Giving Back After Cancer

by Jane Ashley

Many cancer patients want to “give back” after their treatment has ended. But we’re not always sure how to “give back” or where to start. Volunteering and/or helping others helps us recover, feel better and move on with our new life once treatment is done. There’s no right or wrong way to “give back.” Some do a project by themselves while others become part of an organization. Here are some meaningful ways to help others in the same battle that we’ve fought.

Giving Back After Cancer

Join an organization that helps cancer patients.

There are a number of cancer groups who need volunteers. Some of these positions require some training while other groups need you to help during health fares or for fundraising. There are several different ways to volunteer.

Cancer Buddy

• Support. With training, you can volunteer on telephone hotlines, in cancer support groups either a group leader or a survivor sharing your story, in cancer support programs such as providing wigs or legal aid or rides to medical appointments. Another opportunity is to be trained as a Support Buddy.
• Education/Awareness. You might be just the person to volunteer at a health fair or other public event to raise awareness of the symptoms and signs of your particular type of cancer and its treatment.
• Fundraising. Volunteer for a local fundraising event like a golf or tennis tournament. Perhaps you’d enjoy recruiting corporate sponsors or selling raffle tickets. Maybe you’d like to form a term for a race or Relay for Life.
• Become an advocate. An advocate is someone who speaks out and supports a particular cancer cause, like breast cancer screening for minorities or colorectal cancer symptom awareness.

Helping cancer patients on an individual basis.

Many of us don’t feel comfortable being the public. There are so many opportunities to help in a one-on-one basis – within your neighborhood, circle of friends and/or co-workers. Ask your circle to let you know when someone is diagnosed with cancer. Follow up with them to see what you can do to help:

Volunteer At A Golf Tournament

Volunteer for a Meal Train.
• Pick up a prescription.
• Go grocery shopping for them.
• Offer to drive them to an appointment or pick them up after a procedure.
• Offer encouragement and be a willing listener.
• Be a sounding board so that they will be comfortable asking questions to their health team.
• Offer to do the laundry or mow the lawn, if you’re able.
• Offer to walk the family dog every afternoon.
• Pick up the children from school if they are having chemo.
• Be a treatment “buddy” and go with them on appointments to take notes.
• Treat them to lunch or an afternoon coffee.
• If they are a person of faith, simply let them know that they are in your prayers.

Some other ways to give back.

We each have to find that “sweet spot” for giving back. Here are some more ways, some a little bit off the beaten path.

Knitting Caps

Recently married? Donate your wedding dress to Brides Against Breast Cancer. They resell the wedding dresses, veils and slips to raise money for breast cancer.
• Love to knit or crochet? Start a small group to knit caps, scarves or lap quilts to donate to your local cancer treatment center.
• Love to craft? Get together and make tied fleece blankets to donate.
• Join a message board for your specific type and answer questions when you have can offer help and encouragement.
Become a more active poster on
• Write a blog about your experiences.

The Bottom Line …

Everyone has a story. Yours is important – share it with anyone who will listen. You never know how it will impact someone’s life. Consider my story. I was at a networking lunch and met a woman who in the course of our conversation told me that this was her first networking in a while. She related that she had been diagnosed with colon cancer and had just finished chemotherapy. She said, “If you ever need a colon surgeon, call my surgeon. He did my surgery robotically, and I barely had any pain.” A few months later, I started bleeding from the rectum and asked to be referred to her surgeon. He diagnosed me and performed my “potentially curative” surgery robotically. We never know the outcomes of a meeting with a random stranger.

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