“Our first training in Bend was in May 2008,” recalls CHN Executive Director Cynthia Gutierrez Bernstein. “It was one of my first out of state trainings as head of our programs team and we trained a wonderful group of volunteers. Since then, almost 90 St. Charles survivors and caregivers have completed training. They’ve had more than 2,000 visits with more than 1,000 clients. Cancer Hope works with many wonderful organizations across the nation, but St. Charles will always have a special place in my heart.”
Those volunteers provide support for cancer patients and caregivers throughout Central Oregon no matter where they are being treated. Volunteers are trained and supported by the CHN Programs Team, a group of nursing and social work professionals.
“Partnering with Cancer Hope Network helps us connect patients and caregivers who are currently being treated with someone who’s been through a similar experience,” said Wendy Rudy, St. Charles Cancer Center Survivorship & Community Education Coordinator. “They provide support locally, but CHN’s deep bench of volunteers across the nation means support is available for patients facing a rarer cancer. The crossover between our Cancer Center volunteers and those trained as CHN Support Volunteers provides an added depth of support for patients and caregivers.”
But healing doesn’t end when active treatment is complete and adjusting to the new normal of life after cancer can be challenging. Peers for Progress notes that while there is much attention paid to the needs of the recently diagnosed and those currently undergoing treatment for illness, “much less thought is given, however, to the distinctive educational and psychological needs of individuals in the decades following their diagnoses…” (Global Evidence for Peer Support: Humanizing Healthcare, 2014). Our Support Volunteers report that our initial and ongoing volunteer training, combined with professional support from our Programs team and an opportunity to “pay it forward” has helped them find meaning and empowerment in their survivorship.
“Cancer survivors, in general, have a great deal of knowledge about their disease and the post-surgical concerns and the rehab issues their patients likely will face,” says longtime Support Volunteer Jeff Scott. “Sometimes it’s hard to see the pain and suffering others are enduring but there is much personal satisfaction in knowing you’ve made a difference in someone’s life.”
“Being a CHN volunteer has helped me find some purpose and meaning, not in spite of, but because of my cancer experience,” agrees Support Volunteer Marci Floski. “I think others might want to consider volunteering with CHN to have this same experience. A cancer diagnosis and all that comes with it, can be daunting. Being a volunteer reminds us that none of us suffers alone. It’s a powerful source of connection and can bring a sense of value to the difficulties one has gone through. It is proof that we each have much to give, even though it may feel that life has taken so much away.”
CHN and St. Charles Cancer Center will hold their next training session this fall. Want to learn more about becoming a volunteer? Join us for an informational luncheon Friday, August 23 at St. Charles Cancer Center or start your application HERE.
Contact Rachel DiQuattro, CHN Director of Programs for additional information – 908.879.4039 ex 118 or rdiquattro (at) cancerhopenetwork.org