A Successful Evening with Friends

In case you haven’t heard, we are incredibly grateful and excited to announce that we raised $43,000 (after expenses) at An Evening with Friends! This is far more than we have ever raised before.

We couldn’t have done it without all of our awesome supporters! Thank you!

We’d also like to thank our awesome sponsors Norton Cancer Institute,Baptist Health Louisville, The Oliver Group, KentuckyOne Health, Lilly oncology and RFX Technologies!

For those that weren’t able to attend it was a great evening. Awards were given to many of our long time supporters and sponsors. We were honored to have family members from both FFL founders. Becky Coy Gross gave an amazing speech about her experience with FFL. John F Richardson made us laugh. Dawne Gee (WAVE-TV) made us cry. There were tons of fantastic auction items and Audubon’s famous fried chicken.

All in all it was a fantastic evening and we look forward to next year!

Welcome, Wanda!

Friend for Life Cancer Support Network is honored to welcome Wanda Dudley as a practicum student who is pursuing her Master’s degree in Oncology Social Work at the Kent School. Wanda will be with us for the 2015-16 school year.

Wanda

My name is Wanda Dudley and I was born and raised in Louisville Ky. I moved away after graduating high school and have been gone for many years. My professional journey has allowed me to advocate and provide social services for girls and women of different cultures and generations for over twenty years. In my past positions: Domestic Violence Outreach Advocate, Program Manager, Community Outreach Coordinator and Youth Advocate. I designed and implemented programs that empowered, engaged and educated women and families of substance abuse, partner violence, and learning deficits/disabilities.

In the past I facilitated and administered workshops that educated and provided peer support to middle school girls, leading six-week sessions with girls focusing on topics of self-esteem, body image, and reproductive health. I was responsible for planning and implementing all nonprofit events, educational and volunteer program development. I developed and implemented an ecumenical program to connect the Des Moines religious community with private, public and, community resource providers, which was successful in developing and executing outreach programs and special events through communities across diverse populations.

I have a natural compassion when it comes to the quality of life and increasing the welfare of others health and happiness. But, I was drawn to the field of oncology social work because my life changed when I was faced with cancer. In 2006 my sister, maid of honor, best friend, and cousin, were diagnosed with cancer, and none of them are living today. My sister gave me the task of researching doctors and assisting with her medical decisions. I had no choice but to preserve advocating and navigating the task at hand her well-being.

My Story: Sandra

This is Sandra.

Sandra grew up in a place where you did not have dandelions growing in your garden. Dandelions are weeds and have no place amongst the well-tended beauty of flowers and greenery. The care she gives a garden extends to people, as well, for Sandra is a nurse by profession. Just hearing her voice can put you instantly at ease.

As 2009 came to a close, Sandra was preparing for her 40th birthday. Unlike most, she was excited for it! This was going to be her year. As a nurse, she knew that this also meant she should start getting mammograms. Having heard that they can be uncomfortable, she did some research and found a doctor that she felt comfortable with and trusted. She wasn’t going to let some little test get in the way of her new, fabulous year! It was mostly a formality, really. No one in her family had ever had cancer; in fact, she had never known anyone with cancer. She was not going to be the first.

On January 6, 2010 Sandra was diagnosed with Stage 3 Breast Cancer in her left breast.

The news was devastating. Many of the people closest to her went into denial or seemed angry. Her daughter was scheduled to graduate high school soon and was spending a lot of time with friends, preparing to leave the nest. Who was there to turn to? Sandra felt lost and alone.

Her initial decision was to forgo treatment. “I didn’t want to lose all my hair and then die,” she confessed.

The time she put into finding a care professional she trusted turned out to be a wise investment in her future. It was her doctor that convinced her to consider survivorship.

If I’m going to do this, she thought, I’m going to need support.

So Sandra started to research and came across Friend for Life. She was matched with two separate Friends over the course of her treatment and found some comfort knowing that someone else had survived a diagnosis similar to hers. She also sought support through Gilda’s Club, where she met another friend who offered to take her to her treatment sessions.

