Our 2014 Flame of Courage Winner, Congratulations Elaine!

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Every year, Cancer Hope Network awards a group or individual who has made a difference through their own courageous battle with cancer, or who has helped others through the ordeal of treatment. The Committee evaluates nominees on how they made a difference through a display of courage, spirit, inspiration, or support in the battle with cancer.

This year, our very own Cancer Hope Network volunteer, Elaine, won the Flame of Courage Award! She is an AMAZING volunteer and goes above and beyond every day to give HOPE to people all over the country! Read her inspiring story below!

Elaine is a three time cancer survivor who has celebrated 20 years as a Cancer Hope Network Support Volunteer and has proven to be an invaluable part of our organization’s “family” since 1994. Throughout this time, Elaine’s commitment to our service has been exemplary and has embodied the CHN values of excellence, integrity, teamwork, and respect. She has not only met the traditional role of a support person by offering support over the phone, she has gone above and beyond, traveling out of state at her own expense to meet, face to face, those with whom she is matched. Since becoming a Support Volunteer, she has touched the lives of over 150 patients and family members offering encouragement and hope as they dealt with their cancer diagnoses.

Although hearing the words “you have cancer” is never something one expects; hearing this news at age 37 presented itself with its own set of unique challenges for Elaine. In 1986, she was diagnosed with stage 3 squamus cell vaginal carcinoma. She was told that this type of cancer is rare and, according to the American Cancer Society, accounts for about 1 percent of all gynecological cancers. Elaine, a single working mother of a teenager, did not fit the profile of a typical person with this diagnosis, which usually affects women later in life. She underwent concurrent chemotherapy and radiation treatment for five weeks, enduring many side effects, some of which had long-lasting consequences. Unfortunately, that experience was not the end of her battle with cancer. In 1997, Elaine was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer that was treated with surgery. A few years later, in 2005, the breast cancer returned; this time requiring chemotherapy and hormone therapy as her treatment protocol.

However, speaking with Elaine, you would never know all that she has endured. Her positive approach to life is inspiring and affirms to others that there is always HOPE. Dedication, compassion, positivity, enduring spirit and infectious enthusiasm for life are the attributes that make her an empathetic volunteer and an outstanding individual.

No matter what is going on in her personal life, Elaine is always available when she is called upon; spending as much time with each patient as is needed. She knows how to make each person feel special, for example, taking the time offering acts of kindness such as calling her patients on special holidays like Mother’s Day and Christmas. She is committed to being there for the people with whom she is matched, keeping in touch with some long after their initial call; always ensuring they know that she is there for them every step of the way. Many of the people Elaine has supported decide to pay it forward and have offered to volunteer when they are well again as they know the positive impact her help had on them.

Elaine’s ability to empathize with others, even after 20 years, is a sign of her compassion and commitment toward ensuring that no one has to face cancer alone. In a beautiful letter to one of the women she spoke with Elaine wrote: “May I encourage you with the reality that as time passes, all that is overwhelming now, will settle back into perspective. All that comprises the essence of you that is inside, is still vital and whole. Be strong. You are not alone.” And the best part is that Elaine truly believes this. A born-again Christian, she is even willing to pray with those who make that request.

Back in 1993, when asked why she wanted to become a volunteer, Elaine replied “I believe my experience and survivorship can provide hope, encouragement, and practical insight to another individual facing cancer and its treatment.” In our opinion, she has accomplished this many times over throughout the 20 years she has been volunteering for Cancer Hope Network. Thank you, Elaine, for joining with us to help make a positive difference.