American Cancer Society is saving and celebrating lives and working towards a world with no more cancer.
“The American Cancer Society is the umbrella,” says Sue Trnka, Community Development Manager for American Cancer Society of North Dakota. “It’s the resources, the staff, and the help. It’s all the systems that work, the research, and access for care.”
Key supporters of the American Cancer Society’s charter are grassroots, community-led events such as Relay for Life, Real Men Wear Pink, and the Pink Powerhouse Pull.
“These events are not only fundraisers, they are community events where our survivors are supported. We lift up our survivors and show them that we care and want to make sure they understand the services we can provide to them,” says Lori Bachmann, Senior Community Manager for the American Cancer Society of North Dakota.
In addition to those community-led events, the American Cancer Society is responsible for the Hope Lodge program, which works to support cancer patients, survivors, and family members.
The road to survivorship
“I’m here because I can’t afford to die.”
These are words Ron Zeman will remember forever. He heard them during his stay at one of the Hope Lodges while battling what started as stage four prostate cancer.
“When you are told that you have stage four cancer, you go where you need to go to get the best care for survivorship,” says Ron.
Then he heard about American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodges through his medical team.
“It’s the best kept secret out there,” says Ron. “Hope Lodge is all about helping people. Regardless of who you are, where you are from, your income level, your age, your race, or religion, Hope Lodge has a place for you to stay when you need it the most.”
Staying in a Hope Lodge is also completely free to the cancer patient and their caregiver, which in Ron’s eyes was a dream come true.
“Nobody should have to worry about whether they are going to get treatment because of financials,” he says.
More than a free place to stay
“Every day new guests arrive at Hope Lodge, finding help from the American Cancer Society,” says Ron. “New friendships are formed with other cancer patients and guests. It truly is a home away from home. We celebrate each other’s achievements. It’s like a family.”
A continued journey
Ron’s journey, however, wasn’t quite over when he became a cancer survivor.
“You always hear about cancer and think ‘that doesn’t really involve me’. You say that until someone like yourself or someone in your family gets cancer, and then the light-bulb goes off,” shares Ron.
About six years after Ron recovered, he and his wife, Joan, received a second shock-wave. Joan was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.
Ron recalls the doctor’s words, “Your wife has the worst type of brain cancer you could ever have, and we can’t operate on it. In two weeks, your wife is going to be paralyzed.”
“It was two weeks to the day,” Ron says.
Shortly after, Joan passed away.
“There are many patients out there who still need help,” says Ron.
“The American Cancer Society wants to make a difference for cancer patients and their families. They do this when you need help the most. We are all in the fight together to save ourselves from cancer.”
Purpose to impact
“I think we all have stories about cancer,” says Sue.
The American Cancer Society is working to end the abundance of those stories.
“We have been around for more than 100 years and have been a part of all the major cancer breakthroughs through our research,” says Lori.
Through funding for research, American Cancer Society has helped individuals like Valorie Steichen, who was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer when she was just 36, but who is still alive today, nine years later, because of a new medication that was discovered, Herceptin.
“American Cancer Society can be successful at supporting the research and other programs because it is the community that is really doing the work,” says Sue. “It’s not a staff person in an office making decisions and making events happen, it’s community members. A lot of those people are patients, survivors, or caregivers. They’re people who have been intimately involved in some way, shape, or form because most of the time, they’ve been affected by cancer.”
“They want better research, they want a cure, they want to educate, they want prevention, and they want people to not have to suffer the way they did or a loved one did,” says Lori.
Stay tuned for another nonprofit story next week, and remember to live with purpose!