Category: Stories of Hope

Stories of Hope are personal testimonials from clients about their cancer journey. These posts will show on the Share Your Story page and the Stories of Hope homepage slider.

Mariel and Joey’s Story

The family from Mariel and Joey's story take a selfie on a hike.

Mariel and Joey’s Story of Hope Transcript:

Mariel (00:02:31)

So, on October the 12th, we went into the ER with Lucy, had a high fever for three days. She had been in– we had seen her pediatrician the day before and actually got a blood test. She was complaining about not being able to stand very long or walk very far. And within an hour of being at the Cook ER, they had the results from the blood test the day before.

Joey (03:03)

The attending physician comes in and tells us that the oncologist is coming to see us because our three-year-old daughter has cancer, has leukemia. And he wanted to let us know before the oncologist came, to give us a little heads up. That was very nice of him to do. When cancer came into our lives, everything shifted. I had just started a brand-new job, but Mariel’s role was to be caretaker, and it was very difficult, and she had to completely stop her business. That was very hard too, just saying the words that we couldn’t take new business because our daughter had cancer. It was scary.

So, while we’re in the hospital, a few days after diagnosis and treatment has already started, we get a packet. Probably about halfway through that packet was a service through Cancer Care for prescription medicine reimbursement program. And from there, it started our relationship with Cancer Care.

Mariel (04:21)

We were met with just so much warmth. We knew it was a great fit for us and for our family. We just immediately felt connected with everybody there at Cancer Care.

Joey (04:32)

And also, they were very interested in Leo, Lucy’s at the time five-year-old brother, to help him in the process as well. And that was very important to us because we were spending so much time with Lucy in the hospital that we were starting– we were very worried about our five-year-old and how he was processing the events. So, that was a big, big plus for us.

Mariel (04:58)

I don’t know that there’s anything out there that is as inclusive from both a standpoint of the range of offerings that they have. Those one-hour windows where the kids were at play therapy were definitely the only hour that I had away, literally, from Lucy. I would try to cram as much as I could, or I would chat with Rhea about life and just have an outlet and just a little bit of a boost. So, as much as those play therapy times were great for the kids, it was a good little breath of fresh air for me as well.

Joey (05:41)

So, hope to us is belief that tomorrow is gonna be better. And that’s easier said than done most days. We’ve had some really hard days, and finding hope was hard.

Transcribed by: Christina R.

Jess and Mike’s Story

Jess and Mike pose at the end of the video "Jess and Mike's Story."

Jess and Mike’s Story of Hope Transcript:

Mike

Life before Jessica’s diagnosis was very free for us in that we enjoyed traveling and planning where we’re going next. We had just come back from a trip from Ireland.

Jessica

I thought I hurt my back. My back pain continued to get worse. I went and saw a physical therapist. So, he did the scan, and it was showing a tumor was crushing my vertebrae. During those scans, I was trying to get up off of the scan bed to get repositioned, and I didn’t know at the time, but something snapped, and my vertebrae broke, and I couldn’t walk.

Mike

You know, as a husband, watching your wife go through this is very difficult. You know, you see her go from a full-time active nurse, rambunctious, and ready to go on trips to just very physically unable. And, you know, it’s hard.

Jessica

We lost a lot of our, at the time, close friends because they didn’t know what to say, they didn’t understand it. So, it was easier to kinda step back than be involved in the tough, hard discussions. But I remember someone, she was a nurse navigator, and she reached out to me, and she ended up letting me know about a young adult support group. And that’s where that I started finding out more programs and about Cancer Care Services and what they were doing for cancer patients and survivors.

The main experience I think of is when we went to the retreat in April of 2021. We just got so much enjoyment out of it and it kinda made you forget about a lot of the doctor’s appointments and things at that time. You just kinda go to experience new things and enjoy yourself.

Mike

Jessica was just finally starting to get to where, you know, we were going on walks again and stuff. We go to this retreat, and they split ya into different groups. And it’s okay, you know, we’re gonna go ahead and climb this 30-foot pole first. Let’s just get this day going. In my mind–well both of our minds, we were like this will be good to at least get, at minimum, a few steps in and kinda figure out like hey, see where my limits are, you know.

