For 15 years, they’ve volunteered at nearly every Chrysalis Gala that Cancer Hope Network has hosted. Now, they’re being recognized as the Spirit of Hope honorees for 2019.
They’re Lori Roth and Randy Cohen.
Randy and Lori were drawn to CHN by chance. Randy’s sister Wendy started work at CHN and recruited them to serve as volunteers at our Chrysalis Gala in 2004. Nearly two decades later, their tireless work on behalf of adults facing cancer is still creating hope for patients across the nation.
“The gala is a fantastic event that brings together so many people and so many resources to help provide for what Cancer Hope does for the whole year,” Lori says with characteristic modesty. “It’s one of the biggest fundraisers of the year and I feel like it’s the wind beneath their sails. It’s also a perfect way for me to help. Maybe I can’t do all the things that other volunteers in the organization do, but I can help them to fund their work. Randy and I are pleased to do whatever we can to make sure that all the people that are doing good can do that good.”
“Lori and Randy have been some of CHN’s staunchest supporters through the years,” says Executive Director Cynthia Gutierrez Bernstein. “Their passion for CHN and their dedication to providing support and encouragement to people facing cancer is nothing short of inspiring. We are enormously grateful for their generosity, dedication and unwavering commitment.”
That commitment was born of personal pain. “Cancer has been a big part of our life,” Lori says. “When Wendy first came to Cancer Hope and we first began volunteering, Randy’s mother was experiencing a cancer recurrence and she passed away soon after. I had lost my father 1996 to multiple myeloma when he was 61.”
Randy has successfully completed treatment and surgery for high grade upper tract urothelial carcinoma. He’s begun the process to become a CHN Support Volunteer.
What might have caused others to run from reminders of painful times has inspired Randy and Lori to marshal their time, treasure and relationships on behalf of others.
“Cancer can consume you. It takes over your life. It’s a helpless feeling,” Lori says thoughtfully. “Despite our painful losses, we always knew that we’d done everything we could for my dad and Randy’s mom. To see an organization that was helping people who aren’t as fortunate as we are….how could we not be involved?”
It’s an outlook the two share. Lori vividly remembers Randy looking at her as he was going through treatment, saying “I know that this sounds crazy but I feel lucky. I’m lucky I have you, that we have the doctors we have and thankful that we were able to lead our lives in the way we wanted to.”
“Through the years, we’ve heard the stories of so many patients who were helped by a match with a Support Volunteer,” Randy recalls. “Wanda (Diak, former Executive Director, current Support Volunteer) has always been fantastic. At last year’s gala, when Diane Bongiorno shared her own cancer journey I was just beginning mine. I knew I had a mass and had a biopsy scheduled, but hadn’t been officially diagnosed. The work the gala makes possible was even more personal, more meaningful. We were in tears.”
While in treatment, Randy discovered that he has a hereditary genetic mutation called Lynch Syndrome. Rather than bemoan his fate, he’s lept into action with the same, nurturing, giving, “how can I help others” energy that he brings to his volunteerism. Their whole family has been tested and he and Lori have become champions for awareness and testing. (Learn more about Lynch Syndrome HERE.)
“It’s not about what happens to you,” Randy says. “It’s about how you react to what happens. CHN can help make how you deal and how you react, a positive thing. You’re going through something difficult and trying to do what you can to find the positive.”
“There’s not a lot of tools in the box that can help you do that,” Lori agrees. “Cancer Hope Network helps you realize that you’re not alone, that there are other people with you. Cancer doesn’t come with instructions. People don’t even know what they need to ask for. That’s what makes spreading the word and helping people find out that they can come to CHN and get help is so very important.”
The Chrysalis Gala: Colors of Hope will be held Saturday, November 2 at Westminster Hotel in Livingston NJ. For more information or to purchase tickets, please contact Randibeth Gallant, Associate Director of Special Events (908.879.4039 ex 110) or visit cancerhopenetwork.org/Gala.
About Cancer Hope Network
Cancer Hope Network provides free one-on-one emotional peer support to adult cancer patients and their loved ones. Each of CHN’s 400+ volunteers is at least one year post-treatment or successfully undergoing maintenance therapies. They have faced more than 80 cancer types and speak 15 languages. Our volunteers offer support from diagnosis, through treatment and into recovery. Cancer Hope Network serves cancer patients in the United States and Canada.