When my mother was diagnosed with colon cancer 15 years ago, we were left feeling numb, confused and not quite sure what to do. We knew nothing about this cancer and had nowhere to turn for answers or support. Mostly, I was looking for hope that people survive this disease!
That’s why, when I got involved as a founding member of the Colon Cancer Alliance, one of my top priorities was to create programs and resources to help patients through some of the most challenging moments of their lives, especially the newly diagnosed.
That’s where the Colon Cancer Alliance’s Buddy Program comes in. The Buddy Program connects newly diagnosed patients (or caregivers!) with cancer vets, igniting peer-to-peer support and friendship.[caption id="attachment_226" align="alignright" width="216"] Jeannie Moore, Colon Cancer Alliance Co-Founder and Patient Support Navigator[/caption]
When you're first diagnosed, there are so many questions. What does radiation feel like? How will I manage an ostomy? What is the surgery like? What foods are best to eat?
Who best to answer these questions but someone who has been there? We match Buddies based on gender, age, diagnoses, treatment, geography and primary concerns, and are proud to say that as a result, many people involved with the program become life-long friends.
So who is a Colon Cancer Alliance buddy? Buddies are survivors and caregivers who want to help provide light to the next patient’s path, to make it easier for someone than they had it. They are folks who had a Buddy through their own treatment and volunteer to have that same impact on someone else. And that’s the beauty behind the success of the program: patients experience this support firsthand, realize how valuable and life-changing it is and then become volunteers themselves!
Don’t get me wrong. We understand that for some, putting a cancer experience behind you and cutting all ties is essential to move forward. And that’s totally understandable. But for others, this volunteerism brings continued healing and happiness. You know you can make someone else’s cancer journey less scary and less lonely, and doing this puts meaning behind your own suffering.
Another plus? Although we have Buddies all over the country, many of our diehards make it a point to attend the Colon Cancer Alliance National Conference. (Who can turn down Miami in October?) It’s the perfect chance for our Buddies to reunite (or meet!) and always makes for a very special weekend.
To learn more about the Buddy Program or Colon Cancer Alliance National Conference, call the Colon Cancer Alliance's free Helpline at (877) 422-2030 or visit www.ccalliance.org. We’re here to help!
Jeannie Moore is one of the co-founders of the Colon Cancer Alliance. Currently, as a patient support navigator, she counsels newly diagnosed patients and their families on what to expect, connects them with useful resources and helps people realize the power they have over their cancer and their destinies.
This post was originally featured on Genomic Health's My Colon Cancer Coach blog.