So, I go up first. I am waiting on the platform for her, and she starts. I’m watching, and I’m like, oh that’s cool she’s starting to go up, and then, then, she gets to the top of the pole. And I lost it. It’s just– from going from a person I’ve had to place in the shower to being able to climb this thing and go across and do all this. I mean, it was one the greatest moments of my life that I got to experience was watching her do it.

Jessica

Cancer Care Services represents exactly what their name says. I’ve met some very wonderful people. It’s not even just a working relationship, I mean, there’s a friendship that’s came out of it. They truly do care about their client.

Mike

That’s more of a blessing than I think some people could even ever realize. It’s just being there and caring. So, keep doing what you’re doing. Thank you.

Transcribed by: Christina R.

Ashley’s Story

Ashley's story tells of her experience with cancer.

Stories of Hope: Ashley’s Story

I guess I will start the story of my cancer journey at the beginning. It was about a year ago, in September. I was the healthiest I have ever been – going to the gym every day, eating right, doing all the good stuff. One night while I was cooking dinner, I noticed a knot about the size of a ping pong ball by my collar bone and mentioned it to my fiancé. He could see it too. I made a telehealth doctor appointment and was told it was most likely allergies and to take Zyrtec.

It didn’t go away, so I went to urgent care and then my primary care doctor, who both also told me it was allergies. I had a regular OB/Gyn checkup appointment, and since three doctors had already told me it was just allergies, I had to work up the courage to mention the knot to the doctor. She sent off blood work that came back ‘funky’ and connected me to a surgeon. This led to a biopsy and referral to an oncologist, who diagnosed and staged my cancer as Stage 2 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, bulky.

Ashley and Cory with their dogs.
Ashley and Cory with their dogs.

I was angry and scared after my diagnosis. I asked myself why I had wasted my time trying to be healthy and what good had I done by eating right instead of eating what I wanted. I thought I was a good person and wondered what I had done wrong to deserve cancer. I also was surprised at all the buildup before treatment actually started. I thought that treatment would start right after diagnosis, but I had a lot to learn. I had no idea what a ‘port’ was or how chemo might affect my fertility.

Finally, chemo started, and I waited to get really sick. I wasn’t – just really tired. It wasn’t all that bad but did get worse as it went on. I wish they had told me not to eat my favorite foods during treatment because now I don’t want to even see them anymore. There were bad side effects to the steroids, and I had radiation after the chemo. We were also house hunting during all this and had to decide whether to keep looking for a house. We decided to keep pushing forward and figure it out as we went rather than let cancer end my world.

“We decided to keep pushing forward and figure it out as we went rather than let cancer end my world.”

After treatment, my scans showed me to be cancer-free – no evidence of disease in my body. The doctors don’t say ‘cancer-free’ or ‘cured’ because it can come back, but I call myself ‘cancer-free.’ It seems like much longer than a year ago this all started, and I have felt out of control. I felt like a burden and was in a really dark place.

I can’t really say I am grateful for having cancer, but I am grateful for all I have learned and all the support I have received. I always had the same nurses for my treatments, and they were great. I have also had the support of Cancer Care Services. They were always warm and welcoming.

Even though most of the Cancer Care programs and activities had to be virtual due to Covid, I was able to participate in support groups and activities with people in my own age group (most of the people I met at treatment were 20, 30, 40 years older than me). Cancer Care made the Zoom meetings so much fun, and we were able to do outside yoga face-to-face and a painting class.

My fiancé did some of the things with me, and he appreciated being able to spend the time together. I know how much the support I received helped me, and now I want to use what I have learned to help others – especially people in my age group because there aren’t many of us.

I am grateful to be healthy again and to look at myself in the mirror and see me. I am the same person, but I do think more about what I think of myself instead of what others may think of me. I didn’t believe I would ever be in a place like this – where I would want to help others without feeling sorry for myself or angry, but I am! I want to give other people grace now that I can.

Transcribed by Jane Melms from Ashley’s video interview in September 2021.

You can support cancer survivors like Ashley through our monthly giving club- The Hope Collective – for just $25 a month! As a Hope Collective member, you ensure that everyone gets the help they deserve today.

Arvella’s Story

Arvella and Casey, Arvella's husband mentioned in Arvella's Story, take a selfie during Casey's chemo treatment.

