Northside's Network of Hope connects cancer patients with trained volunteers who have also faced cancer and embraced life afterward. Volunteer cancer survivors and caregivers are available to mentor cancer patients throughout their treatment.
Here, survivor Shelli talks about how Network of Hope helped her during her journey with colon cancer, and why it's so important for her now to "give back" the support that she received.
Why did you decide to get involved with Network of Hope (NoH)?
In June of 2020, I was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer. I was 49 years old with no family history of cancer and no health concerns. It was pretty frightening to say the least, and on top of all that, we were in the midst of a global pandemic. I was not allowed to have any support during my surgery or treatment. In fact, the only time my husband was allowed to come with me was when I was told I had cancer. When I received the binder from Northside Hospital and saw the information about NoH, I realized I needed support (I did not have any family members or friends who had any experience with colon cancer), and I called the number.
When I called NoH, I was told that there was not a mentor in Atlanta or in the Northside system with colon cancer, but I spoke to Kymberly Duncan, the survivorship coordinator at the Northside Hospital Cancer Institute, and told her about my situation. She ended up connecting me with an amazing woman in Texas named Laurie Kay. Laurie is a mom and working full-time, just like me. The support she gave me and the partnership we built was invaluable. Also, the fact that Kymberly went outside of the network for me, to meet my needs was so amazing! I still talk to Laurie all the time. She really helped me through my journey. She was instrumental in simple, everyday advice and emotional support.
How long have you been involved, and what is your role?
The minute I finished chemotherapy (Christmas Day 2020), I called NoH to volunteer my services. I was asked to wait six months, which I did, and now I am a mentor. I have participated in several of the Zoom calls and completed my first day of in-person volunteering at the annual golf tournament. It was amazing to meet people and be able to interact with them face-to-face.
Please share how NoH has had an impact on your life.
I never realized how important connection was until last year. We as humans need that support from each other, and we need to be aware of it and acknowledge it. Because of the pandemic, I could not have family and friends come to treatments with me, so I connected with my nurse, Ellie. I requested her for everything, and I am so glad that I did.
Also, do not be afraid to ask for help. I never thought that I needed help because I had always managed things on my own before my diagnosis. I soon realized that I could not manage this on my own, and I am so glad that I asked for support.
What would you say to someone who is thinking of getting involved with NoH?
I highly recommend it! It is such an amazing thing to give back the support you received.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
When women support each other, incredible things happen. I think that as moms and busy women in general – we are afraid to reach out for help. Just don’t be afraid to ask.