During our 2017 Volunteer Appreciation Day, Support Volunteers worked with leading trainer Rick Sawyer to list the qualities of a hero – the qualities of a Support  Volunteer. This week, CHN staff will discuss five. Check back each day for the latest installment!

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Day One: Leadership

“We’re here for a reason. I believe a bit of the reason is to throw little torches out to lead people through the dark.” — Whoopi Goldberg

Support Volunteers come from all walks of life. They are teachers, students, engineers, nurses, salespeople, veterans, and more. But one thing they have in common is that they have decided to use their experiences with cancer to be a mentor to someone else who is walking down a dark, unknown path.  

Our volunteers lead by encouraging others to be active participants in their medical care. They have joined organizations that advance cancer research, support and policies. They have changed their careers to become health advocates, social workers, and non-profit leaders. They guide others by walking alongside them and saying “I’ve been down a similar road. You can do this.”

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Day Two: Positivity

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”  ― Thích Nhất Hạnh

Support Volunteers have been through a cancer fight (sometimes multiple cancer fights). They know the ecstatic joy of beating cancer – and they know that tear-inducing, soul-wrenching challenge of losing a battle. But despite the struggles, they are committed to positivity and loyal to hope.  They recognize that being strong doesn’t always mean wearing a smile and offer honest, authentic encouragement to the patients they’re matched with.

“Hope matters because without it there is darkness and sadness…and I choose not to live in darkness. I choose light,” said Support Volunteer Charlotte. “Hope is all we have,” agrees Support Volunteer Christine. “Hope fuels the soul to make recovery possible.”

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Day Three: Empathy

‘The ability to understand and share the feeling of another’― Merriam-Webster

Empathy is a Support Volunteer’s strength. They truly understand what another person diagnosed with cancer is facing because they have faced it themselves. They are giving back by offering this support over and over again to the people they talk with. Our volunteers listen. They share. They understand. Their support goes far beyond sympathy; their ability to make another feel heard and that they are not alone is what makes their support so unique and special.

A volunteer has been through the cancer battle…the simple phrase ‘I understand’ is never so powerful when offered with empathy and experience.

Day Four: Encouragement

Fall seven times, stand up eight.”Japanese Proverb

Our Support Volunteers motivate others by sharing their personal experience with cancer. They offer encouragement by helping others recognize their own strengths or simply by meeting them where they are and saying “I’ve been there too”. They instill hope and confidence by facing cancer and choosing to use it as an experience from which to grow and help others.

The dictionary defines encouragement as: “the action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope”. But encouragement in action is best described by our cancer patients and loved ones who have said: “my volunteer was there for me on my darkest day”, “I really felt that my volunteer understood my fears”, and “I never felt alone”. These are the real ways in which encouraging words and actions make a difference in someone’s life.

Day Five: Heroism

“Hard times do not create heroes. It is during the hard times when the ‘hero’ within is revealed.” Bob Riley

The final word that describes our volunteers encompasses all the qualities that have been visited: leadership, positivity, empathy, encouragement (and so many more!). Every day our volunteers are heroes who inspire us. They are willing to revisit, likely, the most frightening moment in their lives- a cancer diagnosis- to help someone else get through it a little easier. They empathize and allow people to share their feelings without judgement- knowing what it is like to be in that place. They display an enormous conviction and passion for helping others, giving generously of their time and soul. They fearlessly lead and encourage others to see the hero that lives within them.

It is only through their response to a calling to volunteer as mentors to others that Cancer Hope Network exists.
This National Volunteer Week and every week of the year- we celebrate our heroes!