Arvella’s Story of Hope Transcript:

Casey Hill is the love of my life. We’ve been married for 31 years. Life was awesome. The last son was getting out of college. We thought we get to travel, we get to live, we get to do what we wanna do now. That semester he was to graduate, we found out Casey had cancer, and it totally flipped everything upside down in our lives.

I noticed him trying to get up he was gripping his chest and could barely move. So, we go to the emergency room, and the doctor comes out after they run the CT and says, “Well, the malignant tumor that is in your husband’s spine. We’re gonna go ahead and get him admitted and have oncology come down.” And I said, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a minute. We’re just in the emergency room for chest pain.” But it wasn’t a chest pain problem at all, it was the pain that was radiating from the malignant tumor that was in his spine. And we had no idea.

My struggle was trying to find someone to talk to and trying to find some help for my family. You feel desolate. You feel alone when you are having to deal with being a caregiver and everything that’s around it. So, when a person is diagnosed with cancer, their fight is with cancer. But the people who care for them, their fight is everything around the cancer. And it is difficult.

When my husband was diagnosed with cancer, about three months later, my sister was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. And she passed away in June of 2013. During that weekend, because she died on my granddaughter’s birthday, then I had to go into I gotta drive my husband to Little Rock for a stem cell transplant. As well as plan funeral services, as well as still try to celebrate my grandbaby and make her smile. It was tough.

There’s a lady, Carlene King, and I called her, and I said, “Carlene, I don’t wanna do this. It’s too much for one human being,” and she said, “You can do this.” She said, “I’ve seen you fight through some things in this life that this is nothing. You and God got this.” The strength of listening to someone say, ‘You can do this’ helped. And I know I can get that here at Cancer Care Services.

Transcribed by: Christina R.

Caro’s Story

Caro poses for the video camera at Cancer Care Services during Caro's Story.

Caro’s Story of Hope Transcript:

My mother was the executive director for 32 years. And I started in junior high– I started coming to Cancer Care and her office was in Peter Smith, in a closet. What I remember most is her talking about paying bills for patients and arranging transportation and medicines and things like that. It was a very hands-on thing. She would be absolutely blown away with the immense organization that it is today.

My best friend from Rockport called me and she said, “Oh my gosh, you’ve got to go get a mammogram.” She said, “I’ve just been diagnosed with breast cancer, and you have to go right now.” Lo and behold, I had breast cancer.

I volunteered all my life. My mother did as well. I’ve always thought about ‘Oh those people that I am volunteering for, we’re gonna help those people.’ Well, all of the sudden, I was one of ‘those people.’ I remember having lunch with Deanna and Melanie and they said, “Well, how are you doing?” and I said, “Oh man, I am great. I’m just having– I’m good– I’m finished. I feel great. [crying] I am just horrible.” Anyway, Deanna whipped out her card and she said, “We have people that can help.”

You know, they just connect– they connect people to other agencies and I know what they can do. There are so many nonprofits in the community, and this is one that really and truly helps people.

Transcribed by: Christina R.

Claudene’s Story

Claudene's Story - Claudene and her daughter sit together

Stories of Hope: Claudene’s Story

It was the year 2017 when I started to feel very tired all the time. I thought it was because I was pushing myself to do more at work. So when I renewed my insurance at work, I learned of the free mammogram program and made an appointment from there.

In April 2018, I took a mammogram and was contacted shortly afterward. I was given the diagnosis that every woman dreads the “C” word – Cancer. The cancer was found in my right breast. My shock was so severe that I couldn’t tell my family for two weeks. From there on, I didn’t know what to expect. I ran into what I call in my life a “bump.”

After hearing the news of my medical condition, although my family was as shocked as I was, they were also so very supportive. They began to help me out during my recovery in many different and convenient ways. My family and I didn’t have a lot of money, and we did a lot of praying for assistance and support. During one of my doctor’s visits, I was given a business card for Cancer Care Services. I made the call, and two days later, I received a call to come in for an interview. My daughter accompanied me to the interview, where I was informed that they could help me. The Lord answered my family’s prayers.

I had a certain day to start my treatment because I needed chemo and radiation. I didn’t know how to get the out-of-pocket money; we tried to get loans because we needed quite a bit of money for treatment. I called Cancer Care because I was a nervous wreck. I knew I needed help and didn’t know what I was going to do. I got a call back from Cancer Care, and they told me they had found a program that would pay my out-of-pocket. I tell you, I felt like a brand-new person that day because something just lifted off of me.

