A Volunteer Story

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Dear Tina,

      As I mentioned in my introduction email a few weeks back, the reason for my wanting to volunteer and become involved with the Fox Chase Cancer Center community is to try and, in some small way, express my and my friends’ sincere appreciation for the tremendous care and kindness that our late friend, Michael, received from your institution. 
      Mike was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in November 2007 and first came to FCCC as a patient in early December.  Mike lost his battle with cancer in February 2008.  However, during his illness, Mike did mention how appreciative he was for everything that everyone at FCCC had been doing for him.  He was especially grateful for the care and treatment he received from his primary oncologists, Drs. Mehra and Panikkar, both of whom are not only fine and dedicated physicians, but outstanding human beings, too. 
      During Mike’s illness, his friends made a commitment, to Mike himself, and to each other as well, that we would remain intimately involved in Mike’s care and treatment from beginning to end.  Not having any family to speak of, together Mike’s friends knew that he could not face his illness alone, and that we were to be his support system.  And although we realized from the outset of the diagnosis that Mike had a very tough fight ahead of him, we all worked to face the fears and uncertainties together.  Towards the end, as Mike began to slip away from us, we had become so close and so united as a group that a genuine, albeit unspoken, overwhelming feeling of love and human understanding developed amongst us all, the likes of which I had never experienced before in my life, or for that matter, even knew could exist. 
       Through our dear friend’s death, a renewed belief in the common goodness and decency of people was re-born in me.  From the horrible and fatal effects of this terrible disease came a revitalized, recommitted sense of human caring and compassion.  A clear vision of what it means to love and care for one’s fellow Man.  In conjunction, there came an understanding of just how precious and temporary life is.  I watched my friend Mike live for thirty years and then watched that life be swept away by cancer in just three short months.  My own mortality confronted me face-to-face, and like an epiphany, I realized that, if I hope to bring any degree of genuine, meaningful happiness to my own life, the best means of doing so is by loving and caring for others. 
       At this time, it is my sincere hope, and my pledged intention, to work to honor the memory of our friend, and in his name try to help and benefit those who are fighting cancer.  My hope is that I can become a source of assistance and support for someone, anyone, who for whatever reason may be in need of that help.  My hope is to become a support and assistance resource for anyone who comes to FCCC who may not have a family or friend support network.  For anyone who comes to their treatments alone and who just wants someone to sit with them to keep them company while they wait.  For anyone who needs a liaison between themselves and the FCCC staff, to ask questions on their behalf, or whatever else may be needed.   For anyone who wants someone to get them a cup of coffee, a newspaper, or to help them navigate the facility.   For someone who might need help with reading hospital literature, or with help carrying something to and from their car.  In essence, my hope is to be a resource for whatever help and assistance I can be to anyone who comes into FCCC and who wants or needs any measure of help.

      In closing, Tina, I want to thank you for giving us this opportunity to try and give something useful and positive back to FCCC in our friend’s name.  I would also like to take this opportunity to once again thank all of the dedicated staff and physicians who attended to Mike while he was a patient here, especially Ms. JoAnne Rufo, and Dr. Rajiv Panikkar, both of whom helped make a tragic and heartbreaking circumstance bearable and enlightening.  My friends and I owe them, and all of the FCCC staff, a tremendous debt of gratitude, and it is our hope that by giving of ourselves in some small way to FCCC, we can demonstrate our appreciation while at the same time memorializing our dear and beloved friend, Michael.

The Friends of Mike ….
Mike, Edward, Daniel, James, Joseph and Michael

April 14, 2008

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Helen Gordon
Director, Volunteer Services