“I believe my experience and survivorship can provide hope, encouragement, and practical insight to another individual facing cancer and its treatment.” Those words, written by Support Volunteer Elaine more than 30 years ago, are as true today as they were then.
Elaine joined the CHN team while the organization was still young – and her commitment to service has been exemplary. She embodies the CHN values of excellence, integrity, teamwork, and respect. She has been a source of strength and hope for hundreds of patients, making more than 350 matches during her time as a Support Volunteer.
Although hearing the words “you have cancer” is never something that one expects, hearing this news at the 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 it accounts for only one percent of all gynecological cancers. Elaine, a single working mother of a teenager, did not fit the profile of a typical patient, as this cancer 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 adding chemotherapy and hormone therapy to her treatment protocol.
Talking with Elaine, you’d never guess all she has endured. Her positive approach to life is inspiring and affirms to others that there is always hope. Dedication, compassion, and positivity are just some of the characteristics that make her such an outstanding volunteer and friend. “May I encourage you with the reality that as time passes, all that is overwhelming now, will settle back into perspective,” she told one of her matches. “All that comprises the essence of you, that is inside, is still vital and whole. Be strong. You are not alone.”
Through the years, no matter what is going on in her personal life, Elaine is always available when she is called on; spending as much time as needed with patients, even if that means hours! From calling her matches on special holidays like Mother’s Day and Christmas, to driving out of state for an in-person visit, Elaine knows how to make each person feel special. Her commitment to “being there” is absolute.
After their experience talking with Elaine, many have decided to pay it forward and offered to volunteer when they are better, as they can see the impact that her support has had on them. The Cancer Hope Network family is grateful for her service.