Cancer Care has done so many great and wonderful things for my family and me. They have provided financial and medical assistance and delivered delicious organic meals of my choice to my home so that I could have great healing meals. They also provided a great many other services such as:

A. Massage Therapy
B. Counseling Support
C. Transportation Support
D. Bible Classes
E. Survival Classes with Support and Activities
F. Cooking Classes

There are lots of fun activities for the whole family. Most of all, everyone there always has a big smile and is always ready to help in any way possible. Today I am doing very well. Thank God for my family and the Cancer Care Family for all the love and support that they still carry on today. Because of their support, I can stand proud and say I AM A CANCER SURVIVOR!

Cancer Care has taught me how to believe, have hope, and have faith not to give up. They have seasoned my life; just like cooking, you have to season it to get it right and keep working on it. They blessed me with the Cuisine for Healing. They bought me food, cards, and at Christmas time, they came knocking at my door with the little children to sing.

It is unbelievable how much Cancer Care has helped me. I have turned Cancer Care’s name to serval people, and they have had helped them. I do not mind telling anybody that Cancer Care is the number one caring organization, and they really do care.

Thank you, Cancer Care Services!
Claudene Sales

Day’s Story

Day's Story

Stories of Hope: Day’s Story

I’ve been teaching for over 30 years and love what I do. I love the energy from students, the challenges teens bring, and the resilience they have when faced with challenges. Their examples actually helped me through a challenge that came my way in 2014 – my diagnosis of cancer.

The words “you’ve got cancer” are not words anyone wants to hear. From the initial disbelief to the tests to the plan of treatment to the resulting effects of surgery, chemo, radiation…cancer wants to strip you of everything you are and have.

From the obvious (does my insurance cover this); to the scary (will I survive); from the practical (how will I continue to pay my bills); to the emotional (am I going to lose my hair?); to the past (my mother didn’t survive this disease); to the future (I have so many things I still want to do)… each part of the cancer journey taught me about my own strengths and weaknesses, and taught me the importance of examples that have been set for me.

I had the example of my mother, who never complained publicly even when she was in pain. I had the example of my dad, who dropped everything to be with her throughout her journey. I had the example of friends who made phone calls, sent cards, and more. I had the example of doctors who were there night and day. I had the example of people who were there behind the curtains just in case.

And I had my students. I had students who gave me grace when I was trying to work 3 days after chemo. I had students who told me my head looked GOOD bald (I still prefer the shaved look, actually!) I had students who shared their stories of family cancer experiences and let me know they cared. I had teenage boys who sent me teenage boy jokes on chemo day that made me laugh (yes, laugh. They WERE naughty, but you can’t help but laugh).

And then there are the organizations that are there to support you such as Cuisine for Healing, the Texas Oncology network, and Cancer Care Services. Cancer Care Services has been a lifeline for friends going through this, for programs for youth, and for ongoing assistance for those who struggle. I have participated in National Cancer Survivors Day – a huge party designed to get people’s minds off the reality of cancer and on the reality of LIVING.

It was someone at Cancer Care Services who explained to me that one-day past diagnosis, I was and am a survivor. The journey ahead wasn’t going to be pleasant (she explained) but it didn’t matter; I was a survivor. I know that I can pick up the phone today and ask for help, and they will be there in whatever way they can. Cancer Care Services helps you deal with cancer, they offer care, and they provide or locate services for all who ask.

If you look at the Cancer Care Services calendar, there is everything; faith activities, massages, survivor resources, kid and youth resources, cooking, movies; camps for children and youth, you name it; there is support.

A final thought. While I was walking the halls after radiation (day after day after day after day) I had the opportunity to be blessed by artwork created by students from a local school. This year I had an opportunity to support that aspect of the Cancer Care Services’ program by bidding on and winning two pieces of artwork that had personal and special meaning to me in my life journey.

Those pieces will grace my walls at school as a daily reminder of Cancer Care and the people who care. There is beauty even in cancer; I learned life is a bit more precious when you know you’ve got examples and support in place, and when you get up each day a survivor.

Nikki’s Story

Nikki's Story - Nikki is surrounded by her family.

