Shandreka's Story

Shandreka’s Story

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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!

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