“Life is short. Enjoy it every day.”
Those words, spoken by so many, take on new meaning when Support Volunteer John, a tongue cancer survivor says them.
“Following treatment, I was in the hospital for a month in a step-down unit. When I got home, I got a call from a volunteer. I wasn’t feeling much like talking, was hardly speaking at all in fact, so they filled my family in on what was going on.”
Treatment was difficult – including learning to talk with a portion of his tongue gone. When he returned home, it was difficult acclimating to his new normal. “My family and friends were hiding from me when they ate. Smelling food and not being able to have it was torture,” he remembers. “I had to fight through depression.”
A young, healthy non-smoker and non-drinker, John spent his career in New York law enforcement and suspects his diagnosis is related to his service after 9/11. But rather than focus on that, he has channeled all of his energy into helping others. He has recently completed his degree in Social Work and is now working as a champion for elderly clients. It’s a lightning pace, but for him, it’s worth it. “My diagnosis gave me the desire to help. I would probably have been a good social worker before, but this gives me a little extra empathy.”
“I’m so grateful to have had the support system that I did,” John recalls. “My father took a year of FMLA leave to take me back and forth to appointments. My mother would work all day, stay up with me all night and go back to work the next day.”
He encourages patients and caregivers to connect with a Support Volunteer. “There are people out there who went through it. They’re the best informal support that you’re gonna find. I was lucky. I know there are people out there who don’t have that support. That’s why I volunteer.”
Cancer Hope Network provides free one-on-one emotional support to adult cancer patients and their loved ones by matching them with trained Support Volunteers. Each of CHN’s 400+ volunteers is at least one year post-treatment or successfully undergoing maintenance therapies. CHN serves cancer patients in the United States and Canada. To speak with John, or another volunteer, call 877.467.3638 or visit cancerhopenetwork.org.