While the year was certainly not going as she had planned, Sandra did take the time to focus on herself. She picked up some new wigs for herself and attended Look Good, Feel Better. “I felt like a complete woman again. It really helped my attitude and ego.”

While in the hospital after surgery, one of Sandra’s Friends surprised her by bringing her a set of African American Softies, light fabric-covered breast prostheses. “I felt so touched and got quite a giggle.” She also realized that she would love to help others, the way others had helped her. In listening to the stories of the young mothers at Gilda’s Club, she also began to consider how many others like her there might be and how many could benefit if she shared her story.

After beating her own cancer, Sandra volunteered to become a Friend for Life herself. One of her favorite experiences as a volunteer has been to participate in Clinical Conversations, talking to medical and nursing students at local universities about her own experience.

If she could share one piece of advice to anyone out there reading this, it would be to know your own body. It is important to know your body and how you’re feeling about your body and express that to your doctor. Talk with others, listen to others (this can help you figure out how to express what you’re feeling/going through) and have discussions with your doctor.

Sandra still meets up with her Friends for lunch every now and then. And any more, she looks out at her garden and thinks, those dandelions aren’t really hurting anybody. They’re almost kind of pretty.

The Day of Awesomeness

The Day of Awesomeness

You will probably recognize the image below as our home, planet earth. Big place, isn’t it? Well, a few weeks ago, several new Friend for Life volunteers and staff began to realize how small and connected this big place can be.

On Saturday, April 13, 2013 in Louisville, Kentucky, Friend for Life Cancer Support Network held a day of training for new volunteers to become Peer Mentors. Eleven women and men attended, including Rob, Sam and Donna.


At the beginning of training, trainees are asked to pair off and get to know the person next to them. Then, they introduce each other. Because Sam and Donna know each other pretty well, being married and all, Donna moves down the table to meet someone new, leaving Sam and Rob to get to know each other.


Continue reading

Welcome

Hello readers, and welcome!

Now that you’re here, you’re probably wondering one or two things:

  1. What is Friend for Life?
  2. Why do they have a blog?

I’m so glad you asked! Friend for Life is many wondrous things (which I think you will discover if you stick with us, dear reader); but officially, we are a network of cancer survivors and caregivers who provide one-on-one emotional support for cancer patients and their loved ones. More thorough descriptions of who we are and what we do are available in our About section above and on our website.

So, why do we have a blog? Because we want to talk about things! More importantly, we want to talk about things with you.

What sorts of things? you might wonder. Well, since we provide cancer support we will definitely be talking about one of the ickiest, most frustrating, and most frightening diseases out there: cancer. But we won’t just talk about the bad side of cancer here, we’ll also talk about the beautiful side.

I know. Doesn’t seem like there could possibly be a beautiful side to cancer, does it? But let’s think about it this way…

Cancer’s about as pleasant as that biodegradable substance that comes out animals’ backsides – let’s call it “manure”, though there are plenty more colorful words to describe it. Manure isn’t something you think about and say, “gee, I’d like some of that!” It’s smelly, unpleasant to look at, and generally something you don’t want to touch. (or think about, right? Sorry.)

Put it in a garden, though.

Plant things in it.

Let them grow.

A little rain.

A little sun.

Now you’re not even thinking about that stuff you put in the ground – you’re just thinking about how lovely it is to have such beautiful, sweet smelling flowers in your garden! Or perhaps you planted vegetables and have some gorgeous, red, ripe tomatoes to slice up and serve with dinner!

The beautiful side.

Cancer is like that. It affects us in all sorts of negative ways. Yet from those negative experiences, good things can still grow. We can come together and share our experiences – laugh about them together, cry together; love together, be angry together; celebrate together, mourn together… but it’s the coming together that’s the beautiful part.

Sometimes the worst things in life bring out the best in humanity.

That is beautiful.

And that is the kind of thing we want to talk about.

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