am a volunteer board member and equine therapist for Camp Casey, a Michigan-based nonprofit that provides horseback riding experiences to children with cancer, and sickle-cell and aplastic anemia.

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Camp Casey offers three programs at no cost to participants. During a Horsey House Call, volunteers bring a horse to a child’s home for a surprise visit, rides and party. Cowboy Camp Outs enable families to enjoy a getaway to a Michigan dude ranch resort, and Outlaw Outings include various outings, such as baseball games, theater shows, or museum tours.

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One of our Hero Herd members.

One of our Hero Herd members.

Because of my past horse experience, I trained to be an equine therapist for Camp Casey, which means I help coordinate the day-of activities for our Horsey House Calls. What happens on these visits? A lot of awesome! We bring a horse from our Hero Herd, a group of amazing, calm horses that are ‘interviewed’ and vetted out by the Camp Casey staff. These horses’ owners agree to let us bring their horse to surprise a child at their home. Imagine living in Detroit, Rochester, Royal Oak or any suburb or community and seeing a truck and horse trailer pull up in front of your neighbor’s house – you can guess the great reactions we receive!

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The child doesn’t know we’re coming so we unload the horse while volunteers are setting up tables and equipment. Then we knock on the front door, making sure our horse is the first thing they see. Surprise and smiles! During the two-hour visit, the child and a limited number of siblings or friends (17 years or under) ride the horse along the sidewalk or wherever depending on the location. We enjoy pizza and drinks, make crafts and horse treats, take lots of pictures and have a lot of fun.

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I love watching children’s expressions when they see a horse on their front lawn. I love watching the smiles on faces of children who were at first hesitant to ride a horse, then fall in love. I love interacting with the amazing volunteers who commit to these experiences. And of course I love being around the horses who never fail to bring laughter and smiles to these children.

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One of my first Horsey House Calls was to the home of a 10-year old child with both leukemia. I led a horse to her front door so that when she opened it to see us waiting for her, she squealed in delight. The experience brought tears to my eyes several times – the magic that animals provide, the opportunity this experience provides to a child and family to forget about their disease for a short while, and witnessing the impact on volunteers. As a cancer survivor, I know how precious those “normal” moments are. For some participants, this is the last great experience they have….because cancer is a terrible, terrible disease. Which inspires me even more to help share the Camp Casey mission with everyone.

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Raising awareness wherever we drive!

Raising awareness as we drive!

And selfishly, the experience brings me comfort as I remember why I love these beautiful animals and how much I miss riding and regularly being around them. Cancer took my ability to ride when I was diagnosed with  bone cancer and had my femur/knee replaced with titanium. I lost much of my confidence with horses after so many years away and knowing I have this titanium rod in my leg that could be hurt with one fall. But the habits and knowledge came rushing back to me each Horsey House Call I attended. For a few hours I can feel normal and absorb the love and comfort these animals bring to me while sharing that love with children who could use a reason to smile.

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Now I’m asking for your help in bringing a Horsey House Call to the home of a child with cancer – giving a child an opportunity to laugh, have fun and be ‘normal’ for a few hours.

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My goal is to raise $1,000 to support one Horsey House Call. My husband and I are kicking in the first $100. ANY donation amount will help make a difference for this small nonprofit. Here’s how to donate:

  • Visit Camp Casey’s website (www.camp-casey.org)
  • Click “Donate Now” – you’ll be taken to Pay Pal’s website where you can enter your donation amount.
  • At the top left, you’ll see “Donation in honor of” – click that and please write “Heather’s HHC” so Camp Casey can track our progress (I won’t know the amount you donated).
  • You can also mail a check payable to “Camp Casey” to 333 W. Seventh, Suite 230, Royal Oak, MI 48067 (please include Heather’s HHC in the memo or with a note)
  • Feel good because you’re going to make a sick child very happy!
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Thank you for helping me share my love of horses with children who deserve a smile in their lives.

 

Life as a young adult cancer survivor April 11, 2014

Filed under: Cancer Tips — Heather @ 6:29 pm
Tags: , , ,
We're all in this together.

We’re all in this together.

