In 1980, there was no 1-1 peer support for cancer patients. Today, the organization has supported more than 50,000 patients, caregivers and survivors.
– Diane Paul, IA, MS
CHESTER, NJ, USA, October 11, 2021 /EINPresswire.com/ – A cancer diagnosis is frightening and unknown. It can provide surprising isolation for the patient in treatment and the loved ones in his corner. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, a cancer diagnosis often resembled a death sentence, with patients asking their healthcare teams, “Do you know anyone who has been helped by this treatment?”
In 1980, there were no social service agencies or non-profit organizations offering one-on-one peer support to cancer patients. Diane (Byrnes) Paul, who worked as an oncology nurse, overheard many of her patients asking if anyone receiving the same treatment had similar side effects and fears – many of whom said the treatment was worse than the sickness. They needed to be reassured to speak with someone who had followed the same path. Their experiences reinforced Diane’s observations that a survivor could help patients better understand their treatment and be less afraid of possible side effects. But those connections and the comfort that comes with them were ad-hoc, without consistency or oversight. At that time, the only support programs offered were in groups.
The need for one-on-one care inspired a revolutionary idea – one-on-one peer support for cancer patients. Diane introduced the project to the Elizabeth-Plainfield Junior League (JLEP), a voluntary women’s organization aimed at improving communities and the social, cultural and political fabric of society. A committee comprising Diane, co-founder and nursing colleague Kris Luka, and other dynamic women from JLEP, was formed. The group brought together healthcare professionals, cancer survivors, clergy and community volunteers to develop and form CHEMOcare, now Cancer Hope Network. In the first year, the organization served 14 patients.
Since those early days, the organization has supported more than 50,000 patients, caregivers and survivors in search of hope. Our growing cohort of nearly 500 volunteers has faced more than 80 types of cancer – over 98% of cancers diagnosed each year – can provide support in 15 languages and is aged 19 to 94.
Cancer Hope Network will recognize Diane Paul and Kris Luka and celebrate the group’s birthday at their annual Chrysalis Gala on Saturday, October 16, 2021. The event will take place at the Black Oak Golf Club.
“As a long-time member of the Cancer Hope Network team now responsible for leading the organization, I am grateful to Kris and Diane for their forward thinking in the development of our program and their continued commitment to ensuring that no one do not be alone in the face of cancer, ”said CHN Director General Cynthia Gutierrez Bernstein.
Once considered revolutionary, the need for peer support is now recognized as an essential part of comprehensive patient care for those facing cancer. “For patients facing a devastating disease like cancer, there is a need for support from all modalities – professional, family and friends. A survivor mentor brings value to the mix. There is nothing like hearing the words “I’ve been there” to inspire hope, ”said founder Diane Paul. “Speaking with a cancer survivor or a caregiver who has followed the same path brings a layer of lived experience that is emotionally beneficial for the patients’ sense of well-being. Such connections can make all the difference in how a person experiences the challenge of cancer. “
“What started as a group of dedicated volunteers balancing young families and long hours has grown into an army of ever-dedicated mentors receiving professional training and support as they provide hope and care to patients with cancer and caregivers across the country, ”said the co-founder. Kris Luka. “CHEMOcare, now known as the Cancer Hope Network, was built with an emphasis on connection, with a commitment to creating hope. I am delighted to see that this commitment continues to bear fruit in improving lives. “
To schedule an interview with Diane or Kris, or to learn more about Cancer Hope Network, please contact Sarah Miretti Cassidy, Director of External Affairs at 908.879.4039 ext 120 or [email protected]
About the Cancer Hope Network
Cancer Hope Network offers free one-on-one peer support to adult cancer patients and their loved ones. Our 400+ survivor volunteers and caregivers provide support from diagnosis, through treatment and through to survival, including bereavement, if needed.
Support volunteers have faced over 80 types of cancer. (Over 98% of cancers will be diagnosed this year.) They speak 15 languages, are spread across the country, and are ready to offer hope and guidance through a wide variety of challenges that come with a cancer diagnosis.
All volunteer and client matches are supervised from start to finish by a team of health and social work professionals.
Sarah Miretti Cassidy
Cancer Hope Network
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