Recent Client Stories
I was diagnosed with Stage 1 Breast Cancer in March of 2015. On April 14th, my bilateral mastectomy took place and in mid-June I started my chemotherapy regimen. Certainly hearing the news that you have cancer is shocking and daunting. There isn’t time to get yourself mentally prepared for what’s ahead; you just have to step forward and begin to fight. While all of the tests, the surgeries, and the chemotherapy are taking place, the bills are mounting. A lot of the expenses are covered by insurance but some are not. It’s been proven that the better the attitude, the better the chances of faster healing. Taking care of the financial end of things is stressful, no way around it, and it can easily affect your attitude in a negative way.
To know that there were resources in our community that exist for situations like mine was beyond comforting. Upon learning that financial assistance from Interfaith Community Outreach was one such resource, I met with Jenniffer Albanese, the Executive Director of ICO, who quickly put me at ease and assured me that help was available. Her calm yet spirited manner was exactly what I needed at that moment. ICO helped me pay my rent for three months and assisted with my transportation expenses. I couldn’t be more grateful to Jenniffer and the front office staff and volunteers at Interfaith Community Outreach for providing assistance during such a critical time for me and so many others. Providing that sense of relief helped to keep my mind positive and I was able to put more of my energy toward my fight to be cancer free.
I am a 42 year old woman… easy-going, strong, quiet, kind, independent, physically active… I live a clean lifestyle and eat a healthy diet. I have been a massage therapist and esthetician for 17 years. Last fall, a flyer came in the mail from the American Massage Therapy Association offering Cancer Care insurance. I quickly glanced at it and carelessly tossed it in the recycling bin. I was healthy and I had a standard health insurance policy. I thought I wouldn’t be needing extra coverage for cancer care. Shortly after I threw that flyer away, I happened to notice a lump in my right breast that felt like a small pebble. I went to get it checked. When the surgeon who did the biopsy called me on a Saturday morning to tell me that the lump was actually Stage 1 invasive breast cancer, my mouth dropped, my heart sank and then came the tears. But I never asked “why me?”. It was more like “why anybody?”. I quickly accepted it… and possibly even befriended it as another struggle that would make me stronger and teach me to appreciate my life and my spirituality on a deeper level. I was determined to do whatever I could to rid this cancer from my body. I would always try not to say “my cancer”. It wasn’t a part of me, and I didn’t want it to be.
With some help from my friends and family, I chose a wonderful team of surgeons in Norfolk. I decided to eliminate as much possibility for reoccurrence by getting a bilateral mastectomy with direct implants. They recommended that I go on tamoxifen, a pill that would block the estrogen hormone that feeds this type of cancer. It was not an aggressive cancer, nor was it genetic. Thankfully, I would not have to receive chemotherapy treatment, and my pathology report post-surgery was 100% clear. This caused me to gain even more respect for those individuals who find the strength to go through chemo, radiation and other procedures that I didn’t have to face. I immediately altered my diet and supplements according to my diagnosis. I received various sorts of massage therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic and energy work. I meditated, prayed, laughed and cried, went to counseling and went to yoga more frequently. I slowed down my schedule after the diagnosis and stopped working all together for weeks after the surgery. I had become accustomed to nurturing my clients, sometimes at the expense of my own health. Now I had to stop working in order to nurture myself, mentally, physically and emotionally. The muscles I use to give massage would be weakened by the surgery, and I would have to adapt to my new body and regain my strength.
As a self-employed massage therapist, I don’t receive benefits or sick leave. My job is very physical and there are days when it can also take its toll on me energetically. The donations from the Interfaith Community Outreach really took a lot of the burden off of me financially, as well as mentally. I reluctantly walked into their office feeling a bit weak and ashamed, but I walked out feeling love, empathy, acceptance and a new level of understanding of the human heart. Jenniffer Albanese and Jean Freeman both gave me big hugs and encouraged me that the help was there and that I don’t have to walk this road alone. I could see in their eyes that they really cared about my well-being. It was apparent that this cause of helping people who were faced with cancer is very near and dear to their hearts. I assumed they had seen it all. With great humility, I filled out the paperwork and accepted the donations. The outreach program helped with all my transportation expenses and two months of mortgage payments when I was unable to work. I wasn’t expecting this much help. These generous donations allowed me to focus on healing and gaining my strength back without worrying as much about the financial hit I was taking from missing so much work. Thank you so very much, Interfaith Community Outreach and its donors. You have made my life so much easier and restored my faith in humanity and the generosity that resides in this community. Once I recover, I hope to give back to you as much as possible!