Coffee and Conversation

Coffee and Conversation

Email from a Breast Cancer Patient

In 2008 I was separated and lost both my brother and mother. My grandson, who I helped to raise, had open heart surgery. In 2010 my divorce was finalized and I moved into a house I couldn’t afford. In 2011 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Through all of this I was spiraling down and pulling away from people and from life. I started Strides to Strength (STS) in November 2011 and began to feel better. I realized I had fallen into a hole and was now climbing out. STS gives me something to look forward to on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The people at STS are good listeners and don’t push ideas or judge, but give good scenarios and examples. I find I am now starting to enjoy talking to people and becoming more social. STS has helped outside of and beyond the cancer. If you get it you are on the way. I appreciate the scholarship that I received from the Belva Greenage Foundation for STS as it has helped me to start looking forward again and communicating with other people.

Letter from Lung Cancer Patient

Dear Ms. Greenage and folks at Presbyterian Cancer Rehab and Wellness Center,

I am writing to thank you and your foundation for donating 4 table massages to me a few months ago.  I was originally diagnosed with Breast Cancer in December 2008 and went through the whole 9 yards—9 months of chemo, double mastectomy, sentinel node biopsy, and 33 round of radiation from January 2009-October 2009.  It was during that time that I started physical therapy with Presbyterian Cancer Rehab and Wellness center in Charlotte NC.  After about 6 months of remission, my cancer metastasized to my lungs.  In August of 2010, I started my 2nd try at chemo.  Just finishing my 17th round today (and still going), most of my cancer has disappeared and the remaining 3mm nodule has been stable for several months. 

After working with my physical therapist for several months, we decided that we had done all the work we could do and I was released.  This didn’t mean all of my issues were over—I still suffered greatly from the effects of the surgery and the radiation back in 2009, along with my new chemo regimen.  My body ached, my blood levels were all over the place, my chest and underarm area were tender and often painful, and it was the norm that I felt like someone had literally beaten my body.  I decided to get a table massage (about a year ago) at Presbyterian cancer rehab and wellness center.

This is when I realized the POWER of massage and my life was transformed.  I met George Lee, one of the massage therapists at Presbyterian Cancer Rehab and Wellness, and from that point forward, I have been receiving massages from him.   However, at $60 a session, and no help from insurance, this is quite an expensive endeavor.  I have been teaching in Charlotte Mecklenburg schools (currently at West Mecklenburg High School) for the past 16 years, I am 38 years old, and I am single.   With our frozen salaries and increasing costs of insurance coverage, I have paid over $15,000 out of pocket in medical bills the past 3 years.  Paying for massages isn’t easy, but what price can be put on quality of life?  Every week I asked Brooke if there was financial aid for massages and I kept getting the same answer—“No.”   They could help out with their exercise program, but not with massages.  Some weeks I had to go without a massage because I couldn’t afford it.  Even going 1 week without a massage makes a huge difference in my life.  I truly believe that my weekly massages (almost always right after a chemo appt—I go to chemo twice a week and still work fulltime) make all the difference—not only do they help rid my body of the weekly toxins of chemo, but also helps my body to feel “normal”.  When I started with the massages, there was a numb void across my chest.  Now, I am starting to get feeling back, and the numb feeling is slowly going away.  My side effects from chemo are minimized and my body doesn’t feel beat up all of the time.  A typical Monday for me involves teaching from 6:45 am until 2:15, getting chemo from 2:30 to 5:00, and then getting a massage from 5-6.  Most Mondays, the only thing that gets me out of bed, is knowing that I will end my day with a massage. 

When Brooke called me into her office last school year, to tell me that 4 massages had been donated to the center and they chose me to receive them, we both started crying and hugged each other.  I had $60 left on my flex card for the rest of the year and knew that would be my last massage for a while.  So the gift from your foundation added a month of massages for me.  I feel so blessed to have received this gift from you. 

I have been to many different cancer centers in the past 3 years and have never found a program like the cancer wellness program through Presbyterian Hospital.  Taking Yoga classes there and receiving massages has had a huge impact on my life and with my recovery.  Learning how to control how I react, meditate, and being able to completely relax during massages has made my cancer journey as good as it could possibly be and has given me the peace of mind I needed to move forward in a positive light (amongst the negative statistics I am going up against). 

I wish all cancer patients could experience what I have through this program. 

Thanks again, for your generous donation.  One of the silver linings of having cancer is that you get to experience tremendous, unsolicited love and support from complete strangers.  I will always be grateful to you for enabling me to experience this silver lining.  

Yours Truly,