A cancer diagnosis changes your life. It isn’t just a physical illness. It affects you emotionally and mentally. It affects your entire family, and the effects are long-lasting. When I was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer in 2011, my world stood still. As my body endured toxic drugs meant to heal me, I became weak and unable to care for myself and my family. I had lost the ability to do what meant the most to me and I really struggled with understanding why this was happening.
Around the same time, my then 6-year old son, wanted to help raise money for cancer research and in one afternoon, our community rallied around him raising $1,700. He was given the ability to feel like he was making a difference and it was so empowering for him to have a positive impact, when everything seemed so negative. He taught me something. I remember having a conversation with myself after that event. I had been a victim long enough. While I continued to fight my physical battle, I began preparing for what would come next. I needed to give this part of my life a purpose. There had to be a positive outcome from this ordeal so that I could move on and know that there was a reason for it all. I’ll never forget my husband’s words to me at one point. He said, “I think God gave this to you because he knew you would do something with it.” That became my purpose. And that became HOPE’S Wing.
When I thought about what impact I could have, I remembered all of the support that I received which made the experience so much easier. I made a list of what meant the most to me: a care bag delivered when I started treatment, meals from friends, support networks and knowing other survivors. I also realized that many people do not have those supports, and that there was a need in our community to establish a program which provided cancer patients with assistance in an encouraging and hopeful way. The first project of HOPE’S Wing was our Faces of Cancer Video which features survivors and caregivers sharing their stories, all with an underlying theme of HOPE.
Soon after, we started distributing care bags to local hospitals. Another ray of HOPE after receiving a devastating diagnosis. To date we have delivered 100 of these bags.
As HOPE’S Wing began to grow, I once again thought about what impact I wanted the organization to have in the community. Again I was reminded that cancer doesn’t just affect a patient. It affects the entire family. It isn’t just a physical illness, but it can devastate a family emotionally, mentally and financially. I thought of what my own children went through, watching their mother fade away and not understanding why. And I knew of the financial impact families encounter as they pay medical bills instead of saving for college. No family should ever have to choose between sending a child to college and paying for cancer treatment. With this in mind, we set out to develop the HOPE’S Wing scholarship fund, so that we could alleviate a part of that burden. In the last 2 years, we have awarded $3,000 to local high school seniors who has their lives turned upside down by cancer.
This year we added yet another program, and through our Circle of HOPE fund are able to deliver nutritious meals to patients and their families as they undergo treatment, when their bodies need nutrition the most. Our plans for the future include even more programs as well as expansion into neighboring counties!
As I think about all that HOPE’S Wing has done, and all that we are yet to do, to help support cancer patients and provide hope to them when they need it most, I remember what gave me hope. I was blessed with the support of loved ones, friends and even strangers who rallied around me. I am thankful that I have been able to use my experience to make a difference, and to pay forward all of the love, support and hope that I received.
Kim Eroh – Founder, HOPE’S Wing