Stories of Hope: Nikki’s Story

Our relationship with Cancer Care Services began shortly after my husband, David, was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer in the summer of 2017. He was only 30 years old, and our entire world was turned upside down in an instant. Not only were we navigating treatment options, pain management, leave from work, huge financial changes, and the weight of the word “terminal,” but we had three children at home.

Our entire family has received support from Cancer Care, from play therapy for the kids to individual counseling for us. Even after David died, my family has continued to receive counseling services. My daughter loves her time with Miss Kim and cherishes their relationship. I enthusiastically recommend Cancer Care any chance I get, because they have made our walk so much easier. We know that we can reach out to them for support or for resources, and we are so thankful that Cancer Care Services exists to support patients and families.

-Nikki Belshe

Shandreka’s Story

Shandreka's Story

Stories of Hope: Shandreka’s Story

In August of 2016, I had recently lost my job, and our money was extremely tight. All of my energy was focused on finding a new job when my husband, Michale, was diagnosed with stage 4 Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the head and neck. We had no idea what to do or where to go for help. Like so many who hear a diagnosis like this, we were afraid that we couldn’t get the care needed for my husband to fight and survive this. Fortunately, he still had his insurance, and we were able to see an oncologist. But I still worried about what was ahead; how many appointments, medications, and treatments?

At our first appointment with the oncologist, the staff gave me a stack of paper – pages and pages to fill out and sign. The last form asked if I needed assistance with information, guidance, or any financial help. Of course, my first thought was that there was no way that we would get any help, but I filled it out anyway and gave it back.

I was so surprised when the very next day, I got a call from Margaritta, a staff social worker at Cancer Care Services. (She probably doesn’t know this, but right before she called, I was crying alone in my room – not knowing if I was going to lose my mind and my husband of 20 years… I was feeling so much stress.) One of the first things she said to me was to ask if I was ok. I thought that was a little weird because I wasn’t the one with cancer and because no one else had asked me how I was doing.

Somehow, though, I think she knew I wasn’t ok, and she started feeding me with information. She got me in touch with people like Caryn, one of their Registered Dietitians and Certified Specialists in Oncology Nutrition, who would help me understand the special nutrition needs Michale would have and what I should do to help him stay nourished.

And then – help started flooding in from everywhere! There was a great help with the medical side of things for Michale and me, and there were things to help us cope with the emotional side of things, too. We got to do things together as a couple and as a family– which was really important to me because I wasn’t just a wife and caregiver; I was still a mother of two also! From going to baseball games and couples dinners to meeting new friends who could relate to us because they’d been on a cancer journey too, we were able to maintain a little bit of normal in our home life.

Because of the help and information we received through Cancer Care Services, our family survived this. Thank you, Cancer Care Services!

Karen’s Story

Karen's Story

Stories of Hope: Karen’s Story

Cancer Care Services was a tremendous resource when my mom was diagnosed with cancer. She was 40 years old and had stage 2 breast cancer. Prior to her diagnosis, there was no history of cancer in our family.

When you hear the word cancer, you immediately have a ton of questions. How much time is left? Is it treatable? What are my options? What will it cost? We needed some guidance on how to navigate treatment. My knowledge was so limited about cancer and treatments and even how to comfort her through this scary time.

I was able to research online and found a Spanish support group at Cancer Care that could help answer some questions. At first, my mom refused to attend the support group because she thought it would be sad and depressing. It was actually the opposite.

My mom had a double mastectomy shortly prior to attending the first support group meeting at Cancer Care. The women and men in the meeting provided the comfort and encouragement she needed. She was able to hear testimonies from survivors and share her concerns with people who completely understood. Cancer Care offered my mom the kind of emotional support that no one else could. That’s not all Cancer Care Services did for her!

The financial burden that cancer adds to a family that is already struggling financially is stressful and almost unbearable. Cancer Care was able to help with my mom’s medical treatment expenses, such as the Cobra premiums and co-pays for doctor’s visits. Cancer Care also paid for my mom’s lymphedema sleeve after the insurance company called this a cosmetic sleeve and refused to cover the cost.

Cancer Care helped cover our medical needs and even helped my mom get a wig at a Look Good, Feel Good events that helped her esteem and confidence while going through cancer. Cancer Care was there to provide emotional support, financial support, and improve the overall well-being of our family. Cancer Care Services cared for our family during the most difficult times, which is why I love being able to give back in every way that I can.