I can only imagine the terror one would feel if a doctor told you, after extensive testing, the diagnosis was cancer.
Any type of cancer … even when the cure rates were promising would surely send even the toughest among us to our knees.
And while family, friends and church members do their best to reach out to cancer patients, knowing what to say and what to do often are obstacles that hinder even the most well-intentioned efforts.
One amazing group coming soon to a church or business near you is CanCare Inc. This Houston-based group is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit founded in 1990 by Anne Shaw Turnage, a cancer survivor since 1973.
Turnage had long envisioned a group that would combine the cancer survivors’ experience with their faith to support and minister to those going through the cancer treatment process.
Far more than a typical support group, CanCare offers one-on-one support from those who can truly relate to what a patient is going through.
Its mission is as simple as it is profound, to improve the quality of life for cancer patients and their families.
CanCare attempts to match the patient with a survivor has undergone either the same type of cancer, or as similar a form as possible. Soon our own community will benefit from having CanCare right here.
I recently met with those responsible for bringing CanCare to north Georgia.
Kay Royal, a three-time cancer survivor, said the organization offers patients the hope they need to go on.
“When you tell your CanCare match what you are feeling and going through, and they tell you they understand, you know they really do,” she said.
In addition, the survivor can essentially “coach” the patient by explaining what happens next, what questions to ask and more.
Kay experienced CanCare firsthand as she volunteered during her remission and then when they helped her during her recurrence of cancer.
“Knowing how meaningful their support was to me, I kept thinking about how I would love to offer their help to people I know here in Atlanta,” she said.
Because CanCare grew so quickly in Houston, going from one church to more than 70, Kay knew that she needed a church to hold the training and serve as a sort of hub while getting things off the ground.
Reaching out to Neal Kuhlhorst, pastor of congregational care at Johns Creek Presbyterian Church, Kay found that Neal was 100 percent on board.
Neal’s wife, Debbie, is also a cancer survivor, so the topic was near to his heart as well. In addition, having been ordained for nearly three decades, Neal said that over the years he has known numerous cancer survivors and sadly, many who did not survive their battle.
“Kay has such a compelling story herself — it is so apparent that God really put this on her heart,” Neal said.
The faith component to CanCare is critical.
“We began by calling area churches to see what sort of programs they have to support cancer patients,” Neal said. “Other churches were very interested, so we see this as a very positive and helpful thing for our community.”
Kay and Neal have several churches on board, including Johns Creek Presbyterian, Johns Creek Baptist, St. Columbus Episcopal, Perimeter Church, Parkway Presbyterian and Central Presbyterian in Atlanta.
“The more churches we reach, the more cancer patients will be helped,” Neal said.
Forsyth County resident Jenny Ridnour said most people know someone who has cancer or has been touched by it in some way.
Jenny has a dear friend who has battled cancer and she has walked the walk with her friend for several years. Jenny said she is excited to see the program be an invaluable resource for many.
“CanCare is so important because it is not just for the cancer patient, but also for the families. The training for the volunteers will be critical for helping you know what to say and how to help the most.”
CanCare in Houston is sending people to train volunteers in April at Johns Creek Presbyterian.
Currently, CanCare has more than 600 active volunteers and partners with more than 90 congregations, 18 hospitals and clinics and 23 corporations and organizations.
I know that when our community gets involved, these numbers are sure to skyrocket. Please urge your pastor and church to get involved with this all-important ministry.
For more information, contact Neal Kuhlhorst at firstname.lastname@example.org or (678) 467-4909.
Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at email@example.com.