This week was designated the very important Young Adult Cancer Awareness Week to raise better awareness of the challenges facing young adults diagnosed with cancer. Consider these facts:*

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  • More than 70,000 young adults (ages 15-39) are diagnosed with cancer every year.
  • One young adult (ages 15-39) is diagnosed with cancer every eight minutes.
  • Survival rates for young adults with cancer have barely improved since the 1970s.
  • Gaps in care continue to exist for young adult cancer survivors.
  • Six percent of all diagnoses are in young adults compared to less than one percent in children.
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If you’re a long time reader of this blog, you know that I am a young adult cancer survivor of bone cancer. I was three months shy of graduating from college and starting a career when I heard the terrifying news. Cancer rocked my world in many different ways, and the aftermath continues to provide struggles at times. Being a young adult – too young to be child and not quite old enough to always be taken seriously – brings many challenges for a healthy person. Many are graduating college, starting new careers, starting new relationships. Many are focused on having fun, testing out life and looking to the future. Cancer brings all that to a halt.

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You don’t think of your own mortality when you’re a young adult. You don’t worry about hospital bills, insurance and having hair. At least you shouldn’t have to. Cancer changes that. When treatment ends and people expect you to move on like life is normal, you feel lost. Life will never be the same. You worry and wonder about things that people shouldn’t. You ponder how to tell a new boyfriend/girlfriend of your health history so they won’t run away scared. Job offers are weighed by duties, opportunities – and insurance options. Having children is not a given because chemo, radiation and surgery might have taken that away. You struggle to fit in with friends who might not understand how precious life is.

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Thankfully young adult cancer survivors are not alone. There are many of us in the U.S. who have lived many of the same struggles through treatment and into life after treatment. And there are many wonderful organizations dedicated to helping young adults maneuver through treatment, insurance and life after cancer. This is not an exhaustive list but some of the ones I have worked with, volunteered at or received support from. All of the programs listed are free.

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Imerman Angels: Meeting someone who has survived the same cancer and undergone many of the same issues can be invaluable. Imerman Angels provides one on one support to anyone going through treatment for any type of cancer. They pair up a person going through treatment with someone who has finished treatment of the same cancer. I signed up as a volunteer and currently mentor another young adult survivor of bone cancer. Imerman Angels also provides matches for caregivers of cancer survivors. You don’t have to be local to be a mentor – today’s technology provides a variety of ways to connect.

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A magical place to support.

A magical place to support.

Camp Māk-A-Dream: This place will always be close to my heart because it was the first place I went to where I was surrounded by young adults who ‘got me.’ My experiences helped me embrace being a survivor and make life-long friendships with other young adults. Camp Māk-A-Dream is located in Gold Creek, Mont. and provides cost-free conferences for children, teens and young adults with cancer. You can be in or out of treatment, depending on the conference you attend. In between informative education sessions, participants can swim, hike, play games, work in the art studio, have fun on the miniature golf course or ropes course. There are evening activities, such as star-gazing (under the amazing Montana sky!), line dancing and more. The food is great, the cabins are cozy and the opportunity to interact with fellow young adult cancer survivors is priceless.

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Critical Mass: The Young Adult Cancer Alliance: Bringing together many organizations dedicated to benefiting young adults with cancer, Critical Mass provides resources, hosts an annual conference and offers a voice for those touched by the disease.

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One of many resources provided by Livestrong.

One of many resources provided by Livestrong.

LIVESTRONG Foundation: One of the leading organizations for cancer survivors, LIVESTRONG provides resources to people during and after treatment for cancer, as well as for caregivers. LIVESTRONG also is a loud voice for cancer survivors in state and national advocacy issues.

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Stupid Cancer: Focused on empowering young adults with cancer, Stupid Cancer provides numerous programs and services to this group. Their website offers a great forum where you can ask questions related to money, fertility, relationships, work and more, and their annual conference is always well-attended.

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Cancer Support Community: With more than 50 chapters in the U.S. and online support, CSC provides social and emotional support to anyone touched by any cancer (including families and friends). Many chapters host a young adults with cancer support group, which is a great way to meet others going through similar challenges. They also host social programs, such as yoga, art workshops, potlucks, children’s activities, knitting and more. CSC is the “parent organization” of The Wellness Community and Gilda’s Club chapters (they merged in 2009).

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SAMFund for Young Adult Cancer Survivors: This organization was founded by a young adult survivor I met in Montana. It exists to provide financial scholarships to young adult cancer survivors for a variety of reasons – rent, college tuition, fertility treatments, health insurance premiums and more. They also offer webinars on important topics, such as navigating the job market post-treatment.

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Like I said, these are just a few of the organizations that provide great support to young adult cancer survivors. What other organizations have helped you or a young adult you know?

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*Source: Critical Mass: Young Adult Alliance; Livestrong; American Cancer Society

 

 
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