I had a very informative chat today with a woman named Maria at the Canadian Cancer Society. I called their toll-free number because it had been given to me when I first learned I had breast cancer in case I wanted to be "paired" with a breast cancer survivor. I vaguely remember being told about it, amidst a thousand other things more important to remember at the time. You initially get hit with such a barrage of info sheets, booklets and pamphlets on top of your own research through the Internet and books. At one time I had seven books about cancer stacked beside my bed for some gruesome late-night reading.
Sadly, I forgot all about it until I was rooting through my "cancer bag" information sheets and there it was.
I called them now that my treatments have finished because I was going to add their information to my book, Running From The Cancer Cooties and wanted to make sure the service was still available. And, I admit, I was curious about what I had missed out on.
The CCS has a pool of volunteers who are cancer survivors. These generous people are willing to be contacted by newly diagnosed cancer patients who are in need of a mentor or friend to help them down the new path they've suddenly found themselves on. These people have been there and they have been trained to help you. They take courses on how to talk with you, how to better relate what they went through so that you will benefit the most from their knowledge. For better or for worse, you have someone willing to help you understand what you will be facing.
You phone the CCS up, they take your information and they "pair" you with someone compatible, someone willing to talk to you over the phone or through e-mails about whatever it is you need to know.
Where was my head at when I was given the number? I sure could have used this service!
I think the majority of my high anxiety throughout the entire ordeal was from never knowing what exactly I faced next. The cancer books and info pamphlets told me basically what was going to happen, but they never quite got to the real truths of everything. Like are their hairdryers in the hospital rooms? Don't laugh- it was one of my burning questions and it was the difference between packing an overnight suitcase or an overnight bag for my two day hospital stay. I never travel light. I hate needing something that I have at home, so I drag everything with me.
Of course I had plenty of serious questions. Like what happens after the biopsy comes back positive? What happens after surgery? What is this staging everyone talks about? Are you on a special diet? Questions like what does the chemo drug feel like when it hits your veins? Does it burn or sting? (No, it doesn't) Can I wear nail polish when going through chemotherapy? (you can, but preferably you shouldn't in case something goes really sideways) How big will the next incisions be for a second surgery? Will they use the same scars? How long will I be on a couch for after surgery? Will I be able to do much the first few days?
I was so impressed with the program that I got thinking, there's a list of things I would like to share with the people coming behind me, as well. That's why I am recording it all in a book.
Marie told me that one year after my last treatment, I am eligible to sign up as a CCS volunteer. I fill out an application and get a reply back about the next steps. If accepted, there will be on-line interviews, orientation and training. Phone calls exchanged. It sounded like a very thorough process. Psychological training and counselling included. You won't just be talking to some wing-nut who is a little lonely. This will be a person who seriously wants to help you. The old "pay it forward." Do for others what others have done for you, possibly? Whatever their reasons, these people are there for you. I would like to be a part of that.
But Man, I could have used some of that help not that long ago. Just someone to say to me, Whoa. Relax. It's all going to be okay no matter what happens. Quit suffering. It doesn't have to be this way.
If you are a survivor of any type of cancer and want to volunteer, or if you are going through the cancer trip and want a peer to talk to, please, please call