Earlier this month, CHN shared photos of Support Volunteer Cyndie, the winner of our volunteer raffle. The prize, donated by Palm Beach Esthetics, was valued at nearly $300 and contained a variety of specialty skincare products. We caught up with Cyndie to learn a little more about her journey from CHN patient to Support Volunteer.

“July 1994 was a very strange time,” recalls Support Volunteer Cyndie. A few months earlier, her father had lost his four-year battle with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. “My daughter Amanda was 3, my son Michael was just 1 year old. My life was extremely busy with two little ones and a part time job. After one such day of running around, I carried them into the house and to my surprise discovered a huge golf ball on the side of my neck when I looked in the mirror.”

It was terrifyingly familiar. “Of course I flashed back to the lump my father had. It took five weeks to get my diagnosis. I completed antibiotics, scans, biopsies, and had to find a surgeon. It was a whirlwind.”

She began treatment that September and was connected with a Cancer Hope Network volunteer. “It was a really scary part of life, just losing my dad and I had these two little kids. My Support Volunteer came to my house, sat and talked with me. She was such an inspiration because she was living proof that things would be OK, it was just going to take some courage and patience. More than two decades later, I remember her being there and talking with me. She was also a mother, and  was living her normal life.”

“It made me feel so much better.  I had a very supportive family but they had just gone through losing my dad. I really cherished the fact that I could express what I was feeling to her. It meant I wasn’t adding another burden to my family.”

Cyndie often discusses her wrenching emotional roller coaster with the patients she counsels as a Support Volunteer. “There are so many emotions when you’re diagnosed. When I was only three weeks old, my biological mother died from an aneurysm. For me, the thought of leaving my babies was a very real fear. I never wanted my babies to wake up with that knowledge that ‘my mom died.’ Like many mothers, I had the fear of not being there for my kids.”

Her matches see themselves in her honesty – and she is able to share the hope and lessons she’s learned through treatment and beyond. “When you’re going through diagnosis and treatment, every day is different. One day, you’re feeling good, the next, your emotions get the best of you, and or your body gets the best of you. I tell them that what they’re going through is temporary. It’s not the best thing that will happen in your life, but the end result can be.”

Cyndie is the proud mother of three (Amazing! Wonderful!  Brilliant!) children.  Before starting chemotherapy, her doctor suggested freezing her eggs in case she and her husband wanted to grow their family post treatment. They decided against it, focusing on her treatment and raising Amanda and Michael. “And then we got our bonus baby!”

Today, Christian, named because his birth was a miracle, is studying Computer Engineering at Vanderbilt University. Her son Michael has completed college and started his career. Cyndie’s daughter, Amanda a nurse, is happily married. “I think I enjoyed her wedding more than my own,” Cyndie laughs. “It was big excitement in our household. It was such a blessing thinking back 23 years ago when I had that little girl and worried if I’d ever see her wedding someday.”

“I’m so blessed with the life I have. It wasn’t easy going through chemotherapy and radiation, but it helped me find my priorities. I’ve learned to ask ‘Does it matter?’ Cancer gave me an opportunity to appreciate every day.”

While every diagnosis is different and each treatment protocol a unique challenge, Cyndie’s advice for anyone facing cancer is simple: “Enjoy every day like it’s a vacation. You don’t know what tomorrow holds, but if you can enjoy the moments of today, you’re truly blessed.”

eHOPE often features blogs and stories from Support Volunteers like Cyndie. To be matched with a Support Volunteer of your own, click HERE. Already a CHN volunteer? Want to share your thoughts? Contact Sarah Miretti Cassidy – scassidy@cancerhopenetwork.org